If you’re from the UK and you’ve ever watched the BBC series Dragon’s Den there’s a very good chance you’ll already have heard of the Tech21 company. The manufacturer’s products are all constructed from a material named D3O, which contains a very unique protective quality. The quality – known by Tech21 as ‘Impactology’ – essentially means that as it is hit, the particles tighten and the once soft and flexible material becomes incredibly hard. The harder you hit it, the harder D3O gets. In essence, it gets better at its job the more you subject it to. It’s pretty awesome.
I have to admit, I had one of the early Tech21 skins for iPhone 4 and was not impressed. The design and material meant it was a little loose. So, when they contacted me to ask me about reviewing the new range (just launched in the US) I was excited, but also unsure about what to expect.
The Impact Band is a bumper case with the added benefit of having a hard (but flexible) transparent back plate that’s removable. The case I got is a completely clear material, with the bright orange D3O running around the edge protecting all the corners. Not only does the orange vein add vital protection, it also adds to the aesthetic appeal. The bottom edge is pretty much completely exposed to the elements, thanks to a large cutout. The volume and power/lock buttons are all covered with specifically designed “buttons” within the case. They can be a little hard to press at times, but not enough to put you off. Mute switch is easily accessible thanks to a well designed cutout with the perfect slanted edges to ensure you can stick any of your digits in there to switch the sound on or off with ease.
The Impact Band fits snugly around the phone, but it does add noticeably width to your handset. Texture wise, it’s an odd, semi-shiny and simultaneously sticky feel. A huge plus point is that – in terms of resistance – when you do use your grip to try and squash it, it has very little give and a whole lot of resistance. It gave me the reassurance that it was going to protect my iPhone with its life. Almost like my own iPhone bodyguard.
One part I almost dismissed as pointless turned out to be one of the elements I loved the most: the back plate. When I first put it on the phone, I genuinely thought that all it was for was to relieve my “Scratchgateophobia”. Almost like an after thought, thrown in at then end. “Just another clear plastic back cover!” Was my exact thought. And, to prove it (like any good reviewer would) I tried to break it by bending it, assuming it was a brittle material. I was expecting bits of hard plastic flying everywhere. Nothing of the sort. It bended. Needless to say I felt confused, shortly followed by sense of admiration. I even bent it double, with the top and bottom edges meeting, bracing myself for it to snap. Nope. The material didn’t even show any signs of disfigurement afterwards, no whitening where it had bent through the middle either. It’s not just an after-thought. It a stiff, shatter resistant, protective backplate. It may not look amazing on your phone, but it’s not going to break that’s for sure.
I found only two negative points worth noting. Firstly, the rubbery material left at the bottom edge (on the top and bottom of the cutout) is incredibly flexible. Although it’s not likely to break, it slips very easily and feels too loose. Sadly, I think that’s unavoidable without adding a hard material instead. Secondly, I’d love it if the volume and power buttons had a hard plastic cap, just to give it that more pleasing “click”.
All-in-all, you get a whole lot of protection for your £24.99 ($34.95) thanks to the revolutionary material and its qualities. I’m well impressed, and can’t wait to see what else this company has to offer. To check out the rest of Tech21′s gear, head on over to http://shop.tech21.uk.com. US buyers should hit the Apple online store (where early reviews are excellent). UK buyers can purchase direct from the tech21 store link mentioned previously. Excellent job Tech21. Well played!