There’s always been a market for super-protective iPhone cases — the kind that allow the device to be dropped and smacked around without sustaining any damage — but they were particularly well-suited to the heavily glass-bodied iPhone 4 and 4S. While OtterBox is now the best-known developer of heavy-duty cases, plenty of other companies have put forth their own options of similar and sometimes even better quality. Today, we’re reviewing four heavy-duty iPhone 5 cases: Ballistic’s Every1 Series Case ($50), Griffin’s Survivor ($50), OtterBox’s Commuter Series Case ($35), and OtterBox’s Defender Series Case ($50). You’ll notice a trend here: with the exception of Commuter, each case combines rubber and plastic, has integrated screen protection, comes with a belt clip, and rings in at the same $50 price point. Clearly, none of that’s coincidental.
We’ve seen versions of almost all of these cases for previous-generation devices, but this is the first time we’ve reviewed Ballistic’s latest take on the style. Every1 Series Case has the most unique setup of the bunch: it separates out into a plastic and rubber rear tray that holds the iPhone 5 and a front frame made of the same materials, with a built-in screen protector. The co-molded materials go well together, with the rubber wrapping around the edges of the plastic to provide extra shock protection and sticking through the back of the tray for that same reason. Once laid in the back shell—which is slightly deeper than the device itself—your iPhone isn’t going to come out unless you really want it to be free, thanks to rubber ridges running along the edge that also create an air pocket for even more drop protection. We found the best way to remove it involves pushing through the camera hole; although doing so can pop out the flash diffuser ring, it can be snapped right back in place. The cover then fits on top with nubs on the four raised rubber corners moving securely into matching holes in the tray’s plastic.
Fully assembled, Every1 Series Case is narrower in every dimension than Defender Series Case and Survivor. It actually feels slim and pretty light too. the corners bulge out a little, creating a slightly contoured shape that’s quite comfortable in the hand. It’s not totally airtight, as the camera is always exposed and there’s an opening in the screen protector for the sensor, earpiece, and FaceTime camera. Otherwise, the iPhone is pretty well bundled up. There are two flip-open covers—one for the silent switch, one for the headphone and Lightning ports—and full button protection. We like that the Home and volume buttons remain very clicky, but the Sleep/Wake button is squishy and takes some more force to press. It’s not a problem, but noticeable nonetheless.
There’s the smallest gap between Ballistic’s permanent screen protector and the glass display, but even the lightest touches are still recognized. Unfortunately, this screen protector has the same problem as many: it creates a light diffusing prismatic effect over the display that detracts from the overall quality of the iPhone 5’s Retina display. Notably, there’s also a pop-out kickstand near the bottom of Every1 Series Case that can be used in landscape or portrait orientation, and this is a nice addition. The belt holster is a black plastic piece and the actual clip rotates 90° in either direction.
Although none of these cases is for everyone, those prone to damaging their iPhones in daily life or extreme situations will find them to be lifesavers. Our favorite of the bunch is OtterBox’s Defender Series Case, with Griffin’s Survivor and Ballistic’s Every1 Series Case coming in right behind it. This is the best version of Defender yet; it looks even better than ever and it’s still super protective against drops and bumps. While it’s not waterproof, it’s still impressive, and earns our high recommendation. Survivor is unquestionably more protective, but its size and build make it feel more like a toy. That said, it remains worthy of our strong general recommendation. Every1 is the slimmest of the bunch, and doesn’t feel quite as substantial, but still offers full coverage and drop protection. Commuter is the weakest of the bunch, earning the same B rating as the past version. OtterBox didn’t make any real improvements to this one, and there are plenty of other cases we’d recommend above it, but it’s acceptable as a thinner and less expensive alternative to Defender.
Company and Price
Model: Every1 Series Case
Compatible: iPhone 5