Generic curve pattern TPU case for Samsung Galaxy S II review
I've always been one to stick to well known brands for cases, simply because everything I've tried from the Chinese bargain shelves of sites like Dealextreme.com so far has been…not good. When I ordered another S II accessory from eBay a while back and received a free TPU case with it however, that suddenly changed.
The curve pattern TPU case is a case design that you can find for a ton of devices, and as far as I have been able to tell, it's an original generic design rather than a ripoff of something existing. What they all have in common is that they're very cheap and are available from a wide range of Chinese sellers on eBay, as well as Chinese web stores. They're also very cheap, with the Galaxy S II version going as cheap as about $1.30 with free shipping. No, I'm not kidding, that's one dollar and thirty cents for a smartphone case. It's hard to believe anything good can be had at that price, but to spoil the ending to this review right now, it can.
As I said, my original case was a freebie. These cases often come with bundles of generic accessories, or just thrown in with anything from USB cables to other cases. "Buy a USB cable, get a case" looks good in an eBay ad, and with a wholesale price that is apparently way less than $1.30, it's not the most expensive way to increase sales either. Heck, if I were a carrier that sold smartphones, or just a normal electronics retailer, I would stock up on those things and give them away for free myself.
Back to the point though, I actually ended up ordering a bunch more of the same case after the first one, both to have some in reserve, to see if there were differences between different units, to test different colors, and to have some to give away. You can buy a lot of $1.30 cases before you pay as much as you do for a brand name case.
As the name suggests, these cases are made of TPU – thermoplastic polyeurethane. If that doesn't ring a bell, it's pretty much something in between silicone, rubber and plastic. Flexible, but much less so than a pure silicone case.
The design is a one-piece solution, despite the end result looking a lot like those multi-piece cases that you can buy from many brand name case manufacturers. About half the case is matte, while the other half is glossy, even translucent on some color choices. The separation between the two textures is done with a curved line on the back, hence the other part of the descriptive name that these sell under. The lip that goes around the front of the screen is glossy all the way around. You can say what you want about generic cases, but at least when you see it sell under "curve TPU case" you know what it is, while the more clever names of brand name cases, e.g., "le deux" and "offgrid," don't exactly do the same.
The sides have some textured strips that are quite frankly one of the reasons why I like this case so much and ended up using it at all, instead of doing the naked+travel case thing I originally planned. They make the S II so much easier to get a grip of, removing all trace of a slippery phone and giving you a device that feels like it wouldn't even slide down a vertical wall. It may not be to everyone's liking, but the people I've had test it with the case on so far have found it to be a massive improvement.
The case covers the entire back and sides of the device, with cutouts where you'd expect cutouts to be. The exceptions are the volume rocker and power key, which are instead covered by the case and has button outlines to allow you to push through the case and still use the buttons.
Rigidity is a massive issue when it comes to one piece cases, and even some of the two/three-piece cases that combine silicone/rubber and plastic parts to give both shock protection and rigidity have the issue where after a while the long soft edges won't sit flush with the device. This case has impressed my in that it balances rigidity and softness perfectly, allowing it to be snapped on like a silicone case, while at the same time being rigid as a plastic case, and not leaving any edges or corners exposed. Over time I'm sure the TPU material will stretch with this case as well, but the beauty of a $1.30 case is that you can just put on a brand new one if/when that happens.
As for protection, this case adds a nice amount of rubbery material all around your device (except the screen), so it definitely has that covered. Of course this does come with an added overall thickness, but I actually think that's an improvement too over the naked S II. Somehow the S II feels like a cracker when it's naked, and the extra thickness and added grip does do a world of wonders for holding the thing, at least in my opinion.
Differences between units
I don't know if the cases are being manufactured by more than one factory or if there's just some differences between molds, but there can be clear differences from one case to the other. I'm using the 2000mAh extended battery on my Galaxy S II, which makes the back of the S II itself flush instead of having a lip on the back towards the bottom. Some units of this case are too loose even with the bigger battery, some are too tight (like you'd expect), and some are just perfect. I've also seen the textured pads on the side be noticeably thicker on some units, something I discovered when I made a bunch of accessories (table dock, tripod mount, car mount) that fit the S II with the case on by clamping it on the sides, and seeing that some units of the case I had were too tight for the same holder that other units fit perfectly into.
The point here is that it can be a good idea to order several of these cases, and from different sellers, just to see which case fits the best. Normally it would be a major drawback for a case to have to order many of it to find one that fits perfectly, but again, at $1.30 each it's extremely hard to hold these cases to the same standard as $20-$30 brand name cases. Which, in the case of the SGP case I bought and immediately threw away, don't necessarily fit any better.
I don't mind spending money on a case that's good. $20, $30, heck, show me something really nice and I'll send $50 or more your way. Point being, when I end up using a $1.30 case, it's not to save money. I've had cases on many devices over the years, and have been a particular fan of the soft/hard combination cases that often consist of multiple pieces that go together. This generic case is the case that has impressed me the most, because it manages to stay rigid without becoming a "some assembly required"-accessory on the way. The added grip is a huge bonus, and personally I also think the case looks very nice. The curve pattern makes it stylish without overdoing it, and doesn't end up being as boring as many cases. All of that in a case with the price tag of this one and it's a true winner. I've only tested the Galaxy S II version, but do a few searches on eBay for your device and I wouldn't be surprised if one shows up for it too. Sorting by "price + shipping: lowest first" is always a good idea to get the best price on eBay, and that's also why I won't add any links for buying other than to eBay itself.