Out of all of Case-Mate’s iPhone 4/4S case lineup, the Case-Mate Tough ($25) is the most serious about protection. Available only in business-like black, it’s a two-part case, with a tight skin of silicone rubber that wraps around the phone, and then a thick plastic outer layer for rigidity and extra toughness.
Protection is the byword for the Tough. The hard outer shell covers a larger area of the phone than most other similar cases, completely encompassing the back and left and right edges. The top and bottom edges only have the silicone sleeve. I felt confident my iPhone was well protected wrapped up in this, and briefly considered hurling it from a balcony to see just how protective the case was. Then I came to my senses.
The entire case is textured with little bumps, which make the case easy as anything to grip. The texture is absolutely perfect. It’s easy on the fingers, and adds enough friction that you can hold on to the phone without fear of slippage, but at the same time, it’s not so grippy that it’ll get stuck in your pockets.
The downside of such padded protection around your phone is that you’re inevitably going to sacrifice portability. The Tough adds to the size of the iPhone considerably. It’s now larger, clunkier, and heavier than ever before. Not only does the phone now take up significant extra space in your pocket or purse, but the thick silicone sleeve also makes it hard to get at the port openings. The dock connection, silent switch, headphones and camera are all open, but the sleeve around them make them hard to get at — the silent switch is especially tricky. The case also fits extremely tightly, which is great for guarding your phone, but not so much for taking it on and off easily.
One of the major problems a number of cases face, is that they can partially obstruct the camera’s flash, leading to weird discoloration. The Tough has a very, very small amount of this, which leads to some grayness in one corner of the picture, but you really have to compare closely between photos with and without the case to notice.
The Case-Mate Tough ($25) is an excellent all-around case for the iPhone 4/4S, especially if you’re looking for serious protection. You’ll be shouldered with more bulk because of it, but that’s the price you pay for protection. It’s not quite as tank-like as the similarly priced OtterBox Defender, but will still safeguard your iPhone well. We highly recommend it, 9.0/10
Be sure to check out all of our iPhone 4 case reviews.