iPhone 4/4S case roundup

Sections: Features, Hands On / First Looks, iDevice Accessories, iPhone, iPhone/iPod touch/iPad

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You want an iPhone 5, but if your _____ [pick one or more: carrier/budget/spouse/green commitment] simply does not allow you to get Apple’s latest (or if you need to protect your current phone just a little bit longer until you can justify the upgrade), a new case can be a great investment. Especially for iPhone 4S users, whose phones may be less than a year old, a case upgrade may be a wise choice to keep your phone protected and make it a bit more useful. Appletell recently received a number of cases that are each good for a variety of uses, and we put them through their paces. Whether you need a convenient carryall or protection from the harshest possible use environments, a new case may help you stave off iPhone 5 envy long enough to nab an iPhone 5S.

G-FORM X-Protect Case

Unlike some products, this G-Form case does not make light use of the word extreme. Brought to you by the same folks who sent an iPad 100,000 feet in the air and dropped it to show off their case design, you can be assured this is a case designed to withstand serious abuse.  To prove it, G-Form features a video of the X-Protect case taking repeated slapshots from a hockey goalie (oh the humanity!).

Featuring squishy impact resistant foam extruded through a rigid plastic frame, this case absorbs the impact of serious drops, protecting your iPhone’s sides and back. It also features a raised bevel in front designed to keep your screen from hitting the flat surfaces. The sides, corners, and back of the phone feature a squishy proprietary foam that is extremely springy when held but stiffens to absorb impacts, which G-Form dubs “reactive Protection Technology.” The case is available in 10 different color combinations, and despite all this extremeness does not add too much bulk.  You will not be able to slip an X-protected case into the pocket of your skinny jeans, but if you wear pants loose enough to go hiking in, you can feel confident that your iPhone will survive a few bounces down a rock scramble.

Price: $40
Great For: High-impact protection in extreme environments, and the exceptionally klutzy
Not So Good At: slim protection or showing off your fancy iPhone
Buy:  G-Form X-Protect Case

Hex Stealth Case

The Hex Stealth Case offers edge and back protection for your iPhone, while a super secret hidden back panel behind the phone provides stowage for a contactless card (like a tap-and-pay credit card or subway fare card), emergency money (a couple US bills fit nicely when folded in thirds), ID card, or other thin, credit-card sized items. Access to the hidden panel is only available when the phone is not in the case, and it is not visible from the outside at all.

Combining the card carrier with a phone means you can keep one hand free when tapping your card for payment, access, etc. The Stealth is made of very rigid plastic with a snug fit that is not easy to remove, so keep any cards you need physical access to elsewhere.

Available in black or white, the Stealth case adds a cool Scandinavian-modern vibe to your phone, while providing some scratch and impact protection. The hidden credit card panel allows you to turn your iPhone into a mobile payment tool similar to the NFC Android phones available—though of course you can guarantee compatibility because you choose which card to use, rather than hoping merchants support Google Wallet.

The plastic is thin enough to allow virtually any contactless card to work; in testing with a building ID badge and subway fare card, the card readers never failed to adequately read the card. The convenience of carrying a frequently used card and cell phone together (rather than juggling a wallet and phone) made life much simpler, though the highly rigid frame makes the case very difficult to remove should you need to access your card itself. Only put cards you never need physical access to or some emergency cash in there.

Price: $35
Great For: Convenient carrying your phone and card(s) together
Not So Good At: Protecting the screen or impact protection
Buy: Hex Stealth Case

Arctic Wallet Stand Case

With a cool denim exterior and funky origami-inspired Velcro flap, Arctic’s Wallet Stand case exudes an aura of laid back Japanese zen. But that funky flap, available in grey or blue, hides a dual-purpose personality—open it up and you have access to a pocket large enough to handle three credit-card sized objects, keep it open at a 90º angle and you have a convenient stand to prop your iPhone in landscape or portrait orientation.

The pocket is even thin enough that some conctactless cards can be used, so you can carry your phone and access card in one hand.
The case is hard plastic around the edge of the phone with a soft touch plastic interior. It fits snugly; apart from the flap on the back it adds virtually no bulk to the iPhone. It fully encloses the back and side of your phone, but not the top (where the headphone jack is), and it does not offer any screen protection.

For carrying in a purse or pocket, the Wallet Stand is an excellent choice for its slim profile and usefulness when you want to prop your phone up for watching a movie or taking a FaceTime call.

Price: $26
Great For: Conveniently carrying your phone and card(s), keys, earpods, etc. together
Not So Good At: Screen protection or impact resistance
Buy: Arctic Wallet Stand Case

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