Case-Mate debuted plenty of new cases at the International CES this year — in fact, the company claims nearly 100 cases were introduced. One that stuck out from the crowd is Phantom for iPhone 4/4S ($50). Like Tank before it, Phantom is designed to keep Apple’s fragile glass phone extra safe from bumps, drops, and scratches. The setup is quite different though, as Phantom uses a two-piece design unlike any case we’ve seen in the past. It’s a very nice looking option that is a serious contender against some of the better known super-protective options.
The first piece looks like a reversed simple plastic shell. Instead of fitting around the back the of the iPhone though, it snaps on to protect the bezel around the screen as well as the sides. There’s a layer of soft rubber over the top and bottom portions, with Home button coverage and a cutout for the sensor, camera, and earpiece. This piece leaves the top and bottom edges exposed, as well as the side switch and volume buttons; it’s definitely not meant to be used as a standalone case.
Phantom’s plastic and rubber outer shell actually looks like it could be used on it’s own, but it’s too large for a bare iPhone 4/4S. Instead, the framed device snaps in, forming a very tight, well-sealed fit. Once inside, only the front facing I/O, camera, and screen are left exposed—a screen protector film is included to cover the latter. There’s full button coverage as well as flip-open access to the ports and side switch. Because of the thickness of the case, it’s not Universal Dock-compatible. We found removing the inner piece to be somewhat difficult, but not frustratingly so.
We like the feel of the case quite a bit. It’s mostly covered in textured rubber that provides some grip, but isn’t particularly hard to get out of a pocket. The button covers are well done, maintaining a pleasant tactility. Like most thicker cases though, it’s more difficult to flip the silent switch, especially for those with short nails or stubby fingers. Otherwise, the device is fully usable and just a bit bulkier.
Phantom has to be compared to the likes of OtterBox’s Defender Series Case and Griffin’s Survivor Extreme-Duty Case, both of which ring up at the same $50 price. The biggest difference is that those two come with built-in, permanent screen protectors and belt clips—slight advantages to be sure, but not killer features. Compared to both, Phantom is a arguably a better looking accessory, and is just as protective. Ultimately, as long as the belt clip isn’t an issue, you can feel secure in going with the Phantom, which earns our high recommendation.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S