SwitchEasy has quickly become a premiere case maker for the iPhone, and we found their RebelSerpent ($20) for the iPhone 3G/3GS to be another successful design for the company. It’s a two-part case made from a combination of a “soft” inner case that snugly fits around the iPhone with a hard polycarbonate spine that adds protection. It’s a rugged case that covers up Apple’s gloss-and-chrome design and replaces it with a monochromatic, masculine look. Overall, the case feels solid and well put together, if a bit heavy, in the hand. It’s a highly functional case with a few minor flaws, and we give it a rating of 9.3 out of 10, highly recommended.
The RebelSerpent is composed of two separate pieces. The inner part is a a soft and snug-fitting plastic that SwitchEasy labels Adaptive Dynamic Soft Polymer (ADSP). Don’t be fooled by the fancy marketing term though, it’s really just a semi-soft but cheap-feeling plastic. This soft inner lining tightly grips the iPhone, preventing the case from slipping off while taking it out of pockets. The soft lining also prevents the hard part of the case from scratching the iPhone, a common problem with hard-shell cases.
The outer part of the case is a hard polycarbonate that functions as a protective spine and ribs that snaps into grooves on the outside of the inner case. Switcheasy claims the polycarbonate spine covers all the iPhone “impact points” and thus provides superior protection. While it’s true the case does offer some impact protection, we find that the case, and in particular the cheap inner plastic material, is no match for a thick silicone case in terms of shock absorption.
The RebelSerpent offers unobstructed access to all of the iPhone’s ports such as the headphone and docking ports. It also handles the iPhone’s sleep and and volume buttons well, although not perfectly. The case covers the iPhone volume and sleep buttons with a hard plastic that removes almost all tactile feel when pressing down. But at least the buttons still work accurately—they respond and function properly with every finger press.
The case is not without a few flaws. First, thanks to its two-layer approach, the case adds substantial weight and bulk to the iPhone. It’s still quite pocketable, but those who like the iPhone’s slim profile should take note. Also, this same bulkiness combined with the case’s rough texture give the iPhone an awkward feel when held in the hand compared to the pebble-smoothness of a naked iPhone.
Also disappointing is the fact that the case does little to improve grip. You’d think the serpent-scale texture of the polycarbonate would be a positive in this area, but the material is actually quite slippery. Still, it’s a better grip than an iPhone without a case, but just barely.
The case is packaged with a nice set of accessories. Our favorite is a small plastic stand the iPhone can rest in turned on its side so that you can watch video in landscape mode. Also included are two clear-plastic screen protectors, a small cloth for cleaning the screen, a plug for the iPhone’s docking port, and a universal dock adapter.
If you’re looking to add a modern, rugged, masculine look to the iPhone, the SwitchEasy RebelSerpent is an excellent choice. While not quite up to par with thick silicone cases in terms of protection, the RebelSerpent is nevertheless impressive for its double-layer design that feels solid in the hand. We rate it an 9.3 out of 10, highly recommended.