iPhone

Three protective cases for different smartphone needs

William Lewis takes a look at three protective cases for your smartphone: The Callet, the iPhone 4/4S Soft Touch Pong, and the OtterBox lineup.

These days, you can't swing a cat without hitting 100 different iPhone cases (fear not, cat lovers -- no cats were harmed in the writing of this article). I refrain from tagging something as useless just because it may not be what I would buy for myself. For almost any accessory, there's a customer who would get great use out of it. So, I decided to review a few examples that represent different consumer needs instead of trying to cover all the available choices.

The Callet

Basically, this rubberized phone case is like a wallet you can call from. It has two slots in the back for credit cards, an ID, library card, or whatever -- and is available in a variety of colors for the iPhone and BlackBerry for $24.99 (USD). Despite the "As Seen On TV" boast on the front of the box, it's a reasonable idea. I hate having a bulky wallet in my pocket, and I'm not a fan of cell phone holders clipped to my belt. Combining a wallet and a cell phone seems like it would be an easy home run.

Unfortunately, the Callet wasn't for me. First off, the rubberized material is too pliable to easily slide in and out of my pocket without getting stuck in the fabric lining. Secondly, as a father and breadwinner, I have way too many things that I have to keep with me, such as insurance cards, credit cards, reward cards, and the like. It's ridiculous how much stuff I have to keep with me "just in case." The end result is that two slots don't provide enough room for me to carry everything I need on a daily basis.

On the flip side, I can imagine students or ‘club'ers getting great use out of the Callet. The case is definitely thick enough to shield your phone from a ding if it gets dropped. Plus, the no-slip grip would be easy to hold onto, no matter how many Flirtinis you've had. In the back, you can keep a credit card and an ID. Throw it in your purse or jacket pocket, and you're good to go with very little excess baggage.

iPhone 4/4S Soft Touch Pong

This case is easily my favorite, and it's my recommendation for a professional look and usability. The iPhone 4/4S Soft Touch Pong is well made and durable -- its hard shell surrounds the phone, protecting the most vulnerable points (corners and edges), while still allowing easy access to the controls, camera, and jacks.

Despite the hard shell, it still lives up to its "Soft Touch" name with the velvety feel of the surface. The distinct edge surrounding the back allow you to grip the phone and still keep your fingertips out of the way for wall-to-wall screen access. I can slip it in and out of my pocket easily, and there aren't any protruding parts to get snagged. It also prevents you from accidentally flipping the mute switch.

The Soft Touch Pong is available in six colors for $49.99 (USD). They also have a Leather Touch model, available in three colors, for $59.99 (USD), as well as a black Leather Touch case for the BlackBerry Bold 9900/9930. As I mentioned, these cases seem to be marketed toward professionals who want the best protection possible with a low-key, slim design -- nothing too fancy or flashy.

OtterBox

My next test drive was OtterBox. The lineup of cases they offer seems to be about rugged style as much as it is about protection.

  • Defender series: These cases are designed for serious protection, and they look that way.
  • Impact series: The knurled grip on the sides of the Impact case feels secure in your hand and gives it the tough-guy look with its one-piece silicone design.
  • Reflex series: The two piece configuration of hard polycarbonate and silicone provide a double layer of protection on the Reflex cases (as with the Defender and Commuter series). These cases come with a screen film to complete the protection.
  • Commuter series: This case offers great protection, but I don't like that you have to open a little door at the bottom to get access to the data port. Personally, I thought it was poorly designed and hard to open. The button covers on the side were also difficult to deal with, because you have to press firmly to get the desired results. With those exceptions, I really liked the overall style and protection -- it's great for the outdoor types who have to worry about dust, tumbles, or rain drops. However, I have a friend who managed to break the polycarbonate shell on two Commuter cases in a row.

Because of the two-piece design, OtterBox offers a nice selection of color combinations and for a wide variety of phones. I tested the gunmetal grey and sun yellow model. Prices start at $19.95 (USD) for the one-piece Impact series and go up to $59.95 (USD) for the Defender in the Realtree Camo graphics.

Have you used any of the phone cases I've highlighted in this post? What other cases have you tried that are worthy of covering in upcoming posts? Please give us your feedback in the discussion thread below.

About

Will Lewis has been in the IT world for 18 years, encompassing areas such as software development, database administration, technical training, and sales force application management. His experience is with financial institutions, manufacturing firms...

3 comments
jeb.hoge
jeb.hoge

Well, OK, maybe dropping it in the toilet does, but still, I'm glad to see that some phone manufacturers are starting to get with the program and do mild waterproofing and ruggedizing of their devices. But still, how hard is it to handle your phone with a modicum of care?

Will Lewis
Will Lewis

I never had a breakage problem with mine, and I'm pretty rough with it. Is it possible that he had a specific way that he wore his belt clip and a corresponding hard surface in his car or office chair that it always managed to bang against as he sat down?

jonrosen
jonrosen

Not sure which one I have, just got one for my new work cell-phone. .I think it's probably the commuter. My thoughts: yes, it pretty much doubles the thickness of the phone (HTC Inspire), but love it. It's a big phone (height/width) to begin with, but I have large hands, so it's still easy to hold in one hand and use the button. Yes, they take a bit more work, but I have no problems using them. That data-port flap. Honestly.. I love it. it's easy to close, easy to open. Just took a day of getting used to it being there. I also like how the combo came with an actual click/lock belt-holster. Most of the holsters I see, either are a complete fold-over lid, or have nothing to hold it in from one direction, so a quick jump over a puddle, say, makes it fly right out. Thankfully, I tend to get the more durable pop-on cases, so I haven't broken any phones that way. But the cases have gotten pretty beat up. Something that locks the phone TO the holster is a big plus. The built-in screen-protector is nice too. I've heard others mention it gets too dirty and thus tricky to work the smartphone screen, but I've had no problem as of yet.