Society6 iPhone case update: They’re better now!

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A year and a half ago, I sort of offhandedly mentioned in a post that I had bought an iPhone case from Society6, and that the quality was, to put it bluntly, complete crap. I ordered the case because I’d been contemplating (and am still contemplating — I like to contemplate) selling my own designs through their site, and I wanted to make sure the quality was good before proceeding. Reviewing products isn’t what I do here, but since I’m a self-obsessed blogger and therefore occasionally Instagram photos of my reflection in bathroom mirrors, I do get a fair amount of questions about my iPhone case. I don’t like to mislead anyone into thinking I recommend stuff just because it’s in my hands, so it seemed fair to me to post about my personal experience with this particular product.

Well, some folks got upset. One person accused me of working for a Society6 competitor (HAH!), and a bunch of Twitter accounts sprung up out of nowhere, having seemingly been created solely to tell me that I was wrong to have publicly “called out” a good company on my blog (despite the fact that I’ve said plenty of nice things about other products from Society6). It was pretty weird! A few days later, someone from Society6 emailed me and offered to send me a new case since the one I had was obviously defective. I said OK, they sent the new case…and…it was also complete crap.

Last month, I got a new iPhone. I went from a 4 to a 5, so I also needed to buy a new case. A couple of my friends told me that their more recently-purchased Society6 cases are good quality, so I decided to give them another shot. I was fully expecting to be horribly disappointed, so it was a very pleasant surprise to see that my friends are not liars and that the new cases are, indeed, MUCH better quality all around. I thought I’d take a few photos (with my new iPhone, naturally) to demonstrate the improvements.

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See the difference in printing quality alone? The old case really looks like an inkjet print, and there was a crazy amount of stretching/distortion to the pattern where the printed film was wrapped around the case. The new case has a much richer, crisper print, and even though the design is still fading a bit where it reaches the front edges, it’s something I can live with — I suspect that issue wouldn’t even be noticeable on a lighter-colored case. Another problem I had with the old case was that the design could literally be scratched off with my fingernail. After a week of actual use, there were numerous areas where the print was chipped or peeling. Not so with the new case! I’ve tried to scratch the design off, and I can’t. Gone also are the super-sharp edges on the front of the case where it meets the screen. The plastic is noticeably smoother, slightly thicker/more rigid and much more durable all around.

Both the old and new cases are manufactured for Society6 by Case-Mate, by the way.

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Inside the case is where things get wayyyyyy better. I was pretty shocked by the fact that the old case had NO shock absorption material inside whatsoever. It was literally just a cheap piece of flimsy plastic. The new case is lined with a layer of white silicone (you can see the Society6 logo embossed into it). It’s not thick enough to add bulk, which is nice, but it’s still additional protection for your phone — which, presumably, is why you’re putting a case on it in the first place (aside from looking cute). See the difference in thickness of the edge of the case, too? Again, not enough to add noticeable bulk, but the durability is greatly improved and the sharpness/gapping at the edge is eliminated.

Is $35 still too much for an iPhone case? Yeah, probably, but at least now I feel like the Society6 cases are nearly on par with the ones I like from Uncommon, which sell for the same price. I feel comfortable carrying my phone around in it, and I’d feel comfortable selling my own designs through Society6 as well — you know, if I ever finish contemplating.

✚ OLD case: Dawn Gardner, DG Aztec No.1 Monotone (now available as a new, improved case)
✚ NEW case: Domesticate, Mudcloth in bone on black

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47 comments
  1. MaggieJul 15, 20136:40 pm

    Oh good to know! I got a 5 a couple weeks ago and contemplated Society 6 cases but remembered your post and complaints from friends about them being crummy and the designs scratching off. I am also a butterfingers so some kind of internal padding is essential. I ended up with a boring black one from Amazon but maybe I’ll buy my phone a new outfit later this year.

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  2. Natalie / Half Asleep StudioJul 15, 20137:03 pm

    Good to know! It’s dumb that people went so berserk on you just for telling the truth. I still have a 4S and will for a long time – I’m kind of wondering if they upped the quality for all cases, or just the 5?

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Natalie, the friends who told me about the improved quality have a 4 and a 4S, so it seems to be across the board.

  3. allisonJul 15, 20137:24 pm

    so strange that people got angry with you for telling the truth… if anything, that would make me trust someone more when it comes to recommending products. oh well.

    the new case looks great! i may have to give them a second chance… :)

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    Anna @ D16 /

    There will always be people who are convinced no opinions are formed without financial gain — fortunately, not many of them come around here anymore. I guess they got bored. ;)

  4. CristinaJul 15, 20139:26 pm

    This is very good to know! My friend Marwa created this one a while back and I’ve been meaning to refresh my case. I don’t remember it being this price the first time around, but I’m certainly willing to pay the extra cash for a higher quality piece. Cool beanies!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    They were $35 (plus shipping) when I bought my first case, so the price didn’t go up with the quality increase.

  5. ChristineJul 15, 201310:04 pm

    I bought one of their cases for my 5 shortly after getting the phone almost a year ago and I’ve never been that impressed. It’s the prettiest case I’ve had, but it provides an almost negative level of protection. I know it’s not JUST the case’s fault, but the tiniest speck of anything ever will work its way into the edges and wreck the metal sides of the phone, while the exposed parts on the top and bottom (the parts I was originally the most worried about..) are completely fine.

    I never had a Society6 case before this one so I don’t know what the quality was like before, but I feel like they’re still purely decorative.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Oh, really? That’s interesting — I wonder if they actually offer less protection now?! I must say, even though the previous case I had was sharp, cracked, flimsy and peeling, my phone (the 4, which I am giving to my mother) is still in perfect condition despite having used a cruddy case for a year and a half. The metal edges still look like they did three years ago when the phone was brand new.

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I will definitely check on the condition of my phone going forward, and update this post if my opinion changes!

  6. LisaJul 16, 201312:47 am

    I have one of the new style Society6 iPhone cases for my 4. The design is holding up well, but the thin parts of the case next to the volume buttons and above the camera cracked and broke within a few months. Between it breaking and getting charged a ton of duty on their “free” shipping to Canada, I am disappointed in what ended up being a fairly expensive case.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Oh, that’s a bummer. :( My friends have both had their cases for months now and they’re holding up fine, so hopefully mine will as well.

    I hear you on the duty fees — that’s why I rarely order anything from Scandinavia. The VAT charges often wind up doubling the cost of the goods.

  7. Sarah MJul 16, 20131:16 am

    I’m happy to hear that the cases have improved–I experienced the same shoddy quality of my Society 6 case that I ordered 2 years ago when I got my 4S. It actually broke in multiple places within a month of using it–I sent a complaint to customer service and received a replacement free of charge, but over time the image/design started peeling away (just like in your photos), so it wasn’t much better than the first one. That, and the lack of actual protection the case provided was disappointing, especially for the cost. I guess that’s the price you pay for something that looks cool/unique? (Not that I think that should be true!) I don’t have plans to upgrade my iPhone yet, and so I wonder if they have also improved the 4S cases to include shock absorption like the 5? …I really would like to go back to a more unique case than my utilitarian (but protective) Belkin case…

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Sarah, I asked Jen and Ilenia (the two friends who told me about the improved case quality), and they have a 4S and a 4 respectively, so I think it’s probably safe to assume that the improved quality is across the board. Their product info page does state that the cases have silicone liners, which they definitely did NOT before:
    http://society6.com/help/products

  8. Tiffany M. SmithJul 16, 20132:12 am

    Those tweets and other PR counterattacks you’ve received are likely from Society 6’s employees. They might just let it pass if it were some unpopular blogger. Anyway, it’s great that the company knows how to take criticism, however grudgingly, and actually improve their product.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I wasn’t sure if the “counterattacks” were from Society6 employees (that just seems like a really, really bad PR move, but what do I know…) or if they were perhaps from an artist who sells through them, but it was pretty weird and creepy. It did bother me in a way that I was offered a replacement case as a result of the blog post — especially since someone else had commented that they also were disappointed in the quality but were denied a replacement because of company policy. You shouldn’t need to have a visible blog or a bunch of Twitter followers in order to get good customer service.

    But yes, I do imagine that I wasn’t the only person who complained about the quality, so it’s nice to know they listened.

  9. SarahJul 16, 20135:12 am

    I had the same exact experience some years ago, complete with getting a second case because the first one was of disappointing quality and the second one was’t better one bit. Good to know, they improved this much, thanks for the info Anna!

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  10. MelJul 16, 20135:56 am

    Ah, thank you Anna, good to know! I appreciate the update and your honest opinions, always.
    mel.x

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  11. KelleeJul 16, 20138:28 am

    Thanks for writing this, Anna – it’s so timely too, as I’ve also been contemplating selling my illustration work on Society6 and have been reading reviews this week of users experiences. (I know I have doubts about something when I’m more interested in reading users bad experiences than their good ones).

    I remember reading your first piece about the Society6-bought phone case and how completely useful it was – a lot of fellow illustrators had started using them, mainly I guess as it’s less expensive than printing stuff yourself and trying to sell it via your own website, the irony being that most of them couldn’t afford to buy any of the products first (me included) to test out what their customers would get, so reading posts like yours is SO helpful, as we know it’s coming from a trusted source.

    I’m still not sure whether I want to sell on Society6 – it would surely be the most cost-effective thing for me to do (not to mention the marketplace aspect of selling on a site like that) but I still have concerns.

    Anyway, that was a longwinded way of saying thanks for the update. :)

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Kellee, yeah, I definitely go back and forth on whether Society6 is a good option for me. I definitely do NOT have the time or resources to handle printing and shipping, that much I know. Speaking generally, I think Society6 (and sites like that — I’m sure there are others) are probably best for artists and designers who aren’t trying to make a living off of selling reproductions, but are still interested in making an affordable product available to people who might want it. I don’t think it’s a way for an artist to successfully run a sustainable business. This is just where I fall though — I make my living entirely by designing book covers, and I’ve managed to monetize my blog just enough that it pays for itself in terms of time spent and the cost of hosting, etc. If I sell through a site like Society6, it will really just be because I like the idea of getting some of my stuff out there and into people’s homes, but I can’t handle the production required on my own.

    I do like that Society6 does not artists to make every design available on every format, though, and that they allow for variations of color, placement, etc. that are specific to the application. After all, not everything looks good on a tote bag. ;)

  12. JudiJul 16, 20138:48 am

    Great case…but my comment’s about the last photo! Full frontal portrait! Now that’s brave. You inspire me…maybe I’ll finally put a photo of me on the blog.

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  13. jaclynJul 16, 20139:28 am

    Oh man, Society 6…..Happy for you that your phone case is better now but after ordering a (not cheap) art print framed for my husband’s 30th birthday that was embarrassingly terrible quality, I don’t think I’ll be patronizing them any longer.

    Good for you for keepin’ honest on the good and the bad!

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Jaclyn, I wonder if that could have been a result of a poor quality digital file having been supplied by the artist? I’ve ordered numerous (I’d guess 15-20) prints at various sizes from Society6 over the last couple of years, and I’ve been very impressed by the quality every time. That’s why I was so surprised by the poor quality of the first case, since it seemed so out of line with the rest of their product line.

    Did you contact them about the poor quality? Did they refund your money or offer you a replacement?

    jaclyn pacheco /

    It wasn’t the print that was poor quality, it was the framing job. I actually had to doctor the back of the frame up with some washi tape because the backer board didn’t stay in place and 2 corners of the frame weren’t abutted tightly so the frame hung crooked.

    I told my husband that I wanted to exchange it but he insisted it was “fine”. I think he felt bad about how bad I felt about the poor quality (which he never denied so I know I wasn’t just being overly critical! LOL)

    I suppose that’s the risk you take in online purchases and in anything really because I’m sure there are things that I am totally satisfied with but others wouldn’t be. C’est la vie!

    Anna @ D16 /

    Oh wow! I have never ordered anything framed from Society6, but now I’m thinking I should just to see if your experience was a fluke. I would really hate for someone to buy something with my design on/in it and be unhappy with the quality, which is why I’ve hesitated for so long before proceeding with Society6. That’s a chance you take with outsourcing production, unfortunately.

    Thanks for sharing this, Jaclyn! I’d honestly never considered the quality of the framing services before.

  14. AshleeJul 16, 201312:36 pm

    Thank you so much for this post! A few weeks ago I blogged about how I was in desperate need of a new iPhone case since my Lilly Pulitzer one has been peeling like crazy. I’ve been looking into Society6 cases and wasn’t sure about the quality. It would be my worst nightmare to spend $35 for a case that was cheap and unprotective and wore down quickly. Since I’m a college student, purchases like iPhone cases are few and far between. I’m picky because I need to know I will be happy with it and that it will last for quite awhile. I’m so happy to hear the quality of the cases and have improved! I feel a bit better now about investing in one, but I’m still on the hunt.

    Thanks for sharing your honest opinions and showing us a detailed comparison! Also, your case is super cute!

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  15. AshleyJul 16, 20131:33 pm

    I remember when you posted that review and things just went haywire. So weird.

    The new Society 6 cases are wonderful! I have that same Dawn Gardner case for my iPhone 5, but in color. Love it.

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  16. MichelleJul 16, 20132:08 pm

    Anna,
    I trust and really value your opinion on things. You clearly take a lot of care over products you buy, things you make etc and it seems to me you have a very good eye for quality. So I thank you for this and many other posts which have looked at the quality & design of things. Your blog is a great resource & much appreciated.

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  17. Katie JewellJul 17, 20131:02 pm

    I recently bought a case from Society6 for my new Iphone 5. I’ve had it for maybe a little over a week and have definitely NOT dropped it once. Yet, today, I took my phone out of the case to quickly clean it, and noticed my phone has scratches at all four corners where the case clips on.
    Have you had any problems like that with your case or past cases?

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Katie, where are the scratches? On the metal or the glass? I just took my case off (I haven’t removed it since I got it about two weeks ago) to check for you, and I don’t see any marks at all. I didn’t have that problem with my old case, either. I should say that I really don’t ever remove my case, though — I took my old one off mayyyyybe once in a year and a half. Is it possible that the scratches are occurring when the case is being removed/replaced?

    Katie Jewell /

    The scratches are on the metal at the top and bottom. I never tried to remove the case before until today because I noticed dirt (or some substance like dirt) was stuck on the sides. The case was a little difficult to get off, so taking it off might have left scratches?
    They aren’t that extreme or anything, I just hope more don’t pop up! Thanks for checking for me :)

  18. GaiaJul 17, 20133:14 pm

    Oh good to know! I sell a few things on Society 6 and in general have been really happy with their print quality.
    However, I’ve recently heard of several artists getting their work ripped off, apparently from the Society 6 site, and then not really getting any support from them. So now I’m torn. They seem great, but that is crummy behavior…
    Kathy Weller’s story here:
    http://wellerwishes.blogspot.com/2013/02/letter-to-society6.html
    Curious to hear people’s thoughts.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I’ve heard plenty of similar stories about pretty much every online retailer (and offline retailer, for that matter), but the difference here is that it sounds like Kathy Weller believes the thief is actually using the high-res files. If that’s the case, then Society6 does indeed have a serious issue to deal with. I guess she’d have to order a physical product from the thief to know for sure, though, right? If they’re stealing and re-printing the low-res images, though, I’m not exactly sure what S6 could possibly do to prevent that. (It’s also possible that they’re not even selling any products at all, but are instead running a scam operation…)

    Marc Johns addressed some of this in the comments on his post about Society6 last year — I wonder if he’d consider doing an updated post about his personal experiences selling through the site:
    http://www.marcjohns.com/blog/2012/06/society6-review.html

    Gaia /

    Yeah at first I assumed it was the low res files and sort of shrugged, cause like you said, there’s nothing they can do about that. But if it was the high res files…Yikes. Good point about the scam operation– I didn’t even consider that!
    Thanks for the Marc Johns link– I’ll check it out.

    Marc Johns /

    Hi Anna,

    Nice review of the Society6 cases! I’ve had nothing but positive experiences selling through the site. I have sold over a thousand items (not bragging , just sayin’ I’ve had some experience!) and have never heard of anyone complaining about quality, so that’s pretty good. Although, to be fair, if they did have a complaint they would have gone straight to S6, not through me. I’ve never ordered a phone case myself, because I don’t own a smartphone :) But my neighbour bought one, and the printing on his looks really really good. Personally I’ve been particularly impressed with the quality of the art prints.

    As for artwork getting ripped off, I have a hard time imagining that a site visitor could get access to high-res files. And if they’re using low-res files, well the thief could be grabbing them from your blog, your Flickr account, etc. My work gets ripped off all the time. I keep finding cushions from China printed with my work popping up on Etsy. It’s a constant battle, but I wouldn’t blame Society6.

    Has anyone bought their new tote bags or mugs? I’d like to know how they turn out.

  19. PhillyLassJul 18, 201310:06 am

    Thanks for the updated product info. I, for one, appreciate an informed and honest opinion. BTW, have you seen this rug?
    http://patternsociety.com/shop/union-rug
    I saw it featured in a design sponge post and thought of you.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    I have, yes! It’s awesome. :)

  20. Jaime - Design MilkJul 18, 20131:33 pm

    YAY! I am SO GLAD you gave them another chance. S6 has been a long-time partner of Design Milk so it’s awesome to hear that you are happy with the quality. I say that because I know how picky (in a good way) you are about quality so this actually feels like a big relief!

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  21. SerenityJul 18, 20139:18 pm

    Those accusations about you because of your negative opinion of a product are insane! but they also kind of crack me up. You are one of a handful of bloggers whose opinion of products I seriously value *because* of your honesty. Glad you’re not the type to be intimidated by mean tweets!

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  22. Kate (@shoegirlinDE)Jul 22, 20139:51 am

    I really appreciate your honesty! It’s a shame that some others do not. You turned me onto Uncommon cases and frankly, I’ve never had a better phone case in my life. Keep telling it like it is because your readers are listening!

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  23. mimyDec 4, 20137:17 am

    hello there sorry for spamming(but i did check the not a spammer button), but i am really new to the society6! do you mind promoting me a little? :D and for the love of all Mimi’s out there :D

    [Reply]

  24. AlyDec 20, 20134:27 pm

    Do the new cases wrap around the front edges or protect th at all? I’m debating buying one, but I want it to have edge protection cause I drop my phone a lot.

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    Anna @ D16 /

    Aly, the edge is slightly raised above the edge of the phone, but it doesn’t wrap around. It will protect the front edges, but if your phone gets a lot of abuse I’d go with something else.

  25. JackieFeb 16, 20141:10 am

    I’m debating buying a Society6 case as well. From your pictures, it doesn’t seem like the case covers the top and bottom of the phone at all – could you confirm/deny? I’d just like to be sure before ordering. Obviously, no one plans on dropping their phone, but I’d hate to drop mine and get a dent on it because I was ordering blind. Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Anna @ D16 /

    Jackie, here’s a photo of the case showing the top and bottom—someone else asked me the same thing on Twitter recently. :)

    iphone case

    Jackie /

    Hmm, the openness of the case concerns me a little. It seems like it would make sense for the top to at least be covered up to the on/off button. Thank you for the pictures! They’re really helpful. :)

    Anna @ D16 /

    I’m not particularly hard on my phones (between my previous phone and the current one I’ve maybe had 3 or 4 dropping incidents, none of them remarkable), but I’ve been using S6 cases for more than a year now and haven’t had any issues or damage. I think it really depends on what kind of phone-handler you are when it comes to choosing a case—there are some seriously heavy duty ones out there for people who need them. :)

  26. ChrissyFeb 28, 20144:35 am

    Phew! Thanks so much for the review!
    Like you, I’ve been on the fence for a while about Society 6.
    Few reasons – I began making my own prints & cushions, then began outsourcing locally (at great expense), but now I’m in a position where I don’t have time for the additional ordering and packaging process, so I’m now looking into manufacture.
    Being in Australia, I wasn’t sure if it was worth setting up a US-based shop that will take a while to ship to my local customers!
    But your blog post here has helped set my mind at ease.
    It’s not the 100% perfect solution for me, but for now, it’s the best I can find to suit my needs and market.
    Thanks for the honest and detailed review!
    Now, to get off that fence …
    Chrissy x

    [Reply]

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