|Thu Oct 11, 2007 - 9:47 AM EDT - By Andre Kibbe
In a just world, any smartphone released at $649.00 retail would include a case and holster on the caliber of Case-Mate�s Signature Case/Holster Combo. But, alas, protecting your investment requires yet another investment. Those plastic shells at single-digit prices may protect Treos from the ravages of fingerprints and scratches, but aren�t very reassuring buffers against drops and other moderate impacts. Toward the bottom of the price ladder, it seems like a truism that you get what you pay for. But premium cases often demonstrate that more money doesn�t always yield more value.
Fortunately, the Case-Mate delivers more than the sum of its parts. At $49.95, this combo is comprised of the company�s $34.99 case and $24.99 holster�and either component is a solid buy in itself.
I love the clean profile of the case: no stitches, no flaps, snaps or magnets. A photograph of the Case-Mate doesn�t do its physical first impression justice. Despite the case�s textured pebblestone Italian leather exterior, the impact resistant molded shell underneath only becomes evident when you hold it. It looks soft enough, but it�s immediately evident that the case it rigid enough for the Treo to survive a drop of several feet.
Color coordinating the Case-Mate with your Treo is simple to a fault, taking a page from the Henry Ford school of options. You can have any color so long as it�s black. Unlike Treo 700 users, who have the additional choice of Mocha Brown, the 680/750/755 owners among us are stuck with Phantom Black. I don�t know where the �Phantom� shade falls in the spectrum of black, but maybe Ford knew. The 700 case is virtually identical to the 680/75x version�there�s a small hole near the earpiece cutout for the status light�so if you�re hard up for brown, you should be able to make the substitution. For some reason, though, there�s no brown holster.
If ordered directly from Case-Mate�s website, the purchase price includes a personalization in one of three fonts: Trebuchet MS, Copperplate Gothic and Monotype Corsiva.
The case features well thought-out cutouts, allowing access to all of the phone�s touchscreen keys and buttons; the mini jack and Athena connector; the IR port and the ringer switch. Syncing via cable is easy enough, but the case is too thick to mount in the sync cradle. The right side leaves the IR port exposed, but covers the expansion slot. The case has a cutout for the speaker and camera, but the holster doesn�t. This would theoretically mute the speaker while wearing the phone on your belt, but in practice I found the difference negligible�rings are perfectly audible, even at moderate volumes. The slot presumably doesn�t require frequent access, but it would�ve been nice to have a cutout all the same, if only to have some additional thumb leverage while pulling the Treo out of this tight-fitting cover.
And, man, is it tight�at least during the �breaking-in� period. That�s true for the traction between the case and the phone as well as between the holster and the case. I would recommend expediting the break-in period by squeezing the case from the sides a few times, without overdoing it. But the advantage of the tight fit is security. There�s no question that the Treo is securely in place. I even jumped up and down a couple of times on a carpeted floor with the Treo oriented upside-down on my belt, and there was no slippage whatsoever; nor did the belt clip rotate from its inverted position.
I was concerned that the friction between the phone and case would eventually result in rubbing off the paint, but there were no signs of even minor streaking after inserting and withdrawing the phone many times. The friction between the case and the holster, on the other hand, is a problem, unless you regularly use the Treo hands-free. Pulling the case from the holster very quickly wears down the pebblestone texture of the leather on the case�s lower front edges. That�s inevitable�the purpose of a case is to protect the phone, not itself�but you can mitigate the wear by stretching the holster�s sides outward, being careful not to create too much play. Stretching the sides also makes withdrawing the phone and case easier, which is important if you talk primarily from the handset.
Another potential drawback to form-fitting cases of any kind is their adhesion to loose battery covers. I use a Seidio Extended Battery, which is slightly thicker than the 755p�s OEM-sized battery, placing extra pressure on the back plate. Out of maybe a dozen attempts at pulling the Treo out of the case without the battery cover popping off, only once did the cover stay put. Since I managed that feat on my last attempt, it�s likely that the problem would fade with time and practice, but many Seidio owners have reported worse experiences with keeping the battery cover on than I�ve had, so if you�re using the Case-Mate and have the Extended Battery, that may be a problem�but that would be true with any case.
The belt clip is well engineered. The 360-degree bi-directional ratcheting swivel locks in 10-degree intervals, and the Treo never feels like it�s going to drift from its assigned position over time. The clip is beveled at the bottom to brace securely against the belt, and it�s just wide enough to prevent the sideways pivoting I�ve found on many clips.
The Case-Mate is quite an attractive and robust combination. Wearing the case and holster on my belt, I felt that the Treo was in good hands more than I have with most cases and holsters I�ve tried. There�s absolutely no movement to the clip once adjusted to the preferred angle, and the leather exteriors over the case�s and holster�s molded shells look organic while feeling solid and impact resistant. The cutouts leave the touchscreen, keys and ports completely accessible. But the pebblestone is prone to wear due to the components� tight fit, so give the units a few squeezes or stretches before use.
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