Tech21 reveals tough testing methods behind new case range

Simon Hill
Digital Trends
Tech21 reveals tough testing methods behind new case range
We visited Tech21 at the National Physical Laboratory in London to find out how it develops and tests its phone cases and to see the new range of products, which includes a waterproof case for the iPhone.

Case maker Tech21 just unveiled a range of new products at the National Physical Laboratory (NPL) in London, where we also got a sneak peek at how it develops and tests its phone cases.

The Evo Check and Evo Wallet designs have been improved, there’s a new Evo Go case with a leather finish, and Tech21 is set to launch the rugged, waterproof Evo Aqua case for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus.

By partnering with the NPL, where radar, packet-switching, and numerous other innovations were first developed, Tech21 is testing new materials to keep our phones damage-free. We saw a number of special machines designed to test impact shock and durability. The most eye-catching was a big piston machine for drop testing.

More: What do military drop test certifications really mean? We asked the experts

A hapless iPhone, wearing the case under test, is strapped into the vice at the bottom and then the piston is fired to slam down with different amounts of force to simulate drops. It’s capable of delivering force equivalent to a fall from 30 meters. A high-speed camera captures 4,000 frames per second to see exactly what happens at the moment of impact.

Countless phones have met an untimely death at its hands, but all in the name of improving Tech21’s drop protection.

“We’ve developed our test methodology in partnership with the NPL, so we can look at how our cases perform over time against competitor cases in the market,” explained Colin Woodward, Chief Marketing Officer for Tech21.

Based on this testing, Tech21 claims its fashion cases offer 350 percent more effective protection, and its rugged cases 250 percent more effective protection, than the market leader, which is Otterbox, according to the NPD Group.

Tech21 is already the number one brand in the U.K. by value, though that’s partly because it has the highest average selling price. It’s counting on the fact that a strong reputation for high standards in drop protection will justify higher prices. So far, it’s a strategy that seems to be working, and Tech21 has expanded rapidly in the U.S. market, managing to claim the number two spot for iPhone 7 and 7 Plus case sales.

As well as improving the FlexShock material that’s used in its cases, Tech21 has been refining its BulletShield material used in its screen protector range. As the name suggests, it’s the same material that’s used in bullet proof glass.

The fact that Tech21 is being transparent about its testing methods and forming partnerships with scientists to improve the drop protection its cases offer is commendable. There’s no standard body that conducts case testing and military drop test standards were never developed with phone cases in mind. Each case manufacturer has its own set of standards for drop testing, so it’s an area that could use a little more transparency for consumers.

More: How do you decide on a rugged case? Look at how each company tests them

The new case line-up

The star of the show was the forthcoming Evo Aqua, a waterproof case for the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus that’s set to land before the end of the year. There are two versions, both IP68-rated and offering drop protection at up to 6.6 feet. The first, the Evo Aqua, forms a seal around the iPhone’s touchscreen and is waterproof for up to one hour at a depth of 6.6 feet. The second, the Evo Aqua 360, has a screen protector built in, which allows it to handle depths of up to 9.9 feet for an hour. They’ll be available in black or white.

Waterproof cases can be notoriously difficult to fit, but the Aqua has a pretty neat design that makes it relatively easy to snap your iPhone in there. More importantly, there’s a handy tool for removing the case without a protracted struggle. You also get a wee tool, divided into sections, for testing that the case is really waterproof and highlighting any problem areas before you dunk your phone.

We also got a look at the Evo Go, a new, triple-layer case that offers drop protection at up to 9.9 feet, with concealed storage for two cards, and a real leather trim. It comes in black or light tan, but there’s no fixed release date just yet.

Tech21 has also updated its existing Evo Check and Evo Wallet lines with “Active Editions.” The Evo Check Active Edition can withstand drops from up to 9.9 feet, compared to 6.6 feet for its predecessor. It also sports a snazzy new speckled design in black, pink, or white. It costs $40.

The Evo Wallet Active Edition offers drop protection up to 9.9 feet and the cover portion features an external card pocket, which is flexible enough to accommodate larger items like headphones. It’s also removable, so if you want to ditch the cover and just go with the shell part, then you can. It’s available now in black or pink and it will set you back $60.