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Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth Series for Apple iPhone 4/4S review: Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth Series for Apple iPhone 4/4S

Ballistic's LifeStyle Smooth Series offers five case colors with the company's signature detail: four rubber corners to protect the case from bumps and falls.

Jessica Dolcourt Senior Director, Commerce & Content Operations
Jessica Dolcourt is a passionate content strategist and veteran leader of CNET coverage. As Senior Director of Commerce & Content Operations, she leads a number of teams, including Commerce, How-To and Performance Optimization. Her CNET career began in 2006, testing desktop and mobile software for Download.com and CNET, including the first iPhone and Android apps and operating systems. She continued to review, report on and write a wide range of commentary and analysis on all things phones, with an emphasis on iPhone and Samsung. Jessica was one of the first people in the world to test, review and report on foldable phones and 5G wireless speeds. Jessica began leading CNET's How-To section for tips and FAQs in 2019, guiding coverage of topics ranging from personal finance to phones and home. She holds an MA with Distinction from the University of Warwick (UK).
Expertise Content strategy, team leadership, audience engagement, iPhone, Samsung, Android, iOS, tips and FAQs.
Jessica Dolcourt
2 min read

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.


Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth Series for Apple iPhone 4/4S

The Good

Ballistic's LifeStyle Smooth Series is trim, colorful, strong, and affordable. It comes with four sizes of corner bumpers.

The Bad

Buttons feel stiff on the LifeStyle case, and the case material feels unappealingly grainy.

The Bottom Line

Ballistic's LifeStyle Smooth Series is an affordable, stylish, and durable case with just a few quirks.

Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth iPhone 4, 4S case (photos)

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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.

Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth case for iPhone
Each case comes with four sets of bumpers, each varying slightly in size. Josh Miller/CNET

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.


Ballistic LifeStyle Smooth Series for Apple iPhone 4/4S

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 8