The Trtl Bot Minimalist ($34.99) for the iPhone 4 is nobly intentioned: an eco-friendly case bundled with the utility of a card holder. But the TrtlBot is mostly a failure thanks to its awkward angles, poor protection, and bulky shape. And its ability to hold only 3 credit cards/IDs makes it a limited replacement for a wallet.
The most distinguishing feature about the Trtl Bot case is its cardholder, which is built in to the back of the case. An iPhone-case-as-cardholder is hardly a novel idea, but mostly a niche market, and one that could disappear if perhaps the iPhone becomes a credit card itself. As a replacement for a wallet, the Trtl Bot is limited, as it can hold from 1 to 3 cards, according to its specifications, but in reality having just 1 card inserted is too loose, as the card rattles around, and trying to fit 3 in the case is extremely tight and tricky, putting undue pressure on the cards. Taking them in and out a few times, I started to worry that I might end up stripping material off my credit cards. And with 3 cards tucked away, the cards are bent at a pretty severe angle—again inducing concern about the pressure on the cards’ plastic.
Removing cards from the holder is a pain. There’s no way to remove bottom cards without removing the top cards first, so pulling out my ID at the bar involved manhandling the other two cards first. Removing cards requires awkwardly maneuvering the cards past the cardholder’s lip that keeps the cards in place. It is remarkably hard to maneuver around.
The case has a huge number of gaps in it: the entire top and bottom are uncovered, the volume controls and mute switch share a large opening, and there’s nothing between the back of the phone and the cards. While this does make it extremely easy to get at the ports and controls, it’s still far too bulky to sit on a dock, and it leaves the phone feeling unprotected.
The plastic of the case is partly made from recycled bottles. That’s cool, I guess. It’s quite hard, but feels brittle. I get the feeling it could take a fair amount of abuse, but if it was bent it could easily break.
The Trtl Bot Minimalist ($34.99) doesn’t have very much going for it. The case is hard, but it’s bulky, the edges get caught easily, it’s expensive, it doesn’t cover the phone well, the cards are hugely squeezed to get them all to fit in the back, and it’s hard to get them out again. In other words, it’s just not a very good case. We don’t recommend it, 4.5/10.