The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

2013 05 16 22.53.07   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And ComparedLooking for the best Nexus 4 case and protective gear? Look no further; this article covers a variety of gear designed to protect your precious N4 from catastrophic harm. And trust me; you will need some kind of protection. If you take into account its unreinforced glass back, large glass screen and trademark slipperiness, the N4 is one greasy-palmed fumble away from disaster – protection should rank at the top of your priorities.

In my quest to find the best Nexus 4 case, I purchased no less than six cases and evaluated their pros and cons on the basis of bulkiness, cost, aesthetics and design. However, having gotten hands-on experience with such a diverse number of cases and screen protectors, I feel some broadly applicable guidelines for case selection can be observed. Therefore, I will also include a few cases that I’ve never owned within this line-up.

Ballistic Shell Gel Case for the Nexus 4

ballistic   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

Let’s start with one of the top-billed cases, the ~$20 Ballistic case. It’s advertised as having multiple layers of gel and silicone, which purportedly provide the best drop protection out of the bunch.

Pros:

  • Very drop resilient: Once I dropped the N4 with this case onto hardened tile flooring, face first, without damage. Normally, front-screen drops are the most likely to cause screen damage. It is clearly well designed.
  • Very rigid: Out of all the cases I’ve experimented with, the Ballistic case provided the greatest deal of rigidity, making it hard to flex – a good thing.
  • The Ballistic case has improved corner protection. You might notice the thickened corners of the silicone jacket.

Cons:

  • Bulky: It’s the second bulkiest out of the six cases that I’ve reviewed.
  • No kickstand.
  • The top and bottom of the case are protected only by the silicon jacket. There’s no structural rigidity protecting it in these locations.
  • Expensive: The Ballistic case costs twice as much as the cheaper cases, at around $20.

Evecase Double Layer Hybrid Case for the Nexus 4

evecase   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

The ~$5 Evecase is another one of those rebranded generic cases. Physically, however, this particular case best resembles the OtterBox brand, using an interior hard shell and an exterior silicone rubber jacket. It ups the ante by throwing in a horizontal and vertical profile kickstand, making it one of the more versatile cases.

Pros:

  • Kickstand: Offers both a vertical and horizontal profile.
  • Silicone jacket offers the best grip out of all the cases.
  • Dual layer design: Offers similar protection as an OtterBox.
  • Cheap.

Cons:

  • Funny smell: Out of the box, this particular case smelled strongly of silicone.
  • Bulky: It’s the largest out of all the cases.

JKase Diablo Nexus 4 Case

jkase   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

The ~$10 JKase hybrid case is another generic, of which several populate Amazon and eBay. Unlike the other cases, it doesn’t appear to use silicone to any degree and it’s both lightweight and rigid. On the downside, it’s a tight fit for the N4 and the interior jacket doesn’t feel very shock absorbent.

Pros:

  • Lightweight.
  • Fairly good rigidity.
  • Sides have a grippy feel.
  • Kickstand – horizontal only.

Cons:

  • The material composing the JKase feels less spongy and shock-absorbing than the silicone rubber used in the other cases.
  • Caused the screen protector to lift up, when applied.

Boxwave Resolute OA3 Nexus 4 Case

boxwave   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

The ~$5 Boxwave Resolute purportedly incorporates “three layers” of protection, according to Boxwave. However, it doesn’t use a silicone jacket. It’s a simple one-piece hardshell case using several rubber hard-points distributed around impact zones.

Pros:

  • Easy to fit onto the Nexus.
  • Lightweight and less bulky than the other cases.
  • Includes horizontal kickstand.
  • Includes plugs and dust filters for all the holes on the N4.
  • Excellent grip: The Resolute doesn’t feel like you’re going to drop it.
  • Cheap.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t feel as drop resistant as the dual-layer cases.
  • Kickstand is poorly designed.
  • Case doesn’t look all that great.

MYBAT Advanced Armor Case for the Nexus 4

mybat   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

The ~$5-10 MYBAT case offers excellent build quality, combining a silicone liner with a hard plastic shell. In all honesty, its kickstand, design, build quality and low price make this my favorite out of all the cases.

Pros:

  • Good design: Incorporates thickened corners with top and bottom reinforcement.
  • Best kickstand design out of all the cases – vertical and horizontal.
  • Good aesthetic qualities: Sleek lines and smooth looking.
  • Hybrid silicone liner with hard plastic shell.

Cons:

  • Most slippery case.
  • Hard to remove from case.

Ionic Guardian Nexus 4 Case

ionic   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

The ~$10 Ionic case appears to be a simple clone of the Ballistic case and, like the other generic cases, several identical versions are sold in various marketplaces. It offers a hard shell exterior jacket and an interior silicone rubber liner. It’s drop resistant and somewhat grippy, due to the holes in the back. However, it doesn’t appear to offer the same degree of protection that Ballistic provides.

Pros:

  • Hybrid hard-plastic combined with silicone provides excellent drop protection.
  • Somewhat more grippy than the Ballistic case.
  • Lighter weight than the Ballistic case.
  • Cheap.

Cons:

  • Less rigid than the other hybrid cases.
  • Lack of reinforcement on the top and bottom of the case. You only get the same protection as offered by a silicone jacket.
  • No kickstand.

Several Cases I don’t Own

  • Aluminum Cases: The rarest of the Nexus 4 cases, aluminum cases typically come with an exterior aluminum shell and an interior shock absorbing liner. They cost less than one might think, at around $30. Unfortunately, they are likely incompatible with wireless Qi charging and NFC – the aluminum shell interferes with both these functions, which may be a deal-breaker for many. There’s a utilitarian build by Monaco and a limited edition build by CaseFanatic called the Kommandant. Out of all the cases presented here, the Kommandant is probably the best looking.

2013 05 16 22h12 11   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

  • Seidio: Seidio makes several outstanding hybrid cases, of varying bulkiness. The most expensive is the $55 CONVERT case, which includes a magnetic metal kickstand. Seidio’s $21 Active Case also gets good reviews.
  • TPU cases: TPU cases, while superior to both silicone jackets and rubberized hard shell cases, fall short of hybrid cases in protection. These can be found on eBay and Amazon for a few dollars, although it’s worth mentioning that the bulkier hybrid cases can sell for less than $5.
  • Rinke Fusion Case: This is easily the most popular case over at Amazon. I’m not sure why, as it appears to offer mediocre protection. However, it does look pretty darn good.

Other Protective Gear for the Nexus 4

  • Bumpers: A large number of N4 users seeking slimmer profiles for their phones purchase a bumper, which lines the edges of the phone. Poetic and the official Google-branded bumper are among the most popular, however, these offer the least amount of protection out of all the available options. They do look good though, particularly when combined with a custom skin.
  • Rear Plate Nexus 4 Skins: I’d like to mention Dbrand and Gelaskin having very good quality and great-looking rear plate protectors for the Nexus 4. Both come in various colors, although Gelaskin has a large library of art covered skins.

2013 05 17 11h11 371   The Quest For The Best Nexus 4 Case: 6 Cases Tested And Compared

  • Screen Protectors: There are roughly three different kinds of screen protectors available for the Nexus: (1) The ubiquitous clear plastic; (2) the oil-resistant “oleophobic” screens and the (3) sunlight-readable matte screen protectors. Some of these are wet-applied, which offers better stickness than dry-apply screen protectors. Out of the several that I’ve tried, the best is the regular (not the HD) Zagg screen protector. For alternatives to protecting your screen, check out Matt’s awesome guide. Additionally, for those of you looking for tips on applying screen protectors, Aaron wrote an excellent piece. Protip: Use the tape method.
  • Tempered Glass Screen Protectors: I lied. There’s actually a fourth kind of protector, although this definitely falls into the exotic category. With the $34.99 Xgear Fantom IV you can actually overlay a secondary glass screen protector onto your Nexus 4.
  • The Rhino Shield: There was a successful Kickstarter campaign to create a screen protector that doubles as a protective “case” for the phone. I would not recommend such a product, however, it’s worth mentioning that they have released it for the Nexus 4. Whether or not it works as advertised is another thing entirely.

Conclusion

Buy a case. If you own a $300-350 phone and don’t protect that investment, you might one day find yourself paying $150 for a replacement screen or worse: replacing your entire phone.

To that end, if you’re looking for the the best Nexus 4 case money can buy, get either a Ballistic, Seidio or aluminum case. Or course, you might also want to check out our smartphone review and buying guide. If you are among the more budget minded, get either a generic Evecase or the MYBAT case. However, if you want a slimmer profile, consider one of other cases. For those of you looking for more artistic cases, check out Nancy’s article.

Anyone else regret not buying a protective case for their smartphone? Let us know in the comments.

The comments were closed because the article is more than 180 days old.

If you have any questions related to what's mentioned in the article or need help with any computer issue, ask it on MakeUseOf Answers—We and our community will be more than happy to help.

22 Comments -

yakah

aluminum cases are not good for gps/wifi and data signal .

David Moreira

All of these ones are badass!

Richard Borkovec

Personally, I just use a clear-ish (half is clear, half is opaque) TPU case on my N4. The phone looks awesome, but I wanted some protection. For $3, it was the best of both.

Angela

I did not get a case and I paid the price BIG TIME!!! I dropped my phone once and it just had a crack in the bottom corner it sucked but was still functional and I had the screen saver so it remained in tact. Then I was trying to get some change out of the bottom of my purse and my phone dropped on the cement. WHAMO the Front and the entire Back were shattered. I could not even answer an incoming call. I had to borrow a strangers phone to tell my husband what had happened because he tried calling me three times and all I could do was look at the phone ring. It only uses touch to open and answer so I had to go online an order another phone from Google. I am buying the Ballistic for sure!!!

Lacshay Shekhar

Can you please give me your opinion or review about MYBAT TUFF CASE for Nexus 4 in comparison to all those listed here? (especially drop resistance), the one that you reviewed here is not mybat tuff, but the advanced armour one. Please reply, Thanks!! :)

Kannon Yamada

Certainly!

Whenever I look at a case for the Nexus 4, three main things come to mind: First, does the case provide adequate protection if I were to drop it? Second, does the case interfere with the phone in some way – such as signal interference, wireless charging, screen protector and proximity sensors? Third, does it exacerbate the Nexus 4’s overheating issue to a significant degree?

The MYBAT Tuff case is very nice – silicone and hard plastic hybrids have the best possible drop protection. It also doesn’t interfere with signals or wireless charging. It has good protection on the corners. It appears to be hard plastic over the screen protector, with a slight overlap, which has the least interference with screen protectors. So in terms of protection, it’s a great case.

On the downside, there’s some issue with the proximity sensor getting partially covered (according to the reviews). You can solve this by just cutting a small part away from the hard plastic near the sensor.

Overall, it looks like a very good case.

Lacshay Shekhar

Thanks for such a quick, informative and accurate response, really appreciate it!!

Daniel

It’s surprising that so many people review cases but never really talk about drop protection. I figure that you spend 10% of the cost of your phone on a case, just like you should spend 10% of the cost of your bicycle on a lock.

My problem is that most protective cases are big and bulky everywhere instead of just having bigger corners, a partial ridge around the screen and a few other bumpouts for additional drop protection. Especially since phones have become so big, it’s important that a case is thin and not bulky in places it doesn’t need to be.

I usually use Sugru bumper corners and a few other dots around the phone. They are better drop protection than most cases and don’t add unnecessary bulk. I do have to have a couple backup cases because the Sugru eventually gets pulled off after a few months of pockets, toddlers, couch cushions and the like. Maybe I’ll get myself the ballistic or IONIC just to push the point so I get around to building new Sugru bumpers.

Too bad Sugru doesn’t make pre-molded corner bumpers that you can just slap on. That would be great.

Kannon Yamada

Great comment!

Absolutely! People run out and buy cases that don’t offer the same protection as Sugru… Like those horrible hard plastic shell cases. They offer zero impact protection. I think with Sugru, the only issue is dropping it on an uneven surface or onto something like a chair. But otherwise, it’s a really amazing substance.

I actually am waiting on the arrival of a pack of Sugru, which I intended on using to create a makeshift bumper for a camera of mine. :-)

Actually, you may want to email Sugru about the pre-molded products. It’s a good idea!

Thanks for the comment!

Wouter R

I just got the Acase Superleggera Pro and I love it!
It doesn’t add too much bulk but offers decent drop protection.

Kannon Yamada

Nice! I really like the Acase Superleggera. Out of all the minimal cases, the Acase is the best. A lot better than the better known Rinke Fusion. I know a lot of people love their Rinke, but it’s not really a two-layer case. The Acase is and it looks great.

Thanks for sharing!

Sanjay

Hi,

I just purchased a Ballastic case for my LG 960 NEXUS-4. 4 days after I started using the phone, it accidentally dropped on hard surface 2 feet above the ground. I had the LG in the ballastic case when it dropped and it cracked. It cracked pretty bad. I dont think Ballastic has done enough testing to protect this case. I would not recommend it.

Kannon Yamada

Oh no! I’m sorry about that Sanjay! Did it fall face first or in some other way?

I think the Evecase or Seidio are probably the best.

Ben

I’ve been using the LG bumper since I got the Nexus 4. It’s worked great in that the phone is easier to hold on to. I haven’t dropped it once!

But I probably should get a protective case, and the MYBAT is so cheap and well reviewed! Are the buttons still easy to press with the MYBAT ?

Kannon Y

I should have mentioned this in the article – the MYBAT has great buttons. Actually, all the buttons for silicon-plastic hybrid cases are fantastic.

Conversely, the buttons on bumpers are not particularly good.

Great question – thanks!

Eric

My favorite part of the N4 is the beveled glass on the sides. Is there a case with more bulk on the top and bottom corners but leaves the sides exposed?

Charissa

Thank you for the information about the proximity sensor. I had purchased a case for my new Nexus 4 and was having difficulties using the phone while in said case. . With some cutting removed all the plastic, silicone, and screen protector from the proximity sensor and it works perfectly now. Thanks again for the informative article and the commenters for well thought out questions and comments to assist me with the problem. Now,I will also purchase another case that is sturdier to protect my N4.

Maritza

I bought my nexus 4, about 4 months ago and so a ringke fusion case and was an amazing case! it wouldnt add so many weight and didnt cover the back side (which it’s pretty nice) of my beloved phone, but a week ago I dropped it :( and it’s screen cracked!
Now I have to pay almost 160 dlls, to get my nexus repaired..! and Im considering to buy the ballistic case just to skip that 160 dlls bill that may come across some day if I dropped it again :S

Ringke fusion will cover you from minimum drops, but if it comes to a “high” drop, your nexus 4 won’t make it alive!

Kannon Y

Another user reported suffering a breakage using a Ballistic case. I’ve dropped mine several times without problem, including one very hard and high drop. But not everyone’s luck will be the same.

I’m sorry about the Rinke Fusion. A lot of people don’t know this, but it’s basically a bumper with a plastic back. That’s the lowest grade protection you can find. :-(

It also traps heat in, unlike a bumper. Heat is a big problem on the Nexus 4.

My favorite cases are two-layer, hybrid cases. They absolutely need a silicone jacket and hard, rigid plastic cases. The 5-dollar generics are comparable to some of the most expensive cases. The typically only have awful smells.

Avinash Prakash

vat.

Quote:

“I purchased no less than six cases and evaluated their pros and cons on the basis of bulkiness, cost, aesthetics and design. ”

I think you can take “aesthetics” out of the list. They’re all butt ugly ;)