The Mobi Products Crystal Case is one of several new Treo Pro accessories that suddenly burst onto the scene all of a sudden about a month or so ago. The case is available in two colors, clear and "smoke", which are both mostly transparent; the smoke case just has a bit of a dark tint to it. The case also features a removable belt clip, which I personally prefer to use as I like to wear my phone on the hip. The belt clip, while a welcome feature, also provides this case with some major drawbacks.
The Crystal Case is shipped in truly minimalist plastic cellophane packaging, and that's as nicely as I can describe it. Let's just say that it is immediately evident that Mobi Products wasn't looking to drive the price of this product up with fancy packaging. Or instructions. The latter was much more of a problem, as I had all kinds of trouble putting the doggone thing together. The case is shipped in pieces: the 2 main pieces (the front and the back of the shell casing), the belt clip, a washer, a small screw and the sprocket-like attachment that attaches to the back of the case for use with the belt clip. To make things more confusing, the critical washer was stuck inside of the belt clip, which initially led me to believe that I was missing some parts. It took me forever to figure out how to put the belt clip attachment together. If there were ever a product that could use an instructional diagram, this is it. (I guess I should mention that if you don't plan to use the belt clip, installing the case onto your phone is easy enough that instructions aren't necessary. You pretty much can't get it wrong. But really, how much does it cost for a little instruction sheet. Come on, Mobi!!)
Once I finally got that belt clip attachment thingum figured out, I simply fitted the case into position over the phone, snapping the top shell over the bottom shell, and I was ready to go. The case is molded to fit snugly over the phone, and stays in place well so the phone isn't rattling around in there.
The case has an open face and doesn't cover the touch screen or keyboard at all, which is a good thing, if you ask me. I don't much care for cases that "protect" the screen, as they generally only protect the screen from my stylus and/or finger. I can be pretty clumsy sometimes (especially on Friday and Saturday nights), but I'm usually not bad enough to walk into anything that will damage my screen, and I use the touch screen frequently enough that if I didn't have access to it, I wouldn't be too happy. There are also cutouts for accessing all the important stuff, such as the on/off button and silent switch on the top of the phone, the WiFi, volume and select buttons on the sides, the headphone and sync/charge ports on the bottom, and the camera lens on the back. For a hard case like this, these are absolutely necessary. You really don't want to have to remove the case every time you want to hit the WiFi button or charge your phone.
When used with the belt clip, the case faces the phone forward, leaving the screen vulnerable to attack/clumsiness. This is not an issue for me, as I like to display my Treo as one would a high-priced clothing accessory, just to make sure everybody can see that I'm packing one of the finest gadgets on the market right now. I do recognize, however, that some people prefer to protect their $500 devices as opposed to glamorizing them, so I thought I would point this out.
Unfortunately, I am not a fan of the design of the belt clip. Once you figure out how to attach the clip to the phone, it fastens to your hip securely enough. The problem is that in designing the case around the camera lens on the back of the Treo, Mobi put the belt clip attachment far too close to the middle of the case. This makes for an odd fit on your belt, as the phone hangs on the clip and leaves a gap between the top of your hip and the phone. This is very awkward and more than a little disconcerting. It's hard to explain, but it just doesn't feel comfortable. Since I like to have my Treo as accessible as possible, I need to be comfortable with it attached at my hip, and this isn't comfortable.
The belt clip mechanism is also a little stiff, and it just isn't effortless enough to pull the phone off of it when I need to get to it. This is a pain, since I must go after my phone somewhere in the neighborhood of 15-17 thousand times every day. This may become more natural over time, but I've been using this thing for almost a month now and I still don't like it.
There a couple notable things that work in favor of this case, however. First off, there is a space in the side of the case for you to stick a flathead screwdriver or small coin and twist to get the case off easily. This is nice for when you need to change batteries or get to the microSD slot to change cards. A lot of these type cases I've used in the past weren't built with the consideration that you might want to remove them at some point.
Also notable is the not-too-small consideration that other than the screen, this case provides solid protection of the phone. The corners are especially well-protected, and it's there that I usually do the most damage to my phones. There is also ample protection for all of the edges of the phone, which can also take a beating. A lot of cases like this protect the sides of the phone but sacrifice the outer reaches of the keyboard, like the 'Q' and 'P' keys, but this wasn't the case with the Crystal Case. And I didn't exactly test this out, but the case feels secure enough that it won't pop off too easily if the phone is dropped. Surprisingly in the several weeks that I have used this case, I haven't dropped it by mistake.
If you don't plan on using the belt clip, this case probably does everything you would want it to do. It protects the phone pretty well, and allows you to access most of the phones functions without obstruction. If you want to wear the phone on your hip, however, I would suggest looking elsewhere. Although the price is right ($14.99), the belt clip is problematic enough to be a deal breaker.
Well molded design fits snugly around the phone
Cutouts allow access to all the important features of the phone
Good edge/corner protection
Removable belt clip
Poor belt clip design