Review: Cygnett UrbanShield for iPhone 5 – The iPhone’s little black dress
It’s been a running joke in the tech community that Apple seems to always strive to make each subsequent generation of its devices thinner and lighter, and this has perhaps never been more true than with the iPhone 5. Despite embiggening the screen, Apple somehow managed to shave both thickness and weight from the device, and it really is noticeable, especially when you are coming from an iPhone 4S (or, heaven forbid, an iPhone 3). But while Apple’s engineers did a marvelous job of helping the iPhone lose some weight and get her sexy back, they unfortunately did so at the expense of her tough glass exterior. Sure, going aluminum sounds like it should be a step up from something as shatter-prone as glass, and it IS, against drops at least. But as far as day-to-day key and ring scratches in your pocket… not so much. So, what’s the answer? Encase it in inch-thick rubber and plastic, bringing back all the bulk that the iPhone 5 sweated out at the gym? No. You give your iPhone a nice scratch-proof, sexy black dress to show off her curves. (ok, she’s pretty much a rectangle, but you know what I mean).
Cygnett’s UrbanShield for iPhone 5 ($24.95) is indeed that little black dress, smooth, sheer and sexy. In fact, I actually think the case feels better in the hand than the naked iPhone.
The case is a dual material case – plastic on the inside, brushed aluminum on the outside – with an attractive metal inset border on the back. Cygnett also sells a carbon-fiber version of the case as well. Feature-wise, there’s not all that much to say. It is a one-piece, snap-on case that fits VERY snugly – so snugly in fact that I was worried that perhaps taking the case on and off the iPhone might scratch the phone’s bezel, but so far, so good.
The case is extremely thin and adds as little bulk to your iPhone as possible. Of course the trade-off for this ultra-light design is that the UrbanShield is really meant to protect your iPhone 5 from scratches, not big impacts. This is really a case for those of you who take great care with your device, or for those who would like an extra case that really shows off your iPhone for special occasions (yes, I am geeky enough that I sometimes change my case based on who I am going to be seeing and whether there is a chance I will be handing them my phone). In such cases, the UrbanShield is a hit, as you still get the “I can’t believe it’s so light” comments from people who have not yet held the iPhone 5, and the case itself is arguably more stlyish than the iPhone’s own design.
So yes, you will likely not want to go jogging or to the beach with the UrbanShiled as your sole iPhone case, but for those who live a fairly uneventful life (meaning you don’t hand your iPhone over to small children) the UrbanShield is wonderful.
As far as scratch protection goes, I would probably have to rate the UrbanShield at about an 8 or so, as it leaves the entire top of your iPhone exposed, so errant car keys in a pocket could conceivably still work their way in there and scratch it, although I have not had that happen in the last 3 weeks of use. Likewise, the bottom of the case is open, leaving your speakers and charging port exposed. Cutouts along the left size allow you access to the volume buttons and mute switch. The front edges of the case are raised ever so slightly above the iPhone 5′s screen, so you can feel free to place your phone face-down on a table without fear of scratches. And if you are worried about screen scratches, you’re in luck as Cygnett throws in a screen-protector sticker as well, so at the end of the day you are about 90% covered.
Here’s a quick video from Cygnett showing off the case. I post it solely because I could listen to British people say “aluminum” all day.
I went into the UrbanShield knowing full-well the type of case it is, so I will not bash it for not being able to protect against a 10-foot drop onto pavement. It’s designed to be a stylish scratch barrier, and thus far it does the job very well. My only complaint thus far with the case is that it is a bit difficult to get off. I’m not sure how Cygnett was able to ship such a perfectly form-fitting case so soon after the iPhone’s launch, but for me removing the case involves my having to push against the camera hole while prying back a corner of the case to pop it free. Given that I like to go for jobs, I actually DO find myself needing to remove the case reasonably often, so while I’m getting better at it, it is still a bit tricky.
The only other thing I feel is worth mentioning here is that the back of the case, while looking stylish and feeling great in the hand, is a bit slippery, meaning there’s a chance you might actually drop your iPhone more often WITH this case that without it. I’m a fairly careful person when it comes to tech and I’ve been fine so far, but be warned this is not the case to leaving on your lap while driving, as it WILL slide off.
Cygnett UrbanShield for iPhone 5 is one of those rare cases that actually IMPROVES on the tactile experience of using the iPhone. I really love how the case feels in my hand, and it adds as little weight and bulk to the iPhone as you will find in a case. Those looking for solid drop protection should probably look elsewhere, but for those looking for a sexy way to protect against scratches, the UrbanShield comes highly recommended.
Pros: Ultra thin, provides decent protection against scratches, sturdy, gorgeous, feels great in the hand, easy port access, includes screen protector
Cons: Not great for protection against drops/spills, leaves top and bottom fairly exposed, odds are you’ll need to buy a second case for more “active” days