Review: Every iPhone 5 Case is Terrible

Radiating

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Dec 29, 2011
1,018
7
Since getting the iPhone 5 on launch day I've purchased around 250 iPhone 5 cases. If you can name it, chances are I have it sitting in a box. I'm a designer and engineer and it's been a bit of a hobby of mine to just mess around with and see the different solutions that were tried with iPhone 5 cases.

Over this long little educating project looking into product design, I've come to a conclusion:

Every iPhone 5 case is really terrible. What I mean by this more specifically is that every single iPhone 5 case either looks terrible or functions terribly, or exhibits both serious issues. And it is glaringly obvious looking at every single design.

When I bring this issue up with normal people they can't seem to understand what I'm talking about, so let me use an analogy:


This is every single iPhone 5 case. This is tacked on junk that either doesn't work or breaks the functionality of the thing it's designed to protect.

Besides the obvious design problem you can see the air inlets, headlights, and parking sensors would be broken. Much like most cases break the head phone jack, charging jack, and some break the reception, camera and speakers of the phone.

Just like this product most cases horribly clash with the phone. They look like toys that came from a G.I. Joe or Barbie Box, these do not compliment a minimalist industrial design on a high end luxury phone made of solid aluminum and high quality glass.

I see serious people every day, who wear expensive suits, have polished shoes, and use phones that look like they were made by fisher price with a case on. Mature people - who do not drive cars that look like this:



So why do high end smartphone owners put up with cases that look like crap?

It seems ridiculous to me. And what's more ridiculous is whenever a manufacture makes a case that seems like it might have materials which match the quality level of the iPhone, everyone says "Oh my god, it costs $45?! that's ridiculous, I would never pay more than $5 for an iPhone case".

The latest iPhone 5S is a $705 (16GB) to $965 (64GB) device on contract with taxes (5%) and activation fees. It is not your $10 remote control, it is not your $5 toothbrush, it is not your $50 alarm clock, and it's not a $150 gadget. It's a device where each copy costs nearly a thousand dollars, and you either paid that in full or took out a loan through a cell phone contract to buy it. People regularly spend more than $45 to protect laptops worth half as much as any current iPhone 5s, and this perception bias seems to drive the phone case industry to make crap.

In any case, there you have it, a review of every single iPhone 5 case currently made from a product designer: they are all junk.

And on that bombshell goodnight... :)
 

Robster3

macrumors 68000
Dec 13, 2012
1,987
0
I agree with you about the cheap $5 case on a 1k phone, makes no sense. My cases over the years have cost from $50-$100 each.
 

Ann P

macrumors 68020
Jun 29, 2009
2,309
9
California
Good lord. At the end of the day, it's just a phone... a tool. How about you design your own case? Problem solved.
 

Giuly

macrumors 68040
The latest iPhone 5S is a $705 (16GB) to $965 (64GB) device on contract with taxes (5%) and activation fees. It is not your $10 remote control, it is not your $5 toothbrush, it is not your $50 alarm clock, and it's not a $150 gadget. It's a device where each copy costs nearly a thousand dollars, and you either paid that in full or took out a loan through a cell phone contract to buy it.
There's your answer, Socrates.

Dropping a $1000 phone is not the most indulging thing on the planet. And as far as the iPhone 5 goes: It also scuffed.

There's stuff like this for people who don't appreciate all the pop-y stuff, and still don't want to go naked:


And I'm sure that there are people who do something like this with their 1984 Macs and Apple Is, too:
 
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Retired Cat

macrumors 65816
Jun 12, 2013
1,209
376
It took me several tries to find the right case, so I think that many, but not all cases have design and quality issues.

This is why I've argued that phones should be designed to be more damage resistant, and/or cases should be designed by the phone manufacturer to integrate seamlessly into the phone. Apple has moved in this direction with its leather case for the 5S, but even that case seems to have issues.
 

imaginex20

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2009
1,356
338
Someone stole your turkey last night? Or burned it? You sound bitter as hell. Who cares what others do with their property, it ain't your money so who cares? iPhone high end? Maybe in 2007...it's not high end anymore...
 

thatgirl87

macrumors member
Feb 17, 2013
46
0
You are not using the right cases. Speck and Spigen make the best cases. I have never owned a Spigen, but I I always admired the look.
 

gs28

macrumors member
Sep 28, 2013
51
0
Every iPhone 5 case is really terrible. What I mean by this more specifically is that every single iPhone 5 case either looks terrible or functions terribly, or exhibits both serious issues. And it is glaringly obvious looking at every single design.

...

Just like this product most cases horribly clash with the phone. They look like toys that came from a G.I. Joe or Barbie Box, these do not compliment a minimalist industrial design on a high end luxury phone made of solid aluminum and high quality glass.
So...



Also, why don't you design the perfect case for the iPhone?
 

webslinger85

macrumors 6502a
Nov 8, 2010
723
57
Good for you, you don't use a case, but there's zero need to look down upon people who chose to. It's an investment, and people chose to protect their investment

You keep using that word, i do not think it means what you think it means
 

Radiating

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Dec 29, 2011
1,018
7
Get a power support bumper or something like a caudaube veil. Done.
I have both of those. The Power Support bumper is the most well designed iPhone 5 bumper there is, but it actually does not protect the phone very well. The center part has way too much flex to the point where it is useless for protection. It also breaks on a monthly basis, I've gone through 7 power support flat bumpers in the last year, they usually break on the thin part around the lightning port or the vibrate toggle, and they also don't make one in space grey. Power Support honestly seems like a bit of a lazy manufacturer.

The Caudabe Veil looks like you have a piece of extremely thick clear plastic on the phone, it doesn't look good at all.

Someone stole your turkey last night? Or burned it? You sound bitter as hell. Who cares what others do with their property, it ain't your money so who cares? iPhone high end? Maybe in 2007...it's not high end anymore...
You're telling me a $700-$1000 gadget is cheap? I'm not particularly bitter actually.


Good lord. At the end of the day, it's just a phone... a tool. How about you design your own case? Problem solved.
I could try to make a case as a side project but the effort required to start a new case company compared to the potential profits doesn't justify project.

You are not using the right cases. Speck and Spigen make the best cases. I have never owned a Spigen, but I I always admired the look.

I own every single low profile case that speck or Spigen make. Speck makes total junk, Spigen makes ok stuff but it's obvious that they cut far too many corners and are lazy in their design and manufacturing.

So...
Image


Also, why don't you design the perfect case for the iPhone?
I think Apple's cases are one of the best options, out there, easily top 5, but the quality is too inconsistent, you will get very grainy leather or leather with stretch marks on every other case. I also think the color are lame and not very fashionable. To fix that problem I sent a few of their leather cases out to be laser cut into bumpers so you could see the back of the phone. :) They would have been much nicer more interesting and less lame as bumpers. I use a matte vinyl backing so my phone doesn't scratch the back, we'll see what they look like when they get back.

What's wrong with the Otterbox Defender case?
Because it's a big featureless slab of generic "stuff" slapped onto the phone. There is no noticeable design put into it at all, the shape is entirely based on how it's supposed to function and nothing else, it's not designed to look like anything, which means it's the furthest possible thing from matching the design of the iPhone there is.
 

imaginex20

macrumors 65816
Jun 17, 2009
1,356
338
I have both of those. The Power Support bumper is the most well designed iPhone 5 bumper there is, but it actually does not protect the phone very well. The center part has way too much flex to the point where it is useless for protection. It also breaks on a monthly basis, I've gone through 7 power support flat bumpers in the last year, they usually break on the thin part around the lightning port or the vibrate toggle, and they also don't make one in space grey. Power Support honestly seems like a bit of a lazy manufacturer.

The Caudabe Veil looks like you have a piece of extremely thick clear plastic on the phone, it doesn't look good at all.



You're telling me a $700-$1000 gadget is cheap? I'm not particularly bitter actually.




I could try to make a case as a side project but the effort required to start a new case company compared to the potential profits doesn't justify project.




I own every single low profile case that speck or Spigen make. Speck makes total junk, Spigen makes ok stuff but it's obvious that they cut far too many corners and are lazy in their design and manufacturing.



I think Apple's cases are one of the best options, out there, easily top 5, but the quality is too inconsistent, you will get very grainy leather or leather with stretch marks on every other case. I also think the color are lame and not very fashionable, why play primary playskool colors? Why not white, burgundy, navy blue, burnt orange etc? To fix that problem I sent a few of their leather cases out to be laser cut into bumpers so you could see the back of the phone. :) They would have been much nicer more interesting and less lame as bumpers. I use a matte vinyl backing so my phone doesn't scratch the back, we'll see what they look like when they get back.



Because it's a big featureless slab of generic "stuff" slapped onto the phone. There is no noticeable design put into it at all, the shape is entirely based on how it's supposed to function and nothing else, it's not designed to look like anything, which means it's the furthest possible thing from matching the design of the iPhone there is.
Putting a dollar amount on something doesn't necessarily make it high end. It just means it's expensive and even then that is subjective...
 

braddick

macrumors 68040
Jun 28, 2009
3,825
761
Encinitas, CA
I've purchased no where near this many cases, yet the limited experience I have had... I do agree with the OP.
The closest I've had a case staying on my iPhone 5 is the Apple case. Fit and finish is better than just decent.

The cases Apple makes for the iPad Air and mini are top notch and I do like them a lot.
 

Radiating

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Dec 29, 2011
1,018
7
Putting a dollar amount on something doesn't necessarily make it high end. It just means it's expensive and even then that is subjective...
Ok, so if the iPhone isn't "high end" what normal phone do you consider to be above it in the market?

I think you're too used to seeing the phone to realize that it's supposed to be one of the nicer devices out there.
 

webslinger85

macrumors 6502a
Nov 8, 2010
723
57
Ok, so if the iPhone isn't "high end" what normal phone do you consider to be above it in the market?

I think you're too used to seeing the phone to realize that it's supposed to be one of the nicer devices out there.
Who cares if there's a phone above it in terms of being high end?

I don't understand people like this. When it comes down to it, it's just a PHONE. Why put so much emphasis on whether or not you use a case. Good for you, you don't like cases. Don't use one. I have a case on my phone, and it certainly doesn't break functionality, I can still do everything I can do if I didn't have a case
 

Dascoyne

macrumors 6502
Mar 25, 2013
306
8
Palo Alto, Ca
250 cases ???

Pictures please, or it did not happen
let's add this up...

250 cases "owned" by a guy who doesn't like cases.

He says, "If you can name it, chances are I have it sitting in a box"

He's an "engineer" who sees guys in "expensive suits" every day.

I'm guessing he works at the Apple Store Genius Bar or works at some retail store.
 
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Retired Cat

macrumors 65816
Jun 12, 2013
1,209
376
let's add this up...

250 cases "owned" by a guy who doesn't like cases.

He says, "If you can name it, chances are I have it sitting in a box"

He's an "engineer" who sees guys in "expensive suits" every day.

I'm guessing he works at the Apple Store Genius Bar or works at some retail store.
The OP could just be really picky about cases. I know I am, because I went through 5 cases before I finally found a case that I liked. I bought and returned cases from Speck and Belkin.

I've rarely seen anyone in an expensive suit shopping at the Apple Store. It's mostly hipsters in skinny jeans and soccer moms as far as I can tell.
 

Dascoyne

macrumors 6502
Mar 25, 2013
306
8
Palo Alto, Ca
The OP could just be really picky about cases. I know I am, because I went through 5 cases before I finally found a case that I liked. I bought and returned cases from Speck and Belkin.

I've rarely seen anyone in an expensive suit shopping at the Apple Store. It's mostly hipsters in skinny jeans and soccer moms as far as I can tell.
5 is understandable - I've gone through at least as many. But 5-6 is nothing like 250.

If the store is in the financial district of a major city - e.g. San Francisco downtown - Embarcadero then it's going to have clientele in "suits." That's what I was thinking.
 

Vetvito

macrumors 6502a
Sep 30, 2012
529
8
I go through a ton of cases and bumpers, but for the opposite reason.

I can't decide on which to keep using, so I just change weekly/daily. Elements, off brands, Spigen, etc... I have them all, and like them.
 

takeshi74

macrumors 601
Feb 9, 2011
4,970
68
Dead horse. If you don't like cases -- for whatever reason(s) -- then don't use them.

In any case, there you have it, a review of every single iPhone 5 case currently made from a product designer: they are all junk.
Design is subjective. Being a designer doesn't give you the final word on design. Countless other designers out there won't agree with you no matter what the topic. From your black and white stance on design it sounds like you're more of an engineer than a designer.

And on that bombshell goodnight... :)
There's really no bombshell. Just the same old and constantly rehashed anti-case rants. The decision to use a case or not, what style one prefers in a case, what functionality one needs/wants and what compromises one is willing to take are all subjective matters. It's not a one-size-fits-all matter.
 
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