Cygnett London Underground iPhone case series review

I’m a bit of a London Underground geek. From my first visit to London as a child to my recent trip for Nokia World last October, the Tube has become a bit of a quiet obsession. There is a reason for this: the sprawling, managed chaos; the quiet dignity; the storied history. They all appeal to my inner engineer, the kid who marvelled at arches and gawked at airplane designs.

So it was quite a shock to discover that one of my favourite accessory makers, Australia’s Cygnett, had developed an authorized London Underground line of iPhone accessories. While we’ll be looking at three particular models, the website boasts seven distinct designs, each more wonderfully British than the last.

All the cases are made specifically for the iPhone 4S, but are compatible with the iPhone 4. The distinction is made by the size of the camera hole, allowing more light to diffuse from the embedded flash; iPhone 4 cases often caused the flash to reflect against the case, washing out photos in the process.

We’re looking at the TubeTrain, NightLines and DayLines cases. Each are made of high-grade polycarbonate that are a bit thicker than the typical plastic Cyngett case. I prefer the size and weight trade-off, as all three cases feel as though they’d sufficiently protect the iPhone from breaking, even when dropped on its front.

That is because the front of the case juts out ever-so-slightly past the iPhone’s front, protecting against scratches and, hopefully, straight-on drops. The iPhone 4S has been criticized for breaking easily as its metal frame is surrounded by two pieces of thin Gorilla Glass.

As you can see, Cyngett has etched the “Official Licensed Product of Transport for London” on the inside of each case, a lovely addition. Seeing this, the cases immediately became collectors’ items and I can’t wait to complete the set.

The TubeTrain model has transparent glass sides, allowing you to see the iPhone’s metal frame, while the other two have continuous patterns from the back.

I found that the iPhone fit quite snugly in the frame, and was glad to see that Cygnett kept the side open to both prevent scratching and allow for easier access to the volume buttons.

They’re not for everyone — though I have met a few Underground nerds from all over the world — the Cyngett “London Calling” line is a great example of licensed smartphone accessories. I’d love to see a company do the same for the Toronto Transit Commission, as you can already buy licensed TTC pins, t-shirts, buttons and posters.

Each case is $29.99 and Cygnett offers free shipping to Canada. We’ve previously looked at their line of iPhone and iPad cases at CES, and they’re expanding their Android offerings, too.