One of the most attractive design elements of the iPhone (sorry Ive 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 GloveFits beauty was only skin deep.
Design and Usability
The GloveFits 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. Its 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 its less of a problem than on the GloveFit. The GloveFits leather is much thinner than the Scuba Cases 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 theres adequate slack. Even after putting it on and removing it many times, it still felt and seemed a little on the tight side but thats only a disadvantage with putting it on and removing it. Youll 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 and its 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-ways 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 cutouts alignment with the devices corresponding components, the GloveFits are only functionally accurate. They dont prevent you from accessing anything, but they usually dont give enough clearance on one side, and tend to look somewhat off even when you try to stretch the leather to compensate. The hole in the shield for the front speaker overlaps the speakers right side. It sounds fine, but if youre 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 doesnt 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, its a relief to use a clip again that locks for wearing horizontally. The only drawback, if you dont use belt clips, is that the clip bolt is sewn into the case and cannot be detached.
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 youre 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 a fully transparent screen on a soft caseso design might actually trump build quality.
Transparent full-length screen looks fantastic
Textured leather has pleasant look and feel
Swivel clip locks horizontally
Well padded in the rear
|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