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iPhone 4S Case Roundup

By October 11, 2011design, istuff, list

If you know me in real life, you know I am in desperate need of a new phone. My iPhone 3G (yes, 3G, not 3GS) is over 3 years old, has a seriously cracked screen, and decides on a case-by-case basis whether it is or is not going to perform the tasks I ask of it. Needless to say, I was one of the first to login and pre-order the new iPhone 4S and I could not be more excited about it.

To pass the time between the announcement of the new phones and the arrival of my new phone, I decided to shop for a case. What started as an innocent request on twitter turned quickly into a rabbit hole where I explored the world of gorgeous plastic. As a result of the many hours I have wasted devoted, I’m here to share with you some of the highlights of what I found.

First up: Designy.

For starters, you can go with a good looking, pre-made design, like one of these from Uncommon. There are hundreds of designs at Uncommon, so dig deep into their site to find all their offerings. These cases are incredible, too. The designs are essentially tattooed into the plastic, so they never rub off or fade. And the cases offer fantastic protection. If you don’t want to spend a lot of energy finding a case, I would go straight to Uncommon and don’t look back. Some of their designs are also offered at the Apple Store, so if that’s easy for you, go rock it out. A bird in the hand…. right?

Cushi striped soft foam pads from id America are not only bright and happy looking, but they are also grippy and shock absorbing. These adhere to the back of your phone rather than encase your phone. But they fit perfectly with a bumper. They also are easy to remove (leaving no residue) so if there are other color schemes you like, you can easily swap them out. And at $11.99, that’s not out of the realm of possibility at all.

At the other end of the pre-designed spectrum is Society6. Society6 is an art collective featuring thousands of artists from around the world. The artwork found on the site can be turned into all sorts of products, including, but not limited to, iPhone cases. So, although you’d be getting a pre-designed case, it’s going to be something gorgeously created by a real live artist. There are so many great designs here, it was hard to narrow it down to a few to show you, so be sure to go look for yourself. And assume you’ll be spending lots of time there.

Elsewhere in the artist arena, there’s this stainless steel back plate from Luxe Plates, with an etching reminiscent of Calder. (Love the stainless steel — this would look great on a white iPhone.)

Or this rainy case from Atlanta-based artist, Jessica Swift (available at Case-Mate).

Or this engraved, bamboo case from Grove. You can also design your own, or get a blank bamboo case. I love the wood alternative, too. Not only is it not plastic, but it’s also a super sustainable wood. Which means it is made of win.

Gelaskins are like tattoos for your phone. They protect it from scratches (front and back), but they don’t cushion. Regardless, they look crazy cool, and they come in hundreds of different designs. You can also design your own. Which I definitely intend to do.

Next up: Fun stuff!

These cases are the kind that make you go, “Heh” or “Cool!” or “Awesome!”

First in line is this super cool, color theory case from Case-Mate. Yellow + Blue = Green! Blue + Red = Purple!

Jump on the ombre trend with this cool offering from Case-Mate. Six colored modular sections stack together to form a protective case. It comes in 4 different color palettes, and each case comes with 10 pieces (2 edges + 8 centers) for you to express your most modern, creative juices.

Moving further into the DIY vein is this cross stitch case from Connect Design. Choose your case color and pattern and cross stitch your own iPhone case. Now even your phone can get in on the Christmas sweater action!

Who doesn’t love Lego? That’s right — no one doesn’t love Lego. So what could be better than a Lego iPhone case? That’s right — nothing could be better than a Lego iPhone case. It’s not actually made by Lego, but it is compatible with their bricks. Which pretty much rocks.

Have you heard of Quirky? They make cool products, you get to vote on them. The ones that get the most votes get produced. So it’s no surprise that their iPhone case is, um, quirky. It looks like something from Star Trek. Which is a good thing. I love the idea that the case doesn’t need to be form fitting. And it has its own built-in stand. Extra awesome.

Talk uncomfortably loud in public, old skool with Marty McFly’s cell phone case. From Urban Outfitters.

If you have ever wondered what kind of iPhone case Holden Caulfield would have, look no further than this Burton designed case for Speck. Rubbery protection on the edges, flannelly fabric goodness on the back and sides. Holden said that “People never notice anything.” But you can prove him wrong with this preppy case.

With vintage-effect post-processing photography apps taking the iPhone world by storm (I’m looking at you Instagram, Hipstamatic, ShakeItPhoto and CameraBag), why not take the extra step and make your your phone match. There are lots to choose from out there, but this Leica replica from Etsy is about as analog fabulous as it gets.

Sticking with the camera theme, get right to the center of it with this aperture case from Threadless and Griffin. I Phone, therefore I camera.

Last but Not Least: Utilitarian

Elasty is just a prototype (I think) but it is an awesome idea. The case includes 5 elastic bands that can accommodate headphones, credit cards, keys, cash, pens and so much more. For those of you who want to carry nothing but your phone, this is for you.

Do you routinely run down your battery before you’ve run down your day? I know — me too. I once plugged my phone in at a restaurant, at a table someone else was sitting at, on the other side of the room from my table. Classy. But with the Mophie Juice Packs, scamming power on the go is a thing of the past. Slap one of these colorful (or basic black) packs on your phone and get a complete full charge in addition to the charge your phone already has. It’s amazing. And not that much heavier than a regular phone. I’m very leaning toward the yellow, myself.

Third Rail presents a patent pending variation on the “extra battery pack” case that’s pretty darn brilliant. The system uses what looks like a regular ole iPhone case. But it also includes a slim battery pack that snaps into the case on an as-needed basis. And? The battery pack serves as a stand-alone charger for any other usb device. And and? If you have multiple batteries, you can stack them on top of each other, on the phone, and charge them all at once. I told you it was brilliant. Do you know anyone who has this? I’d love to hear some real life stories.


I went through the process of designing my own so I could tell you about it. I chose Uncommon because their cases came extremely highly rated from twitter. For my design I chose the always fun Stackadogs art. But you could also upload a photo, or your logo, or whatever else you might like to wear on your phone.

The process was super simple. If you’re a graphic designer — grab the template off the screen and make your art match the size (and resolution). Save as a JPG and upload. Done and done. If you’re not a graphic designer, just be sure to use a vertical photo in which most of your subject matter is toward the center of the frame.

So there you have it. A billion awesome iPhone cases for you to choose from. And clicking on any of those links will, no doubt, lead you down the very same rabbit hole I fell into. Show me your favorites. And then, when we have our new, pimped out iPhones, let’s send each other pictures!

Join the discussion 11 Comments

  • This is super awesome fabulous! Thanks for taking the time to do this. I suppose I should just order one of each…

  • Jim Mitchem says:

    Well done, Smithwick.

  • Danelle Lane says:

    I’m thinkin’ if I am relegated to 4 hand-me-downs, I should make it my own with a super-coolio case. Thanks for doing the homework. Maybe someone could price you creating a custom design for me…let’s see, that would be 3 hours, 2 rounds of revisions, a PIA premium…

  • Brian Baute says:

    Great list, Laurie. I’ve fallen in love with BookBook (, though I haven’t pulled the trigger on ordering one yet.

  • I forgot to mention the number of compliments I’ve received for my RebelSerpent from Unfortunately the skin for the 4/4S now comes in a crocodile finish thus I’m looking for a new case.

  • Danelle – yes!

    Brian – thanks for reminding me about BookBook. I had that in my initial gather and then somehow it fell out.

    Scott – I’ve never seen those. Really nice stuff!

  • And here I thought I was the only one left with a 3G! 😉

  • Nadine says:

    I think that I’m the only one left in the world who doesn’t own an iPhone! Seriously contemplating getting one just for the cover……… don’t judge me. 😉

  • Nadine – your secret is safe with us. And yes – the covers really do make the phone.

  • amy says:

    Dear friend,

    This is Amy from AC MOULD.

    We are a historic professional plastic injection mould maker who is specialized in designing and manufacturing plastic mould, production and fitting plastic products in China.

    We offer one-stop service for iphone and ipad protective case:

    Idea-part design-mold design-mold making-part making-surface(silk-screen, oil injection)-assembling. We have experienced engineers and use software (UG, Solid Works & Auto CAD) for parts design. Complete equipments including CNC,EDM,Milling machine, Injection machine for mold and part making. Painting shop for surface treatment. Fully automated assembly line for assembling. All of these we do in house.
    We offer some cases for iphone 4 and ipad 2:

    We have moulds for iphone 4 and ipad 2 cases, so we can produce parts for you directly.
    For Ipad 2 case: It is made of leather and plastic. one side is hinged and it is folding as the showing picture on the PPT. When you close the case, the screen will be dark. When you open, the screen will turn to bright. This item is more suitable for young, but we can make different designs for different age groupings.

    For iphone4 case: It is made of plastic. there are some kinds of craft, such as printing, electroplated, painting ,laser engraving etc.

    Any new idea or designs for iphone and ipad protective case, please kindly contact us. Our engineers will give you a great support.

  • Hi,
    Great case! the price was amazing and so worth it. my daughter has dropped it a couple times and this case protected the phone. it fit perfectly. color on the case are bright and just like the picture. and yes it does glow in the dark, which is pretty cool! shipping was quick. great product!
    Jimmie H. Kingbrion

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