Category: iPhone 4 Case Reviews

Review: Otterbox Impact iPhone 4 Case

The Otterbox Impact iPhone 4 case ($12) is one of the thickest silicone rubber cases we’ve reviewed, and while all that rubber may not give it stylish looks, it does offer superb protection and shock absorption. Overall, we found the Impact to be a solid all-around case, and one of the better protective choices for the iPhone.

The Impact is one of the thicker silicone cases we’ve seen for the iPhone 4, but that thickness is partly deceiving due to some clever design on the inside of the case. The case has two layers of silicone. The outer layer is solid rubber, but the inside layer is honeycombed. With less material, the case weighs less while retaining some of the shock absorption of a double-layer case.

The biggest benefit of all that rubber is impressive protection, particularly in the area of shock absorption. Otterbox has become known for its protective cases (see our reviews for their Defender and the Commuter cases), and the Impact maintains the reputation, offering some of the best protection we’ve seen out of a silicone case. The impact points of the iPhone (the four corners) are well padded, and a rim around the front screen sticks up about a quarter of an inch and should absorb some shock should the iPhone fall on that side. Overall, the case gives your iPhone an excellent chance of survival if you accidentally drop it.

In the area of accessibility, the Impact scores well, with all ports and buttons accessible and working as expected. The case leaves openings for the headphone and docking port as well as the ringer switch, back camera and LED flash, front camera, and light sensor. The case covers up the iPhone’s volume, sleep, and home buttons with its own simulated rubber buttons, but all work accurately when pressed. The buttons also have a nice soft feel that I’ve always appreciated when silicone buttons are done right.

The Impact offers a much improved grip over what you’d get with a naked iPhone. Besides the inherent grippiness of silicone, that case’s sides are textured to offer provide friction for your fingertips. The only downside in this area is the case’s thickness that small hands may find difficult to wrap around.

Otterbox’s protection-focused cases aren’t particular known for their looks, and the Impact is no different. But I wouldn’t call it ugly either. It’s a functional design, with a matte black color, textured sides, and a tasteful Otterbox logo stamped into the rubber on the back. The only aesthetic feature I disliked is the big round porthole on the back that shows off the iPhone’s Apple logo.

There is one minor flaw worth mentioning: a loose fit for the narrow strips of rubber that frame the right and left sides of the iPhone’s screen. These areas tend to bend and stretch with the slightest pressure. It’s a minor flaw that doesn’t affect use of the iPhone, but it gives the case a strange feel at times.


The Otterbox Impact for iPhone 4 ($12) is one of the thickest silicone cases we’ve reviewed and also one of the best designed and most protective. While it may not win points for style, the case is a highly functional case that won’t stand in the way of using the iPhone. We rate the Impact an 8.9 out of 10, highly recommended.


Official website for Otterbox Impact for iPhone 4 Otterbox Impact $12

Review: Otterbox Commuter Case for iPhone 4

Otterbox has become known for its rugged, protective iPhone cases, and the Otterbox Commuter for iPhone 4 ($19), a dual-layer case made of silicone and hard plastic, continues the tradition. A superbly designed case and some of the best protection you can get for the iPhone, the Commuter’s only flaws are its bulk and less convenient access to the iPhone’s headphone and docking ports.

The Commuter is a slightly slimmer version of the Otterbox Defender (review), a tank of a case we reviewed recently and found to be the gold standard for protective iPhone cases. The Commuter does away with the Defender’s built-in screen protector, but the overall design is much the same. It’s composed of two separate sections: a soft silicone rubber interior sleeve that you wrap around the iPhone, and a hard-plastic shell you place over it. The case requires some effort to put together and is not ideal for those who frequently take their case off and on. But once together, the case offers impressive protection, much better, even, than similar dual-layer cases.

Most of the case’s protection comes from the thick silicone rubber layer that makes up the bulk of the case. The rubber is exposed at the impact points (the four corners of the iPhone) and offers superb shock absorption for accidental drops. The silicone also supplies a thick rim that sticks up a quarter of an inch around the iPhone’s front screen and protects it should the iPhone land on that side. The outer hard plastic layer is much thinner than the silicone layer and seems mostly there for rigidity and dirt restistance, as hard plastic doesn’t attract dirt and grim the way some silicone materials can.

The case has a few drawbacks in the area of accessibility to its features. Silicone plugs that fit into the iPhone headphone and docking ports make accessing those areas more of a hassle. If you want to use headphones, you must first remove the plug, then replace it when finished. We found this process slightly annoying, but not a dealbreaker. And these plugs do have a purpose: preventing dirt and other potentially harmful substances from entering those sensitive areas.

The case covers the iPhone’s volume and sleep buttons with raised areas of silicone that simulate buttons. We tend to like this approach when the buttons work accurately, which they do with the Commuter. The home button is uncovered, as is the ringer switch, offering normal access.

The Commuter’s main flaw is its bulky size. I could still fit it in my pocket, but those with tighter pockets or smaller hands might not like the increased girth the case adds to the iPhone.

In terms of style, the case has a basic, utilitarian look to it. Lines are visible where the silicone and hard plastic layers meet and add a function-focused design element that we found neither ugly nor attractive. The case is only available in matte black, so anyone looking to match their case with their outfit will have to look elsewhere. The hard plastic back has a slight rough texture to it to help improve grip, and the case generally feels nice to hold—if you can get your hands around it. And there is a porthole on the back to display the iPhone’s Apple logo through, a design touch I’ve never really liked in iPhone cases in general, but some may find it useful to show off their fancy Apple product.


The Otterbox Commuter for iPhone 4 ($19) is a rugged, well-designed dual-layer case that offers superb protection for the iPhone 4. With its only drawback being added bulk, we nevertheless find it one of the best iPhone 4 cases available. We rate it a 9.0 out of 10, highly recommend.

Helpful links:

Official site for the Otterbox Commuter iPhone 4 Case Otterbox Commuter iPhone 4 Case $19

Review: Monaco Flip Style Case for iPhone 4

There are a few compelling reasons to use a flip-style iPhone case, and chief among them are privacy and protection. The cover can hide your iPhone’s screen and any pop-ups or caller IDs that appear. And a flip case’s cover also provides protection to the iPhone’s front screen when stored in a bag or pockets. But there are downsides as well, chief among them added bulk.

The Monaco Flip Style Case ($25) is a good example of both the good and bad of flip-style cases. It’s a well-constructed black leather flip case for the iPhone 4 that impressed up with its professional looks and comfortable feel. But its bulky size also means you’re going to need some type of bag (or really big pockets) to carry the iPhone around in.

For those looking for a flip-style case, the Monaco is a success mostly due to its quality construction. We enjoyed testing the Monaco thanks to a leather exterior that had a pleasant, soft, buttery feel. The case also has a good amount of padding, and generally feels much more comfortable to hold in the hand than a naked iPhone.

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Review: iLuv Fusion iPhone 4 Case and Stand

The iLuv Fusion for the iPhone 4 ($15) is a great idea, in theory, at least. It’s an integrated stand built into an iPhone case so that, wherever you go, you can conveniently prop up the iPhone. But while we found the Fusion makes for a great stand, its awkward shape and design flaws make it a less than ideal everyday iPhone case.

The iLuv Fusion case is made of two sections (featuring two different materials) that snap together to give you the case/stand combo. The first section is a soft rubber silicone casing that fits around the iPhone, giving it protection and shock absorption, and which can be used on its own without the stand. The second section is a hard-plastic stand that snaps into grooves built into the silicone case.

iLuv Fusion in landscape.

iLuv Fusion in portrait.

iLuv Fusion's second landscape orientation.

The stand section of the case features a hinge that allows the stand to unfold and prop up the iPhone in both landscape and portrait orientation. In portrait, the stand offers only 1 viewing angle. But in landscape, it supports a much wider range. One important feature we discovered is that the case can be turned “upside down,” with the stand’s hinge supplying enough friction to hold up the iPhone for another set of angles. As a stand, we enjoyed the Fusion’s versatility and portability. Who knows when you’ll want to prop up the iPhone, and it was nice to always have the ability to do so.

But the iLuv Fusion’s flaws become evident when used as an everyday case. One annoyance is that the stand along with its hinge sticks out from the rest of the case, creating an awkward, uneven shape. When laid flat on a table, the iPhone will wobble and sit at a slight angle. When held in the hand, the hinge digs into the palm and generally feels awkward.

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Review: Otterbox Defender Case for iPhone 4

For the previous two generations of the iPhone, there was really only one choice of a case for getting the most protection possible while still being able to use the iPhone: the Otterbox Defender ($25). And with the new version of the Defender for the iPhone 4 , Otterbox once again impresses us with its attention to detail and solid industrial design. But the Defender’s superb protection comes at a price, chiefly added bulk (lots of added bulk) and crippled access to the iPhone’s ports. But after testing the case for the past three weeks, we were surprised with how little the case got in the way of using the major features of the iPhone. Simply put, the case is the most protection you can get for the iPhone and still be able to use the iPhone. *Update* Otterbox recently redesigned to Defender to fit both versions of the iPhone 4 (Verizon and AT&T)

To create its turtle shell-like protection, the Defender offers up three different materials: a clear plastic screen protector, which is permanently attached to the case and covers the iPhone’s front glass screen; a hard-shell polycarbonate plastic that serves as the case’s bone structure and makes up the majority of the case’s bulk; and a soft-silicone rubber that slips over the hard-shell layer and offers shock absorption and improved grip thanks to its textured surface.

Assembling and disassembling the three sections of the case around the iPhone takes some work. There are numerous grooves and slots that the pieces must fit into in order to come together properly. The silicone layer is particularly troublesome in that the edges and tabs occasionally come undone if not put together properly and must be tucked in or neatened. I developed quite a habit of constantly fidgeting with the case. But once familiar with how the tabs stay fastened, the case generally becomes less bothersome.

For protection, the case combines silicone rubber’s shock absorption with the rigid strength of polycarbonate hard plastic. Its thickness combined with the dual-materials makes it a tank, preventing damage to the precious iPhone 4 inside. The case’s clear screen protector helps prevents scratches to the iPhone’s screen. Although we should note the iPhone’s Gorilla glass is more scratch-proof than the case’s plastic, the case is cheaper to replace than the iPhone’s screen. One thing we didn’t like about the case’s screen protector is that it attracts finger grease way more than the iPhone’s screen, even though Otterbox claims improved finger-print resistance.

Most impressive to us about the Defender is that it generally doesn’t get in the way of everyday use of the iPhone. The buttons all work as expected despite being buried underneath all those layers of silicone and plastic. The case covers the home, sleep, and volume buttons with its own raised areas of silicone that create simulated buttons, and which worked accurately when pressed.

The case protects the openings for the docking port, ringer switch, and headphone jack with silicone tabs. To access those areas, you must peel back the tabs and then insert the headphone jack or USB cord. When you’re finished with the ports, you must close up the tabs else they’ll flap about. It’s a bit tedious in the long run, and we’re not sure the tabs are needed at all as the case is in no way waterproof.

The general drawbacks to the Defender lie in the area of accessibility, or should we say, convenience of accessibility. All the features of the iPhone are accessible, just much less so. For example, you won’t be able to simply flip the ringer switch, you must first open the tab, dig down with your finger, flip it, then reapply the tab when you’re finished.

Another area that suffers from loss of accessibility are the edges of the iPhone’s screen. The case has a thick rim that sticks up a quarter of an inch above the iPhone’s screen and offers excellent protection should the iPhone land on that side. Unfortunately, the rim interferes with touching the extreme sides of the screen, for example, when typing letters like P and Q on the iPhone’s keyboard. It doesn’t so much prevent your finger from touching those areas as makes it uncomfortable when part of your finger bumps up against it.

If you like the idea of owning the “world’s thinnest smartphone,” you can forget about it with the Defender. The case adds considerable weight (2.08 ounces) and expands the iPhone 4’s dimensions to 4.85 inches long by 2.67 inches wide by 0.66 inches thick (from the iPhone 4’s original dimensions of 4.5 x 2.31 X 0.37 inches, respectively). This takes the iPhone from feeling like a half a deck of playing cards to a full deck of children’s flash cards.

If you’re the type who likes a fashionable case, the Defender probably isn’t for you, as it’s all function and very little form. It’s currently available in one color, matte black (previous generations added white, pink, and yellow). The matte color does, to its credit, help camouflage all the unsightly angles and crevices created by the case’s various tabs and openings. The case has a clear-plastic porthole opening on its back that displays the Apple logo, in case you need to show the world that you do, indeed, own an iPhone.

In terms of feel, the case is generally pleasant to hold, mostly thanks to its soft, textured silicone surface. This same texture also helps improve grip—improve it, that is, if you can still wrap your hands around the case’s bulky structure. But to be fair, my hands are not large by most standards, and I was still able to hold the case comfortably.

The Defender is too thick to fit in any iPhone dock we’ve seen, it won’t even fit n the widest-mouthed universal docks like the Griffin Simplifi or Apple’s Universal dock. You’ll have to resort the iPhone’s USB cable in order sync and charge your iPhone 4.

Included with the case is a separate belt-clip case holder that is rather bulky itself. The Defender snaps into the case and is tightly held—no bouncing around while walking.

Review Summary

Price: $25

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

Review Summary: Offers best-in-class protection for the iPhone 4 and 4S while still providing access to the iPhone’s ports, buttons, and features.

Review: Griffin Motif for iPhone 4

The Griffin Motif for iPhone 4 ($15) is available as one of the cases in Apple’s Free iPhone 4 Case program, but we find it’s not one of the better choices. We didn’t like the semi-transparent TPU material the case is made out of, as it has a sticky feel and poor shock absorption. Even an interesting diamond pattern that shimmers in the light can’t save this below average case.

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Review: Cellet Jelly Case for iPhone 4

The Cellet Jelly ($8) is one of the most inexpensive cases we’ve seen yet for the iPhone 4, and while not particularly spectacular in any area, it features solid design (its only flaw being a loose fit) and doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone, making the case a good value.

Our only complaint about the Cellet Jelly is a semi-loose fit that occasionally allows a corner of the case to slip off when removing from pockets. It’s not the worst fit we’ve seen, and the case will stay on the iPhone in normal use, but it’s nevertheless a minor annoyance. The loose fit also causes the case’s frame around the iPhone’s screen to take on a slightly bent or warped look at times.

But that’s about the only fault we could find with the case. Its most standout feature is not any one design element, but rather that, overall, the case doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone on an everyday basis. If that seems like a no-brainer design wise, it’s telling that so many case manufacturers get it wrong.
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Review: MiniSuit Smoke Skin Circle Case for iPhone 4

The Minisuit Smoke Skin Circle for iPhone 4 ($15) is a transparent plastic case that suffers from bad design and bad looks. There’s little about this case that should interest an iPhone owner other than its affordable price.

The Minisuit Smoke Skin is made out of a rugged material called thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU). The material is slightly pliable but has more in common with hard-shell plastic than it does with the more common silicone rubber. The case is transparent and decorated with a semi-transparent pattern of concentric cicles, which come in 6 different colors (pink, blue, black, green, orange, red, and whitish clear).

Review Summary

MiniSuit Smoke Skin Circle iPhone 4 Case

Price: $15

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

Review Summary: The Minisuit Smoke Skin case has an unappealing aged look to it and makes using the iPhone’s sleep/wake button hard to use.

The main reason we can’t recommend the Smoke Skin Circle is that it makes the iPhone’s sleep button very difficult to press. The case covers up both the sleep and volume buttons with its own raised areas of plastic. The problem is that the material is so inflexible, it takes too much pressure to push and activate the iPhone’s sleep button through the case. It hurt our fingers to do so. While the volume buttons are not affected quite as much, they still are much more difficutlt to press with the case on.

The case offers only average protection for the iPhone. The material is stiff and not conducive to shock absorption. On a positive note, it does have a thick rim that sticks up above the iPhone’s screen, which should take the brunt of an impact should it be dropped on that side.

We liked the durability of the case. TPU is known as a tough material that resists abrasions and tears well, and is also oil and grease resistant. After putting the case through heavy use for a week, the case came out scratch free.

The case had one of the best fits we’ve seen on any silicone or other semi-pliant case, hugging the corners with no bending or warping very similar to how hard cases fit.

In terms of style, we didn’t find the Smoke Skin Circle’s aethestics appealing. The transparent material arrived with almost a slight yellowish, aged look. The circular pattern is neat, but not neat enough to rescue the case from a cheap look. The case leaves a clear circular area on the back so the iPhone’s Apple logo is visible.

The case has a stiff, vinyl-like feel that we were indifferent to. It lacks the stickiness of cases made of similar materials, but its smooth surface only slightly improves the iPhone’s grip.

This case has trouble putting the iPhone to sleep.


A fatal flaw ruins Minisuit Smoke Skin Circle ($15), as the case makes the iPhone’s sleep button much too hard to press for everyday use. The case is average in most other areas, with the exceptions of fit and affordability, leaving very little to compel an iPhone user to consider the case. Our rating: 3.5 out of 10, not recommended.

Review: SwitchEasy Colors iPhone 4 Case

The SwitchEasy Colors case for iPhone 4 ($15) continues its tradition of being one of the best-fitting silicone cases out there. And what it lacks in style, it makes up for in functional design and fit and feel.

A lot can go wrong with the design of an iPhone case (and often does), so that’s why it’s a pleasure to come across a case like the SwitchEasy Colors, which gets almost all the details right. Our favorite feature of the Colors is a perfect fit and feel. The case hugs the iPhone 4 like a glove, with very little looseness and no sagging that some lesser cases experience. Its surface has a pleasant soft texture that feels good to hold, where some silicone rubber cases take on a sticky rubber-tire feel.

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Review: Empire New-Skin iPhone 4 Case

The Empire New-Skin for iPhone 4 ($15) is the type of case that benefits from slick marketing photos, making it look like it’s made from better materials than it really is. In reality, the New-Skin looks cheap and suffers from durability issues. But it’s not all bad, as the case doesn’t get in the way of using the iPhone like some cases do. And it does have at least one feature of note: a cut-out for the iPhone 4’s SIM tray, something we haven’t seen yet, and which may appeal to frequent SIM switchers.

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