Seidio Convert – Always Wear Protection… On your Phone

Even just a few years ago, a dive into the swimming pool or a 10 foot drop onto a particularly pointy rock was the metric by which I measured the durability of my cell phone. Since then, phones have gotten progressively thinner, lighter, and probably the most damning –  glassier. Today it seems that merely looking at a phone the wrong way bares the threat of a damaged screen or a chip in the elegantly thin frame, and it doesn’t help that each phone now costs a small fortune. Unless you’re living inside a bubble you probably need a case… and for the worst abuse, you need a damned good one.

There are plenty of cases out there that claim to be tough as nails, but today we’re going to be looking at the Seidio Convert, specifically the Thunderbolt model accommodating an extended battery (because I bought one and I might as well get the most out of the experience). The Convert is available for a number of phone models, from iPhones to Blackberries to many of the Android based phones. Each model is of course different, so your experience may vary, but from a brief look, the major features are present across most incarnations of the case.

With about 3 months of abuse logged, I’ll be taking you through some of the ups and downs of the case. In case you were getting your hopes up, no I didn’t jump in a pool with this case (it’s NOT waterproof), and no I didn’t drop it on a pointy rock (I… couldn’t find one…). So with that said, click through and learn!

The Convert is really two cases in one; a slim inner hard case (sold separately under the name ‘SURFACE’) and a combo silicon/hard plastic outer case.  Just so we don’t get confused, let’s call the inner case the ‘SURFACE’ and the outer case the ‘CONVERT’.  We’ll mostly focus on the CONVERT here, as there isn’t a whole lot to say about the SURFACE. It does its job but is otherwise pretty unremarkable.

Protection

When I look at a case to see if it can stand up to the abuse I put it through, there are two major concerns that I have; Can it take a hit, and can it keep crap out. More eloquently put, how well does it fair on impact, and can it  hold intruding dirt/dust at bay.

Seidio Tackles impact protection from multiple angles. A silicon rubber skin underneath absorbs the shock of impact and cushions the phone while a hard plastic frame protects the rear, sides and corners of the phone from the brunt of impact. Many cases go with one or the other, but combining the two provides a superior protection from a broader range of bumps, fall and impacts. Between the inner SURFACE case and the tough outer CONVERT, you end up with a three layer sandwich of protection from blunt force trauma. In addition to providing some impact protection, the silicon skin fully covers and protects the camera, external buttons (lock and volume), headphone jack and micro USB from intrusion by all manner of gritty nastiness, and though it isn’t advertized, also keeps out light rain and snow.

The case also provides the screen with some protection, rising well above the front of the phone and preventing the screen from taking the brunt of any hard landing on a flat surface; however, the key word is ‘flat surface’. There is still a possibility of the screen being hit (pointy rock). The included screen protector will prevent scratches and scuffing, but a solid screen impact on landing will still break your screen.

Lastly, the CONVERT comes with a holster that accommodates belts up to 2″ wide, so it will fit around utility/duty belts and tool belts. The holster positions your phone face-in, protecting the screen, and also features a locking mechanism to keep the clip holding the phone in from any premature release.

Now its nice to hear all that, but how well does it all come together and provide real protection? To that, I have this to say…

turret not included

This case is indeed a TANK… and I say that with the sincerity of a man who has beaten the hell out of it personally.

During the course of the day, I typically spend about 1-2 hours running along rocky trails after a very enthusiastic dog, and despite my best efforts it has taken a few falls. Some of the memorable falls ranged from hip to chest height (I’m 6’2″), with one particularly nasty fall from about waist level at a full run, with the phone landing onto a jagged slab of granite. The phone is still no worse for the wear, and showed no damage at all from the various drops it experienced.

As mentioned, the silicon skin also provides protection from the elements (rain, snow, dust, dirt, etc.).  Like many cases that offer this protection, the silicon is cut to allow ‘flaps’ to be pulled back to expose the ports, which is great for accessibility, but usually provides considerable gaps for which the elements to encroach through. Unlike other cases, these flaps are cut with nearly no seam, keeping even the finest dust out. In fact, the cut is so impeccably done, some people who have played with my case have been completely oblivious to them even being there!

Build Quality

The CONVERT has a solid build quality in my opinion, with each layer fitting snugly into place and seating securely, no wiggle at all. All of the openings and silicon flaps for access to the camera, headphone jack, and USB are right where they need to be, and properly sized so that plugging things in is no problem with this case.

The SURFACE case is made of a soft-touch plastic which I personally think is often the worst finishes for a device if not done properly, as it can quickly rub off under any sustained wear. This has yet to be an issue for me, but the SURFACE rarely see’s the light of day; I almost always have the CONVERT on over it. Also, the SURFACE feels a bit flimsy to be honest, but it inst really the star of this show, is it?

The silicon skin also has a soft touch finish which DID begin to rub off, after only two weeks. This is more or less just an aesthetic issue, but is still a bit aggravating considering the case isn’t exactly in the ‘disposable’ price range.

Functionality

Unfortunately this phone’s biggest advantage is its biggest pitfall, so I say again… This thing is a TANK! The Thunderbolt sporting the extended battery already measures a bit over 5/8″ at its thickest (which already may be pushing it in those skinny jeans), and the Convert doesn’t help any. The SURFACE brings the phone up to about 3/4″, and the CONVERT bumps that up to a whopping 1 1/4″. For reference, a stock Thunderbolt measures around 1/2″. I for one have no problem, but I wear relaxed fit jeans. If you’re wearing anything tighter, or trying to stow the phone in a breast pocket, you’ll probably have a rough time. The soft silicon outer skin probably doesn’t pass the pocket test either, as I find it can resist sliding out of your pocket more often than not.

The ability to remove the CONVERT is probably the only thing that makes the bulk endurable. For instance, if I ‘decide’ on playing the desk jockey for the day, I have the option to only install the SURFACE for an overall slimmer package, yet the phone will retain some protection from light abuse. If I’m out and about in the rocks and dirt, I can slip on the CONVERT and deal with the added size.

Keep in mind, this case is made to accommodate an extended battery; the regular case for the thunderbolt is noticeably thinner, as would other standard cases for other phones. They still are not really thin, just thinner.

iPhone 4 – Not too bad…

The bulk of the phone aside, the single most aggravating issue I have with this case is the silicon flap protecting the camera. Say goodbye to catching for posterity that spontaneous, once-in-a-lifetime event you just saw, as the flap can be a hassle to remove in a pinch. If you are wearing gloves, forget about it. Fat, greasy or wet fingers will cause problems as well. It is also difficult to keep the flap out of the way. There is a little tab on the silicon flap that is supposed to fit snug into a hole in the plastic portion of the CONVERT, holding the flap securely tucked aside so you can concentrate on taking the photo/video. This little mechanism work poorly; not only does it take some  effort to actually get the tab in the hole, when you finally due you’ll find the flap frequently pops back out to obstruct your camera’s view. You will likely find yourself tying up a finger to hold the flap aside and hopefully out of frame, which makes it very difficult to operate with only one hand.

Also, as a warning, don’t expect your Seidio CONVERT to come with a kickstand, as seen above. Most models do not have a kickstand, and even the standard Thunderbolt CONVERT case doesn’t have a dedicated kickstand (there is an opening for the phone’s kickstand instead). If you do happen to have a Thunderbolt and are looking at the extended battery CONVERT, I will say that the dedicated kickstand is useful. You’ve probably noticed your phone’s kickstand rapidly losing the clear-coat  that HTC lovingly sprayed on it, so having the kickstand in the case helps keep the original kickstand tucked away from such damaging environments as coffee tables and computer desk (that’s all it seemed to take to strip my clear coat…).

Summary and Features

This case offers solid protection for those with a heavy hand and little sympathy for their phone, at the same ~$50 price point as similar heavy duty cases (otterbox comes to mind). There is obviously an issue with the overall size of this case, which I imagine will be the biggest (ha ha) deal breaker for most. Some may find the bulk too cumbersome to comfortably fit in their pocket, but again, that may depend on the style of clothes you wear. There is also the holster included if you don’t mind (or prefer to) wearing your phone on your belt. In the end, this phone is probably only worth the effort for users expecting to be handling their phone while in harsh environments, or generally punish their phone for its insolence. Not really for your average Joe.

  • Includes Ultimate Screen Guard, SURFACE case, CONVERT rugged skin/skeleton and the CONVERT Holster
  • SURFACE case provides scratch protection and has precision cut-outs for ports and controls and a built-in kickstand;
  • Rugged CONVERT skin/skeleton fit over the Surface case for added protection
  • CONVERT Holster locks, swivels and fits up to a 2” duty or utility belt
  • CONVERT skin/skeleton covers ports and camera but keeps them functional

Available for:

  • iPhone 3g/3gs/4
  • Blackberry Bold 9700/9780
  • Blackberry 9630/9650
  • Blackberry Curve 8520/8530/9300/9330
  • HTC Nexus One
  • HTC Droid Incredible
  • HTC EVO 4G
  • HTC Inspire 4G/Desire HD
  • HTC Thunderbolt
  • Motorola Droid
  • Motorola Droid X
  • Samsung Captivate
  • Samsung Fascinate

Pros:

  • Two-in-one scalable protection
  • Excellent impact/scratch Protection
  • Dust/dirt/grime Intrusion Protection
  • Solid build quality

Cons:

  • Very Bulky
  • Soft-touch Surface Coating Wears
  • Camera Protector Difficult to quickly remove and keep aside

t3chniq’s final verdict: Worthy case for Phone Sadists and Outdoors-men; Not for your Average Joe.

If you’re going to spring for one, you can start here to find the model that’s right for you (but shop around, I got mine for $30).