Review: Ballistic case for iPhone 4

What’s in a case? If we’re talking about an iPhone 4 case, the answer could vary wildly. Some people don’t want to destroy the natural beauty of the iPhone, yet want something extra to keep scratches at bay. Super thin film-based “cases” barely offer enough protection on scratches, let alone drops and bumps. More rigorous protection means a thicker, less aesthetically pleasing case — nature of the beast. Then again, if you live an active lifestyle and/or are prone to clumsiness with your gadgets, perhaps loosing some of that gadgety sex appeal isn’t such a bad thing. I mean, if it saves you from having to spend several hundred dollars every couple of months replacing a cracked screen and what not, why not?

So today, we’re going to take a look at the Ballistic case for the iPhone 4. It’s huge, squishy yet hard, and prepared to take a beating so your iPhone 4 doesn’t have to. Hop inside…
If you’re familiar with the Otterbox line of cases and their ultra-rugged demeanor, you’ve already got a good grasp of what the Ballistic case offers. From it’s snap-together main case to ultra squishy outer “sleeve” that wraps around the inner hard case, every corner is covered — literally.

The first layer of protection with this case starts with the snapping hard-cover case. Coming in two pieces, the, this snap design consists of a front and back piece that…you guessed it…snap together in a coffin-like manor. What’s nice is that in order to open and close this part of the case, you have to push a little tab down and pull outwards. Some may find this a deterrence/nuisance. I on the other hand applaud this design decision as it means my precious iPhone is less likely to “jump and run” when the case takes a hit or drop.

Another feature of the hard-back case is a built in screen protector. Now, I’ll preface this section by stating that I can’t stand the Otterbox Defender’s included screen protector. It’s far too thick. Though if you work construction and or rocket your phone to the ground on a daily basis, perhaps that extra thickness is a good thing. For the general public and lesser extreme instances it’s not. With that said, I’ve found the Otterbox screen protector to not be as responsive when interacting with the screen. The Ballistic case, however, features a very thin film-like screen protector. Response with the underlying screen is great, save for one nagging flaw — the film doesn’t sit flush on or off the screen, resulting in a bubbly appearance that can annoy some. This bubbly face won’t detract everyone. Though for myself, I find it highly distracting when watching a movie, playing a game for extended periods of time, or simply reading articles online. To each his own.

Another thing concerning the screen worth mentioning — because of the nature of this case, being a heavy duty one and all, the sides are raised considerably. On the Ballistic case, the manufacturer didn’t design it with a gradual slope along the screen edge, instead leaving it with an abrupt end. That’s all fine and dandy for protections sake but horrible for actual interaction with the screen. I found typing especially difficult on the far left and right edges of my iPhone with the soft outer case applied. Removing it solved the problem slightly, though even the hard case underneath had steep sides along the screen. For future products, a sloping edge near the screen is a must!

Now, that is enough of a review for one case, but the Ballistic actually features a 4-in-1 one kind of deal. On top of the hard-backed case there is a second much more flexible, squishy wrap that goes around it. Toss in the added screen protector mentioned above and a rather nice holster and you’ve got something called “a deal”.

Now, those of you with small pockets or an aversion to lint, beware — this outer wrap attracts dust like a college virgin does pimply faced jocks. The benefit of this soft, supple outer layer is an added layer of shock absorption. I could only find the courage to drop my phone from 3′, taking extra special care of making sure it landed on a corner where there was ample coverage. I’m happy to say that my iPhone (1) didn’t crack, dent, or break in any fashion and that (2) the Ballistic case itself wasn’t deformed in any fashion.

What I like

  • Heavy-duty protection
  • 4-in-1 deal: Holster, Screen protector, inner hard case, and outer soft case all included.
  • Grippy

What I didn’t like

  • Lint magnet with outer soft sleeve/case on
  • Raised sides along screen make onscreen interaction tough on edges near case.
  • screen protector isn’t flush on or off screen.

Be sure to check out the gallery. I’ve included a comparison shot that shows the relatively robust size of the Ballistic compared to the iSkin Revo 4 and Solo. For those two latter cases, you can read up on them in my iSkin Revo 4 and Solo super double review.

*Thank you to Max Borges Agency for the review unit*