Review: Speck ToughSkin for iPhone 3G - Macenstein

Review: Speck ToughSkin for iPhone 3G

I remember the first time I dropped my 1st generation iPhone. I was getting out of the car and the phone hit the driveway (with no case) and received a very noticeable (to me, anyway) scratch on the corner bezel. Heartbroken, that night I began searching the web for the ultimate, shock-proof iPhone case, and by the end of the week I had settled on the ToughSkin case by Speck. Since that day, aside from occasionally coming out to test other cases, my iPhone has lived inside that Speck case, and despite being dropped numerous times over the course of a year, still has only that one scratch to show for it. So it’s no wonder that when I decided I was going to make the leap to the 3G iPhone, I put the 3G version of Speck’s ToughSkin on my short list of cases to check out.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case


Despite Apple sloping the sides of the 3G iPhone, I actually found that my iPhone 3G actually fit quite well in the original ToughSkin designed for the 2G iPhone. However, since I had decided to pass that phone along to the wife (and since the wife tends to hang out with two small kids who have slightly less respect for electronics than they should) I figured she’d need the case more than I.

Having noticed the previous ToughSkin worked fairly well with my new iPhone, I was a little surprised to see just how much they changed the latest version of the ToughSkin. At first glance, they may appear largely similar – both are made from thick, black rubber designed to cushion your iPhone in the event of a fall – but Speck added some features to the new ToughSkin that are designed to give your iPhone even more protection in the event you should forget that your iPhone is sitting in your lap as you get out of your car. (Not that anyone would do that).

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case
Above: The ToughSkin now has a metal endoskeleton for extra rigidity.

The first change ToughSkin fans will notice is that the familiar rubber case now comes with a sort of metal endoskeleton insert that you place on your iPhone before inserting it into the rubber sleeve. This is designed to help protect the shiny bezel of the iPhone as well as add rigidity to the case. The endoskeleton pokes through the rubber on each side, locking your iPhone in place. The next big difference between this and last year’s model is that the new ToughSkin has a hinged opening in the rubber at the bottom of the phone, which allows you to slide the iPhone in and out as opposed to the old method where you sort of had to stretch the rubber around the iPhone to get it out. This hinged design also serves another purpose, which is that you can now fold back the case and dock the iPhone without completely removing it from the case if you’d like.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case
Above: Looking somewhat like a caterpillar, the ToughSkin can fold back at the base for use in a cradle or similar accessory (although the usefulness of this is debatable.

The rubber of the new ToughSkin is thicker, and has deeper grooves in it than before. While sitting side by side it may not look all that bigger than the original, but it definitely feels bigger, especially for someone who carried the original around for a year and had gotten used to the size and weight of it. In all the new case feels more substantial, but in a good way. The grip is improved in my opinion, and since I regularly jog while holding the iPhone in the Speck case, I am pleased with the extra grip for my gross, sweaty hands.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case
Above: The 3G ToughSkin (LEFT) and the original (RIGHT)

Speck slightly widened the earphone jack hole on the 3G model, which is good. I actually noticed that when I used my old ToughSkin on the 3G iPhone that the connector in a standard mini audio cable could not get through the hole, causing me to have to remove the case to plug it in (I never noticed this before with the old case and old iPhone combo, as I had been forced to buy a recessed headphone adapter to be able to connect the 1st gen iPhone to my car’s AUX input, and that adapter DID fit through the ToughSkin’s jack). The mute switch and dock port are the only exposed holes in the case (aside from the screen, of course) and these are well recessed into the rubber. The volume and sleep buttons on the iPhone can be pressed through thinner portions of rubber Speck built into the case.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case
Above: The 3G ToughSkin (LEFT) and the original (RIGHT)

Like last year’s model, Speck once again included a clip on belt holster with a 360Ëš rotating clip which can be used as a kickstand for video viewing. I am personally not a fan of belt clip holsters and prefer to keep my iPhone in my pocket, but for those of you who are more fashion conscious than me (I wear baggy cargo pants every day with huge pockets that can easily hold a bulkier iPhone case) the belt clip may be a way to go. It is a solid design that I have had no problems with in the few times I have used it.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case


With a case designed with such a focus on protecting your iPhone from scratches, bumps, and bruises, it may seem odd that the screen is left completely exposed. In fact, it exposes even MORE of the front this time around, as the “ear piece” area at the top of the iPhone is now exposed. I have yet to try any of the iPhone screen protectors out there, but in over a full year of using my 1st gen iPhone and 3 months of using this one, I have yet to have a scratch appear on either screen. I do not baby my iPhones either – I usually throw them in my pocket (while in the ToughSkin) so they DO occasionally come in contact with keys and headphones and pens and such – yet the screen remains pristine. I don’t know whether or not Speck realized the screen is ironically the part of the iPhone least prone to damage, or whether they simply cheaped out, but I suppose the argument could be made that for $35 they should have thrown in one of those 3M-type adhesive screen protectors so they could bill the ToughSkin as “total” iPhone protection. This is not a big issue for me, so I don’t deduct too many point for this, but it might have been nice to throw in as a token.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case
Above: Like the original, the 3G ToughSkin has a belt clip cradle that can double as a video stand.

I also find the open bottom design a little odd, functionally speaking. It is not hard to use and I like how quickly I can slide the iPhone out of the case now, but I question its success insofar as intended use. The iPhone no longer ships with a docking cradle, and most stereos with iPod docks have some sort of rear support where the flipped up case would interfere with it. The iPhone’s charging cord works fine with the case on, so I am not sure how often anyone would really use the flip feature to connect to a device while keeping the iPhone inside the ToughSkin. This doesn’t hamper the case in any way, I’m just a little confused as t what accessories Speck Thinks this will be used for.

The only other issue here might be the overall size and weight of the ToughSkin. As I said, I have used my previous ToughSkin every day for over a year without incident, taking it off only to rinse occasionally, so obviously for me the size has obviously not been an issue. Compared to other, thinner silicone sleeves and acrylic cases, the ToughSkin IS bulky, it IS thick, it IS black – so if you are one of those fashion conscious types who like their iPhones to look pretty, odds are you’ll want to invest in an additional case. But remember, it provides the most shock-absorption of any iPhone case you are likely to find, and for the active iPhone user (hiker, jogger, biker, camper) it’s a must have case.

Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case


Coming in $5 higher than last year’s model, Speck’s ToughSkin for the iPhone 3G has defended its title as my favorite iPhone case (truly a great honor for Speck). New this year are the improved grip, new quick release bottom hatch and the metallic endoskelton that provides even more support and protection. This year’s model is slightly larger than last year’s, so be warned this protection comes with some added bulk. Still, if you are an active, outdoorsy iPhone user, you’ll be happy to find the ToughSkin lives up to its name.

Speck ToughSkin for iPhone 3G

Price: $34.95

Pros: Great protection;new metal endoskeleton offers more rigid support; full access to controls even when covered; clip can be used as a viewing kickstand

Cons: Protection comes at the cost of extra bulk; $5 more than the original, it wouldn’t kill Speck to throw in a cleaning cloth and screen protecting film for the money

19 Responses to “Review: Speck ToughSkin for iPhone 3G”
  1. Drew says:

    I think the reason for the ear piece area being left open is because they moved the “face sensors” (how the iPhone knows when you are talking on the phone, disabling the touch screen and dousing the LCD) further up. I too had an old Toughskin and once on my 3G, it started going whacky. It would turn the LCD on and off randomly.

  2. SirFoxey says:

    I don’t have that exact model of speck cover, but it is a speck cover and I have to say it is sensational. I have a lot of respect for the speck skins and would highly suggest them.

    As for the screen protector. I have the anti smug/ glare skin with my speck skin and it is practically impossible from accidental damage to damage my 3g phone.

  3. Mason says:

    Hey Doc, could the fold-back base possibly be used for a kickstand?

  4. Mason, yeah. it isn’t insanely sturdy, and mainly works vertically only, but yeah, it works.

    Speck ToughSkin iPhone 3G case

    -The Doc

  5. blessingx says:

    Doc, mind if I ask how you get to the side button/switch? I assume they’re very recessed with that much rubber.

  6. Yeah, it’s a little tricky, but you can def hit it. But might be hard to do without looking like in your pocket.
    -The Doc

  7. crawdad62 says:

    Just curious about the metal frame. Now that you’ve had it for awhile how that part holding up? Is it actually metal? Would that not possibly scratch the bezel?

  8. @crawdad62

    I’ve been using it every day since this review, and it still looks great. the metal has not scratched the bezel a bit.

    -The Doc

  9. felipe Hangen says:

    I had a toughskin on my 1st gen iphone. And i loved it. (now it’s gone.. rrr *stolen)

    The 3g version of toughskin looks too bulky for me. As you said the 1st toughskin works on the 3g versioniphone, i might try that. Didn’t you find it swam all over the skin? i would like to hear your comments on using the old version skin.


  10. Luis Cardona says:

    The old speck case doesn’t work with the 3G model as the sensors in the front of the iphone has been moved to the left. Using the old case with the 3G model will not allow the iphone to know when the phone is been used near the face so you will notice that the speaker or mute option will remain active and it will be possible to accidentaly activate it.

  11. Jeff B says:

    The old 1stGen Iphone Tough case by Speck does fit the new 3G iphone, although there are 2 issues with that.

    1st issue is the size: the new 3G iphone is slightly thicker, so the silicone case will be very tight (however, this doesn’t affect the functionality at all)

    2nd issue is the proximity sensor: the old sensor was right above the earpiece, but the 3G sensor is now to the immediate left of the earpiece (you can see it of you hold the phone at a certain angle). I punched/cut a 3/8″ size hole in the original speck case right where the 3G prox sensor is, and now the phone functions normally. I suggest using a tool rather than a knife, because the hole you cut may not look so “cool” if it is the result of a jagged knife cut.
    I may get the 3G speck case anyway, since the bulk doesn’t bother me, but the old case still works fine.

  12. Dennis says:

    Guys the endoskeleton (inner frame) is not made of metal. It’s plastic as described on specks website ( Anyway, toughskin is the ultimate protection against accidental bumps and drops. It’s thick rubber absorbs shocks pretty well.

  13. James V. G says:

    I Think The Case Is The Greatest Case Ever Made, The only complaint I have is I bought the case thinking I was getting a metal frame that was mentioned a few times threw this Review and when I got my case the frame was plastic and broke in a matter of a few weeks. The case is still good but when I called to get a replacement piece they said I had to buy a hole new case for $35, not to mention shipping that will bring it up to $50, so I glued it, was a little upset.

  14. Mark says:


    Thanks for the great review. I’m looking at getting one of these.

    I’m an ex-crackberry user so I love all of the features of the iPhone, espesially the BROWSER! One thing that I did like about the blackberry is that if you used the RIM holster, the screen faced inwards so it would not be dammaged. I’m hesitant to use any holster that exposes the screen to the outside.

    Will the Toughskin fit in the holster in reverse (with the screen facing in)?

    Thanks again,


  15. bill says: has much lower price and free shipping – best price and received in 2 days. this case is awesome!

  16. Rick Yancey says:

    I got the Speck Rugged Tough Skin Case and holder as a gift.
    For the most part I am very impressed with the case
    but the holder broke after about 1 month. My first
    impression about the holder was that the plastic was
    very thin about 2mm thick ! Well, now i’m sure that the
    case is too thin for you to compare it with tough…
    Please consider for next year’s Speck tough skin rugged case,
    to make it thicker and more durable. This way the case
    won’t cut into you as you wear it in working conditions and it
    won’t break if the phone and the case take a fall just 2ft .
    Clip could use some redesign so it does not come apart or
    slip off in typical working conditions. I spoke to Apple whom we bought
    your product from and they refered me to your company.
    We spoke the other day and one of your representatives
    stated that you would stand behind your product ,
    to send an email with a picture of the condition
    and you would send me a new one , free of charge.
    Thank you again for your services,
    Rick Yancey
    RJY Construction, Inc.

  17. Pam says:

    Does the 3G toughskin case fit on the 1st generation iPhone?

  18. Philip Clock says:

    Great protection & easy to grip, thick frontal edges right up to the screen drive me bonkers when I’m using the touchscreen keyboard, will get another case if I can’t get used to it.

  19. Scott F says:

    You definitely should checkout the have a great little dock extender that works with the speck case and makes for easy access to the dock. Was very helpful!

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