The other day we received an email from Case-Mate telling us about an upcoming iPhone case – the Case-Mate Tank. The Tank, which is the company’s first foray into ruggedized cases, will be out in a week or so and they wanted to know if I was interested in seeing it before its release, which I was. I got some information, pictures and a video of it in action. The video showed an iPhone in the Tank case being “mistreated” and surviving intact; it was rather impressive.
I then took a closer look at the information being provided, and I realized that the Case-Mate Tank looked eerily similar to a case we reviewed here on the site a few months ago. That case, the SharkEye, did a good job of protecting the iPhone but it felt a bit rough and amateurish. In fact, let’s take a look at what I said about the SharkEye back in June:
The Shark Eye is definitely one of the more unusual cases I have seen recently. The built-in screen protection is rather interesting and I guess could come in handy if someone wants to keep their screen covered most of the time but still wants quick access to it without removing a case plate or book-style cover.
That noted, I found the case to look and feel a bit on the cheap side. The plastic used in its construction does not feel great in the hand, strikes me a rather thin and the case design is best described as utilitarian. While the thinness will offer the protection you want without adding too much weight it just doesn’t FEEL great. And while the two pieces click together they do so in a manner which looks and feels a bit clunky. Perhaps this best explains it- as refined as the iPhone 4 is the Shark Eye is not.
If the degree of screen protection the Shark Eye offers is of interest to you this case is, without a doubt, worth a look. If you want the rugged protection and do not need the unique screen protection this case offers you might want to look at more refined rugged cases such as the Otterbox Commuter.
What I Like: Unique case that will draw attention; include two screen films with the case; with screen protection in place the iPhone is 100% covered and protected; belt holster takes the case with the iPhone screen in or out
What Needs Improvement: Adds a good bit of bulk to the iPhone; plastic and construction do not feel as substantial as I would expect for a $50 price tag; just not as refined as some of the other options in the “rugged case” market
The key word here was “cheap”. I emailed our contact at Case-Mate and ask if their Tank was the same case as the SharkEye. I was, to be honest, a bit disappointed in the company since it looked as if they had simply taken a rather mediocre iPhone case and rebranded it as their own. “Is this the direction Case-Mate is moving?” I asked myself.
Fortunately our contact at the company was forthcoming and honest in response to my inquiries. Yes, the Tank looks familiar to the Shark Eye because it is based upon the Shark Eye’s design, but it is “vastly improved”. The protection offered by the case is the same or better than ever, they said, but now the case has a far more refined look and feel.
I had a chance to see the case on Skype yesterday during a private reset, but it’s difficult to tell much over the Internet. Thankfully the company was kind enough to overnight both the new case and one of the originals upon which it is based. This let me do a side-by-side comparison of the two
For starters, even the packaging of the Case-Mate Tank is a bit nicer than the original version.
The design is exactly the same although the Tank is, indeed, a bit more refined. The new case has a soft-touch, spray coating that looks and feels better and does give it a much better, higher-end aesthetic.
In addition, the opening for the camera and light sensor has been changed to improve the device’s responsiveness to changes in brightness.
Looking at the side you actually don’t see much difference at all.
From the back the differences are apparent and all are positive improvements. Gone is the huge, embossed Shark Eye logo. The camera opening is bigger in keeping with Apple’s new specs. All colors have a black ring around the edges to ensure the best image possible.
And instead of one closure button there are now two. This is a big deal since the original version has a tendency to pop off every now and then. That never happens now.
Popping the bottom off lets you see that the interior is pretty much the same.
And from this angle you can see how the Tank works. The iPhone sits inside the interior cavity. In a sense it is almost suspended. That means it has built-in protection.
The screen protection is also the same appearance-wise although Case-Mate has sprayed the sliding screen with a teflon coating. This results in it sliding open and closed more easily.
The holster feels much beefier on the Tank than it did on the Shark Eye and it has the same soft-touch coating. Case-Mate’s reps told me they wanted to make sure the holster was plenty strong since this case is, in part, being marketed to law enforcement and military. That is also why they wanted to ensure the phone can sit in the holster with its screen facing either out or in. (Law enforcement are encouraged to keep their screens face in lest important information be seen by the wrong people.
Finally, and this is important, Case-Mate wanted to test the Tank and really make sure it was as tough as they hoped it would be. They went to a Detroit testing facility and let a 3rd party do the tests. The result was that the case tested as “2.5 times tougher than competitors”. In addition, it adheres to military specs, something that is important considering the case is, in part, being targeted to law enforcement and military. (That noted, they also made a point of letting me know that non-military women also tend to also be an excellent market for rugged cases.)
So yes, the Tank IS the Shark Eye. And no, the Tank is not the Shark Eye. Case-Mate liked the original design and its high degree of protection but they too found it a bit rough around the edges. So they partnered with Shark Eye and made something more refined that offered the same protection or more; they have succeeded.
Here’s what Case-Mate has to say:
It takes a beating. The Tank iPhone 4 / 4S case brings an extreme approach to defending the iPhone with a rugged case that completely protects the iPhone 4/ 4S from screen to back.
Modeled after motorcycle helmet engineering, Tank is designed with a hard, impact resistant exterior and a shock absorbing interior. A shatter resistant, polycarbonate hard shell combines with the thick, silicone cushioned interior. The retractable screen shields from impacts, cracking and condensation, fully protecting the iPhone screen. The Tank exterior is made of a premium, soft grip texture that slides easily in and out of your pockets. The Tank tests number one in impact resistance against the leading brand, and meets or exceeds US military standards.
Military grade, protective iPhone case
Polycarbonate hard shell with silicone cushioned interior
Retractable screen shields from impacts, cracking and condensation
Soft touch exterior that easily slides in and out of pockets
Tested #1 in impact resistance against the leading brand
Holster belt clip included
Here’s a quick rundown of my notes from the Skype Meeting:
Case-Mate took an existing design and then improved upon it based on feedback. The original case was a bit rough. Casemate improved upon it.
The original version felt a bit cheap so they added a soft touch material to improve that aspect of the design.
The camera hole is bigger and there is a black ring around it for helping the light sensor.
Holsters are really important to people who use them, so they beefed up the holster and they color matched it to the case.
You can put the phone inside in either direction – hides information when it comes in.
Contract manufacturing company that was trying to bring things to market
Case-Mate® Introduces a New Contender to the Tough Case Market
TANK™ provides unparalleled protection for the iPhone
ATLANTA, November 3, 2011 – Case-Mate®, known for its innovative accessories that protect, style and enhance mobile technology, today announced the addition of an ultra- protective tough case to their product portfolio. TANK™ offers consumers who have a rough and rugged lifestyle or those who simply want extra protection a strong defense against extreme conditions.
TANK is one of the few tough iPhone cases on the market to pass U.S. Military Specifications. Testing showed the tough case either met or exceeded the U.S. Department of Defense standard for sand/dust, shock/drop, wind/rain and vibration.
Case-Mate further measured TANK’s durability through third party testing performed by Detroit Testing Laboratory. Thehammer impact test found TANK’s polycarbonate exterior is 2.5 times more impact resistant than the leading brand’s exterior. Testing also found TANK’s retractable screen protector significantly shields the screen from impacts, cracking and condensation.
“Sixty-seven percent of damaged iPhones are due to cracked screens and the current market does not provide users with an effective solution,” said Erik Attkisson, Chief Marketing Officer at Case-Mate. “We saw this as an opportunity to engineer a tough case that has the high-design aesthetic our customers expect while providing critical protection for both the screen and the phone.”
Designed using the principal theory that guided motorcycle helmet engineering, Case-Mate constructed TANK with a hard, impact resistant exterior and a shock absorbing interior. The textured hard shell covers the dual layer case and, like a motorcycle helmet, disperses the initial impact over a wide surface area. The interior layer absorbs the weakened impact; further safeguarding the phone against bumps and shocks. The interior is made of a soft silicone and features plugs over the phone’s ports to keep the inside free of dust and dirt. Color matching holsters complete the case.
Product details include:
- Soft-touch textured polycarbonate hard shell provides high-impact resistance
- Cushioned silicone interior absorbs impact
- Retractable screen shields from impacts, cracking and condensation
- Meets or exceeds United States Military Specifications for sand/dust, shock/drop, wind/rain and vibration
- TANK is 2.5 more impact resistant compared to leading brand
TANK is available for $60 at www.case-mate.com. Color options include green/orange, black/black, black/pink and white/pink. You can also find cases for a wide variety of BlackBerry and other smartphones and tablet devices on the Case-Mate Website.
Case-Mate is the leader in design of fashion-forward accessories for mobile technology and tablets. Since 2006, the company has helped consumers express their individual style with products that protect, adorn and enhance their mobile devices. Working with top designers from around the world and using cutting-edge materials, Case-Mate’s team of technology and design aficionados have created an extensive repertoire of mobile and tablet cases right for any style and every occasion. For more information, visit www.case-mate.com.