Then I found the Zero Chroma Teatro, and although the $44.95 price tag made me throw up a little, I knew it was the case for me. And now that I've got one, I couldn't be happier with it. Same goes for the Vario, an iPad version priced at--oh, dear God--$69.95.
What makes these cases so special? I like to prop up my devices for things like FaceTime, movies, reading the paper, etc.--but that means I always need to have a stand nearby. The Zero Chroma cases have one built in, and not some flimsy one-position kickstand, mind you, but a folding, rotating, rubber-tipped, multiposition piece of engineering.
The iPhone 4 version, the Teatro, can lock into any of 13 angles (Zero Chroma says 14, but I don't count "flat" as an angle) in both portrait and landscape positions. Most external stands are limited to landscape orientation, which means they're no good for FaceTime. The Teatro: awesome for Facetime. (It's really not fun to hold your iPhone at arm's length for an entire conversation.)
What I find most amazing about the case is that it adds no more thickness to my iPhone than the aforementioned cheapie. When the stand is folded down, it's like it's not even there.
Otherwise, it's about the same, with plastic bumpers on the corners to help forestall drop damage. The Teatro also has a couple of dimples on the side, ostensibly to improve your grip, but they're barely noticeable. One nice perk: it has holes for a wrist strap.
The Vario for iPad is virtually identical, but even more practical: the smaller angles afforded by the stand are ideal for typing. Plus, it's reversible, so you can pop the case over the iPad's screen for safer transport.
For iPhone 3G/3GS owners, Zero Chroma offers the $34.95 Projeto, which has a landscape-only version of the stand and a supercool "sound scoop" that extends from the bottom to direct speaker audio toward you. Likewise, there's a $34.95 Teatro for third-gen iPod Touch; its whiz-bang feature is a retractable headphone wrap.
I know these cases are pricey, but, hey, it's the holiday season, so why not add one to your wish list? Alternately, if you've found something you like better, tell me about it in the comments.
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