Now - I know what you're probably thinking - "It's just a case, how can anything be really special about it?". Well this isn't just any iPhone case, it's the Clarifi from Griffin, but I'll come to that later.
First, we'll start with the basics: What's in the box. Well, in this case, your $30.99 gets you the Clarifi itself, a screen protector (which I'll come to later), and a cleaning cloth, along with an instruction manual on how to fit the screen protector and case (which is a nice touch, as fitting a screen protector can be tricky the first time you attempt it). The box is incredibly well presented, with everything but the Clarifi hidden out of sight, albeit very difficult to open. Once you've managed to attack the case open, however, it's uphill all the way.
The contents of the Clarifi box.
Whilst in ways, the Clarifi is just like most other cases - it has cutouts for all buttons, and it features a removable base (and just like most other cases, it strikes the fear of scratches in when removing it!) for seamless docking. Where the similarities end, however, is in the design. It's sleek, two tone glossy and matte finished back panel doesn't conform to the usual design standards, instead using curves and different lengths to create a unique style, which, quite simply, just works. After using the case for a day, several people commented on the style of it - and every single one was positive. So, if you fancy a cover that makes your gorgeous iPhone look as ugly as a 1980's mobile - move along.
The sleek glossy and matte back panel.
The radical design is continued on the front of the case, as the curves on the back result in different lengths of plastic on the front, meaning that instead of a monotonous joint at the bottom, as featured on 99% of cases on the market, the Clarifi features 4 micro-joints, all at different heights (although the top 2 appear to be there for aesthetic reasons only). If you're one of those Feng-Shui-type-people then this will probably drive you insane, although, if like me you like elegant, modern styling that complements the style of the iPhone perfectly, then this is for you - and at just 2mm thin, the Clarifi isn't going to leave a huge bulge in your pocket (or a hole in your wallet!).
The elegant front shows off your iPhone, whilst keeping it protected.
Moving away from the design of the case, I'll start talking about the protection it provides - after all, it wasn't developed to just be a pretty piece of plastic, was it? This is the only negative thing I have to say about the Clarifi - the provided screen protector is absolutely useless. I usually purchase screen protectors from China on eBay, usually at a cost of about $0.30 each - and they go on perfectly every time. At first glance, the screen protector supplied by Griffin appears to leave air bubbles around the earpiece and button, however, after careful examination, I realised that it wasn't just me being useless at putting the things on, and that the edges of the screen protector around those areas had started to split.
The marks left behind by the poor quality screen protector.
The other issue I have with the screen protector is when sliding the base of the case back onto the iPhone - there appears to be a small argument between the screen protector and the case as to who wants to be there more. Yes, this sounds odd, but it's true - it's a completely random battle - sometimes the case will win and will slide on effortlessly, and others the screen protector wins, and props itself up at the edges, preventing the case from sliding on properly. Once the screen protector is on, however, probably wont notice it, so this fantastic case isn't going to lose too many brownie-points for it!
Although a screen-protector is a must, we all know that for a phone as delicate as the iPhone - it's really the outer-protection that counts, and this is where the Clarifi excels itself. In a moment of madness, I placed my baby (my iPhone, that is!) into the Clarify, and dropped it onto a flat concrete surface from a height of 2 feet, twice, once with the phone vertical, and once with the screen facing downwards (sometimes I do actually think that I'm mad!). I have absolutely no idea how it manages it, but neither the iPhone or the Clarifi suffered any damage whatsoever - the Matte corners on the Clarifi show no signs of the drop what-so-ever - no hairline cracks, no scuffs, nothing! I sincerely take my hat off to you Griffin, because creating a 2mm thick piece of plastic that can do that is utterly magnificent. The following photo was taken after the drop-test, and as you can see, no scuffs in sight.
The back of the case, after being dropped onto concrete twice.
Now, the part I'm sure you've all been waiting for - the Clarifi's party piece.
The lens on the back of the case.
On the back of the case, where you'd usually find a small, circular hole to allow the iPhone's camera to work, you'll actually find a slider, which houses a small, but very powerful lens. When positioned over the camera, this lens refocuses the photo to allow for much sharper macro shots. Granted, it isn't going to out-shine your $500+ macro lens you would normally use, but, as you can see in the photos, it certainly works. The photos here were taken from my iPhone, at the closest possible focal range, and have not been manipulated other than being cropped. As you can see, for close-up shots, the Clarifi is a clear winner.
A photo of 6pt text without and with the lens.
This little gem has another undocumented use too - it protects your actual iPhone lens from dust and scratches, adding another layer of protection to the already incredibly-well protected iPhone.
There is, however, one thing that bugs me about the lens - its size. It doesn't sit flush with the body, and its horizontal length means that it protrudes in a way which prevents the case from sitting level - if you place it flat on a desk, it will always lean to one side. Due to the curved nature of the case, it may have been possible to arrange it vertically so that it loses its "rockability". An idea for the Clarifi v2?
I've really had to struggle to find faults with this case, and while I've managed it - they've all been minor little bugs which could be easily corrected.
For $31, it may be on the mid-to-high end of the price range for iPhone cases, but let me assure you - it's worth it. Whether you're a fan of photography and want to experiment with some close up shots, or simply want some added protection for your lens (and the iPhone itself considering my drop test!), it's hard to not recommend this. A word to Griffin though - please ditch that awful screen protector - either remove it and knock a $ off of the price, or replace it with one that doesn't fall apart.
Other than that, 5 stars all round for a fantastic iPhone case.