I love the feel of grippable rubber cases, but butterfingers like me will only smash their iPhone's Gorilla Glass panes if they don't attend to durability. Ballistic's mission statement is to make durable cases with its trademark characteristic: hard bodies and four soft silicone corners that help it literally bounce back from drops. In addition, the Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth Series of cases for the iPhone 4 and 4S are colorful and thin, and at about $30 a pop, about as inexpensive as you can get for a decent case.
This particular model comes in five colors: black, charcoal, hot pink, purple, and orange. I liked the deep purple of the case I tested. It measures 4.75 inches tall at its tallest point, 2.4 inches wide, and just under 0.5-inch thick. As with many phone cases, the thick border around the face also lifts it above the surface of a desk, for example, which helps protect it from breaking if it falls and lands butter-side down.
The case is fashioned from a molded polyurethane plastic material that has a smooth finish that keeps it from feeling too hard. Despite that, my fingertips also detected a slightly grainy feel that I never grew used to. It's faint enough that it won't bother everyone, although it was still a tad rough for my tastes. It also takes a little effort to push the phone into the case, and more still to push the phone out. Removal borders on difficult. You want your phone secure in a durable case, but if you buy the LifeSyle Smooth, don't plan to change cases or corners often.
The case completely covers the iPhone's Power and volume buttons. Although the buttons functioned, they also felt stiff and unresponsive, especially the power button. As a result, I found myself pressing harder than I probably needed to in order to adjust the volume and wake up the phone.
At each of the four corners is a rubber "bumper" that you insert from the inside of the case and push out. It feels soft and has a lot of bouncy give. Along with the white corner bumpers that came pre-installed are purple, black, and bright blue ones. Each has a different thickness, so in addition to making a fashion statement, you can also layer on the protection. The black corners are thickest, and protrude more when you swap them in.
Klutz that I am, the opportunity for testing the LifeStyle Smooth case in the wild quickly arose. The phone fumbled and fell several times during testing. I also tend to dump phones into my purse, where they crunch and rub against my keys and other things. When I deliberately dropped the phone a few inches onto a hard surface like a table, I watched it bounce for a minute when it fell on a corner.
The cases will be available in the coming weeks.