The Empire New-Skin for iPhone 4 ($15) is the type of case that benefits from slick marketing photos, making it look like it’s made from better materials than it really is. In reality, the New-Skin looks cheap and suffers from durability issues. But it’s not all bad, as the case doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone like some cases do. And it does have at least one feature of note: a cut-out for the iPhone 4’s SIM tray, something we haven’t seen yet, and which may appeal to frequent SIM switchers.
The case is made of a “thermoplastic polyurethane” material that, in terms of flexibility, is a median between flexible silicone rubber and hard plastic. It looks and feels a bit like stiff glossy vinyl. Gloss can work well with hard plastic, but with the New-Skin’s ability to take on scuffs, scratches, and dirt, it soon takes on a cheap, worn out look. Strangely, our case arrived looking like it has already been used for a month, and within just a few hours of use, had huge permanent scuffs on its back from being placed on tables. Needless to say, the New-Skin has durability issues.
The case dramatically improve the grip of the iPhone. Unfortunately, it comes at the cost of the surface feeling sticky. We much prefer improved grip from textured soft silicone than this unpleasant vinyl-like material. This stickiness does, however, fade a bit after a while, mostly likely due to dirt particles building up on the case.
The New-Skin fits well around the iPhone 4’s corners, but the middle sides of the case are prone to unsightly bending. Particularly disappointing is the bottom rim near the docking port, which visibility sags like the jowls of a hound dog.
The case does offer on interesting feature that may be of use to a select few. A cut-out area gives full access to the iPhone 4’s unusually placed sim card. If you find yourself frequently trading out iPhone sim cards a lot (we’re not sure why you’d do that, but hey…), this may be your only solution short of not using a case.
The New-Skin offers only average shock absorption. The case isn’t particularly thick, but it’s pliability will disperse the force from impacts better than the average hard case. The case has a rim that rises above the iPhone’s screen and should offer some protection for that area. An unpleasant side effect of that hard and somewhat sharp rim is that it tends to dig into skin and become uncomfortable during long phone calls.
The case covers the buttons with its own plastic buttons, which work accurately when pressed. The only problem is that the volume “buttons” are actually little round tabs sticking out from the case at an angle. It gives the case a cheap look, as if the case designer wanted to take every shortcut possible.
The case’s slim profile adds very little weight or girth to the iPhone 4, keeping it quite pocketable. Using the New-Skin will maintain the illusion you’re carrying the “world’s thinnest smartphone.”
The New-Skin is only available in black, and does not come with any accessories.
You get what you pay for with the Empire New-Skin ($15), which is poor build quality, durability issues, and so-so looks. Normally, we’d give this type a case a much lower rating, but it doesn’t interfere with the iPhone’s functionality in any way, which is rare for any case. It also offers decent protection and easy access to the iPhone’s SIM port, which could appeal to those who swap out sim cards frequently. We rate it a 6.8 out of 10.