TYLT is one of the emerging accessory brands to have made a good impression at the 2013 CES with a new line of iPhone 5 cases including some quirky charging accessories we thought were pretty clever. The SQRD (pronounced Squared) is one of TYLT's unique iPhone 5 cases to feature a distinct squarishly shaped styling, which we've seen before when it was done by Incase and its Box case for the iPhone 4S. The Box case was a hit, and we loved using it because it was different. The same can be said about TYLT's Sqrd case for the iPhone 5. Incase may have neglected to port its boxy-brick-shaped case for the iPhone 5, but fortunately for us all TYLT stepped up to make its own interpretation. Catch up on our review right after the cut!
Usually there isn't much to show when smartphone case packaging is concerned, but this time it's worth highlighting. The Sqrd comes packaged inside themed framed border-like packaging with sadly nothing inside but the case itself. You'll be spending $30 on one of these nicely packaged Sqrd cases. Each available in black, red, blue, purple and pink. Oddly, green isn't an option but it once was judging by the unequal packaging we received.
TYLT's Sqrd case might be the most basic offering out of its iPhone 5 case lineup, but certainly one that I think makes the greatest impact in the way your iPhone 5 looks and feels. The Box case while awesome, does have a few side effects being that it is made out of gelatin-like silicone and shaped with sharp edges. In the opposite corner (pun intended), TYTL's Sqrd keeps a distinct square shape yet maintains a good balance of rounded-off corners while also providing a more ergonomically shaped profile. The back side of this case is actually contoured slightly to fit in your hand more comfortably, and comfortably it fits indeed. It isn't quite as pronounced as the pillow-esque shape of something like the HTC One and 8X, but it's enough to notice without it significantly adding on bulk to the back of the iPhone 5.
Corners are rounded just enough to fit comfortably in the palm of your hand instead of digging into it, yet doing so without detracting from the squared styling. I don't mind the large embossed TYLT logo on the back and I actually think it adds some texture and character to the case as oppose to having a completely blank surface which would be somewhat bland, albeit arguably. Why? It really has more do to with compensating for the lack of material quality more than anything else. Also, if you haven't noticed, the embossed logo is made with a glossy finish so it nicely reflects lights against the matte textured body of the Sqrd.
In terms of design, it's appropriate to call the Sqrd a simplistic type of case. It's slim, and barely adds any bulk to the iPhone 5's already slim profile. The matte textured TPU material allows it to easily slip in and out of your pocket without grabbing onto lint and dust on the way. One of the stand-out features of the Sqrd case is that it changes the original shape of the iPhone 5 into one that's reminiscent of HTC's 8X and Nokia's Lumia devices, which is awesome if you like to try new things and are bored with the traditional rounded cases the follow the curvature of the iPhone 5's industrial design.
The Sqrd is made out of the most basic flexible TPU material you'd find in the cheapest of cases. Granted TYLT designed the Sqrd case with a bit more meat on its bones, but it doesn't come close to the quality of a case that costs less than half the price. I'm talking about Magpul's $13 Field Case, which is technically more advanced in its material and construction even though it really uses the same type of material, it just feels a lot more refined and fits the iPhone 5 like a tight glove.
The Sqrd on the other hand is simple, very simple - and highly overpriced. But it's also vastly more mainstream in terms of styling than the Field Case which we can appreciate. The finish is very smooth with a hint of grainy texture. The Sqrd is more of a sleek, modernly curved case and grip sadly isn't on the list of requirements.
Like others of its kind, protection is the Sqrd's expertise in that it offers outstanding corner protection which is one of the more crucial points of impact on a device such as the iPhone 5. Each corner benefits from the squared designed as it offers a reinforced layer of shock-absorbing impact zone that's ideal for drop protection. There's a decent sized lip that overlaps and surrounds the iPhone 5's screen in order to protect it, but because of it you won't be able to use tempered glass screen protectors. If you aren't willing to compromise screen protection, you might want to check out the Field Case by Magpul or the Slim Armor by Spigen.
Buttons are covered and protected by the Sqrd and are acceptably easy to press as far as TPU cases go. You're not going to find them amazingly easy to press nor tactile, but enough so as to not degrade the experience. The oversized camera cutout made for the back facing camera is reasonably that because it ensures you'll be able to use the flash without having images colored or washed-out by the case itself.
Taking a look a the bottom of the Sqrd we see a fairly wide, single cutout opening instead of the usual 3-cutout opening that'll give you unobstructed access to the iPhone 5's 3.5mm audio and Lightning ports. Any of Apple's Lightning adapters and cables will fit in perfectly without having to remove the case which is a plus compared to others.
But there's a caveat to this single wide cutout as it lacks support which allows the thin piece of material below the home button to easily flex and sag downwards. Although you'll only notice this happening when pressing down on the home button, it cheapens the overall feel of the Sqrd and could sag/deform all on its own with time or use. Needless to say it'll annoy quite a few people. This is exactly the reason why a lot of case manufacturers like Magpul and Spigen are willing to sacrifice Apple's adapter compatibility for the greater good of creating a more reliable design that has more rigidity without little to no flexing. It's an acceptable caveat on a TPU case that you'd pay a few dollars for on eBay, but not so much when you're paying $30.
At the end of the day, I wouldn't mind using TYLT's Sqrd case. It's fantastically fun and comfortable to use, and the "unique" squarish shape of it creates a new experience that's different from the norm and offers up a decent amount of drop protection without being bulky. And that's exactly why the Sqrd can be appreciated as a simplistic streamlined case that's reminiscent in similarity to some of the beautifully designed handsets on today's market. That said, the mediocre quality of the Sqrd and weak bottom lip isn't good enough to justify the cost. It merits a good rating, but nothing we're thrilled about recommending.