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printed December 12, 2017
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Review: Cases for the Apple iPhone X

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Dec 4, 2017, 2:15 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Few phones are pricier than Apple's $999 iPhone X. Protecting it with a case is the wise move to prevent heart (and glass!) break. We tried out a variety of options from Apple, Case-Mate, Catalyst, and Urban Armor Gear, to help you find the best fit for your needs.

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Background

Glass-backed phones may be stunning to look at and hold, but even tough Gorilla Glass cracks under the wrong kind of impact. If you skip AppleCare, replacing a cracked glass panel is going to set you back a lot of cash. We strongly recommend that iPhone X owners protect their investment with a case.

A plethora of cases for the iPhone X are available. Here are some promising ones that we've had a chance to evaluate.

Apple Leather Case

The walls of your local Apple Store are likely lined with hundreds of cases, many of them made by Apple itself. The Apple Leather Case is Apple minimalism at its haughty best.

Apple says the leather comes from Europe. It's soft to the touch and feels great to hold, but the case is easily scratched or otherwise marred. Apple's leather cases are infamous for developing a worn appearance rather swiftly. It's available in nine different colors. My navy blue case darkened along the edges after using it for only a few weeks. Some people like the effect.

Apple  

The case wraps around the iPhone X like a finely tailored suit. It hugs all the curves, covers the buttons, and leaves the ports, speakers, and cameras exposed in all the right places. Of all the cases I've tested, this one interferes with the iPhone's controls the least. The side buttons of the case are covered by aluminum and interact really well with the phone's actual controls underneath. The opening for the ringer switch is sized perfectly. Wireless charging is supported.

The Apple Leather Case is not a rugged option by any stretch of the imagination; it provides minimal protection. Apple's aim was clearly more on form over function. The case will prevent you from scratching the rear panel of your phone, and it makes it possible to put the phone down face-first without messing up the display. That's about it. Apple makes no claims about this case's durability. You can probably drop it onto wooden floors from waist height and not worry too much, but I'd be really nervous to drop the phone on a sidewalk with just the Apple Leather Case protecting it.

Leather

Leather

This is not a practical option, but it is a fashionable one. I love leather goods, and Apple's leather case compliments the iPhone X really well. For $49, I wish it provided a lot more protection.

Case-Mate Mood

The Case-Mate Mood is a mood ring in case form. This two-piece protection system has a rubber inner liner and a rigid exterior plastic shell. The two work together to keep the iPhone X safe and... moody.

The Mood is for teens; I doubt the style will suit many adults. The inner liner is semi-clear rubber, while the shell has a shiny metallic green paint around the side edges and a color-shifting "mood panel" on the rear. Like mood rings, the mood panel reacts to heat and touch. Its default color is a nice cobalt blue. The colors deepen and change as you touch it, or leave it in your pocket. Purple accents offset the green and blue.

Case-Mate  

You have to wrap the rubber liner on your iPhone X first. It fits okay, but is a bit loose along the bottom edge and the right side near the screen lock button. With the rubber cover properly fitted, you can then snap the plastic shell on the outside. The shell slips on easily. When fully on, it doesn't seem to be in any danger of falling off the phone, but it is a bit too loose. Other two-piece case systems I've tested have much tighter fits.

The case is very bulky; it's not what I'd call pocket-friendly. I really don't like the way the screen lock button is recessed so deeply, as it makes the key harder to use. The same is true of the ringer switch on the left. The rest of the ports and buttons are easy to find and use.

Unfortunately, the mood panel blocks wireless charging.

Case-Mate claims the case provides "military strength impact protection" though specific references to its ruggedness are not available. The two-piece system definitely covers the phone in a lot of material. I think you can get away with dropping your phone onto hard surfaces like the sidewalk or driveway without much fear, but only from waist high.

Mood

Mood

At $50, this is one of Case-Mate's more expensive options. I imagine this case might be popular with kids aged 12-16, maybe. At least it keeps the phone safe.

Catalyst Impact Protection

Many Catalyst cases are waterproof, but the Impact Protection model is focused on keeping the iPhone X safe from pratfalls, not waterfalls.

The Impact Protection is a fairly straightforward case design. Like a bumper, it has a strong external frame that wraps around the side edges of the iPhone X. A triangular pattern inside the case edges provides some cushioning. A rigid plastic panel stretches across the back of the phone. I like that the rear panel is clear so you can see your iPhone underneath. The Impact Protection comes in four colors: coral, black, green, and blue/orange.

Catalyst 2  

It's a tight fit. You have to press your iPhone X into the Impact Protection firmly to get it properly seated. Catalyst did a good job ensuring the phone's buttons and ports are accessible. On the left you'll see a big rotating switch that covers the ringer key. Turn it back forth to toggle your iPhone X into and out of silent mode. The volume buttons are ribbed, which helps them stand out physically from the smooth plastic of the case. They work well. The screen lock key on the right edge is a bit small (much smaller than the actual phone button). It's also ribbed, but it feels a bit loose on our unit. I like that the case provides a nice rim around the front glass to protect the screen. Wireless charging is supported.

Catalyst claims the case can handle 9.9-foot drops onto the corners, backed by a mil-spec rating. The case feels rugged, and I like that it isn't too bulky. The strong outer bumper can easily tackle short drops around your home or office. I'd worry about about the screen when dropping the phone onto concrete or gravel. It's the only case we reviewed that supports lanyards.

Impact Protection

Impact Protection

For $40, this is one of the more practical cases for the iPhone X we've seen.

UAG Plyo

The Plyo follows a different path from previous UAG designs, which is one reason we wanted to test it out.

The Plyo is a lot like the Catalyst Impact Protection. It's composed of a rugged external frame and slightly more flexible panel across the rear. A really small, honeycomb-patterned series of ridges line the inner curve of the frame and the corners are reinforced with lots of cushioning. The Plyo comes across as more rubbery than the Impact Protection. The case is made of semi-transparent materials. UAG sells it in ice, ash, or crimson hues.

UAG  

The case fits the iPhone X well. I'm pleased with the way the phone sinks into the rubber framing. The Plyo creates a tall ridge around the screen to protect it when placed face down.

I'm not sold on the buttons. The exterior of the case has a handful of notches up and down the sides. These become indistinguishable from the volume toggle on the left and the screen lock button on the right. In other words, the design makes the buttons harder to find by feel. The travel and feedback of buttons is somewhat stiff. The cutout for the ringer switch on the left side is off-centered and too big. I was able to use the switch fine, but it doesn't look good. The lightning port is no trouble to use. Wireless charging is supported.

UAG says the case meets mil-spec 810G for drops and other abuse. It's a tough case, but not the toughest. UAG's other designs seem stronger and provide more protection (for more dough, of course). The Plyo is a compromise. It's thinner and lighter than UAG's pricier options. I would feel comfortable dropping the phone onto most floors, but less confident about concrete. On balance, I think it will survive most drops from waist height.

Plyo

Plyo

The UAG is affordable at $39.95. It's not the most stylish case I've seen, nor is it the most protective, but it covers the basic tenet of safeguarding your phone with fortitude.

Our Ratings

3.5
Overall
 

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