ZeroChroma Teatro iPhone 4 Case is Best-in-Class

| In-Depth Review

I recently wrote a Dr. Mac column for the Houston Chronicle that was about clever product designs. Among the products I singled out for cleverness beyond the call of duty were new iPhone and iPad cases from ZeroChroma. To quote myself, “I’ve tested hundreds of cases, folks, and I thought I’d seen it all until I came across these clever case/stand combos.”

Here’s the rest of the review from my newspaper column, all 114 words of it: 

They’re unlike any case with a kickstand I’ve ever seen. They’re slimmer than most cases with kickstands, and unlike all the others, the kickstands don’t protrude and aren’t annoying. The kickstand pops up, rotates 360 degrees, and provides a choice of more than a dozen viewing angles. The killer feature is that the stand folds flat and flush with the back, so it won’t snag on your pocket or purse, or wobble.

With its shock-rail rubber interior and anti-slip rubber bumpers and stand tip, it’s quickly become my all-time favorite stand-case combination. I used other kickstand cases only when I traveled, but I like the clever ZeroChroma case so much I’m using it full-time.”

Now it’s not bad considering my word count constraints in print, but it’s not all there is to say about these cool new cases from ZeroChroma. 

Note: In my newspaper column I was talking about both the iPad and the iPhone cases. The rest of this review is of the iPhone 4 case. For what it’s worth, I’d say even nicer things about the iPad case ($69.95), which has a couple of useful features not found in the iPhone model (Reversible Screen-Shield mode and Unlimited Handle Modes), and the only other ZeroChroma case I’ve tested (Hint: It’s still on my iPad). And while I didn’t test them, there are similar ZeroChroma cases for the iPod touch 3G, iPod nano 5G, Kindle II, and iPhone 3GS, with cases for other devices “coming soon.”    

Those Things I Didn’t Have Room For in the Column

The case is available in three color combos. While I can’t speak for two of the three color options —  white with light gray and pink with light pink — because I’ve never seen them in person, I think the black and dark gray case I’m using is elegantly minimalist and quite handsome. 

Of course, as I said in my initial review, what makes this case special is the integrated, rotating stand on its backside, as shown in Figure 1. 

 

three of fourteen angles

Photo courtesy ZeroChroma

Figure 1: This unique integrated stand provides more than a dozen viewing angles

Quick aside: I don’t have the luxury of using pictures in the newspaper; this review features five photos including three I shot myself. Now, back to our regularly scheduled review. 

Cases with built-in kickstands aren’t new. I gave the Scosche KickBACK integrated case/stand 5 stars in my 2008 review, noting that: 

The kickstand is unobtrusive and flush with the case when not in use so it slides easily in and out of your pocket.”

The KickBACK’s stand only works in landscape mode, and only offers one viewing angle. The ZeroChroma Teatro’s stand is much more flexible with its 14 possible angles for hands-free viewing in portrait and landscape modes. 

I never realized how convenient having an integrated stand is until I used this case for a while. I started using it nearly two months ago and I don’t think I’ve set my phone down flat on a surface more than a handful of times. I stand it up in the kitchen when my hands are wet, greasy, or full; I stand it on my desk as a hands-free speakerphone with Caller ID; I stand it up for FaceTime video chats (and I really appreciate not having to hold my phone at arm’s length while I talk); and, my personal favorite, standing it at the most comfortable of its fourteen angles on my tray table when flying coach.  

While the rotating stand is clearly the killer feature, it’s not the only feature that sets this case apart from others. It’s packed with other thoughtful design touches. For example, the edges of the case and the tip of the stand are anti-slip rubber stuff so the case resists sliding on slippery or uneven surfaces. 

And unlike many cases this one’s so thin that in the two months I’ve had it I’ve never had to remove it to use a docking peripheral or cable with my iPhone. 

 

ZeroChroma 2

Photo courtesy Bob LeVitus

Figure 2: The case is thin and lightweight but quite protective as well

Other niceties include finger dimples for a better grip, and an anti-glare camera/flash opening; both features can be seen in Figure 3.  

ZeroChroma3 

Photo courtesy ZeroChroma

Figure 3: Note the finger dimples and anti-glare camera/flash opening

Finally, your iPhone is cushioned by little rubber shock absorbers as shown in Figure 4.

  ZeroChroma4

Photo courtesy Bob LeVitus

Figure 4: These are just some of the little rubber shock absorbers

The bottom line

I could be using any of the dozens of iPhone 4 cases piled high in my office waiting for me to evaluate ‘em, I keep returning to the Teatro. And I plan to use until something I like better comes along. It could be a long wait… I’ll keep you posted.   

P. S. 

You know I love you, gentle reader, but not so much that I’d purposely drop my iPhone 4 onto a concrete floor. Alas, a few weeks ago my iPhone 4 accidentally slid out of my pocket when I was getting out of my car and dropped around three feet. It landed screen side down on a concrete floor so I was surprised to find no damage to either the iPhone or the case. 

Why was I so surprise? Well, believe it or not, the same exact thing happened a few months ago and that particular iPhone 4 (which I have to admit was case-less at the time) sustained some severe damage to the backside, as shown in Figure 5. 

Ouch! 

Photo courtesy Bob LeVitus

Figure 5: Ouch!

While I can’t promise a ZeroChroma case will protect your iPhone from such abuse, I felt obliged to mention that it did protect mine the one time I needed it to. And yes, I’ve learned my lesson — I don’t carry my iPhone in the front pocket of gym shorts anymore.

Product: Teatro for iPhone 4

Company: ZeroChroma

List Price: US$44.95

Pros:

Elegant design, 14-position stand, sturdy construction, thin yet protective, rubber bumpers inside and anti-slip rubber on the edges and stand tip.

Cons:

None that I can think of.

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Comments

Steve

Where’s the iPod Touch 4 love?

They say coming soon…

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