Australians love the iPhone 5, but Apple's vision of one design (or two, if you count "white" as being a separate design) won't appeal to everybody. That's where iPhone cases come into their own.
It was mere minutes after the iPhone 5's unveiling that cases started to flood the market. But which case is the right one for you? We've gone head to head (well, OK, case to phone) with 32 cases to pick out the best iPhone 5 cases that money can buy.
What we liked: the EaseFit is a design that Belkin has used for a while — a sports armband that holds the iPhone 5 quite snugly. As long as you wear it the right way up, the phone shouldn't fall out easily. It's pitched at a particularly sporty niche; there'd be no point in buying it for use as a general case.
What we hated: predictably, getting the phone in and out is tough, as is using the volume/mute controls when it's in the sleeve.
Verdict: a solid sports sleeve, as long as you don't mind using on-screen volume controls.
Belkin Wallet Folio
What we liked: the Wallet Folio combines a hard-plastic bumper with a soft, leather-style folio, held together with a clasp. It's a good-looking case that mostly allows for easy button access, as well as holding a few small cards on the inner side of the folio.
What we hated: the gap for the camera is visible when it's fully closed, but the buttons are obscured; it looks like you should be able to use the camera this way, but you simply can't. The clasp also adds thickness to the sleek style of the iPhone 5, which could be a concern in the pocket.
Verdict: good for phone protection, but slightly fat.
Belkin Grip Candy Sheer
What we liked: the Grip Candy Sheer is made of very slick plastic, and comes in a variety of colours; Belkin has fancy names for these, but the ones we looked at we'll simply call yellow, pink and grey. If you want a slim case with a smooth back in two tones, they're a solid choice.
What we hated: the back is very slick, which makes popping it into a pocket very easy — but equally means that it can slide right back out again with minimum resistance.
Verdict: decent, if the style suits you.
Belkin Shield Dot
What we liked: the Shield Dot certainly lives up to its name; it has the same heavy plastic fit of Belkin's other Shield cases, matched up to a bowed dot pattern. That makes it a decent protective option, albeit perhaps not one for those who get distracted by repeated patterns.
What we hated: aesthetically, the white plastic of the Shield Dot looks a lot better on a white iPhone 5 than on a black one.
Verdict: nice if you like the pattern, but not a must-have case.
Belkin Shield Scorch
What we liked: the Scorch is a solid plastic back with an open top and bottom. Our review samples were in grey and pink, and they certainly stand out, and should protect the iPhone 5 quite well. There's a slight pattern on the back that provides a small amount of extra grip.
What we hated: we're not as sold on solid plastic cases as we were before, as the shift to a metal back on the iPhone 5 removes the glass-shattering problem of the iPhone 4/4S.
Verdict: the Scorch's pattern is its stand-out feature, but a solid plastic case isn't as much of a must-have item as it used to be.
Belkin Shield Bloom
What we liked: like Belkin's other Shield cases, the Shield Bloom is a solid plastic case with open gaps for the volume, Lightning dock and power button. As befits the name, the back motif is a floral one; we tested with cases that were bright red with blooms and white with either grey or grey-and-purple blooms.
What we hated: like the other shields, a heavy plastic case isn't as vital as it used to be for the iPhone 4S, and it's once again a choice in taste as to whether you'll actually like the flower pattern.
Verdict: a fair case for those with a floral bent.
Belkin Shield Stripe
What we liked: the Shield Stripe design looks a lot like the Sportsgirl logo, which means that it really stands out a lot. Like the other Belkin Shield cases, it's a rather solid case with a focus on rear protection.
What we hated: the Shield Stripe design looks a lot like the Sportsgirl logo, which won't suit everyone. Like the other white-sided Belkin cases, it's not as good a match with the black iPhone 5, either.
Verdict: the sporty variant of the Shield family is solid, but a little garish.
Belkin Shield Pixel
What we liked: there's a simple way to say this: buy this case if you're a retro computing fan and an extrovert. It's a solid plastic back case (similar to the other Belkin Shields), but with a pixellated pattern on the back. We tested a greyscale one that was slightly more subtle, whereas the full-colour case is a genuine assault on the senses.
What we hated: the back is slicker than on the Scorch, which is a slight slippage problem. Likewise, the metal back of the iPhone 5 means that screen shattering isn't the problem that it used to be.
Verdict: want to assault the senses of everyone, including yourself? Buy this case.
Belkin Micra Sheer Matte
What we liked: the Micra Shield — we tested cases in red, purple, blue and clear/white — is an extremely thin case that matches well with the iPhone 5's thin style, while adding a nice colour accent to the iPhone 5 itself.
What we hated: predictably, a thin case is only going to offer a thin layer of protection; if you're notably brutal to your phone, whether on purpose or by accident, this isn't the case for you.
Verdict: a thin and stylish back cover, but not the best match for the clumsy.
Belkin Grip Max
What we liked: the Grip Max is a halfway house to a fully protected case (like the Griffin Survivor or the OtterBox Defender); it uses a bubble pattern behind the back of the phone, and solid bumpers to protect it.
What we hated: like most protective cases, what you gain in durability you give up in utility; it's a tough case to fit the iPhone 5 into, you lose all of the phone's thin design and the mute switch and volume buttons are harder to use.
Verdict: a fairly protective case, but not the absolute last word in durability.
Belkin Grip Sheer
What we liked: the Grip Sheer is, like Belkin's other Grip cases, a relatively slim case with a rubbery grip; in the case of the Sheer, it's a slimmer case. Our review samples were in blue and bright pink, which stand out nicely.
What we hated: rather like the Neon Glo, these do make the iPhone look a little on the extroverted side. Unlike the Grip Max, you're not getting great phone durability.
Verdict: a good all-round slim case, as long as you like the available colours.
Belkin Grip Neon Glo
What we liked: totally tubular, dude! If you remember the '80s fondly, then you may like Belkin's Grip Neon Glo, a case that really does define itself by its name. The yellow-and-pink cases we tested were incredibly vibrant, with a reasonable back grip. The added luminosity also means that it's very hard to lose your iPhone 5 anywhere.
What we hated: we stared at the Grip Neon Glo for more than a minute, and our eyes hurt. Can we sit down for a while, please?
Verdict: a garish case, if you like that sort of thing.
Belkin View Case
What we liked: the View Case is a bumper case, in essence, for the iPhone 5 generation, although it's not just side protection; a clear panel at the back also protects the rear. Like most bumpers, it's a decent way to protect the sides of an iPhone while not changing much of the style.
What we hated: the rear clear panel attracts scratches, which worried us, as it made it look as though the iPhone 5 itself had a big scratch on it. The volume buttons are also covered, and they're very stiff to use.
Verdict: a good case, if you only want a little added flash around your iPhone 5.
Studio Proper Wallee M iPhone 5
RRP: AU$29.95 (plus accessories)
What we liked: Australian designed, the Wallee M case doesn't look like much — a hard-plastic case with a rather X-Men-esque X on the rear. The trick here is that it's magnetic, and is designed to work with a number of other Wallee accessories, from car docks to desk mounts to stickers that allow you to attach the case just about anywhere.
What we hated: it's very stiff case, which makes it hard to take on or off; we suspect that this is due to the stiffness of the embedded magnet in the back. The case itself is reasonably priced, but, once you add in the cost of the accessories that really make the Wallee shine, it could be a rather costly enterprise.
Verdict: a great Aussie invention, but not the cheapest case system.
Gecko Sports Armband
What we liked: Gecko's take on a sports armband isn't a million miles away from Belkin's, although it's a slightly lighter build, which makes it a little easier to get the iPhone 5 in and out of.
What we hated: we're a little concerned that over time — and a lot of sweat — the lighter build of the Sports Armband may cause it to break up a little more quickly. The totally enclosed nature of the Sports Armband also means that it totally obscures the side volume controls and the camera. As with any sports band, if you're not about to take up serious fitness activities, there's not much point to it.
Verdict: a decent sporty armband alternative.
iLuv Snoopy Glow-in-the-Dark Case
What we liked:iLuv's Snoopy case is designed, as the name suggests, for those who truly adore Charles Schultz's iconic Peanuts dog. He's embossed on the back in glow-in-the dark blue, as well as being embedded as a print on the interior of the case. Nobody can see this when the iPhone 5 is in, so it's rather like having lingerie for your iPhone.
What we hated: it's very much a one-trick pony; aside from the Snoopy print, this is an average rubber case that covers the volume buttons when it's on the phone.
Verdict: if this makes you all gooey inside, then buy this case; otherwise, look elsewhere.
What we liked: the Pulse is a case with ribs; our review sample was in black and white. The ribs do give it good grip, because the black ribs jut out quite far from the plain white case. This also means that it's quite suitable for both black and white iPhones, although other colours of the Pulse case are also available.
What we hated: stripes are said to make you look heavier, and while the Pulse doesn't add much weight, it's a bulkier case, and the ribs make it a little tougher to place on the phone than you might expect.
Verdict: a good case for the fumble-fingered set.
What we liked: most iPhone cases look quite plastic, but that's not a charge you could ever level at the WoodchuckCase; not only does it look like wood, it actually is wood — a super-thin slice of mahogany, birch or walnut with an adhesive side for attaching to the phone. Clearly, you'd have to love your wood finishes for this to make sense in any way.
What we hated: we didn't like the style per se, but that's not a valid criticism; you'd have to like wood a lot anyway to buy it in the first place. What worries us, though, is that this stretches the definition of "case"; there's no side protection at all, and the front and back protection is minimal. It's basically a wooden sticker.
Verdict: how much wood would you chuck onto your iPhone? In this case, not much.
What we liked: ever looked at your iPhone 5 and thought that what it really needs is to look like Godzilla's back after he's had a healthy meal of life-giving radiation? That's the Gecko Glow in a nutshell: a TPU case with a lizard motif that glows in the dark. It also comes in pink, blue and purple.
What we hated: there's an obvious style point at play here, but, aside from that, there's not much not to like about the case. It's still relatively thin, so it doesn't add too much bulk; it grips the case well, but is easy enough to remove; and it doesn't muck up the button access, either.
Verdict: a great case, but one where you'd have to love the glowing aspect to really appreciate it.
What we liked: the Griffin Survivor is the equivalent of putting a bulletproof vest around your iPhone 5. It won't stop a bullet, although it does meet US Military specifications. Griffin's own video for the Survivor is rather compelling in terms of showing its potential durability. Part of the case includes a very solid clip, so you'd actually have to work hard to drop the Survivor.
What we hated: remember the whole "lighter and thinner" part of the iPhone 5? Forget that if you're using the Survivor; this is a very bulky and rather ugly case that takes significant work to even place on the phone.
Verdict: great if you use your phone in genuinely hazardous environments, or just want to hide the fact that you have an iPhone 5 in the first place.
What we liked: the Defender is, like the Griffin Survivor, a genuinely heavy-duty protection case; so much so that when it's fully installed, the only way you'd pick that it has an iPhone 5 inside is via the extra row of dock icons. It's very solidly constructed, right down to the hefty clip on the back, and it manages a small dash of style with red offset against the black clip of the case.
What we hated: like other heavy-duty products, actually getting an iPhone 5 in or out of the Defender is a serious chore; you can't simply eject it from the case quickly. Equally, it's pretty weighty, making your decision to buy the iPhone 5 for its slim style and light weight rather moot.
Verdict: good protection for your iPhone, but at the cost of some utility.
Griffin Wise Eyes
What we liked: the Wise Eyes is a hard shell, but still a slender case. Many phone cases aren't so much about protection as they are about style, and it's hard not to view the Wise Eyes in this light; the main other selling point is that it's got an array of wide-eyed owl prints that run along the back of the case itself.
What we hated: you'd obviously have to like owls a lot, but the basic black style works well with the black iPhone, and nowhere near as well with the white.
Verdict: if owls make you hoot with joy, buy this case.
Griffin FlexGrip Punch
What we liked: the FlexGrip Punch's main selling point is the triangular grid pattern on the back; not only does this look distinctive, but it also gives the case a lot of rear grip. Buttons are easily accessed from within the case, and it's easy to slip on and off the iPhone 5.
What we hated: it's a rather soft case, which means that the lip at the base flexes out a lot when it's on the phone. This leaves us worried about its long-term durability.
Verdict: a great grippy case, but possibly not one for the long term.
Gecko Ultra Slim
What we liked: if you're going to call your product Ultra Slim, it had better be so. Gecko's Ultra Slim is almost insanely slim, but that wouldn't be as good a product name. It's a very simple, almost excruciatingly light case that would be a good match for those who don't want to compromise the iPhone 5's thin form factor.
What we hated: thin also means less protection; while it should do acceptably well with scratches and dings, it's less likely to protect against more serious damage. If you're also keen to promote the fact that you've got an iPhone 5, this won't help, as it obscures the Apple logo entirely.
Verdict: a simple, slim and attractive case.
Cygnett Apollo Hybrid Case
What we liked: the Apollo is a sturdy but relatively soft case, making it easy to pop on or off. It uses raised and angled button covers, making them easy to find even when the iPhone 5 is in your pocket. Cygnett also includes a screen protector, and while these can be murder to put on, it's a nice inclusion to have.
What we hated: the style is a little bland, and while the raised buttons are easy to feel, they also look rather cheap on what is a premium smartphone.
Verdict: a good all-rounder case, especially if you adjust volume or similar a lot with the phone in your pocket.
Cygnett Icon Rain Making
What we liked: plenty of iPhone cases offer style, but how many offer indigenous style? Rain Making features the artwork of indigenous artist Ronnie Tjampitjinpa, and it's a stunning case like no other. It also rather helps that the pattern isn't just screen printed; it extrudes, giving the rear of the case actual grip. Like the rest of Cygnett's range, a screen protector is also included.
What we hated: as we've commented elsewhere, the need for a hard-shell case is somewhat reduced with the iPhone 5, but that's a very minor distinction in what is otherwise a strikingly distinctive case.
Verdict: a great-looking case that's easy to place and remove.
What we liked: the Vector is a toughened plastic case with a ridged pattern on the back that Cyngett said is inspired by skyscrapers and stealth jets; we figured it was more in the school of Max Headroom design. That aside, it's got the same extruded buttons of the Apollo case, and should be good for protection against basic knocks and bumps.
What we hated: it's a tough case, but it's by no means the toughest; if you're worried that your environment would be lethal to an iPhone, there are better alternatives.
Verdict: a decent halfway house between a truly tough case and a stylish case.
What we liked: the Workmate looks the part of an industrial tool; it's all heavy blacks and industrial green in style, with a rear cover that's designed to be especially shock resistant.
What we hated: it's not quite as extreme as the Griffin Survivor, but it introduces many of the same compromises. Buttons take that little bit of extra force to press, and there's no protection at the base for the headphone socket or Lightning port.
Verdict: solid protection, but not the best you can get, if this worries you.
What we liked: the Lavish is a soft-leather flip-top case — or, to be more accurate, a hard-plastic case with an attached leather flip section. The leather is nice and soft, making it a pleasant case to pop into your pocket. The open sides make it easy to adjust volume without opening the flip itself.
What we hated: leather is very much a style choice, and the hard-plastic section doesn't quite match up to the soft leather itself. The magnetic clasp on the flip is pretty weak, which means the front flip-cover part moves around a lot.
Verdict: if you like having a private flip fold on your phone and appreciate the feel of leather, this is a decent case.
What we liked: the Bulldozer is yet another "rugged" iPhone 5 case — perhaps testimony to the legions who have accidentally destroyed previous iPhone generations. With an extruded pattern on the back patterned on bulldozer tracks, this also gives it a bit of extra grip in the hand. Cygnett also supplies a screen protector with the Bulldozer.
What we hated: the mute switch is heavily recessed, making it a little hard to get to. In the "rugged" case field, it doesn't feel that solid; while it'll survive a drop better than some cases, it's not going to go the distance the way that the OtterBox Defender or Griffin Survivor would.
Verdict: a fair mix of survival and style — as long as you're suitably obsessed with bulldozers.
What we liked: the Polygon is an ultra-thin case, which means that it doesn't mess up the iPhone 5's form in any significant way. Why Polygon? Because there's a subtle tessellated pattern on the rear of the case, which looks superb.
What we hated: the rear pattern looks good, but it's quite slick, which makes this a slippery little case. Like other very slim cases, the amount of protection it provides except for minor knocks is negligible.
Verdict: a stylish and slim case option.
Cygnett Urban Shield
What we liked: Motorola has made much of its Razr lines having Kevlar backs, but the Urban Shield adds carbon fibre to the back of your iPhone 5. It's an otherwise solid, hard case with an included screen protector.
What we hated: the back of the case is quite slick. Our review sample also had some annoying air bubbles on the back, which we couldn't quite push out.
Verdict: a case for the carbon fibre-loving crowd, but otherwise not that remarkable.