Looking 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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Funny smell: Out of the box, this particular case smelled strongly of silicone.
- Bulky: It’s the largest out of all the cases.
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.
- Fairly good rigidity.
- Sides have a grippy feel.
- Kickstand – horizontal only.
- 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.
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.
- 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.
- Doesn’t feel as drop resistant as the dual-layer cases.
- Kickstand is poorly designed.
- Case doesn’t look all that great.
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.
- 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.
- Most slippery case.
- Hard to remove from case.
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.
- Hybrid hard-plastic combined with silicone provides excellent drop protection.
- Somewhat more grippy than the Ballistic case.
- Lighter weight than the Ballistic case.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.