Making a case for cases

So, yes, this is my first post in quite some time. Life has caught up with me and I simply haven't been as interested in blogging as much as I thought I would be. However, I'm going to attempt to change that. I'm not pretending that I'm going to blog every day, or every week, or even every month and that's OK. I'll blog when I'm damn well ready!

In any "case," I was so excited by something that I feel selfish keeping it all to myself. As you'll see from my last post, I was thinking about picking up the iPhone 4S, and well, I did- white, 32GB, AT&T. It's great, though not perfect and I probably won't make a dedicated post about it since it's pretty much old news at this point. *NOTE* This is going to be a long post so, ye been warned!

Since I got the 4S, I've kept it naked, which is pretty much what I've done with most of my iPhones. I've had a couple cases here and there on earlier models, but never seem to keep them on for very long. Part of it is my resistance to cover up the natural beauty of the iPhone. I feel the design, especially in this generation, is exceptional and it just feels wrong to cover up something so nice. I will wholeheartedly admit that I buy many things because of their design and aesthetics and so I'm very hesitant to cover up any of my products for the most part.

I have dropped the 4S once, which put a couple of small chips/nicks into it but nothing really major. But I will say that the 4S, with its glass back, has this feeling of slipperiness and that it could fly out of my hand at any moment. After 10-11 months of ownership, I decided to start looking for a case. 

I'm not sure if there's any singular catalyst, but over the last year or so, I've decided to become more of a minimalist and am attempting to pare down the things I own such that I just have the essentials. Instead of owning a lot of things and stuff, I'd rather buy a few good, reliable things. So I'm now more interested in spending a little more money on quality products and just needing one or two than buying a whole bunch of things that will just break down or need to be replaced.

In pursuit of my minimalist lifestyle, I've wanted to try and slim down what I carry in my pockets on a daily basis. I've removed much of the contents of my wallet so that I'm only carrying just what I need. I've removed several items from my keychain as well. With that goal in mind, I set out to find a slim iPhone case that could actually double as a wallet so that I could potentially carry even fewer things in my pockets.

iLid MK-1

I was looking for a traditional case form-factor that would provide some protection and have storage on the back for a few cards and cash. I looked at several models before deciding on the iLid MK-1 wallet case. There were just so many negatives with the other cases I looked at, which ranged from them being bulky, ugly, not offering protection, not having enough storage, unusual card-loading mechanisms, or just poor design. The iLid looked like the perfect solution for what I wanted. It had a modicum of protection, storage for a few cards and a money clip, extra storage for a key or memory card, great design, and is allegedly, the "world's thinnest iPhone wallet." As a bonus, you can open the lid and use it as a kickstand. It's made by a company that was successfully funded via Kickstarter, so I should have tempered my expectations somewhat, but let's just say, I was sorely disappointed.

iLid Case (Note the positioning of the cash)

Receiving the case as a birthday gift, I made sure to carefully inspect it before taking into the wild. While the packing was lovely, that's about the only good thing about it. First, the images that were used in the campaign, on their website, and the box are flat out lies. They've since changed their images, but in the initial images, they made it appear that you could simply fold cash bills in half and slip them into the money clip built into the lid. It turns out, this is simply a Photoshopped image. There was just no way you could physically fit cash bills in there in that manner. This means that you'd have to fold and reposition your cash which means you're not going to be able to get much in there.

Second, I simply couldn't keep all of my cards in there, even without using the cash. Now this isn't totally their fault, as I was trying to fit slightly more than what they recommended, but not by much. My slimmed down card loadout consists of one credit card, one ATM card, my ID and a NYC Metrocard. Anyone who has familiarity with Metrocards knows just how thin they are to the point where they basically take up no space at all. I'm pretty much carrying only 3 cards, which really isn't much. I suppose I could have a combined credit/ATM card, but that's not really part of my financial setup and is another post for another day. In any case, if you carry more than 2 cards, which is probably most people, this case isn't a good choice.

Lastly, and most surprisingly, I discovered that the hole that's been cut out for the iPhone's camera is so poorly designed that you cannot take a photo using the flash without your picture being blurred out by the case. This is really just insult to injury. Yeah, sure, I guess I could just take photos without the flash or take the phone out of the case when I need the flash, but c'mon, man! This was hugely disappointing and so I contacted the manufacturer with my list of complaints and they offered a full refund, no questions asked, so kudos to them for that.

But in the end, I was now left without a case and it doesn't look like anyone has adequately solved this issue in a way that works for me personally. I decided that I'd just get a normal case and look for a slim wallet later on. I've got my eyes on the Slim by Suprgood, but unfortunately, I missed the Kickstarter campaign for them and they aren't taking regular orders yet.

Urban Armor Gear Navigator case

Anywho, I stumbled upon a gorgeous looking case by Urban Armor Gear, being sold via They come in a wide variety of colors and I went with white since I went with the white iPhone. With refund in hand, my gift-giver purchased this instead. (An aside- I love Fab, but their shipping is terribly slow. I know they're working on it and are investing in improving shipping times, but just keep this in mind. I've ordered a few things from them and the shipping is painfully slow. Then again, everything seems slow compared to 2-day shipping via Amazon Prime.)

When it arrived, I couldn't await to tear it open and I was not disappointed with what I found. The Navigator is just incredible to look at. It has this military, tactical design that just screams, "Look at me!" It looks like a custom molded gun case that you might keep an M4 or AR-15 stored in. It's made of a hard plastic that's easy to grip and feels very solid. There are these tiny, faux screw holes that look like the proprietary screws that Apple put on the bottom of the 4S. The company's UAG logo is prominently displayed on the back and there's a large cutout for the iPhone's camera.

One subtle detail that has quickly become a favorite of mine is the lip that runs along the front and back of the case. It raises the case up and allows you to put your iPhone down but not actually have the screen or the back of the case touch the surface it's on. It's just a simple, little thing but alleviates worry about damaging the phone or the case. No, it's not going to protect a direct impact to the screen, but you don't have to worry when you put your phone face down. And that's something I find myself doing often because I just love looking at the case.

The inside has a textured coating and a structure that gives the impression that the phone is secure from shocks and drops, not that I plan to deliberately test this out. But, I feel confident that the phone is going to be well protected. The top and the bottom of the case are somewhat flexible and the bottom is the only place where I worry about longevity since it's not reinforced. I could see it potentially snapping with lots of pressure or from constantly taking the case on and off.

That leads me to another point- I had a bit of difficulty removing the phone from the case. The one time I did it, the black plastic ring that goes in the housing for the camera hole popped out when I finally removed the phone from the case. I was able to easily snap it back in, but you should note that this case isn't really suited for putting on and off very often. It's best to leave it on all the time, which is what I'm doing, and fortunately, I don't really have any reason to take it off. 

The top button is really great and I've had no trouble pushing it and it gives a very satisfactory feeling when you use it. The volume buttons on the side are also easy to push, but they are very close together, separated only by a thin piece of rubber and so it can be tricky to make sure that you're pushing the one you really want. The volume/ringer switch is uncovered and is relatively easy to push but could be tricky if you have gloves on.

The headphone jack has ample space to fit a variety of headphone connectors. The bottom leaves the speakers and the 30-pin connector open for use. What I really like about this is that there's no flap that can get in the way when you're trying to charge or dock your phone. I keep my phone docked every night next to my bed, so for me, this is huge.

As I mentioned before, the camera hole is large enough for the lens and the flash and I've had zero problems taking flash photos unlike with the iLid.

Bundled with the case is a screen protector that you're supposed to stick on. Being clumsy, I ended up with an air bubble covering the screen so I had to peel it off. The problem with these things is that they're generally only good for one application so I had to toss it. I don't think it was going to give me much protection anyway, so no big deal. They also included a little cloth to wipe the screen, a nice touch.

There are other cases out there that offer more protection and this isn't one of those, but I feel confident that for everyday use, this case will offer adequate protection and style. I will definitely be looking into picking up another UAG case if and when I upgrade to an iPhone 5 or whatever comes next. 

OK, this has been long enough, so ciao!