Monday, July 30, 2012

Just in Case...

It’s no secret I’m really fond of Apple’s various iOS devices. Ever since I got the original iPod touch, it’s become an integral part of the way I work, consume, and interact with the bits and bytes I love.

Something I’m less fond of is Apple’s penchant for cladding its iPods in a stainless steel back. Oh, it’s beautiful for sure, but it’s a malicious and ephemeral sort of beauty, the kind of mirror finish that attracts scratches if you so much as look at it the wrong way. It’s a lesson I learned quickly with that first iPod touch, and one I rectified out-of-the-box when I replaced it with the fourth-generation model some years later. I chose the case from SwitchEasy because it advertised itself as the thinnest case on the market. Having been used to using my previous one naked for all these years, I really wanted the case to be as unobtrusive as possible.

It certainly was thin, and unobtrusive, but it was also a fragile thing, and after a year of use it began to fracture in the corners. I guess there’s a reason other cases weren’t this thin.

So long story short, I needed a new case, pronto. But I wanted it to last, so my preference for a barely-there case was no longer a top requirement. And if I’m wanting it to last...well! I better make it something I want to look at, right?

So that’s how this came to be:

Uncommon prints custom made-to-order cases based on whatever art you send them (like this great combined effort with Niko Geyer). The price may be a bit on the high side, but they take great strides to treat your order as a premium product. The case ships in a nice resealable bag, along with an Uncommon sticker and two $5 discount cards for future orders.

The case itself is definitely tough. It's a solid piece of plastic that won't flex under pressure and just feels solid in the hands. Maybe a little too solid. A thin case it’s not, and it takes the iPod touch’s almost impossible thinness and converts it to a heft more akin to the iPhone line of products. But we saw what thin got me, so I'll give it a pass in this regard.

This is the "capsule" case with a design that separates into two parts. This is ostensibly for easy docking in any matter of peripherals you might own that don't support the case, but doing so casually isn't really possible. Rubber-like strips on the inside of the case hold it firmly in place, making removing either portion a bit of a work out. At least you don’t have to worry about your case coming off accidentally!

Most importantly though the art looks great, with a few caveats. Lines aren't as sharp as they could be, with a ever-so-slight fuzziness to everything. This is almost certainly due to Uncommon’s much-advertised 3D-Tatt® technology. So while you may sacrifice a bit of clarity, the art is embedded deep into the plastic, making it impervious to flaking, surface scrapes, or other things you might normally expect from a printed surface. The art is there for the duration!

The colors are also off a bit, in general having a more yellow cast. Karis's hair also came out an almost bubblegum pink shade. But the colors are close enough that you probably won’t notice without a direct comparison.

That nitpicking aside, I’m really pleased with it. Having a customized case makes it really feel like your own, and I’m infinitely happier with it than a generic solid or pre-printed pattern.

An interesting aside is that the case is completely odorless. Most people probably don’t get what I’m saying here, but for those of you that are starkly aware of every new piece of electronics they buy, the Uncommon case is a pleasant surprise. I really expected a real painty-smell from the custom ink process, but really, there’s nothing. Even the flimsy SwitchEasy case (which was clear) had a stark plastic scent that lasted for a month — even transfers to your hands. It’s a small note, but a real exception to the rule in products like this.

As a final footnote, Uncommon's customer service is great. I was always able to get a live person on the phone, and they adeptly answered questions I had about bleed and such without having to play telephone relay with me. And when my first case shipped with the art between the halves not aligned, it only took a quick email to rectify the issue. I received a nigh-immediate response assuring me this was a rare error and a new one was shipped to me immediately. No returns. No additional shipping costs. Just a very pleasant experience.

I'd recommend Uncommon if you have an iOS device you want covered. In fact, remember those $5 discount cards I mentioned? I’m willing to give one away! Just leave a reply with the kind of case you want to make, and I'll send one lucky person the code. Feel free to pass along this post to anyone you think might be interested!