Review: Speck’s ToughSkin case for iPhone - Macenstein

Review: Speck’s ToughSkin case for iPhone

Posted by Dr. Macenstein

Speck ToughSkin iPhone
Above: The Speck ToughSkin for iPhone (apparently pre-YouTube and AT&T.)

Ever since getting my painted iPhone back from ColorWare, I have been trying to catch up on the backlog of reviewable iPhone cases that had built up during the 3 weeks my iPhone was MIA. After sorting through the various designs, I now feel I have a good idea of the general types of cases available for the iPhone, and what they offer. It’s interesting to see how there can be so many solutions to the problem of “how to dress your iPhone”. Just like the traditional fashion industry, different “outfits” serve different purposes – formal dinner attire, while nice-looking, is perhaps not the best choice for a 5-mile run.

The Speck ToughSkin for iPhone is a case designed for those more active moments in your iPhone’s life. Currently available in black and clear, the case consists of a thick, molded rubber case, with deep shock-absorbing finger grips that makes holding on to your iPhone easy (even with sweaty hands), and a removable plastic holster with a 360° ratcheting belt clip.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone

The ToughSkin’s rubber case is to date the sturdiest and most shock-absorbent case for the iPhone I have seen. I’m not about to intentionally throw my iPhone on the ground to test it, but the rubber is many times thicker than the purely cosmetic rubber sleeve cases out there meant to prevent contact scratches, and it is reinforced on the corners to provide a little extra padding where it is most likely to need it in the event of a fall. Personally, I think the ridged design makes the iPhone look quite bad-ass, living up to the ToughSkin name.

The rubber material covers the majority of the iPhone’s exposed areas, including the chrome bezel that is so infamously scratch-prone. There are holes for the iPhone’s camera, silent ring switch, and the headphone jack, as well as cutouts for the ear and mouth pieces. The dock is exposed, so you can charge your iPhone without removing it from the case (although using the iPhone’s docking cradle is out). The volume, lock, and home buttons are all covered, but can be easily pressed through the material for trouble-free operation. I love this, as again I think the sweat from my palms during my morning run may have contributed to the demise of my iPod. With the ToughSkin there are very few exposed areas for moisture to inadvertently enter your iPhone (although don’t go jogging in the rain with it).

Speck ToughSkin iPhone

As for the holster clip, well, I hate holster clips. I suppose it’s because outside of my morning exercise routine, I lead a very sedentary lifestyle in front of a computer, so I just leave my iPhone on the desk in front of me. This clip is actually pretty good as far as belt clips go, though. Speck ToughSkin iPhoneThe holster is easy to apply and remove from the ToughSkin’s rubber casing, but it holds tight and won’t fall out either. Despite not being a fan of wearing belt clips, I have been leaving the ToughSkin’s clip on most of the week because it also serves as a kickstand. By depressing it in all the way, it locks into an open position, allowing you to stand your iPod up for music, photo, video viewing. One odd thing I noticed – while the belt clip rotates a full 360°, you’ll want to leave it set in the “vertical” position whether you want to stand it vertically or horizontally, sort of like a picture frame’s kickstand. If you rotate the belt clip to the position you think you should when it is horizontal, the front-heavy iPhone will tip over. Also, you cannot charge the iPhone with the holster on, as the dock gets covered by one of the clips “arms”.


In general I am very happy with the ToughSkin, but I can almost always find something to nitpick. One small thing I noticed is when the iPhone is in the holster, the top of the belt clip slightly blocks the lens of the camera, and will appear in your shots (this is assuming you have the clip in the traditional “vertical” orientation). You can get around this by either depressing the clip and putting it in “kickstand” mode, or by twisting it around to another angle. The clip does not swivel easily, however, which is a good thing when using as a clip, but annoying if you want to quickly snap a pic. It’s almost easier to slip off the whole holster for photo taking.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone
Above: You can see some fine white specs of lint seem to be attracted to the ToughSkin’s rubber casing.

The only other minor gripe I would have is purely cosmetic. The type of rubber the ToughSkin is made of is not that smooth, latexy rubber that flimsier cases are made of. It has a sort of porous feel to it, almost like felt. Because of this, lint is easily attracted to its surface. I like the material very much, and think this type of rubber was chosen to help enhance the comfort and grip-ability of the case with sweaty hands while exercising, so I don’t think it was a bad design choice, but you may find yourself rinsing the case more than you might have thought.

Finally, there is no screen protection from the ToughSkin. We’ve all seen the video from PCWorld of the editors trying to scratch the iPhone’s screen and failing, so the need for a thin screen-protecting film is debatable. However, similarly priced cases often include one (and a cleaning cloth) so however unnecessary, it sort of feels like we’re missing something.


I’ve tested many iPhone cases, and Speck’s ToughSkin case is the first time I felt my iPhone was truly safe. If you are anticipating bringing your iPhone with you during any rugged activity such as camping, hiking, jogging, or hanging out near small children, the ToughSkin is a great choice, and provides some of the best protection you will find.

Speck’s ToughSkin case for iPhone

Price: $29.95

Pros: Great protection; solid design; full access to controls even when covered; clip can be used as a viewing kickstand

Cons: Protection comes at the cost of extra bulk; Maybe $3-5 too expensive; if they threw in a cleaning cloth and screen protecting film, it would go up another 0.5 in the rating

2 Responses to “Review: Speck’s ToughSkin case for iPhone”
  1. Paul says:

    Well because of those PC World scratch ’em up videos, I neglected to use my case on many early days (case mate leather, pretty good), and then dropped it on the Home Depot concrete floor one day. Nothing nearly as bad as the direct attacks at the iPhone glass.

    However, I did end up with two little scratches on the glass, which are kind of annoying, especially since everyone wants to see and play with it (I have since begun hiding it, because it gets old pretty quickly). My case doesn’t have a screen protector, but it does keep the screen recessed beneath the cover edges so that particular accident wouldn’t have allowed the glass to be scratched. So now I use it all the time. But it actually adds to the phone itself getting dirty, because dust and stuff gets stuck between the case and phone and every time I take it out I have to give it a good wipe.

    Anyway, I recommend that people use some sort of case after the honeymoon period is over and your less likely to protect it like your first born. Because despite what they say, it’s not totally scratch resistant.

    But imagine if the screen was plastic as we first thought it was going to be?

    (I for one, think that the screen was always going to be glass and that the whole glass “surprise” feature was a planned PR move, as was the battery life, unless the battery life was kept under wraps until they could decide whether they were going to offer 3G or not–because we know that will affect battery life).

  2. Dawn says:

    I am a very clumsy nerdy person. I had heard about the toughskin case online so I bought it when i got my iphone. I had also purchased a screen protector. I put both on immediately. I dropped the phone twice the first day. Thank god, not a scratch, dent or any marks. I LOVE this case. It is perfect for an ungraceful person like me.

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