Sudden drops? The Kraken II rugged case comes to the rescue.

Trident Case recently sent along their Kraken II case for review and I’ve been carrying my iPhone 4 in it for several weeks – and not just around office, mind you. I took it for a spin through a variety of environments, from public transport in an ugly, big city to cafes and restaurants, some countryside and finally to the beaches of Rovinj, a city on the North Adriatic sea where I’ve been blogging and soaking up sun rays since June.

The case did a good job protecting my iPhone 4 from several accidental drops at the gym, my home office and during mountain biking. My device also survived a really ugly drop onto a marble staircase from about two meters. I’m pretty convinced that accident would have been fatal (can you say Glassgate?) had it not been for the Kraken II’s silicone insulation and its rugged design calling for reinforced edges. But on the flipside, it does need some additional tweaking and more attention to detail, but more on that later.

An unexpected treat: A kickstand totally lends itself to media viewing in landscape and alarm clock/weather apps. Wish iOS 5 supported landscape lock screen.

The Kraken II (I always wondered how they come up with names for cases) rocks hybrid construction, meaning silicone insulation and a built-in screen protector. It also comes with a holster that has a bit plasticky feel to it, even though it’s made out of durable polycarbonate. Other design treats include a removable sleeve on the bottom for easy docking and built-in kickstand.

The metallic kickstand looks business and is awesome for propping up your device in landscape, especially handy when charging (as opposed to laying my device flat on desk or use Apple’s dock, which I don’t find very practical). With the kickstand comes a win: It’s great for media viewing and ends itself stylishly to alarm clock apps and weather programs found on the App Store. It even left me wanting more, that iOS 5 reformatted the lock screen in landscape.

Now, this whole thing adds noticeable bulk and thickness to your phone, but that’s usually an unavoidable trade-off with rugged designs. Because both the silicone skin and the screen protector add thickness around the edges of iPhone 4’s display, my first thought was that invoking the Notifications panel with a pulldown gesture might be messy. Fortunately, that has not proven to be the case.

The screen protector relays touch events and gestures accurately to the iPhone’s screen, no surprises there. It’s scratch-resistant, has dust filters and doesn’t catch grease as much as the iPhone’s display. Unfortunately, over time, the debris and dust particles tend to collect on the edges of the screen protector, which isn’t only ugly to look at but downright tricky to wipe with clean cloth.

Dust and debris insulation doesn’t stop with the screen protector. The device’s audio jack and the top speaker, the silent switch on the left and the bottom dock connector are all covered under dust filters that have removable plugs. The area around volume up and down buttons is recessed, producing accentuated clicking sounds when pressed and released.

Both the bottom speaker and mic are recessed but not covered under the silicon skin. I especially liked a clever design solution that lets me either pull a small plug that covers the dock connector in order to charge my device using a USB cable. Alternatively, those preferring docking can pull back the entire bottom part of the silicone case and reveal the home button area, allowing for easy docking without having to remove the entire case.

There are some downsides, too, which you should know about. The complex, hybrid construction calls for some challenging set up. At first, I had difficulties affixing the upper part of the silicone case atop the bottom one. Turned out the key consideration was to first attach the left side of both parts where the recessed areas for the volume and mute keys are found.

Likewise, separating the two parts to remove the entire case requires some guessing and a physical force beyond my comfort level. I’d definitely recommend engineers get back to the drawing board and come up with an easier assembly solution. I’d also have designers pay more attention to details such as the button covers on the case because they should definitely look nicer, especially at closer inspection.

The cover protecting iPhone 4’s mute switch is also problematic as it won’t come off easily. Often times, when a phone call comes when I hate to be disturbed (i.e. when I’m at the cinema), I’ve found myself fiddling with the mute switch cover for too long.

Finally, there’s this holster thing with a “quick-release” (as they put it) belt clip, which is anything but quick-release. The clip’s way too strong and needs so much pressure that I stopped using the holster entirely out of fear that the force might produce cracks in my iPhone’s glass back or affect its precise construction.

In all, at $50 a pop, the Kraken II case is a good value compared to the myriad of half-baked cases out there. While it may not win any beauty contest, it ain’t fugly either. Despite the downsides, I could recommend it as a solution to the iPhone 4 owners that go the extra mile in order to keep their device well-protected, especially considering Apple’s all-glass approach with the phone. Too bad, as this usually is not the area where I’d expect any design missteps.

Plus, it’s really handy for mountain biking, working out, hitting the beach, jogging and other activities that expose your iPhone 4 to the harsher-than-usual environments, increased amounts of dust and debris and other scenarios involving risks not usually associated with commuting back and forth between your home and work.

The Kraken II case is compatible with both AT&T and Verizon iPhone 4 and can be yours for $5 off of its regular retail price of fifty bucks over at the Tridenteer.com, a subsidiary of AFC Trident, the maker of the Trident cases. Check out below: the full case gallery, pros and cons and unboxing pics here.

The Kraken II protective iPhone 4 case by Trident Case

Pros

• case is rugged enough to provide reasonable protection from random drops in everyday use • button covers with removable plugs keep dust out • kickstand allows for media viewing and alarm clock/weather apps in landscape • dockable with standard Apple dock: The removable bottom cover lets you plug a USB cable or dock the device without removing the case

Cons

• holster looks plasticky and the belt clip is anything but quick-releasing • screen protector keeps dust out, but not around the edges • button covers need prettying up, the silent switch cover doesn’t come off easily

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