Ballistic has taken several of its previous case designs and slightly modified them to fit the iPhone 5c: Aspira Series ($35), Shell Gel SG Series ($35), and SG Maxx Series ($50). The first is the most basic of the bunch, a one-piece rubber and hard plastic protector that comes in four color combinations, and has been seen before for the iPhone 5 and 5s. As for the other two, they’re also highly familiar, with Shell Gel SG having been seen before, and SG Maxx is a slightly modified version, with a belt clip and hard plastic screen protector included.
Like many co-molded cases, Aspira is plastic on the outside and rubber on the inside, with that lining sticking through in certain areas. That rubber is the only thing covering the top and bottom edges, as well as the Sleep/Wake and volume buttons. As the best button protectors do, they cover without reducing tactility; you’re able to feel the button clicks to the same degree you would with a bare iPhone. The rubber also creates a raised, protective lip around the screen, which is otherwise left uncovered. Instead of multiple openings along the bottom edge, there’s just one long, open line.
Shell Gel is a thicker case, thanks to its multi-layer construction. It starts with a rubber skin, followed by a piece of plastic that clips onto the back, which is itself reinforced with a layer of shock-absorbent rubber. Otherwise, the hard frame is pretty straightforward, wrapping around the edges of the iPhone 5c 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. Coverage along the bottom edge has been improved from the last time we saw the case: instead of one long opening all the way across, there are now three individual holes.
In many ways, SG Maxx is almost identical, although there are differences when you look close. It’s much thicker, and offers even more drop protection then Shell Gel. It also has flip open protectors that keep the headphone and Lightning ports free of debris, though they don’t waterproof the case. A hard, removable, and unfortunately prismatic screen protector can be installed if desired; it has one opening for the Home Button, and another for the earpiece and camera. There’s also a plastic belt clip included. Everything works the same as with Shell Gel, although we found we sometimes had to adjust the rubber over the Sleep/Wake button to make it click properly.
None of these three cases wow us, but they’re all at least good options. Aspira comes in at a B+ rating. Although the previous edition ranked higher, Ballistic hasn’t yet addressed the bottom edge opening, which is a bit of a drawback, and it feels like more progress should have been made. Shell Gel scores one notch lower, a general recommendation. It’s more complicated, and bulkier, without necessarily adding significantly more protection. For $15 more, SG Maxx is worthy of the same rating, but only if a belt clip is valuable to you. Otherwise, you’ll be just as well off with the basic version.
Shell Gel SG Series, SG Maxx Series
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 5c