The Speck ToughSkin Case ($15) is a silicone rubber case for the iPhone 3G/3GS that offers some of the best protection we’ve seen in an iPhone case. It also provides superior grip thanks to its thick ridges. But it’s not without some tradeoffs. Where the case adds in the areas of protection and grip, it substracts in the areas of slimness and glossiness. Still, if you’re looking for a rugged protective iPhone case, the Speck ToughSkin is one of the better iPhone cases available.
The Tough Skin is made out of silicone rubber, our favorite material for protection, and is only available in black. Underneath the thick rubber outer casing is a thin, flat plastic frame that fits around the iPhone’s screen, serving as a kind of skeletal structure for the outer casing.
The case’s best feature is the excellent shock absorption the thick rubber of the case supplies. The case is thickest at the iPhone’s impact points, so should you drop the iPhone, the ToughSkin is one of the better cases to have on.
The extra grip provided by the thick ridges around the case’s sides means fewer drops and, therefore, less need for the case’s shock absorption. These ridges combined with the rubber’s non-slip texture make it the most grippable iPhone case we’ve tested yet. Although it should be noted that these ridges and the overall thickness of the case can make it tough for people will very small hands (ie, children) to completely wrap their fingers around the iPhone.
The main drawback for the ToughSkin is its bulkiness. While I could still fit the iPhone into my jeans’ pocket, it felt like a overstuffed wallet. Its rubber silicone texture adds some additional friction when slipping it in and out of clothing, but not the the point that it is unusable.
If you don’t want to pocket the iPhone, the case comes with a holster/belt clip. The belt clip has several grippers that the iPhone snaps into, leaving full access to the screen—although accessing it is awkward while wearing it on your belt. Overall, the grip of the clip on the iPhone is very good—I had little worry of the iPhone falling out of it. The grip of the belt clip on the waistband/clothing is likewise as strong.
The ToughSkin is too thick even for universal docks that thinner cases can fit into. To combat this, the bottom half of the case is a flap that can be peeled back so the iPhone can be docked. When not peeled back, the flap fits snug and tight around the base and is not noticeable as a separate section. It fits tight, so there is little chance of it accidentally slipping off during use.
It takes some getting used to to remember to peel back the case before docking, but I soon go used to it and found it an easy gesture. Rewrapping the flap was a little more annoying, but again, it only took a few seconds after some practice.
The case completely covers the iPhone’s sleep, volume, and home buttons and replaces them with its own simulated buttons of raised rubber that work very well. While some case manufacturers haven’t figured out how to handle the iPhone’s buttons, Speck got it right with the ToughSkin.
The case offers plenty of space to access the docking port and headphone jack, and the camera lens is likewise unobstructed. The only drawback in this area is accessibility to the ringer switch, which is reduced, as the switch is somewhat buried in the thick layer of rubber surrounding it. You’ll need to dig with your finger or have a long fingernail to access the switch.
The Speck ToughSkin offers superior protection, good grip, and a rugged look and only sacrifices in the area of thinness. Overall, we found it a well-designed case with no major flaws, and we rate it a 8.4 out of 10, highly recommended.