Review: SwitchEasy Tones for iPhone 5

by on November 27, 2012

While the iPhone 4/4S case market is quite mature, options for the iPhone 5 are still emerging, especially with the new shape and longer design. Products are slowly popping up from the usual companies, and SwitchEasy is no exception. Announced almost immediately after the iPhone 5, Tones is a $25 case that mixes hard polycarbonate plastic and flexible TPU to create a unique hybrid design.

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Available in a number of color combinations (including black, white, pink, turquoise, military green, dark purple, and a grayish blue) each Tones features top and bottom portions of flexible TPU that are slightly darker than the polycarbonate plastic middle. This allows some flexibility for buttons and installing/removing the case, and some structure so that the sides don’t bow out on the even longer sides (in the past, this seemed to happen with a lot a silicone cases on the iPhone 4’s slab sides). The design is reminiscent of the iPhone’s own glass-and-aluminum back.

Putting the case on the phone is fairly easy—you put it in volume-button side first. Removing it is a bit of a pain, due to its rigid nature. While not terrible, it’s reminiscent of SwitchEasy’s Trim, so be aware if you plan on removing your phone from Tones on a regular basis (we doubt you would, due to the 5’s lack of current docking options).

The case feels fairly good in your hand, although we prefer the texture of the Belkin Grip Candy Sheer for the flexible areas. Like any well-engineered case, it provides quite a bit of tactile feedback for the sleep and volume buttons As with other SwitchEasy products, there are some included accessories, including covers for the headphone jack and Lightning connector, two screen protectors, a cleaning cloth, and a back protection film (basically a smaller screen protector to cover the exposed aluminum on the back of the phone). Installing these is a rather simple process, but you need to be careful about air bubbles. To help, SwitchEasy included a squeegee card. While both the back and screen protectors aren’t the best we’ve used they’re adequate and a nice inclusion, adding value to an already reasonably-priced case. Unlike the past, SwitchEasy does not include a video stand.

After some testing, we only have two major complaints. One popped up on our first test unit—some of the black coloring has rubbed off from around the camera cutout. This could affect the flash. Our replacement did not have this issue, and we suspect this was an early production run issue. Nonetheless, SwitchEasy does offer a two-year warranty, so your case (or a replacement) may outlast your phone.

The other issue may be more of a widespread problem, as the cutout for the Lightning connector is quite small. Apple’s included Lightning to USB cable works fine, but Apple’s Lightning to 30-pin adapter cable did not fit. As many third-party options have been announced, but are slowly appearing on the market, this may change with time. If you only use your Lightning connector for charging or synchronizing with Apple’s Lightning to USB cable, you should be fine.

Despite our issues, we liked everything else about Tones. It’s a simple case that provides adequate protection and includes some useful goodies. If you need a case right now and don’t want to wait for more options on the market, this would be one of our picks, especially since it’s so close to being perfect.

The One-Sentence Verdict™

If the cases sold at most retail stores aren’t wowing you, SwitchEasy’s Tones case is a great value and a pretty good design, especially if you stick with thin cables.

Pros: Good mix of positives from hard shell cases and soft shell cases, includes screen and back protection, two-tone design matches back of iPhone 5

Cons: Incompatible with some cables, somewhat difficult to remove

The Facts

3.5/5Product: Tones
Company: SwitchEasy
Platform: iPhone 5
Price: $24.99

This post has been filed in Cases, iDevices and Reviews