Function: Sleeve case for iPhone 3G/3GS.
Requirements: iPhone 3G/3GS.
It’s easy enough to make a protective case for a phone, camera, MP3 player, or other assorted portable devices. The tricky part is figuring out how to do it without excessively limiting the device’s functionality. Camera bags, for instance, are big sellers, but almost all of them require you to take the camera out of the bag in order to use it. That makes them less convenient than something like a form-fitting iPhone case that allows you to use the phone while it’s still in the case.
Apparently Uniea missed that point, or they’ve simply chosen to ignore it, because the nearly complete inability to use an iPhone in the U-Pouch “leather” sleeve didn’t stop them from making the U-Pouch and charging $23 for it. “Leather” is in quotes because the U-Pouch does not actually look or feel like it’s made from natural leather. It may be convincing from a distance, but if you’re handling one, it feels and smells very much like some sort of pleather. Furthermore, the so-called “zebra pattern” looks sort of silly and doesn’t seem to serve any purpose other than as a visual element.
The “zebra pattern” in the U-Pouch’s material does nothing for me, or for the functionality of the case.
The design of the U-Pouch is extremely simple, such that anyone with access to (real) leather and a good sewing machine could easily make their own for two or three dollars in materials and 15 minutes of time. Two identically shaped pieces of patterned black material with a fuzzy synthetic liner are sewn together to make a sleeve that fits very snugly around the iPhone 3G. So snugly, in fact, that it’s difficult to insert and remove the phone, which means the U-Pouch manages to be inconvenient at being inconvenient.
If I can’t use my phone in its protective case, at least make it easy enough for me to insert or remove it that I don’t mind doing so every few minutes. Regular readers of ATPM will remember that I had the same complaint about Rivet’s Loop back in November, though the Loop at least attaches to your belt to give you an extra hand when removing the phone. The U-Pouch doesn’t attach to anything.
I’m not sure if this was a factory goof or a design goof, but you can’t charge the iPhone while it’s in the U-Pouch. That fabric is solid.
It does at least attempt to make a concession to usability by putting a cutout in the bottom so you can charge or sync your iPhone without removing it from the case, but somehow Uniea managed to screw this one up, too. There’s a solid piece of material over the cutout preventing all access to it. In order to plug into the dock connector on the phone, you’d have to cut a slit in the fabric. I’m not sure if the U-Pouch I received to review simply missed a step at the factory or if Uniea honestly thought it was a good idea to make a cutout and then cover it up.
You can forget about actually using the iPhone once it’s in the U-Pouch.
Even assuming that the U-Pouch reviewed here was a defective model missing its slit for dock connector access, there are still a host of limitations with the case. You can’t access the volume-control buttons, and you certainly can’t use the screen (or, logically, the Home button). The camera lens is obscured by the back of the case, and, in any event, you need screen access to use the iPhone’s camera anyway. You can turn off the screen by tapping the power button, but you can’t power off the phone entirely because power-off requires a swipe to confirm, and it’s impossible to access the screen area needed to do that without sliding the phone halfway out of the case. About the only thing you can do with the iPhone in the U-Pouch is listen to already-playing music via headphones, which you can’t then control, or turn the ringer on or off.
The upper corners of the iPhone have basically zero protection against impacts or scratches.
All of these limitations might be acceptable if the U-Pouch provided ironclad (so to speak) protection for the phone, but it doesn’t. Aside from being made of relatively thin, soft material, and thus leaving the iPhone vulnerable to impacts, the upper corners of the iPhone are left almost completely unprotected. If the relatively slippery case happens to fall out of a shirt pocket, something I’ve complained about before, the corners of your phone are just asking for an introduction to the ground, with possibly disastrous results.
For me, and I suspect for most other people, the U-Pouch simply limits the functionality of an iPhone far too much for the minimal protection it provides. Keep your $23—or the $20 for the “suede” version of the same thing—and put it toward another, better case.