Review: Ballistic Shell Gel (SG) Series Case for iPhone 5
One of the more common styles of iPhone case out right now combines a soft rubber core with a separate hard plastic frame for structure. Ballistic, Stanley, and Trident have all released options in this genre for the iPhone 5: Ballistic's is the Shell Gel/SG Series ($35), Stanley's is called Foreman ($40), and Trident's is Aegis Case ($35). Similar in both concept and dimensions, each case has distinguishing factors that may sway some users in its direction.
Shell Gel is a thick case, thanks to a layer of shock absorbent rubber found on the outside of the hard plastic piece. Otherwise, the hard frame is pretty straightforward, wrapping around the edges of the iPhone 5 and fitting into a groove in the rubber layer. The inner core is rather protective, covering the device’s top and side edges, plus some of the bezel. In addition to offering button coverage, it’s a bit thicker at the corners for extra shock protection; we’ve previously seen this on other cases from the company. The one area protection is noticeably lacking is along the bottom, where there’s simply one long opening.
Foreman is different from the other cases in that its hard plastic frame is more of an exoskeleton for an otherwise comprehensive rubber design; the frame adds literally nothing to the rubber case beyond firmness and additional cosmetic appeal. Alone, the rubber provides nearly full top, back, and side coverage, with a particularly nice diamond texture on the back for extra grip. Foreman includes clicky button protection, leaving holes only for the iPhone 5’s face, rear camera, side switch, and bottom. As with Shell Gel, there’s one long opening on the bottom for the Lightning and headphone ports, speaker and microphone.
Stanley and development partner Incipio gave Foreman atypically nice looks, though. Elevated ridges on the hard plastic frame help Foreman to resemble a ruggedized Stanley tool, and the frame appears ready to absorb shocks if your iPhone is dropped on its front or back. Screen film and a rotating belt clip are included, adding to Foreman’s protection and wearability. If you already have a tool belt, wearing your iPhone on your waist probably makes some sense to you, as well.
Trident’s Aegis Case takes a slightly different approach to coverage. Unlike the others, Aegis doesn’t use rubber on the back of its case, but does for some reason leave the Apple logo exposed. The decision simply doesn’t make sense on a case that’s supposed to be protective. Otherwise, we were impressed by what the case does cover: in addition to the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons, the Home Button is covered by the rubber liner; all of the buttons maintain full tactility. Additionally, the side switch, headphone port, and Lightning port are accessible through flip-open covers, and the microphone and speaker are protected by dust filters. The case comes with a screen film, applicator card, and cleaning cloth, like Foreman, but unlike Shell Gel.
As between Shell Gel and Aegis, the latter clearly offers more protection for the same cost. It’s a shame that Trident decided to leave the hole on the back, otherwise this would be an even better option for its price. As it stands, it’s still worthy of a B+ rating and general recommendation, as your iPhone 5 is well protected for the money. Foreman is more expensive, but also more attractive, while including a belt clip that will likely appeal to its target audience. Though it makes compromises in port and switch protection, it’s otherwise a heavy-duty case, and also worthy of a B+ rating. Finally, Shell Gel merits a flat B. It lacks port protection and screen film relative to the others, but it’s slightly more attractive than Aegis, and like Foreman, fully covers the iPhone’s back. It will protect your device in most falls, and is a competently designed case for the asking price.