When you buy a shiny new smartphone, you’re faced with a difficult question: Does this thing need a case? Up until now, it’s mostly been a matter of whether or not you were confident that you could hold onto the slippery little fish as you went about your day. Clumsy people got cases; the more dexterous tempted fate by going naked. But for iPhone owners, the ReadyCase could add a new variable to that calculus: utility. The svelte jacket protects your precious iPhone, sure, but it also packs a USB drive, a kickstand, a lens ring, a headphone clip, and a tiny multi-tool that functions as a blade, screwdriver, and bottle opener. Basically, it’s a Swiss Army iPhone case.
The idea is simple and a little bit ingenious: If you’re going to tolerate that extra bulk in your pocket, you might as well get something for your trouble. With the ReadyCase, you get a few things–the design team told me the object was to “jam as many utilities in as possible but without making it feel thick and bulky.” They succeeded in the later respect; the case is only 3mm thick. But some of the utilities seem a bit more, well, utilitarian than others.
The clip that lets you wrap your headphone cable around your gadget, obscuring the uppermost portion of its screen in the process? Not a slam dunk. But the kickstand, though it’s always had the whiff of novelty in the gadget world, has some legitimate uses (the HTC Evo 4G, from a few years back, had one built in!) If you’ve ever tried propping your phone up on an airplane tray table to watch a video using your empty plastic cup and complimentary mini-pretzel bag, you know what I’m talking about. The ReadyCase’s kickstand is especially versatile; using the detachable 8GB or 16GB USB stick as the propping mechanism, you can stand your iPhone up at two angles in both portrait and landscape modes. “Very nice for YouTube videos on the go,” the designers told me.
The multi-tool, of course, is handy for popping caps off beer bottles and slicing open packages–though that blade might preclude in-flight use in general, so you might be back to the empty cup kickstand after all. I’m not sure the average person needs a USB drive more than once or twice a year, but if you happen to be around when somebody is in that pinch and you’re able to conjure one from the back of your iPhone, you’re automatically a hero. The lens ring is kind of the outlier of the package. It’s a magnetic circle that lets you fix one of three small lenses–macro, fish-eye, or wide-angle–on top of the iPhone’s built-in lens, adding some cool, if not jaw-dropping, new perspectives to your photographic arsenal. Sadly, there’s no good way to clip the stubby little lenses to the case itself, vacuum-cleaner-attachment style, so you’ll have to let them jingle around loose in your pocket.
Of course, the other consideration in the great case debate is aesthetics. If Apple’s colorful iPhone 4 bumpers tried to take protection the bubblegum route, the ReadyCase goes for Batman utility belt chic. Perhaps not for everyone, but apparently right for some; the ReadyCase just passed its $15,000 Indiegogo goal, and the team is looking to ship the cases by next February. An 8GB ReadyCase (which comes with two sizes, one for iPhone 4, one for iPhone 5): $40. A 16GB ReadyCase plus the three attachment lenses: $60. Keeping the smartphone kickstand dream alive: priceless.