April 29, 2008

Review: Griffin ClearBoost Protector for iPhone

Update 8/9/08: I dropped my iPhone using this case onto a concrete floor in a parking structure. The case protected the iPhone adequately, however, upon impact, the two-halves split right open and the iPhone was separated from the case. I believe the case absorbed 99% of impact and scratch, however because my iPhone has been dropped prior, there were already some minor scratch marks therefore I couldn't tell if it got more scratched from this incident. There is a principal problem with this case design which is that it has a very shallow groove holding the two halves together, I wished it borrowed the "Wave" design. The new iPhone 3G case I reviewed "Nu Form" design is much more secure in terms of holding itself together as well. I've since used two small piece of clear scotch tape to add more support.

Full Product
Gallery Here

The nice folks at Griffin Technology shipped a couple of new iPhone protectors to me to give it a whirl. I received a ClearBoost as well as the Wave (I will review the Wave at a later time).

The ClearBoost, MSRP $35 (Amazon.com for $26 or lessshipped), is a pretty cool gadget. Not only does it provide general protection against abuse, it is suppose to boost your cell phone signal via a built in low-profile antenna. Installation was a "snap", literally. The case comes in two-halves and snaps together front to back. Griffin also supplies a screen-protector which applies much easier than any screen-protector I've owned (no air bubbles). After installation, your iPhone is quite a bit thicker. However, given its black-encloser which hides the silver/polished trimming, it gives your iPhone a menacing Darth-Vader like appearance which is kind of cool. No need to worry about accessing your phone with ClearBoost on as Griffin has cut out precise openings giving you access to the power-switch, SIM, headphones, volume control, speakers, I/O port and camera on back. With the case on, you would have to charge your iPhone without the base; this along with the fact that you there are no accessories for wearing (ie. belt clips, etc.) are the only draw-backs I can think of.

Ever since installation, my iPhone has been getting a solid (full) signal everywhere I go; even in my Manhattan apartment which is known to have a couple of dead-spots. I know the antenna signal bars are not the best indicator of signal strength as phones can change its RF energy settings to compensate for signal strength. Therefore Griffin has offered a good way to measure its effectiveness by teaching you how to perform the cell-field test and watch the phone's dBm strength. For whatever reason from my office, I can't get to this test, my iPhone is prompting "Error performing request, No Network Service".

I called up my buddy/coworker Yasir on the 17th floor who's probably the most hardcore iPhone user I know (this guy really gets his money worth out of his iPhone). Yasir showed me a couple of dead zones that he is familiar with in our work building to do a side-by-side comparison. In nearly all the locations, I would get full-signal (5-bars) using ClearBoost whereas Yasir's barebone iPhone would get 3 or 4 bars. We tried to run the *3001#12345# field test on his phone but it failed to perform as well. Based on this simple side-by-side test, I think Griffin Technology's ClearBoost is an excellent protector that doubles as an excellent signal booster. Its great if you've been suffering from weak GSM signals. Griffin also provided a soft cloth to keep your touchscreen protector dust free.

Shout-out: Special thanks to Jennifer L. at Forty Three, Inc. for this product arrangement.
Shout-out: Special thanks to my friend Yasir H. for walking with me side-by-side this afternoon for this test (co-workers must think we were being weird)

Update!!! (4/30/08) - There is a dead spot in my living room, where I've known it to have weak wireless signal; it was so bad that my previous phone AT&T 8525 gets zero reception. Tonight, as I was talking to my family using my N95-3, I got dropped twice. When checking on the signal strength, it shows 2-3 bars and fluctuates. After such frustration, I switched over to the iPhone with ClearBoost which has a solid full signal strength. I was able to continue my conversation with my family without a hiccup. I am completely sold on ClearBoost's actual performance.

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