Now that we've concluded our reviews of Apple's official cases for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, it's time that we check out what third party case makers have been up to. Starting with SwitchEasy. This company has been around for the longest time making some amazingly unique cases for Apple's iPhones since day one. And every case SwitchEasy would release went on to become a smashing success. This time, SwitchEasy's Shades case for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 caught us off guard. The Shades case is rocking a curved body lacquered with glosses-up polycarbonate, isn't apologetic about it, and sells itself as an elegant, all-around protective case featuring a translucent gradient colored shell as its name suggests. But before you grab this shady case and hit up the beach, there are a few things you should know first.
SwitchEasy always includes a screen protector and two port protector plugs with every case it offers, and of course the Shades isn't the exception for that tradition. It's nice to see that over the time, SwitchEasy has moved from including multiple individual ports plugs to this single piece port plug design which is a lot more convenient to use. Some of SwitchEasy's iPhone cases now either include these separate port plugs while others have them integrated into the case itself; we prefer the latter still.
We rarely use stock images of products we review, but photographing SwitchEasy's Shades case was challenging to say the least. We couldn't get the desired "shade" effect this case has going on like in the stock image made by SwitchEasy.
As you can tell, the port plug matches the color of the case and fits the bottom perfectly and gives the Shade's otherwise wide bottom opening - a finished closed design that also matches the rest of the Shades' thickness and materials. While you'll need to remove the entire piece if you want to access the Lightning connector port, there's a small flap that you can open in order to gain access to the iPhone's headphone port. And instead of a cutout, there are tiny perorations made for the speaker and mic. Obviously the iPhone 5s' Touch ID home button is fully accessible with the Shades case on.
At the moment, SwitchEasy's Shades case comes in three different shades (pun intended) - black, green and purple. All of which have this translucent color effect that is actually a lot darker in person once the case is fitted onto the iPhone to the point where it becomes extremely hard to make out the two-tone design and Apple logo underneath it. We're not quite sure what SwitchEasy was going for with the Shades case, but complimenting the iPhone 5s' native styling isn't one of them.
Our green colored Shades case features integrated plastic golden control buttons made to look like they were made out of real metal. I know it comes down to personal taste, but I'm not one to think this British racing green-looking color and gold accents really fits in with anything.
Unusual to cases of this type, the Shades features an ample thermoplastic polyurethane interior bumper lining that covers the sides and top parts of the case well padded. It also creates friction which secures the iPhone inside the case as there is not snapping design like you'd normally find in most cases. The iPhone slides into the case very smoothly, but requires that you push through the camera opening if you want to remove your iPhone.
Billed as an elegant and highly-protective case, the Shades is made up from a thick polycarbonate material which is the single most thickest translucent polycarbonate we've ever seen make up an iPhone case. There's no bending or flexing this case, so much so that it can be used to hammer nails into a plank of wood should the opportunity present itself. SwitchEasy does boast that the Shades has an extra thick casing, and that's exactly right. But there's also a good reason why the Shades is thick. It actually features a curved design that once encases your iPhone 5s, feels like holding Apple's old plastic-made iPhone 3GS. So in a way, it's a very comfortable case to hold but it also feels very bulky and just clunky compared to other cases which all seem to go after more precise, and refined details rather than offering a bloated experience that quite frankly I don't admire when it comes to protecting such a well-crafted piece of gadgetry.
The finish of the Shades case doesn't scratch as easily as other plastic cases, and that's partly to do with the UV coating SwitchEasy applies on its polycarbonate cases. The Shades has a glossy, smooth finish which unfortunately attracts and shows fingerprints like crazy. It offers no grip, feels slippery in the hand yet surprisingly not plasticky. It actually kind of feels like the same plastic used in Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses.
While the Shades has mostly a well rounded form factor, it feels unfinished and unrefined. Interior corners are sharp, jagged and simply don't look nor feel pleasing. It almost seems like SwitchEasy rushed this case to market and botched its once flawless manufacturing. To add insult to injury, the Shades case falsely claims that it proves 360-degree protection as it offers absolutely no front screen protection and has no lip around the edges to protect the iPhone's screen. There's no doubt that if dropped, your iPhone's screen could very easily crack or get scratched. And then there's this relatively wide gap around the integrated buttons which not only looks bad, but will also trap dust and other particles. Because the Shades is made from this extra thick casing, the cutout for the silent switch is far too recessed to be reached without using a fingernail.
Overall we didn't like what SwitchEasy has done with the Shades case. It's overly bulky, unnecessarily clunky, offers no 360-degree protection as described and just isn't very pleasing to use. Yes it does have a rounded, curved back design rather than being flat like the rest of them which does feel quite nice to hold, but the glossy finish of the case attracts to many fingerprints, feels slippery and generally the Shades isn't a pretty nor an elegant-looking case at all. That translucent design is too opaque and thick that it awkwardly covers up the iPhone's back with no sense of direction. Then again, if you really feel nostalgic about the iPhone 3GS design, the Shades case will bring back those fond memeories.