Finding supposedly major flaws in new Apple products has become an expected part of the early review process — it’s now assumed that there will be a new “-gate” every year, legitimate or not. For the iPhone 6 Plus, the issue was “Bendgate,” as early adopters found that the 7.1mm-thin metal phone could be warped if sat upon or flexed in strong hands. Citing only a small number of complaints, Apple deemed Bendgate a non-issue, and sources dismissed claims that Apple had tweaked the design after initial release to strengthen its internal structure. But Apple Stores also replaced bent units without complaint, so long as the damage was determined to be unintentional.
While Bendgate was overblown, there are real-world situations where the iPhone 6 Plus can be subjected to warp-causing stresses — particularly inside pants pockets when sitting down. So Incipio has developed a solution called Trestle ($40) to solve the problem. Sold in all-black, frost and black, or frost and pink versions, Trestle uses twin steel bars to radically reduce flex potential. After a week of testing, I can tell you that it definitely works.
The reason Trestle is an almost perfect iPhone 6 Plus case is its familiarity: most of its components come from earlier, proven Incipio designs. Regardless of the color you select, the back of the case is matte-finished hard plastic with a glossy pill-shaped area around the rear camera, material and texture selections that look and feel nice. Soft TPU plastic is ideally integrated into the harder rear shell, simultaneously providing coverage for the iPhone 6 Plus’s edges and holding two shiny silver pins in place inside the rear frame.
Five inches in length, the pins start around 0.75″ from the iPhone 6 Plus’s top and stop roughly 0.25″ short of the bottom, providing hard reinforcement from the top of the iPhone’s side ringer switch all the way down to the lower antenna bar. Even when the case is completely empty, the steel pins flex less than a millimeter when the case is subjected to deliberate hand-wringing; with an iPhone inside, no movement is perceptible. While it wouldn’t be impossible to do something to the iPhone 6 Plus to damage it inside Trestle — say, firing a bullet through its center — it goes from feeling a little delicate to nearly impervious once the case is on.
It’s noteworthy that Incipio manages to accomplish that feat without the bulk of a typical Otterbox Defender. You get unfettered screen access, including a millimeter or so of anti-drop face protection, highly tactile side buttons, very nicely tailored port, speaker, and microphone holes, and an ever-so-slightly small ringer switch hole.
The only small hitch is the showy way that the pins are mounted inside the rear grips. Incipio uses angled notches in the rear hard plastic to show the pins off — a nice touch, visually — but if you hold your iPhone such that your fingers rub against the notches, you may wish that they were molded or polished to a softer finish. The same is true of the TPU holes in the bottom, which start out a little hard-edged until you wear them in. It’s common for small issues like this to be resolved with tweaks during the production process, which wouldn’t surprise us.
While it would be easy for some people to write Trestle off as an unnecessary response to a manufactured controversy, other people will really appreciate the extra structural reinforcement it offers for the iPhone 6 Plus. Incipio’s $40 price isn’t a major premium for the peace of mind Trestle offers, and apart from very small issues in the design, it’s a great case even without considering the steel pins. Consider “Bendgate” solved.