If you're looking for a rugged case that will keep your iPhone 4 or iPhone 4S protected and help it survive a drop unscathed, check out our list of highly protective iPhone 4/4S cases.
Ballistic Hard Core (HC)
OtterBox claims you won't find a tougher case than the OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone 4. But a company called Ballistic is saying its $49.99 Hard Core (HC) case is "better" than OtterBox's, offering four layers of protection instead of OtterBox's two. However, it is rather bulky.
Like the OtterBox, it has an integrated screen cover along with a holster/belt clip that provides increased screen protection (you face the screen into the holster). It's available in multiple color options.
For those of you who find the Ballistic HC just a wee bit bulky, the company also has a slimmer case called the Ballistic Lifestyle ($29.99) that's equipped with interchangeable corner bumpers in various thickness options (you can go curved or rounded). It comes in multiple colors with a total of 10 bumpers (five red, five black).
Case-Mate, the company behind Tank, is touting how protective the new "military-grade" case is, and thanks to a partnership with the folks behind SharkEye cases, it has a unique, retractable window that covers the screen but also gives you full access to the screen when needed.
The Tank comes in a few different colors, including the color you see pictured, as well as a simple black and white with pink trim. It's got a nice textured finish, and while it's somewhat bulky, it is lightweight. A belt clip is also included and protects the screen further.
This is a universal case that fits both the iPhone 4 and 4S. While it's not waterproof, it does offer some protection from rain and sand. You can drop it from 4 feet, but don't drop it in the toilet.
Case-Mate's $50 Phantom is a nicely designed "two-piece" case. It doesn't include an integrated plastic screen cover like some tough cases do, but it comes with a stick-on screen protector. It's available in different colors.
The Cygnett WorkMate Pro is a "double-strength" rubberized case that's a good value at $20. The screen protector isn't integrated into the case, but you do get a stick-on protector. It's significantly slimmer than Cygnett's original WorkMate, which a lot of people found too bulky.
The Griffin Survivor is very much in the mold of the Otterbox Defender Series, with an integrated screen protector, but some people prefer the Survivor. Needless to say, this case is pretty chunky, but build quality is very solid and it's rated to protect your iPhone from drops up to 6 feet. While it offers some water resistance, it's not waterproof. It's also available in military olive and pink.
For those looking for something less bulky, Griffin also makes the Protector, a more basic case that's made out of thick silicon and retails for less than $15 online.
Like the Otterbox Defender, Gumdrop's Drop Tech Series case offers three layers of protection with an integrated screen cover. The case has some unique design traits, most notably the protector for the home button and treadlike texture on the back and sides.
The case comes in four colors (all black, black with red trim, white with black trim, and pink with white trim). The case covers all ports (yes, the headphone jack is accessible), but this case is only water-resistant, not waterproof.
The IvySkin Quattro was one of our favorite cases for the iPhone 3 and 3GS. Now the Wrangler, which is based on the Quattro design, is available for the iPhone 4 and 4S. This one comes in multiple colors and includes a protective "Touch-Thru" real glass cover for your screen. The case is both sleek and highly protective, though it can be a little tricky for some people to get the glass screen cover on just right.
Incipio makes a few different tough cases, including the funky looking Bombroof (it's a little too square and bulky), but we like the Destroyer best. It's not a supertough case, but it offers decent protection, comes with a removable belt clip, and is available in a variety of color options.
We're not quite sure what TheJoyFactory was thinking when it named its waterproof case the RainBallet, but if you get past the silly name, you're looking at a rugged case that can withstand a drop in the toilet or even the pool.
"The rugged case resists rain and water jets and keeps your iPhone dry, even if you drop it in water," TheJoyFactory says. "And the Intelli-filter design blocks only water--not sound--to preserve sound quality while in the case, so you lose nothing by adding protection."
The LifeProof Case's claim to fame is that it's very tough (waterproof, shockproof, dirtproof, and snowproof, the company says) yet it's slimmer than virtually all the other tough cases out there, with an integrated clear plastic shield that protects your screen (and, obviously, seals your iPhone into the case). Also, according to LifeProof CEO Gary Rayner, the case cost $2 million to develop.
After trying it, we have to say it does strike an excellent balance between sleek looks and toughness (yes, it totally waterproofs your phone). The one small flaw worth mentioning is that the headphone jack is recessed, which means that with most headphones and earphones the plug simply doesn't fit and you have to use the included adapter. This one's drop-tested for 2 meters (6.6 feet) and is rated to go underwater to 2 meters.
For those wondering about the sound situation, not to worry: the back of the case is designed to augment the bass of the iPhone's speakers, and we had no problem playing a movie or hearing ringers with the case on.
Except for that small issue with the headphone jack, this is a really a great case. The only downside: it's expensive.
OtterBox has built itself into one of the most successful iPhone accessory companies by making some of the best tough iPhone cases. The Defender Series for iPhone 4/4S is a slightly modified version of the original Defender Case for iPhone 4 that now fits both models. A screen protector is integrated into the case, and you get a holster and belt clip that you can choose to use--or not. Facing your iPhone into the holster offers maximum screen protection. It's available in multiple colors. (Note: This also comes in a special Camo version for $10 more).
For those who don't need quite the protection of the Defender Series, OtterBox's Commuter and Impact cases for the iPhone 4/4S are also good options.
While the Rokform Rockbed Fuzion leaves some parts of your iPhone exposed, it's a cool-looking lightweight case made out of aluminum (upper frame) and molded polycarbonate (lower frame). It also comes with a wrist lanyard that attaches to the case.
We're showing the case in gunmetal but it comes in a multitude of colors. Rokform also makes the Rokbed v3 Case, a less expensive polycarbonate case ($39.99) that's compatible with a number of accessories, including various mounting options and a sports clip.
Seidio's iPhone 4 Convert Combo (formerly called Rugged Combo) comes with a three-layered case, holster, and screen protector. In fact, the first layer is the Innocase Surface case, so you can strip the case down and go to thin protection when you want. This is why Seidio refers to it as a "convertible" case.
It's also worth noting that all the iPhone's ports are covered with flaps to protect from lint and dust (although the camera lens can be accessed easily enough when needed).
A lot of people like Sena's stylish leather cases, and the Hampton Flip is one of the company's more-rugged models because you can completely protect your iPhone's screen with the flip-down cover. The leather exterior doesn't provide quite the drop protection that some of the multilayered cases in this roundup do, and some parts of your phone remain exposed. But the case will help your iPhone 4 survive most short falls without a problem. It's available in multiple colors.
Owners of SwitchEasy cases swear by them, and the company says its CapsuleRebel case has "brand-new materials and radical design methods to protect your iPhone with a cover-all hard shell exoskeleton frame made from tough polycarbonate." It's available in multiple colors.
Speck's $49.99 MightyVault is the company's latest tough case, following in the footsteps of the ToughShell, an iPhone 4-only case (the Mighty Vault is a universal case).
We can't say it's any better or more protective than the Otterbox Defender, but it's a good-looking case and has multiple layers of protection (three to be exact). It also comes with the requisite detachable holster with rotating belt clip that doubles as a viewing stand. It's available in multiple colors.
Note: After Speck released this product, it found that the outer layer of silicon rubber wasn't firm enough and had to tweak the design. We have confirmed with Speck that the flaw has been fixed.
If you don't need quite the level of protection that the Trident Kraken Series offers (see next slide), you can go with its slimmer sibling, the Cyclops II, which is also quite durable. Both decent-looking and highly protective, it's also a bit more affordable than some of the competition. It comes in multiple colors.
Like other Krakens, this model shares a lot in common with the OtterBox Defender. It has three layers of protection, with a screen protector integrated into the case. What's nice is that the back has an integrated kickstand for video viewing and you can remove the outer hard shell of the case if you want to got with a less bulky case in certain circumstances (I'm not sure I would, but it's an option). You get get a removable belt clip.
The one key bonus feature to AMS is that you can buy optional accessories like bike, windshield, and tripod mounts. The case itself is available in multiple colors.
Tuff-Luv makes a few different "flip" cases that offer solid screen protection and have a classy executive look. We're highlighting the Tough Grip Leather, but the company's also introduced its In-Genius line that has a slot for a few credit cards integrated into the cover (on the inside).
Currently, a handful of cases are featured in the U.S. version of the Tuff-Luv online store, but others are available in its U.K. store.