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Smartphone Experts GloveFit for Centro

Wed Jun 25, 2008 - 9:06 AM EDT - By Andre Kibbe

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Product Info


Overview

One of the most attractive design elements of the iPhone (sorry ó Iíve written well over a dozen articles in a row without once mentioning that other phone), is the smooth, continuous surface of its face, unbroken by keys, bezels or buttons. Whatever usability impact the touchscreen-only interface has, it certainly looks cool.

Without implying that the Smartphone Experts GloveFit will make the Centro look anything like an iPhone, case designs using full-length screens have a similar attraction for me. Once I slipped the Centro into it, my first impression was positive. Further use would bear out whether or not the GloveFitís beauty was only skin deep.



Design and Usability

The GloveFitís body is made of leather, textured for a very pleasant look and feel. The case is available in black, like the one I tested, and in four other colors that make my mouth water just reading them: Cocoa Brandy, Red Brandy, Saddle Brandy and Cream Brandy. Judging from the photographs, the muted colors look as nice as they sound.

The inside of the body, the lower half at least, is lined with a thick pelt of suede. The upper half, from where the zipper assembly begins, lacks this cushioning. Itís an odd disparity. I found myself wanting either the entire interior to have the suede lining, or none at all. The Body Glove Scuba Case has a similar design, but itís less of a problem than on the GloveFit. The GloveFitís leather is much thinner than the Scuba Caseís neoprene, and seems more vulnerable.

The Centro slides in from and zips closed at the bottom. A smaller, black zipper handle would have been less visually obtrusive (read: tacky). Like most soft cases, especially leather, the GloveFit needs to stretch a bit before it feels like thereís adequate slack. Even after putting it on and removing it many times, it still felt and seemed a little on the tight side ó but thatís only a disadvantage with putting it on and removing it. Youíll appreciate the form-fitting tolerance while the case is on.

As mentioned, the GloveFit has a transparent plastic shield that spans down and across the entire front face. A smaller transparent shield is stitched into the side cutout for the volume buttons. The front shield is ever-so-slightly convex, giving it enough play to eliminate interference with the keys or the stylus.

Well, almost. The one exception ó and itís an annoying one, is how the shield interferes with the 5-way operation. The directional rocker component works fine. The center button, on the other hand, can take some practice to use reliably. When you press down on the button, the surface tension on the plastic screen tends to also depress the nearby edge of the rocker, moving the cursor or the focus instead of making the selection you pressed. For instance, when I tried to send a text message, once I composed the text and moved the cursor down to the Send button, pressing the 5-wayís center button would almost always move the cursor back to the text field instead of selecting the Send button.

The cutouts cover every component except for the memory card slot. Where most cases these days are very precise in their cutoutís alignment with the deviceís corresponding components, the GloveFitís are only functionally accurate. They donít prevent you from accessing anything, but they usually donít give enough clearance on one side, and tend to look somewhat ďoffĒ ó even when you try to stretch the leather to compensate. The hole in the shield for the front speaker overlaps the speakerís right side. It sounds fine, but if youíre a perfectionist, the visual discrepancy could be an issue.

The stitching around the entire case is not reassuringly tight. The manufacturers seemed to have had trouble working with the pattern of leather that has to assemble to the suede lining, the plastic shield and the clip bolt. The frame for the clip bolt, at least on the case I received, is crooked by about 5 degrees. Whatever logistical problems the manufacturers had, the build quality doesnít hold up to close scrutiny.

The belt clip is a standard 360-degree, ratcheting swivel version. Having tested a couple of cases recently with clips that had non-ratcheting swivels, itís a relief to use a clip again that locks for wearing horizontally. The only drawback, if you donít use belt clips, is that the clip bolt is sewn into the case and cannot be detached.


Conclusion

If you like the concept of a clear case, but want a less rigid, more organic feel than acrylic, this might be the case for you. If feels great in the hand, and the raised transparent sheet looks awesomely cool.

If youíre a stickler for meticulous workmanship, the assembly and detailing of this case leaves something to be desired. For the price, the Monaco Sleeve Type Case (Buy / Review) or the Body Glove Scuba Case (Buy / Review) might be a better value. But Smartphone Experts have a less common design concept with the GloveFit ó a fully transparent screen on a soft caseóso design might actually trump build quality.




Criteria 

Rating

Design 4
Usability 3
Protection 4
Cost/Benefit 3
Overall
(not an average)
Pros
  • Transparent full-length screen looks fantastic
  • Textured leather has pleasant look and feel
  • Swivel clip locks horizontally
  • Well padded in the rear
  • Cons
  • Bolt for belt clip is non-removable
  • Cutouts not completely in line with device components
  • Stitching does not look durably tight
  • Screen surface tension makes 5-way difficult to use


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