Category: iPhone 5 Case Reviews

Review: Incipio KickSnap iPhone Case With Built-In Stand

Review Summary

Price: $35

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★☆☆☆
(2 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Incipio KickSnap has a poorly designed built-in stand, an easily scratched glossy surface, and very little shock absorption. It makes for a poor choice of case for the iPhone 5.

Certain themes emerge after years of reviewing iPhone cases, and one of those themes is that glossy style hard plastic cases exhibit poor durability and soon degrade into scratch-covered messes. And so it was with the Incipio KickSnap ($35 suggested, bought for $10 on Amazon), which after just a day’s use, looked liked it had been worked over with sandpaper. But the KickSnap does have another key selling point, its built-in stand. Too bad it’s poorly designed as well.

The Stand. The Kicksnap’s “stand” really is just a loose rectangular strip of plastic that you pull out with your fingernail. The “stand” flaps about like a broken wing—there is no hinge or other mechanism to provide resistance. To use it as a stand, you simply lean the plastic flap and iPhone against each other—a sloppy design that shows a total lack of imagination. The stand gives you a grand total of 1 viewing angle for the iPhone (about a 70-degree landscape viewing angle).

Incipio KickSnap Case for iPhone 5

Protection. On its website, Incipio says the the KickSnap provides “excellent shock absorption.” Well, in my testing, not really. The KickSnap is a thin hard plastic case, which means most of the energy from an impact will transfer into the iPhone. That is not “excellent shock absorption.” The KickSnap does have a thin soft rubber inner lining, but there’s only enough for preventing the hard plastic of the case from scratching the iPhone itself, not enough for shock absorption duties. In terms of protection, the Incipio KickSnap is only good for everyday wear and tear—too bad the case itself will look worn and tired with just a few days use.

Buttons & Ports. There is one element of the KickSnap that is well designed, its buttons. The case’s buttons cover the iPhone’s own volume and sleep/wake buttons, and they work accurately when pressed. In fact, they are very clicky and responsive when pressed—I like them more than the iPhone’s own buttons. The case has cutouts for the iPhone’s lightning and headphone ports, leaving plenty room to plug in your earphones and charging cords. Likewise, a cutout for the iPhone’s camera leaves plenty of room to take photos. Overall, the KickSnap gives you excellent access to all the iPhone’s buttons and features.

Fit & Feel. The KickSnap is a slim-style case, and thus adds barely any thickness and weight to the already slim profile of the iPhone 5. The case feels very solid and tight, with no creakiness to the plastic or looseness to the fit. Unfortunately, the glossy surface is also quite slippery, meaning you’ll have a bit more difficult time keeping a firm grip on the iPhone with the case on. Another reason to avoid the “glossy” style of iPhone cases.

Looks. Glossy hard-plastic cases almost always look great coming out of the package, and so it was with the KickSnap. But due to durability issues, they don’t look so great after a few hours of use. So it was again with my “Obsidian Black” version of the KickSnap, which is also available in Optical White / Charcoal Gray. Scratches and scuffs will soon cover the delicate surface, making the case look worn even though it’s barely been used. The KickSnap is a slim case, so it maintains the iPhone 5’s slim profile, which is nice visually, but again, a closer look will reveal the scratches and worn look. The stand, too, is a bit of an eyesore, even though it snaps flat when not in use.


The glossy plastic of the Incipio KickSnap case for iPhone 5 ($35) is easily scratched, and its built-in stand is poor designed. Add in poor shock-absorption, and you’ve got a dud of an iPhone case, even at the discounted $10 I found it it for on Not recommended.

Review: Speck PixelSkin HD Case for iPhone 5

Review Summary

Price: $30

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★☆☆☆
(2 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Speck PixelSkin is a thin hard-plastic case that doesn’t offer much shock absorption, but is a tight-fitting case that won’t get in the way of using the iPhone’s various features. Still, there are a million thin cases like the PixelSkin out there, and no reason to buy this one.

The Speck PixelSkin HD ($30) falls into the herd of cheaply made, thin hard-plastic cases that really aren’t much of a benefit to your iPhone other than wrapping another layer of material around it, and not a very protective one at that.

Protection. The PixelSkin is made from thin hard plastic, a combination that does little to protect your iPhone in the area of shock absorption. If you drop your iPhone inside this case, the energy of the impact from the iPhone hitting the ground is easily transferred through the plastic into your iPhone. If you want a case that will lower the odds of a smashed, cracked, or broken phone, this ain’t it.

Fit and Form, and Accessibility.The PixelSkin HD is the kind of case where I often see people say they are completely satisfied with product because, well, it fits perfectly around the iPhone, and it feels slim and barely adds any weight. Yes, it’s true that the PixelSkin HD is well-designed in the area of fit and form. Well, “well-designed” in that it doesn’t generally interfere with using the iPhone’s various buttons and ports. The PixelSkin HD hugs the iPhone like a glove, feeling solid with no creakiness.

I found the texture of the PixelSkin HD to be very unpleasant to hold in the hand. The edges of this plastic are sharp, creating an unpleasant scraping feeling against my skin. The back of the case has a texture of raised squares (thus the name “pixel”) that also have sharp edges and also scrape against my skin.


The PixelSkin HD is a thin, hard-plastic case that offers very little in the way of protection for your iPhone 5 inside. Sure, it fits well and doesn’t interfere with your iPhone’s various functions, but the truth about this case along with a thousand rushed-to-market, cheaply made, thin, hard-plastic cases like is that there is nothing truly compelling enough that you should spend your hard-earned cash on it compared with other, much better cases out there.

Review: Speck SmartFlex View Case (with Built-in Stand) for iPhone 5

Speck SmartFlex View for iPhone 5 back of case 1

Review Summary

Price: $20

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★☆☆
(3 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Speck SmartFlex View has a cleverly designed built-in stand that disappears when not in use. While the stand is great, the View’s thin plastic shell doesn’t offer much in the way of shock absorption. We place a premium on shock absorption and protection for our case ratings, but if you can get by without it, the View is an otherwise well-designed case.

The Speck SmartFlex View case ($20) for the iPhone 5 has one of the better designs for a built-in stand I’ve seen. I’ve reviewed iPhone case/stand combos before, and it’s surprising how useful the stand becomes—once, that is, you get used to the fact there’s always a stand there to use.

What’s so clever about the the SmartFlex View’s stand is that it retracts and disappears into the case when not in use—impressive because the SmartFlex is a slim case with very little room to hide a stand. When you want to use the stand, you simply pull it out like a retractable stick of gum. The stand can prop up the iPhone in both landscape or portrait orientation (it’s limited to a total of 3 angles).

Video Review

Protection. The SmartFlex is a thin, hard-plastic case, and as a slim-style case, the SmartFlex doesn’t offer much shock absorption, and thus it won’t do much to protect your iPhone 5 if you accidentally drop it. Its thin plastic means it’s mostly good for protecting against everyday wear and tear. I will point out, however, that the inside of the case lacks a soft lining, which could lead to the case itself scratching the iPhone through subtle abrasion over time.

The front of the case has a rim that sticks up about a half millimeter above the iPhone’s screen, which will prevent the screen from touching surfaces when laid down on its screen side—always a nice bonus, as the screen gets dirty enough as is.

Speck SmartFlex View for iPhone 5 stand landscape

Build quality. As mentioned, the Speck is made of thin hard plastic. While this type of common polycarbonate plastic has shown to be quite durable for use in iPhone cases in the past, it’s the retractable stand that worries me. It’s feels quite flimsy, and the hinge that allows it to function feels like it could be easily broken.

Fit & Feel. The SmartFlex View feels impressively solid and tight once it’s on the iPhone—there is no creakiness to the plastic—when on, it feels like it becomes one with the iPhone. The case is also pleasant to hold in the hand thanks to its smoothly rounded corners that make a nice break from the iPhone 5’s sharp edges. Overall, the iPhone 5 becomes more comfortable to hold in the hand with the case on than without. And because it’s a slim-style case, it adds very little bulk and weight to the superslim iPhone 5.

The SmartFlex is available in 4 different colors: black (which I am reviewing here), blue, gray, and purple.

Speck SmartFlex View for iPhone 5 lightning headphone port

Accessibility. The SmartFlex’s overall excellent design continues when it comes to making sure you can use all of the iPhone’s functions as expected. There are cutouts for both the lightning port and headphones on the bottom that allow them to be used without obstruction. The case covers the iPhone’s volume and sleep/wake buttons with its own simulated plastic buttons, but these buttons still work accurately when pressed, without the need for additional pressure. The only slight annoyance is that the ringer switch is a bit harder to flip, as you have to dig down with your finger tip to reach it. It’s a minor issue and not really a bother in real-life use.


Speck SmartFlex View’s distinguishing feature is a cleverly designed stand that retracts into the case and essentially disappears until needed again. It’s one of the better designed case/stand combos out there, bested only by the Zerochroma Teatro stand/cases. The SmartFlex View’s only flaw is its lack of protective qualities due to its thin, hard-plastic construction. If you’re looking for a slim-style case and you don’t care about shock absorption, the SmartFlex View, with its excellent stand, is an excellent choice.


  • Retractable stand stays hidden when not in use.
  • Smooth feel with rounded corners.
  • Good accessibility to iPhone’s buttons and ports.


  • Thin, hard plastic means no shock absorption.
  • No lining inside means the hard plastic can scratch the iPhone through subtle abrasion over time.

Review: Ballistic Shell Gel SG Series Case for iPhone 5

Ballistic Shel Gel SG Series iPhone 5 case

Review Summary

Price: $35

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★
(5 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: All function—very little fashion, and there’s nothing wrong with that. This utilitarian case protects the iPhone 5 where it needs it most, without getting in the way of using the iPhone.

If you walk into any retail store that carries iPhone cases, the shelves will be lined with thin, cheaply made hard-plastic cases that lure customers in with bright fashionable patterns or other stylish visual gimmicks. These fashion-focused iPhone cases may mean high profit margins for manufacturers, but usually poor performance for iPhone owners. Then there are the thicker, more protective cases that lack the fashionable good looks, but perform well. They are the Saabs of the iPhone case worlds.

The Ballistic Shell Gel SG Series case for iPhone 5 ($35) is not what I’d called a “looker,” but it is a case that performs extremely well, providing excellent protection while not getting in the way of using the iPhone’s various features. In other words, it’s exactly our kind of case.

Protection. Even though Ballistic claims the Shell Gel is a “three-layer” case, a more accurate description would be two layers with some extra padding in its corners. The Shell Gel has a a soft polymer inner sleeve that wraps, somewhat loosely, around the iPhone, then a second outer player that is a hard plastic shell, which adds strength and rigidity. This mysterious “third layer” is actually the thickly padded corners, which bulge out from the rest of the case. These bulges are made from silicone rubber, a great material for shock absorption. These bulging corners protect what are essentially the iPhone’s impact points—the areas most likely to hit first during accidental drops. All of this translates into excellent protection for the iPhone 5 inside. The Shell Gel should protect your iPhone from most everyday drops and then some.

The Shell Gel has a rim that sticks up about a millimeter above the iPhone’s screen, preventing the glass from touching surfaces when lain on that side. Of course, as with all open-face cases, if the iPhone’s screen catches the corner of a table or the edge of a rock in just the right way, it will still shatter, case or no case.

Ballistic Shell Gel SG Series case for iPhone 5

Ballistic Shell Gel

Accessibility. An important question with any iPhone case is, can I still use all of the iPhone’s features with the case on? With the Ballistic Shell Gel, all of the iPhone’s buttons and ports work as expected with the case on. The Shell Gel uses simulated rubber buttons to cover up the iPhone’s own buttons, but these buttons work perfectly when pressed—no extra effort required. In fact, I kind of like the comfortable rubber feel of the case’s buttons over the iPhone’s own. There is only minor flaw with this case when it comes to accessibility, and it lies with the mute switch. The cases’s tight rim around the mute switch makes it slightly harder to flip—I had to dig in with my fingertip a bit to flip the switch. Not a deal breaker, but still a minor flaw worth noting.

The iPhone’s camera is likewise unobstructed, as the case leaves a good sized cutout area around it. The camera is set back a bit, which might have a slight effect on the amount of light reaching the lens, but if there is a noticeable effect, I didn’t see it in the photos I took with the case on.

Ballistic Shel Gel for iPhone 5 camera close up

Fit and Feel. When I first wrapped the soft inner layer of the case around the iPhone, I was surprised at the loose floppy fit—but once the hard-plastic outer layer went on, the case suddenly became a solid feeling case without creakiness. Sure, there is still a stretchiness to the case on the front bottom and top due to the soft polymer, but it’s not an issue and doesn’t detract from the case.

Overall, the case feels pleasant enough to hold in the hand. I especially like the dimpled texture of the back of the case, which helps increase grip. The case is a bit thick and adds a good deal of weight—I would compare the iPhone 5 with a Shell Gel on as slightly heavier than a case-less iPhone 4, and a tad bit thicker that that classic device. Still, that is the price you pay for the Shell Gel’s excellent protection, and it’s not that high of a price, at that.

Looks. The Shell Gel is a rugged-looking case. I reviewed the all-black version (as is my usual preference), but the case is also available in 6 other color schemes, in case you want to add a touch more color. Dozens of tiny dimples on the case’s back are the most visually distinguishing feature of the case, and they supply a utilitarian, almost sporty, look. Overall, I would describe the Shell Gel’s look at as functional, not fashionable.


The Ballistic Shell Gel ($35) is purely in the business of protecting your iPhone 5, and it’s quite good at it. With its bulging, extra-thick padded corners, the case recognizes these impact points as the areas most likely to take the brunt of initial impact, and so it reinforces them. The Shell Gel is an all-around well-designed case that doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone on a daily basis. Sure, it adds a bit of bulk and weight, and it’s hardly a fashionable case, but for what’s really important in an iPhone 5 case, the Shell Gel gets it right.


  • Extra padding for the iPhone’s impact points
  • Great all-around protection
  • Doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone’s various features, buttons, and ports


  • Adds thickness and weight to the superslim iPhone 5
  • Not exactly a “pretty” case.

Review: Incipio LGND Folio Case for iPhone 5 (with Video)

Incipio LGND Folio glamour shot iPhone 5

Review Summary

Price: $35

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ☆☆☆☆
(1 star out of 5)

Review Summary: The LGND Folio, with its floppy cover, poor fit, and lack of protection, is more trouble than its worth.

Upon a superficial glance, the Incipio LGND Folio for iPhone 5 ($35) is a slick-looking case, and its built-in flip cover offers some protection and privacy for your iPhone’s front screen. But that’s about the sum total of positive things I have to say about this case. The LGND Folio is simply one of the most frustrating iPhone cases I’ve ever used.

The multitude of problems I had with the LGND Folio start with the poor, sloppy design of the flip cover. The cover comes without a way to secure it in place—there is no latch or magnet. As you carry the iPhone, the folio cover flops and slides about, looking and feeling like it’s half broken. When you want to use the iPhone for, say, a phone call, the cover is awkward to deal with. If you bend it all the way back, the cover creates an uncomfortable wedge shape that is unpleasant to hold. Imagine holding a triangular wedge of cheese to your ear as your phone, and you’ll get the idea.

ncipio LGND Folio Case for iPhone 5

Another huge problem area is trying to take photos with the case on. Dealing with the case’s flapping cover trying to snap a photo is quite an adventure. You can’t pin the cover to the iPhone’s back because it blocks the camera. You can’t keep the cover closed on the front because it blocks the screen and you can’t view what you’re photographing. The only option is to let the cover flap awkwardly open, where you’ll have to maneuver it just so and finagle a way so it doesn’t interfere with the shot. The best option is to remove the entire case (or perhaps just not buy the case altogether, which is what I recommend).

The fit of this case is also one of the worst I’ve seen. The iPhone 5 slides in and out of the case easily…which is not a good thing. The fit is extremely loose—the iPhone is not held securely in place when in this case—and I constantly battle against the iPhone accidentally sliding out and smashing on the ground. Just what everyone needs, a case that increases the chances of your iPhone breaking.

Incipio LGND Folio Case for iPhone 5 guts

Not everything about case was bad. The materials used for the cover were quite good. The inner lining is a microfiber cloth that cleans the iPhone’s screen when closed. The exterior is a silicone rubber with a modern, visually appealing texture with a subtle pattern of pentagons. Unfortunately, the rest of the case is not so good quality. It’s made out of thin hard plastic, which offers almost no shock absorption. Since hard plastic cases can scratch the very iPhone they are supposed to be protecting through subtle abrasive rubbing over time, combine that with how much your iPhone will slide around in this case, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster.

Incipio LGDN volume buttons

The LGND Folio can double as an iPhone stand of sorts. There is a groove built into the inner lining of the cover where you can prop up the edge of the iPhone, holding it up in landscape at about a 70-degree angle. Unfortunately, this process is frustrating, as it takes a delicate hand to get the iPhone propped up just right, usually after a bit too much fussing.


The LGND Folio for iPhone 5 ($35) is one of the most frustrating cases I’ve ever used. It feels like no thought went into designing the case’s folio cover; specifically, what to do with the cover when you’re actually using the iPhone. It flops about with no way to secure it in place, and the cover gets hopelessly in the way when trying to take photographs and when holding it up to your ear for phone calls. There may be a great folio case out there somewhere, but the LGND Folio shows all the issues that must be overcome when creating one.


  • Superficially good looking.


  • Floppy cover lacks a way to secure it in place
  • Makes taking photos extremely difficult.
  • Frustrating to take phone calls with the floppy cover
  • Very little shock absorption.
  • iPhone slides out of case easily, creating a danger to the iPhone itself.

Review: Targus Wallet Case for iPhone 5 (With Video)

Targus Wallet case for iPhone 5

Every modern male knows the hassle of overstuffed pockets from carrying a smartphone, wallet, keys, and other necessary items. The Targus Wallet case for the iPhone 5 ($25) is designed to be a remedy of sorts, combining an iPhone case with a wallet. Where once there were two, now there is one.

Review Summary

Price: $25

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★☆☆
(3 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Targus Wallet case is useful and convenient as a wallet, but below average as a protective iPhone case.

As a wallet, the Targus works well, if, that is, you can get by with carrying only 2-3 credit cards and a few bills with you. The case has a built-in, faux-leather flap on its back with two slots inside that can barely fit 4 credit cards in total (3 cards is the best fit), or two cards and a few bills. This flap, when closed, completely conceals the cards/cash from view. “Conceals” is a key benefit of this case, as most other wallet-style cases don’t hide your cards/cash from view. If the iPhone is already an attractive target for thieves, just imagine cash and credit cards attached to it.

I was very impressed with the design of the wallet flap. It has a magnet inside that keeps it closed shut tight—I never experienced it accidentally flapping open. It actually takes a little bit of effort to open—a good thing, as it keeps the cards/money inside secure. When closed, the flap lies flat against the iPhone’s back…well, flat, as long as you don’t overstuff the wallet with cards and cash.

Targus Wallet Case for iPhone 5 inside with credit cards

Replacing my wallet with the Targus Wallet case really was liberating. Where before I had to remember both my iPhone and wallet–now it was just my iPhone, a small but big simplification of my life, as I carry both of these items on me at just about all times. And, at the cash register, I no longer had to check my pockets to see which had the wallet, and which had the iPhone. I just had to reach for my iPhone. Again, though, the key to this case is, can you get by with just 2-3 cards and a little bit of cash? At times, I wish I had more room for a few more cards.

As an iPhone Case, the Targus Wallet is flawed, but not fatally so. The case is incredibly bulky—it more than doubles the thickness of the iPhone. It feels like holding…well…a really thick wallet. And it’s not much of a protective case, despite its thickness.

Protection. The Targus Wallet is made of two different materials: thin hard plastic for the section that holds the iPhone, and faux leather for the wallet part. The problem is that, for the iPhone’s impact areas, which are the four corners most likely to hit the ground first, there is only this thin plastic section for protection. The thicker faux-leather wallet protects the flat back section of the case, but that section of the iPhone is unlikely to hit the ground initially after an accidental drop. In total, this is a poor case for shock absorption. There is no protective lining inside the hard-plastic case to separate it from the iPhone, which means the case itself could scratch the iPhone over time through subtle abrasion.

Targus Wallet Case for iPhone 5 volume buttons

Targus Wallet Case for iPhone 5 sleep and wake button

Targus Wallet Case for iPhone 5 bottom of case

The Targus also makes accessing some of the iPhone’s buttons a tad more difficult. Particularly problematic are the volume buttons. A rim around the volume buttons makes it so you have to dig in slightly with your fingertip to press the button. Similarly, the thickness of the back of the case makes it a bit more awkward to press the sleep/wake button, as your fingertip has to reach over the back rim and them down onto the button (see the video review to see a clarification of what I mean).

The iPhone’s headphone and lightning ports can be used as expected, as can the iPhone’s front and rear camera. The iPhone rear’s camera, however, is buried inside about a centimeter-long tunnel, which can effect the amount of light that reaches the lens.


If the Targus Wallet ($25) were merely an attempt at a protective iPhone case, I’d say, don’t bother. But its wallet functionality is so useful that I can give it my conditional recommendation, the condition being that you can get by with only carrying 2-3 cards and a little cash. As a wallet iPhone case, it’s really good. Sure the case has its annoyances—it’s incredibly thick and the iPhone’s volume and sleep/wake buttons are slightly harder to press—but the case’s wallet functionality more than makes up for those flaws.


  • Simplifies your life by combining phone with wallet
  • Flap hides your cards and cash
  • Flap stays shut tight and won’t accidentally flop open


  • Thick
  • Little to no shock absorption
  • Only holds a few cards or a little cash
  • iPhone buttons are slightly harder to press with the case on

Review: Ballistic Smooth Case for iPhone 5 (With Video)

Ballistic Smooth iPhone 5 case

Review Summary


Price: $30

Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★
(5 stars out of 5)

Review Summary: The Ballistic Smooth is a slim case with a clever design that adds shock absorption while keeping the case thin and lightweight. It’s simply the best slim case for the iPhone we’ve seen.

Slim-style iPhone 5 cases are appealing because the iPhone 5 itself is so thin and lightweight, you hate to lose those attributes to a chunky case. The problem is, the slimmer the case, the less protection for your iPhone 5 inside. The Ballistic Smooth ($30) is a cleverly designed slim case that attempts to shirk that rule. It uses bulging rubber corners for extra shock absorption for the iPhone 5’s impact points—the areas most likely to hit a surface first after you drop your iPhone. In total, the Ballistic Smooth is simply the most impressive super-slim case for an iPhone we’ve seen yet.

Protection. I should start by cautioning that the Ballistic Smooth, despite its bulging silicone-rubber padded corners, is still just a slim case, meaning this is not a throw-it-against-the-wall kind of protective case (check out the Otterbox Defender for that). But for its category, the Smooth does offer best-in-class protection for most normal everyday drops. The Smooth comes with 4 sets (4 pieces each, 16 in total) of interchangeable silicone rubber corners that you can remove and replace. These little rubber chunks fit into the protruding corners of the case—they take a little work to switch in and out, so it’s not something you’ll do often. The rubber corners are the case’s primary source of shock absorption (rubber is a great shock-absorbing material). When you lay the iPhone down on a table, these protruding corners stick up enough to prevent the screen from touching the surfaces of tables, desks, etc. Overall, the Smooth makes a good compromise between protection and maintaining a super-slim profile.

Ballstic Smooth iPhone 5 case Sleep button

Ballistic Smooth bottom lightning port

Accessibility to the iPhone’s Features. We here at Art of the iPhone consider it an unforgivable sin for an iPhone case to interfere with any of the iPhone’s features. If you’re making an iPhone case, that should be a basic pillar of design, and it’s surprising so many cases do fail at this endeavor. The good news is that Ballistic Smooth makes no big mistakes—you can use all the iPhone’s buttons, cameras, and ports, as you’d expect. But the Smooth isn’t perfect either: with the case on, you must press about twice as hard to operate the iPhone’s sleep/wake button on the top. This may be something to consider if you’re giving the case to a very young child, who might not be able to press the button, but for most adults, it’s not really a problem.

Ballistic Smooth Inside

Ballistic Smooth interchangeable rubber corner

Fit & Fashion. The Ballistic Smooth is, as its name suggests, smooth to the touch and generally feels good to hold in the hand. The case is made of a polycarbonate that is a bit softer than most hard-plastic cases, giving it a little bit of give. Its edges are rounded and feel much better to hold the sharp edges of a naked iPhone 5.

In terms of style, tI found the Ballistic Smooth to be just an average-looking case. I’m not a fan of the look of the interchangeable color rubber inserts. With my black Smooth case, I prefer the black rubber inserts so they stay visually hidden. The Smooth is also available in 6 other color schemes, so perhaps a color other than black will improve its fashion appeal.


The Ballistic Smooth ($30) is simply the best slim-style case for any version of the iPhone I’ve seen yet. Its cleverly padded, bulging-corners design adds shock absorption for the iPhone’s impact points, yet still keeps the rest of the case thin and lightweight. The Ballistic Smooth is a near-perfect slim-style case; it’s also the first iPhone 5 case to receive a 5-star rating on our site. The Smooth has only one small flaw—you’ll need to press a little harder to operate the the iPhone 5’s sleep/wake button with this case on, but other than that, if you want a thin case for the iPhone 5, the Smooth is currently our top pick.


  • Slim and lightweight
  • Extra rubber padding in the iPhone’s impact points offers some shock absorption
  • Feels comfortable to hold thanks to smooth rounded edges and smooth surface
  • Cons:

  • Sleep/wake button takes twice the effort to press with case on
  • For protection, it’s still just a slim case, only with nicely padded corners
  • Review: Otterbox Defender Case for iPhone 5 (With Video Review)

    Otterbox Defender case for iPhone 5

    The Otterbox Defender line of cases has made a name for itself by offering premium protection for past generations of the iPhone. The latest version, the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5 ($20), follows the same tried-and-true formula as its predecessors: 3 layers of bulky protection—including a clear plastic screen protector—that provide peace of mind for your expensive smartphone inside. The key to Defender’s success has always been that it still allowed you to use all of the iPhone’s features, buttons, and ports, in light of alls its layers and protective bulk. For the iPhone 5, this is still true…well, for the most part…the only tricky area is the all-important home button. Read on to found out why.

    Video Review

    Text Review

    Protection. The Defender is built around offering top-tier protection for the iPhone 5, and thanks to its three-layered construction, it doesn’t disappoint. I should point out that “3 layers” really means only two layers protecting the body of the iPhone, then a built-in plastic screen protector as the “third” layer for the iPhone’s glass screen.

    Otterbox Defender bottom rim view

    The inner layer is a hard plastic shell composed of two pieces that snap together around the iPhone. The inside of the shell is lined with soft foam to prevent the case itself from scratching the iPhone. Disappointingly, the edges and rim of the iPhone are not protected by this soft foam lining, which is exactly where the iPhone 5 is most easily scratched.

    The Defender’s outer layer is silicone rubber, which you must slip, wrap, and tuck around the inner layer. It’s a bit of a chore to put on. The rubbber layer is relatively thick (thicker than most slim silicone cases) and takes on shock absorption duties. Together, these two layers combined create a protective thick padding around the iPhone that offers strength, rigidigty, and shock absorption.

    Review Summary

    Price: $20

    Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★
    (4 stars out of 5)

    Review Summary: A bulky case that offers 3-layers of premium protection, including a built-in clear screen protector for the iPhone 5’s screen. You can’t get much more protection short of a waterproof case. Flaws include making the iPhone 5’s home button a bit more tricky to use (you have to press it just right for accuracy), but after a bit of a learning curve, the case nevertheless allows you to use all of the features and functions of the iPhone as expected.

    Screen Protector. The third layer of protection is a built-in plastic screen protector. In terms of protection, this screen—along with the rest of the case—makes it less likely that your iPhone’s screen will shatter when dropped. The irony of using most iPhone cases is that if the iPhone is dropped just right, the front screen can still hit a rock and break the glass. Well, the Defender’s plastic screen protector doesn’t exactly offer perfect shock absorption, but it still will take on the brunt of any impact—meaning only a really wicked force will crack the iPhone 5’s special Gorilla Glass 2 with this case on.

    The screen protector brings with it a few flaws. The first is that it just doesn’t feel as pleasant to the touch as the iPhone’s glass screen. Where my finger smoothly glides across Gorilla Glass, the plastic screen protector offers more resistance to my finger and just doesn’t feel as good. Another problem is that the plastic can take on scratches much more easily than Gorilla Glass 2, and since the protector is built-in, scratches could build up in the screen long term and obscure the screen. Contrast this with the iPhone’s Gorilla Glass 2 screen, which has a special coating that resists finger grease and other nasty oiliness, which means not only does it stay cleaner, but also makes the screen easy to clean with just a wipe on your pant leg. The Defender’s cheap plastic screen protector, however, seems to collect all types of grime much easier and does wipe off quite as easily. The final issue with the plastic screen is that the inside of it can collect dust, making it seem like your iPhone’s screen is permanently dusty.

    The Defender’s multiple layers translate into a bit of hassle when taking the case on or off the iPhone. There is snapping of rubber latches into slots. There is stretching rubber around edges and tucking tabs into crevices. You also have to make sure the clear plastic screen is clean on the inside before putting it on. The Defender is not a case for quick removal or putting back on.

    Otterbox Defender iPhone 5 case exploded view

    The Defender has a relatively thick rim that sticks up about a millimeter above the iPhone’s screen. This rim serves as a barrier when laying the iPhone face down, preventing the plastic-screen protector from touching the surfaces of tables, desks, etc. The downside of this thick rim is that the extreme sides and corners of the iPhone’s screen becomes difficult to access with the case on. In my experience, it wasn’t a problem when typing, but there were rare occasions when an app required that I touch the extreme edge of the screen and I found it a bit more difficult to do so with the Defender’s rim interfering.

    Accessibility to the iPhone’s Features. Premium protection always comes with compromise. Because the Defender has built-in rubber flaps that must be pulled back to access the iPhone’s headphone, lightning, and mute-switch ports, those areas aren’t quite as conveniently accessible. But it’s important to note that those areas are indeed accessible, it’s just a bit more of a hassle, as you have to flip out the little rubber flaps to, say, plug in the lightning cable.

    Biggest Flaw. My biggest disappointment with the Defender comes with the home button. The case covers the iPhone’s volume, sleep/wake, and home buttons with its own simulated rubber buttons. While the iPhone’s volume and sleep/wake button work perfectly fine with the case on, the home button is more difficult to operate. I quick discovered that, to use the home button accurately, I needed to use the tip of my thumb and press down in a particular “sweet spot”of the case’s home button. Only then will double and triple clicks accurately register on the iPhone. This little bit of learning curve for the case is unfornutate, but in the end, the home button can be accurately pressed with the case on.

    The iPhone’s front and rear cameras work fine with the case on—large cutout areas surround the rear camera/LED flash/rear microphone as well as the front camera/earpiece, so those areas are clear to work as expected (although…*gasp*…left unprotected).

    Fit and Feel. The Defender is in no way a slim case. It doubles the iPhone 5’s size and weight, which is a shame, too, because the iPhone 5 is Apple’s slimmest and lightest iPhone ever. The case by itself weighs as much as the iPhone (both weigh around 4 ounces). But despite its bulk, the case feels good to hold in the hand. The silicone rubber is slightly textured, supplying both grip for slip prevention as well as a comfortable surface feeling.

    Looks. The Defender is available in 8 different color schemes, all two-toned like the iPhone 5 itself (except for the all-black Defender). I reviewed the good-looking gray/white version, but there is also pink/white, blue/light blue, purple/light purple, etc. The Defender it is no way a stylish case, but on the other hand, for the protective monster it is, the case does have a certain charm. I find the gray/white version to be especially attractive in real-life use.


    The Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5 ($2X) offers a premium level of protection while still allowing you to use all of the features of the iPhone—a nice achievement, albeit not without some issues. The Defender’s biggest flaw is that the iPhone’s home button become less sensitive when covered by the Defender’s own simulated home button. You must learn to press it just right for accurate operation, but once you do, the home button works as expected. Another issue is with the Defender’s built-in clear plastic screen protector, which doesn’t feel as comfortable to operate as the iPhone’s Gorilla Glass 2 screen. Overall, the Otterbox Defender is a case you buy to fully protect your iPhone from rough usage, and for this purpose, we can highly recommend it, despite it flaws in accessibility.

    Review: Incipio DualPro Case for iPhone 5

    Incipio Dual Pro iPhone 5 Case

    The Incipio DualPro case ($29) for iPhone 5 is a dual-layer case that combines an inner silicone sleeve with an outer hard-plastic polycarbonate shell to offer above-average protection. The DualPro would be an excellent case except for a small but annoying design flaw involving the iPhone’s home button. The devil is in the details, so read on for my full review.

    Incipio Dual Pro 5 inside

    Video Review:

    What It’s Made Of. The Incipio DualPro case is made of two different layers that fit together to form the entire case. The inner layer, which is the first you’ll slip around the iPhone, is made of a soft silicone rubber. The outer layer is made from a harder material—polycarbonate plastic, which Incipio calls “plextonium” for their own “proprietary” blend of polycarbonate. This layer snaps around the softer inner layer and provides strength and rigidity for the case.

    Protection. Combined, the DualPro’s two layers offer above-average protection—good enough for most everyday drops and smashes, but falling short of premium protection. Each of the DualPro’s materials serves a protective purpose: soft silicone adds shock absorption and inner scratch protection; hard plastic adds strength and durability. However, both layers are much too thin, even when combined, to be a premium protective case.

    Incipio DualPro case front

    Fit and Feel. The DualPro feels solid and sturdy in the hand due almost entirely to the hard-plastic exterior, which is well designed and does not creak or bend with applied pressure. The outer layer’s surface also has a slightly soft feel to it thanks to a special manufacturing process. The only downside in this area actually comes with the hidden inner layer, which is disappointingly loose. But because this layer is covered by the hard plastic exterior, it’s not an issue.

    Buttons and switch of Incipio Dual Pro iPhone 5 case

    Bottom of Incipio Dual Pro iPhone 5 case

    Incipio Dual Pro top button

    Camera cutout of Incipio Dual pro

    Incipio Dual Pro home button

    The case hugs the home button a little too close.

    Accessibility and Device Functionality. One unbreakable rule for iPhone cases is not to interfer with using the iPhone. Unfortunately, the Incipio DualPro interferes with using the iPhone’s home button and front screen—in a subtle way, to be sure, but it’s annoying nonetheless. The case’s rim creeps too close to iPhone’s home button, interfering when you press down on it. It’s merely annoying and doesn’t stop your use of the home button, but it’s enough to deduct points. The too-thick rim also interferes in a similar way with the edges of the iPhone’s screen.

    Looks. The Incipio DualPro is a sporty, good-looking case available in several different colors. I reviewed the gray with neon-yellow highlights version, but there 6 color combos in total, including more subdued themes of black with gray highlights, and white with gray highlights.

    Incipio Dual P{ro for iPhone 5 colors


    The Incipio DualPro ($29) is almost a great case for the iPhone 5, but unfortunately, the rim of the case creeps a little too close to the iPhone’s home button and screen edges, slightly interfering when those areas are touched or pressed. It’s not a killer flaw, but enough to keep it from being a great case. Add in a hard-to-access mute switch area, and the Dual Pro falls to just being an average case that offers above-average protection.

    Review Summary

    Price: $29

    Art of the iPhone’s Rating: ★★★★★ (3 stars out of 5)

    Review Summary: The case’s rim creeps a little too close the iPhone’s home button and screen, subtly interfering when those areas are touched or pressed. It’s a small annoyance, but enough to keep this otherwise excellent case with above-average protection from being a top iPhone case.

    iPhone 5 Case Review: the Diztronic, a $12 Case That’s a Solid Value

    Diztronic iPhone 5 Case

    The affordable Diztronic ($12) is a bestselling case on that averages 4.5 stars from reviewers—but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a great case. The Diztronic is a thin, lightweight, soft-plastic case that fits snugly around the iPhone 5 and is available in several colors. I put the Diztronic through its paces the past 3 weeks and below are my impressions.

    Video Review:

    What It’s Made Of. The Diztronic is made from thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The material is flexible and feels a bit like soft plastic. The material is thin and barely adds any weight or bulk to the iPhone 5. The case’s surface has an almost entirely matte look (not shiny) and a slight, barely noticeable texture that makes the case feel soft in the hand. It’s pleasant to hold, but doesn’t exactly have an “expensive” or premium feel to it.

    Review Summary

    Price: $12

    Art of the iPhone’s Rating:
    ★★★★★ (3 stars out of 5)

    Review Summary: A thin and flexible case that fits the iPhone 5 like a glove and doesn’t interfere with any of the device’s ports, buttons, and features. The lone downside is that its thin profile means there’s not much shock absorption. At $12, a solid value.

    The inner lining of the case is made of the same soft material, so the case itself won’t scratch the iPhone with use over time, a huge plus when it comes to the iPhone 5’s delicate, scratch-prone rim and edges.

    Protection. Because the Diztronic is so thin, its shock absorption properties are minimal. The Diztronic is not the case to give to the monkey at the local zoo (or your 2-year-old, for that matter) for a little iPhone 5 playtime.

    For the screen, the case has a slightly raised rim that sticks up about a half millimeter. The rim has a slightly different feel than the rest of the case—like a hard vinyl—and has a shiny/glossy black look. This raised rim prevents the iPhone’s screen from touching surfaces when the iPhone is lain of face down. But, of course, it will do nothing if you accidentally drop your iPhone 5 and its screen hits a rock (but very few cases will).

    Diztronic iPhone 5 case inside

    Fit. The Diztronic fits the iPhone 5 like a glove. The fit is easily the case’s best attribute—they nailed it. When slipped around the iPhone 5, there is no looseness or creakiness—the iPhone 5 feels just as solid with the case on as off, and if you have an iPhone 5, you’ll know its slab-like solidity is one of its endearing design elements.

    Diztronic case with volume buttons and mute switch

    Accessibility to the iPhone’s Features. All of the iPhone 5’s buttons work as expected with the the Diztronic case on. Likewise, all ports (headphone jack and Lightning cable) are accessible with the case on, with the exception of the SIM tray slot on the iPhone 5, but few will care about that. The case does cover the iPhone’s sleep and volume buttons with its own simulated buttons, but the buttons work as expected when pressed and even maintain some clickiness, a rarity in iPhone cases. There is also a large cutout area around the iPhone 5’s camera, giving plenty of clearance for the flash LED to do its job.

    Diztronic iPhone 5 Case bottom

    Looks. The Diztronic is available in 6 different colors, including 3 special “glitter” style cases. You won’t win any fashion awards with the Diztronic, although the glitter-style cases do offer a bit of style. That’s not to say these are ugly cases either—just plain Janes.


    The Diztronic ($12) is a solid case and a tremendous value due to its low price tag. The Diztronic fits light a glove and leaves all the iPhone’s ports and buttons working as expected. However, it’s much too thin to truly be a good protective case, but enough for everyday wear and tear. I can recommend it for its solid design and great value.