Despite what that recent line at your local Apple Store may have led you to believe, not all owners upgraded to the iPhone 5. There are many of us who are still content with our 4/4S models that simply didn’t feel the need to cough up any additional dough for a new phone. Not when we can spend that money on swanky cases and other accessories.
With that in mind I recently took a trio of specialty covers for the previous iPhone model for a test drive, and I found each to offer its own unique strengths. The Waterproof iPhone Case from Outdoor Technology, for example, boasts one very specific selling point – it truly is waterproof. It’s a tight fit for your iPhone inside this shiny plastic shell, but its solid build did indeed prove waterproof (in my ridiculous sink-and-bathtub tests) thanks to a hefty inner sealing gasket coupled with three separate exterior lock points. Installing the case is a very deliberate process that takes some time, but for those instances when water protection is a must it’s a true lifesaver. Watertight up to one meter in depth for at least 30 minutes, this OT solution manages to keep your phone dry without sacrificing screen, camera or call functionality. Now, that’s not to say your call clarity doesn’t suffer a bit through all that shielding, so it’s best if used in tandem with a Bluetooth headset if you’re planning to chat it up on the high seas. It’s also important to note that this case doesn’t offer much in the way of drop protection, which can easily damage both the watertight seal and your precious iPhone.
For those in the market for true phone armor, the Ballistic Hard Core takes on reigning king Otterbox head-on. Designed with the same sort of multilevel protection – including a hardy plastic frame, a silicon outer sleeve and an integrated screen cover – as the stalwart Defender, the Hard Core even comes with a similar(ly atrocious) belt holster. This case is perfectly functional, protecting your iPhone while still providing access to all ports and buttons with or without the exterior silicon jacket in place. Sadly it’s uniquely styled square Home button cover and scalloped outer edges don’t detract from the fact that it’s freakin’ huge! It’s not as if the case is that much bigger than similar models on the market, but the Hard Core really does swallow your diminutive iPhone in all these various levels of coverage. Of course if you’re in the market for such high-impact protection it’s likely that the trade-off of size for safety is acceptable. The only real downside other than the sheer girth of the case itself is its back-end camera lens cover; the thing captures mounds of dust and smudges that serve to wash out photographs.
If longevity is the order of the day you’d be better served by the PowerSkin battery case. This accessory promises to greatly extend the battery life of your iPhone 4/4S – a task at which it handily succeeds. A four-level LED indicator on the unit’s back lets you know just how much additional juice you have access to at any given time, and a dedicated on/off button means you can either manually power it up when you need it or keep the thing running all day for a slow but constant charge. This secondary on-board battery obviously adds a lot of extra weight to your phone, and its integrated silicon wrap provides some much needed touchscreen protection but also serves to highlight the oddly asymmetrical bulge of its bottom-heavy design. Since the PowerSkin itself plugs directly into the devices 30-pin port it requires that users must sync and charge via the case’s own micro USB connector… which should at least provide a little common ground for hybrid iOS/Android households. Still, it literally doubles your phone’s battery capacity, which makes it ideal on those occasions when you simply can’t plug in for a proper charge. In short: it’s all the power you need with a bonus Cthulhoid.