I’m a pocket watch kind of guy. I have asked for, received, and used nice pocket watches since I was a teen. In fact, I managed to initially catch the eye of one of my pre-marriage gas with a pocket watch: at a party, she spotted the gold chain attached to my pants, came over, and said, “Is there a watch attached to that chain?” (We dated for 3 years!) So yeah, I like pocket watches.
The iPhone is small enough to fit in pretty much anyone’s pants pocket, of course, and I have long wondered why someone didn’t create some kind of pocket-watch-like case and chain combination for it. In fact, I wondered so much that I googled it a few times over the years, and the most recent time I got a hit for Z-connector. The Z-connector case and chain combo seemed to be just what I was looking for, so I asked for and received a test unit. Read on to find out what I thought.
Z-connector provides you with both the stick-on option, and the whole “case with a chain” option. They have ‘way more cases than just for the iPhone–for AT&T phones alone, they have cases for Blackberry, Nokia, HTC, Samsung, and of course Apple. At the Z-connector site, you choose your carrier, your phone type, and then you get a selection of case and chain combos to choose from. There are two types of chains: scroll, and link. The link chain is bigger–it looks pretty much exactly like the kind of chain folks currently attach all kinds of pockets stuff to that they don’t want to lose, like keys or knives or what-have-you. The scroll chain is thinner and lighter, and definitely has a more unobtrusive look. For each type you can choose silver or gold, and there is also a black scroll type which looks quite nice.
For my review, I requested the silver link. I have to say I was actually pretty excited when it came in the mail; I would finally get to test my theory about iPhones and pocket watches!
My review unit consisted of a rubber case with the silver chain
The chain has two circular carabiners (well, pseudo-carabiners, really) at each end–one wear it attaches to your clothes or belt look, and one wear it attaches to the case. I found this handy, because it meant I could just detach the case from the chain whenever I wanted to, say, charge and sync my iPhone, or just not have the chain attached. The hardware on the bottom of the case did make it a little awkward, but it wasn’t too bad.
The chain is attached to the case via a bolt that is held in place with, well, a giant washer. Covering the washer was a thin plastic disk to avoid scratching up the back of your phone.
To be honest, this made me a bit nervous. I wished the plastic was larger, or more firmly attached to the case rather than just stuck onto the disk, or something. It did the job, but it definitely wasn’t as safe for the back of my phone as I would have wished.
The fit of the rubber case is a little bit loose. The advantage to this is, if you are the kind of person who switches their cases up a lot–and I’m definitely one of those people–this makes it easy. On the other hand, it felt almost too loose on my iPhone. It wasn’t, really; it just felt that way–I think partly this is due to the thinness of the rubber itself–the case ha a very slim form factor, which means that it doesn’t bulk up your iPhone, which I really liked. On the other hand, it felt a little too small.
Again, I wish that the fit of the case was bit more tight, or that they had used a tougher, firmer rubber for the case. I would even like to see additional case options–a hard plastic case (like iFrogz uses, for example), instead of just rubber. But despite the fact that the rubber slipped on quite easily, I never felt that my phone was in jeopardy of popping out of the case, so put this under the heading of “minor quibble. I also wish the chain attacked at the top of the case rather than the bottom–when pulling the phone out of my pocket by the chain, this design meant that my phone would be upside down. But hey, if these things bug you, just get their stick-on chain and attach it to your favorite case, right? (I have actually attached it to my Mophie Juice Pack Air.)
The round carabiners were quite easy to put on belt loops, and to reattach after you take them off the chain or your belt or whatnot. However, because they are round with no levers, I did find it difficult to take them off.
The big caveat here is that I have nerve damage–I am unable to feel my left thumb and forefinger, so you should definitely judge my difficulty with that in mind. I would have liked a little lever or catch on the carabiner to make it a bit easier for me but again, this is a minor quibble. The lack of such things make the carabiners round and smooth, so much less likely to catch on clothing and cause a rip–a trade-off I think Z-Connector was smart to make. After all, how many of their customers have nerve damage?
On the other hand, the chain attaches directly to the carabiners at both ends–there is no slightly-bigger loop at each end to make it easier to attach, and that would be a nice innovation.
The case itself covers the power and volume switches, and has cutouts for the camera, audio jack, and mute switch. All these worked just fine–the volume and power button covers were quite flush and difficult to see, but they operated just fine, and I never had any trouble with them.
On the other hand, the cutout for the mute switch was just a little bit off. I don’t know if this is a function of the case being originally designed for the iPhone 4 and I have a 4S, or if I just got a slightly off unit. However, this did not affect the functionality–I was able to use the switch with no more than the ordinary amount of trouble associated with a case with a cutout. I have very, very short fingernails, and was always able to switch it on and off, so it’s fine, if it looks a little funky visually.
Overall, I really like this product; despite my minor quibbles with it. I haven’t decided if I’ll keep it for myself or let The Boy have it, but that’s purely a style consideration from an old guy not wanting to look like he’s trying to look cool and failing. But if you’re going for a “pocket watch” kind of feel, or if you’re the kind of person who accidentally leaves your phone behind, this is definitely a good options for you.
(That’s a Firefly “Slim’s Used Spaceship Lot” T-shirt, if you were wondering.)
Doug’s summation: I like it! Good quality, reasonable price, good look.
What it is: the Z-Connector iPhone case w/ chain
What I liked: the whole idea!; the quality of the chain and connectors/carabiners
What needs improvement: other case options beside the default black rubber (note: you can of course always just use the stick-on chain to connect to your favorite case instead); connection to the chain at the top rather than the bottom of the case
MSRP: $37.97 (case+chain); $28.97 (Direct Z Connect stick-on w/ chain)
Source: review donation