Cygnett’s Alternate for iPhone 5/5s ($30) is one of a relatively small number of cases that allows customization through swappable parts. It’s a different take on the concept than Griffin’s Separates, which we recently covered. Here, the top and bottom pieces can be mixed and matched. Each of the three colors of Alternate comes with an aluminum-covered plastic case, and two colors of plastic ends, with screen film included.
The core of Alternate is the 3.75” tall center piece. It snaps onto the body of the iPhone, leaving the volume buttons and side switch exposed. We saw indications that the metal on the outside was potentially affecting cellular reception, but it was one dot at most, and the drop wasn’t consistent. Once that piece is installed, the plastic ends easily slide into place from either side.
The top protector leaves the Sleep/Wake button unprotected, while the Lightning port opening is just large enough to accept the widest plugs we’ve come across. Although docking may be an issue with the full case installed, the bottom cap can be removed to improve compatibility.
As much as we may like the concept of being able to swap out pieces of a case to create a new look, Alternate simply isn’t as strong of a contender as it could be. With a case like Separates, you get a genuinely good protector with the added benefit of customization.