You know what they say about things that sound too good to be true. But when your friends start getting excited, it’s harder to ignore a deal. Such was the case (if you pardon the pun) with DefaultCase, the company selling iPhone cases for a penny. I decided it was worth my time and small change to investigate the claims of this curious product. My summary: DefaultCase cases are easily worth 1¢, but probably not the $4 you have to pay to get one.
I suggest reading Which iPhone 4 Case Is Best? A decent case is well worth the money.
Why Case Your Phone?
As I said in my earlier review of iPhone 4 cases, I’m not really a “case guy”. My original iPhone and 3GS went “naked” for years with no ill results. Cases ruin the slim “pocketability” of the iPhone, adding bulk to a solid device that doesn’t really need protection.
But the iPhone 4 is different. Although I love the “Leica camera” look, the exposed glass front and back are an accident waiting to happen. Antenna attenuation hysteria was exaggerated, but adding a case does seem to deliver better signal strength.
Therefore, I reluctantly recommend that iPhone 4 buyers consider using a case. I further suggest looking for the slimmest case you can find; something with a rubber edge that protrudes above and below the glass front and back.
Introducing DefaultCase, the Company
In this era of cool grassroots startups, DefaultCase looks great. Their web site is slick but not overly-so, featuring personal messages from employees and users. And the product message looks killer: Rather than spend money on advertising, they’re “giving away” iPhone cases for “1¢” to spread word-of-mouth.
A company based on grassroots marketing with a killer deal on a must-have product? Does this sound too good to be true to you?
Introducing DefaultCase, the Case
DefaultCase offers two iPhone products: A perforated iPhone 4 case in nine different colors and a solid iPhone 3G/3GS case in six colors. Both cases are single-piece units made of hard molded plastic and painted with matte colors. They are slim fitting, adding very little bulk to the phone. They likely wouldn’t protect an iPhone much in a drop, however.
Each case is offered for one cent plus $3.99 shipping within the United States. No discount is applied when ordering multiple cases, and they ship via US Mail in rather large boxes. So the actual cost of a DefaultCase is $4.
I ordered one of each case to review here.
DefaultCase iPhone 3G/3GS Case
The cases are packaged in a chintzy, unlabeled plastic bag, and opening the bag releases the noxious fumes of fresh paint. Mold quality on the 3G/3GS case is poor, with visible seams, uneven and downright sharp edges, and rough spots.
The DefaultCase fit the iPhone 3G and 3GS devices I tried it on fairly well, gripping the phone more solidly than the similarly-designed Incase snap cases. The camera hole was perfectly placed and the volume and mute buttons lined up well.
Paint quality is even worse, with major under-spray on the interior revealing pink plastic underneath the white paint. This discoloration is clearly visible in the photo at the top of the page. Although the exterior of the case is more even, close inspection reveals uneven paint there as well.
DefaultCase iPhone 4 Case
The iPhone 4 case is somewhat better constructed but just as poorly-executed.
Again, the cheap plastic baggie emitted paint fumes, indicating insufficient drying time at the factory. The case is better-molded, with only a short seam visible near the headphone jack. But the finish is not good, with numerous rough edges along the bottom, top, and side rim as well as the back.
The DefaultCase fits poorly on the iPhone 4. It is slightly too narrow, with the sides spreading out to accommodate the width of the phone. This causes a misalignment of the side opening, placing the volume buttons too close to the top. A bit of the phone’s back is visible through this and the mute hole.
The paint quality is just as poor with the iPhone 4 case, with two noticeable under-sprayed areas on the back showing up as glossy circles in an otherwise matte field.
The DefaultCase business model is intriguing, but it falls flat on actually delivering a case worthy of the Apple phone. The cheap generic cases are poorly made and ill-fitting, and the rough finish is completely out of place on a slick iPhone. The details are bad enough that I cannot imagine any iPhone owner being satisfied with a DefaultCase.
I suspect that the company formed around the simple idea of selling cheap imported iPhone cases on the eBay model: Make a enough money from the shipping charge to break even and to bid up a bit more profit eventually. I’m surprised DefaultCase hasn’t yet jacked up prices a little bit – I’m sure it would be all profit for them. For comparison, the identical “Smile Case” sells on Amazon for $5 to $6.
Although the company claims to use “top quality materials” and that the case is “expertly crafted”, the reality is far from this. These are mall-kiosk-grade junk cases sold at rock-bottom prices. I would not use a DefaultCase even at the actual cost of $4. A decent-quality case like the Griffin Reveal is worth the extra $10-$20 over the cheap DefaultCase.