Speck FabShell Case for iPhone 5: Stylish, Costly

The Speck FabShell case for iPhone 5, with design by Burton Graphics, is a single layer, semi-hardshell case with hybrid construction: TPE and polycarbonate. These low-tack materials protect from scratches and smudges, and the designs are attractive. There's a lot to like, but the case is expensive as iPhone cases go.

If you’re going to use a single layer case, one that uses different materials for different purposes is a great way to go. The soft part of this case and the touch-thru button protectors are made of thermoplastic elastomer (TPE). The shell is a hard polycarbonate plastic wrapped with tactile, stylish fabric, in original Burton patterns.

The ones I received for review are “Raw Edged/Pomodoro” (shown here) and “Ballpoint Reid Plaid/Harbor.” Other designs include “Girls Confetti/Black” and “Price of Wales/Black.”

Case Open

The first thing I noticed is that the stiff edges and wrap-around bezel are very stiff. While it’s not too hard to insert an iPhone 5, getting it back out was a real challenge, and I almost broke a fingernail.

Unlike other cases that may have a soft silicone edge here, this material is stiff and strong. Once it wraps around the edge of the iPhone, the case is rather well in place. The iPhone won’t be slipping out, and the edge won’t be nudged more than a millimeter.

There are no flaps to cover ports. As is customary, ports that need access, the headphone jack and Lightning port are open. The others are covered with pseudo-buttons that cover the real buttons. As a minor note, the volume control button covers are not marked with “+” and “-” but then you probably don’t really need to see the labels to know which is which.

Edge shows ports and fabric along the side. Note the logo stuck firmly to face.

Like the Speck SmartFlex Card case previously reviewed, the materials used tend not to accumulate fingerprints and dust. So the case always stays looking nice, and this Pomodoro style does indeed look good.

As is almost mandatory in modern cases, this line has a blackened, anti-glare edge along the inside of the camera aperture. I always appreciate that.

Unlike some other single layer cases, this one seems tough and stiff in all the required areas, so I think it would do a good job with casual bumping. Of course, a single layer can only do so much from a fall from a great distance, but I didn’t do any drop testing.

The bezel/edges wrap around very securely.

Things Not to Like

I didn’t care for the visible lettering on the side. This is the first iPhone case I can recall reviewing that had such obvious lettering and logos, promoting the maker.

The Speck (arrow) logo on the face is also something I didn’t care for. (See photos above.) And, of course, I estimate that for a young woman with small hands, extracting the iPhone from the case will require some assistance. That’s the price to be paid for a very secure edge that, by the way, protects the display when placed face down.

There is no screen protector included. At nearly US$40, one should be included.


Like most of the Speck cases, this one comes in a sturdy, nicely made, easy to open package that showcases the product when on the shelf. Plus, there’s a quarter-sized hole in the plastic so the potential buyer can feel the texture of the material used before making a purchase decision. There's a one year warranty.

Note hole in plastic so the cutomer can feel the texture before buying.

Case Closed

There is a lot to like about this case. It’s made with great materials that provide good protection and won’t pick up fingerprints and lint. The edge wraps around securely. The designs will appeal to a broad range of people.

Regrettably, defacing the case with logos and lettering detracts from the beauty. And, in my opinion, the advertising value is small compared to the likelihood of annoying the customer who has forked out big bucks for a case whose appeal is its artistic design.

I won’t drop a case like this, at this price, into the “disappointing” rating just because it’s very expensive, but I will say that -- even allowing for the high tech materials -- it’s a very expensive case for what you get.

Product: FabShell x Burton for iPhone 5

Company: Speck Products

List Price: US$39.95



Stiff, strong, high tech materials that will remain good looking, several artistic designs with a textured, fabric-like feel, black anti-glare edge of camera aperture, very secure edge fit.


Lettering and logos detract from beauty of the design, no screen protector included, hard to remove the iPhone once inserted, expensive as iPhone cases go.