iPhone 4S: Summary of Case Reviews [UPDATED]

TMO has reviewed nine iPhone 4S cases in the past few weeks. Here’s a summary of those reviews, the ratings and prices, all in one spot for handy references. We’ll update this summary as new case reviews are published. The manufacturer’s photo is below the description.

1. OtterBox Commuter Case’s Dual Layers Rock, 2 Nov 2011, rated 4.5/5 (Great!), US$34.95. A dual layer case with an inner silicone cushion and an outer hard shell. It’s good looking and almost perfect.

OtterBox Commuter

2. OtterBox Impact Case is Minimalist, 3 Nov 2011, rated 3/5 (Solid), US$19.95. A single layer of silicone. Tends to pick up lint, but when clean is solid and durable.

Otterbox Impact 2

3. Incipio Delta Case Disappoints, 3 Nov 2011, rated 2.5/5 (Disappointing), US$34.95. Incomplete hard shell, poor documentation, not good looking.

Incipio Delta

4. Incipio DRX case is Barely Ordinary, 8 Nov 2011, rated 2.5/5 (Disappointing), US$34.95. A simple, stiff plastic case that’s not good looking and very expensive for what’s delivered.

Incipio DRX

5. Speck PixelSkin Case is Solid, 7 Nov 2011, rated 3.5/5 (Solid), US$29.95. A rugged, good looking layer of pixelated silicone. Great gip.

Speck PixelSkin

6. Grove’s Bamboo Case Is Both Beautiful and Expensive, 14 Nov 2011, rated 4/5 (Great!) US$69 & up. Handcrafted bamboo, custom designs, good protection, attention getter but expensive.

Grove Bamboo

7. This (Twelve South) Case is by The Book, 16 Nov 2011, rated 4/5 (Great!), US$59.99. Handcrafted, simulated leather bound book design, includes classic wallet.

Twelve South BookBook

8. Incase Metallic Snap Case: Minimal & Stylish, 17 Nov 2011, rated 4/5 (Great!) US$34.95. Very focused: good protection with minimum, 1 mm outer layer. Handsome metallic look.

Incase Metallic Snap

9. Incase Pro Slider: Gorgeous and Strong 18 Nov 2011, rated 4/5 (Great!), US$39.95. Strong, multi-material design, great looking color combos.

Incase Pro Slider

10. OtterBox’s Reflex Case Is Tough And Polished, 11 May 2011, rated 3.5/5 (Solid), $34.95. Rugged, wraparound, solid protection with an attractive design. Previously reviewed and now 4S compatible.

OtterBox Reflex



11. OtterBox Defender is Ultimate Protection, 29 Nov 2011, rated 5/5 (Outstanding!), $49.95. With two layers of protection, built-in screen protector, smart design of port coverings and openings, accompanying belt clip with secure, rotating clasp, a protected aperture for Apple logo and online video documentation, this is an outstanding case.

Otterbox Defender-1


12. Case Mate’s Barely There Case is Sleek, 30 Nov, rated 3.5/5 (Solid), US$40. It’s sleek and strong, lightweight aluminum, and fits all versions of the iPhone 4/4S. Minimalism with the durability and impact absorption of solid metal.

Case Mate Barely There


13. LifeProof Case for iPhone 4/4S: Protection without Bulk, 28 Oct, “highly recommended,” US$79.95. TMO’s Vern Seward wrote: “You can lay down big money for cases that do an excellent job of protecting your iPhone, but often that protective cocoon makes your phone bulky and tough to use. LifeProof is different. Their case does not add appreciably to your iPhone’s runway model figure, yet it protects from the more common spills, drops, and dunks that often occur to devices belonging to regular Joes and Jills.

It’s not perfect. The small, dark headphone port plug can be a challenge for some to remove and replace, which you may do often if you use a wired headset, and its just waiting to get lost. You also have to carry around the headphone adapter. Something else to lose.”



14. Trident Kraken Case is a Fortress, 16 Dec, rated 4.5/5 (Great!), US$49.99. It’s a lot of case, two layers of silicone and polycarbonate, a screen protector, belt clip and even a plastic protector applied directly to the back of the iPhone.  It’s indeed a fortress for the aggressive, outdoor person, firefighter, police, climber, etc. But it also has some minor flaws that kept it out of the Outstanding category.

Trident Kraken

15. Third Man 45 iPhone 4S Case Is Super Awesome, 27 Dec, rated 4.5/5 (Great!), US$29.99. This case is something to talk about. The back is made from a 45 rpm vinyl record. “So if you got a new iPhone 4S for Christmas  and are looking for a really cool case that’s not like anything else out there, consider the Third Man 45 iPhone 4S Case from Griffin Technology and Third Man Records.” There’s also an additional 3-pack that adds other record titles which would really play on an old record player — if they weren’t cut up to form the case. That vinyl can scuff, but its strength remains and still looks great.


Thirdman case

16. X-Doria’s Cubit iPhone Case Lets Users Design Exterior. 12 April 2012. Rated 3/5 (Solid). $24.99.  The new Cubit iPhone case for iPhone 4/4S from X-doria allows users to design their own case. The case, which comes in black or white, is made from shatterproof polycarbonate. There are 40 equal size square openings and 42 soft rubber cubes that can be mixed and matched to create designs. The designs can be changed as frequently as the user wishes. All ports and controls are appropriately accessible.

X-doria Cubit

17. Ballistic’s SG iPhone Case Is Lean And Tough. 19 April 2012. Rated 4.5/5 (Great!). $34.99. The Ballistic Shell Gel case (SG) iPhone 4/4S case offers plenty of protection for your iPhone without the bulk present in many other extra protection type cases. This case easily fits in your pocket. A primary feature is the Ballistic Corners™ which provide extra shock absorption on all four corners. 

Ballistic SG

18. Ballistic HC Case for iPhone is Dual Purpose Rugged. 01 May 2012. rated 4/5 (Great!). $49.99. The primary advantage of the HC case is that you can choose to dress your phone to the max when needed, or you can dress it down to fit in your pocket. The case has a built in screen protector, a shock absorbent polymer layer, a hard polycarbonate layer, a soft, thick shock absorbent polymer layer, and the optional outer layer of silicone. Button and port covers are built into the case, and speakers are covered with water resistant mesh. For those who need extra protection this is a very good option. You can go from the work day to evening activities by simply removing the extra protection should you wish to do so.

Ballistic HC

19. Casellet: iPhone 4S Case and Wallet Combined. 24 May 2012. Rated 3/5 (Solid). $34.95. The Casellet is an iPhone case integrated with a wallet that can conceal a small amount of cash or credit cards. It’s perfect for those occasions when you need your iPhone (4 or 4S) but don’t want to carry a wallet or purse.



20. CM4’s iPhone Q Card Case Also Holds Credit Cards. 19 June 2012. rated 3.5/5 (Solid). $39.99.   This case for the iPhone 4/4S is made from rubber and faux leather.  It holds the iPhone securely in place and also provides a pocket on the back side that will hold up to three items (credit cards, drivers license, cash, I.D. card, etc.) Though the cards are held tightly in place, the case has a thumb hole that makes removing the cards quick and easy. The manufacturer recommends that users fit no more than three cards in the card slot, but point out that it will hold one just as securely as it will hold three.

CM4 Q card

Most of these cases, with the likely exception of the Incase Metallic Snap Case and the Case·Mate Barely There add so much outer layer protection that if you have been using a belt holster, your iPhone will likely no longer fit. An added problem is that few if any makes of leather belt holsters publish the inside dimensions of the pouch. The way I solved this problem was to go hunting at my local wireless shop for a belt holster that’s designed to hold an Android smartphone. That way I could try out the fit right there in the store. Because Android phones are somewhat larger than the iPhone, a belt holster designed for them has a good chance of fitting an iPhone with one of the cases above. (See below.) A belt holster designed for just the iPhone likely has no chance.

Verizon case

As we continue to review cases for the iPhone, this summary will be updated, so you may want to bookmark it. Also, at Macworld|iWorld 2012, Nancy Gravely encountered many additional iPhone cases and wrote a report on them, dated January 31, 2012.