by Doug Morse

Well, the bad news is that I just got a letter from Sprint. Suffice to say that I’m still going to be out three hundred bucks to cancel my contract. A wrong decision a year ago is going to cost me an additional couple hundred that I didn’t need to lose. I thought about calling them to try to sort it all out, but I realized I’d waste a couple hours on the phone with their customer service when instead I could be writing this fine review and getting paid a little something for it. Then I could call it all a wash. Just a bit of warning: Sprint offered me an additional 10% discount to up my contract for two years more a while back (this was before the iPhone was on the horizon). Unfortunately, it knocked out a 5% discount I already had. Net gain 5%. I may dash off a quick letter, but I think even that may be a waste of time.

So instead of wasting my time with Sprint, let’s move on to Apple and AT&T’s wonderful iPhone and Mobi Products Protector Case (store link, $19.95). Important things first: this comes in Smoke, Clear, Red and Pink, though studying all of the pictures, all of the cases are translucent. I received the Smoke version, which to my taste is neither here nor there. That said, it does seem to be the best of the options.

The product page should say “Some assembly required” because you get four pieces. The first is a clear belt clip, next two halves of the case itself and finally, what sets this case apart from others, a flip up plastic screen. The two halves snapped together easily enough. However I had to wiggle and press the two plastic hinge-like sections into the upper region of the case. I was certain I was going to snap one of the little pins off, but finally it clicked into place. Later I discovered that there was an easier way: slip the plastic pins in behind rather than try to force them in from the front.

Mobi-Prot-Front

With cases, it’s all about the cut-outs. With this case, everything’s within easy reach from the volume control, ringer switch, power and headphone jacks and bottom connectors. What is not available is the touch screen. The hard clear plastic snaps down in place over the screen. The plastic cover can flip up to around 110 degrees. I really liked the feeling that my screen was protected. After weeks of testing non-flip lid cases, this was a welcome change. Without the screen protected, I often walk around in fear. In my job as a reviewer, I don’t always have a choice about what I test. A flip lid case is my preferred case whether it is an iPhone or a Treo.

Mobi-Prot-Closed

And I definitely want to bring up the Treo here. As you know, the iPhone is useless without the touch screen. A Treo and a clear plastic lid is an excellent combination because of the five way navigator. You can handle nearly all of the functions without ever touching the screen. The iPhone in its ‘elegance’ loses functionality. You can’t even answer a call without ‘sliding to answer.’ The more I use the iPhone, the more I realize it has some serious shortcomings which I hope to address in a future rant.

Mobi-Prot-Bottom

When a call comes in, you’ll need to flip open the plastic. It has a molded spot to flick open the lid. However, it takes some serious force. The plastic flip cover snaps very, very securely in place. I found the resistance too high. When open, the plastic sits at that odd 110 degree angle. Basically you open the lid, slide to answer, and close it again. You can’t keep the lid open because even if it flipped open the full 180 degrees to be flush with the iPhone, you’d cover up the speaker.

Mobi-Prot-Side

There is a bright spot or two in all of this. The case functions nicely with a headset. You can easily answer, redial, or hang up from a wired or wireless headset. Then the question is whether you lose functionality with other uses such as surfing the net, or sending an e-mail. Yes, you do, but not just in the ways you’d expect. First off, you can’t tilt the unit too far forward or the plastic screen falls shut. In horizontal mode, the unit rests annoyingly between thumb and forefinger, though typing accuracy wasn’t much affected.

Conclusion

I have very mixed feelings about this case. The clear flip lid is a nice idea, it’s just not as useful without a five way navigator and this one tends to get in the way. However, I can’t find a comparable product out there and at a mere $19.95, the price is right. I certainly feel much more secure carrying my iPhone on my belt knowing the screen is protected. If you get the case and don’t like the screen, it can easily be pulled out. I decided to take my case mods a little further and remove the back belt clip screw. Note that it wasn’t designed for this. But using a pair of pliers, it twisted loose and the minuscule inside mounted screw came out easily enough. Used like this, it’s still five to ten dollars cheaper than most of the cases like this.

Now that I’ve got it all dismantled, I realize that I haven’t taken any pictures for this review, so I’ve got to put it all back together again. Wish me luck!

<

p> Pros

  1. Full Protection
  2. Clear hard screen cover
  3. Multiple use options

Cons

  1. Flip lid annoying
  2. Color choices not stellar

Overall: 3 out of 5

One last Sprint note: I noticed that I had a $150 phone credit with Sprint. With an instant web rebate, I could get a free phone as long as I signed up for two more years. Well, I hope you see what’s coming: if I was going to cancel my contract that expired in 2008, then I might as well sign up for 2 more years (expiring in 2010 or whatever), get the free phone, then cancel. The cancelation fee is still the same and I get a free phone to sell on E-Bay to ease the pain of cancelation by a hundred bucks (because that’s the princely sum the phone should fetch, I checked). Now I’m free and clear of Sprint and AT&T just announced less draconian cancellation fees. Let’s hope that’s an industry trend.