Phone cases are a huge business these days, and it seems every day we get a new pitch from another company looking to sell you a way to protect your phone. As phone prices trend upward, replacing a smashed device or component is a daunting effort and one we’d all probably prefer not to undertake, so a little investment in the well-being of your device might pay off on a future drop.
It doesn’t matter how well you take care of your phone – it’s going to go for a tumble. We all look at them more times per day and sometimes pass them to our friends who might not be as careful as we are. I’ve always been particularly fearful of damaging a phone (especially when it’s someone else’s phone, ie a review unit) and prefer to get a phone into a case ASAP.
The Galaxy S9 continues Samsung’s trend of using glass as the primary material on the front and back of their phones, and that makes it slippery – mine likes to slide off anything I place it on, even if only at the slightest of angles. It’s also quite thin at the outermost edge because of the curves on the front and back glass, which makes it more difficult to hold than it should be – I often end up with errant touches as my fingers extend onto the front glass while gripping the phone. I therefore pronounce it to be “a phone that needs to be in a case”.
Samsung was kind enough to pack in a basic clear soft plastic case in the box with the Galaxy S9+, but didn’t include one with the smaller Galaxy S9. We’ve gathered a few options from Otterbox, 3SIXt and Pelican here for you to check out a few ways to protect your device so you can feel confident taking it out into increasingly challenging environments. Read on to decide what’s best for you!
The Pure Flex case is a simple affair – it adds grip but not bulk to the phone, enlarging the edges so you can hold the phone easier without causing errant touch events at the edge.
It’s a single piece of soft, clear, grippy plastic that completely encases the phone from its edges around the rear. There are raised panels for the buttons, and cutaways for the camera, headphone jack, USB port and microphones. Being a clear plastic case, it also tends to attract pocket lint, and you’ll want to remove the phone from the case for a bit of a clean occasionally.
The Pure Flex case also has a slight lip on both the front and back, so if you put your phone down a rough surface it should keep it just slightly off it and away from the camera.
$29.95 – 3sixt.com.au
A few of us recognise the Pelican name – they’re well known and respected for making hard plastic waterproof cases with foam inserts for transporting equipment. Roadies and camera crews often swear by them. This is the first time their phone cases (which have been around for a couple of years) have come across Ausdroid’s review desk, though.
The Ambassador seems to share a lot of its design DNA with a couple of cases from Spigen (another well-regarded case manufacturer whose name was last seen on my Nexus 5, owing to the difficulty of getting their cases in Australia).
The case comes in two parts – a black plastic surround and a clear hard plastic shell that completely encases the rear of the phone and holds on at the side. Both surfaces are ever so grippy. The phone won’t slide out of your hands using this case.
The clear shell has cutaways to house phone’s buttons, and the black outer plastic is molded around these button areas with internal protrustions to meet them. The net effect is that the buttons become oversized, and we can’t complain about that at all. Pelican appears to have a design conceit with shiny gold plastic over the power button… okay. It doesn’t make a difference but black and gold is a good combination.
In use, the case stops any errant touches on the screen edges and gives you a larger edge to grip comfortably while holding the phone in one hand.
$49.95 – pelicanstore.com.au
3SIXT Slim Folio and Neo
Both these 3SIXT cases consist of a flip cover protecting the front of your phone, a bumper case holding it secure inside, and often some storage for a couple of cards inside or out.
For the Slim Folio case, the outer shell is made of soft touch plastic to give you a good grip on the phone. There’s two slots for cards inside the front of the case.
Slim Folio’s inner shell is a soft rubber affair that grips your phone tightly and has holes cut away for buttons and ports, and it’s only attached to the case on the right hand side – you can thus flip it around and use it as a stand if you’re watching a movie.
The Neo case is a much more upmarket affair with a soft leather outer, storage for 3 cards inside and a front compartment to hold cash (well, smaller notes – it can hold a $5 note but a $50 note won’t fit without folding). A magnetic fastener clips to the front of the case which is a nice touch for the leather finish, but just adds a little more bulk in your pocket.
Neo’s inner shell is attached to the case magnetically so you can remove it and attach it to other Neo products from 3SIXT for car mounting. It’s a much harder plastic, with the leather finish on the rear so you could take it out and use it on its own although you probably wouldn’t want to. It holds your phone more like a clip-on case around its corners, with shorter edges and less protection around buttons and ports.
Neo has no stand functionality, although you could probably still flip it around and rest it on something if you wanted to.
Folio-style cases are, honestly, not for me. I love the S9’s always-on display, and don’t want to have to flip the cover to see the time, notifications, etc. The ability to use the case as a stand is a great option for watching videos while travelling though.
$29.95 (Slim Folio), $39.95 (Neo) – 3sixt.com.au
Otterbox’s is almost undoubtedly the king of smartphone protection, but that protection comes at a price. The dollar values attached to the cases are quite good for what’s on offer, but I’m mostly talking about the bulk that the case adds to the phone. We’re talking about half a cm added to each edge of the phone, and a completely enclosed rear of the phone.
The Defender case is actually three pieces – a thin inner case clips together around your phone (with 8 release sites marked on the rear shell) and has a soft lining inside it to protect your phone. It attaches to the more forgiving and bouncy rubber outer shell that has raised buttons you can press into the inner shell. The back of the outer case also has some chunky impact zones on the edges to give your phone a greater chance at a soft landing when dropped, and port covers for the USB and headphone jacks. Otterbox means protection, and short of falling face down onto a rocky or sharp surface, the Defender case will keep your phone protected from drops, shocks and water and dust.
Special mention has to go to this case for being the most involved process to actually insert the phone into – you can’t just slip the phone into the case like others, it has to be taken apart and assembled. You know it’s keeping a tight grip on it when you have to actually deconstruct it to insert and remove the phone.
Otterbox Defender also comes with a belt clip that’s designed to hold the phone, in the case, facing in towards a hard plastic shell. It’ll only come out of the case when you want it to.
If you’re walking around the city with your phone in your pocket, you probably already know this case isn’t for you. It’s aimed at a tradie-style market where phones need to be within reach but not set down, that pretty much needs a rugged device and where dropping an unprotected phone could spell its doom. Otterbox Defender is one of the best cases you’ll get in terms of protection. The case adds bulk, but makes up for it with peace of mind.
$74.95 – otterbox.com.au
So what am I using?
My lifestyle isn’t that extreme. It’s actually pretty tame. I occasionally fight with a few commuters heading to and from work on a weekday or set my phone down on a table at a cafe where someone might knock it as they walk by. It might cop a knock here and there or take a tumble off a table but I’m not heading into dangerous territory, so my preference skews sharply towards the smaller and more unobtrusive cases like the 3SIXT Pure Flex, which now adorns my Galaxy S9.
For me, the Pure Flex case is just the right combination of grip with lack of bulk, which allows the phone’s beautiful design to continue to shine through while ensuring it’s not going to slide off anything I place it on. I also appreciate the $25 price point offering me some protection without busting my wallet (which it also doesn’t try to be!).
How do you protect your phone? Do you go all-in or take a light touch? Tell us in the comments!