When it comes to hard cases for maximum protection, it’s hard to find something really sturdy and trustworthy. And frankly, I was concerned with Ballistic’s Hardcore (HC) Series case. Not only was I putting my iPhone on the line to test out the case (because the company doesn’t offer warranty protection for the iPhone if it breaks with the case, for obvious reasons), the first drop-test I did from hip height caused my iPhone to crash and reboot.

Not a great sign of things to come.

The HC is a three-layered iPhone 4/4S case that’s built to take just about any punishment you can throw at it. But what I found out very early on is that the protection it offers is still at the mercy of what the iPhone can handle. Gravity, acceleration, mass, and fall distance are all adversaries to be wary of, and that’s a dangerous game to play. Sure, some of us want the extra security anytime…but is a case the answer?

From left to right: 2nd layer (rubber), main case, belt buckle enclosure

For most, the answer to that is yes, especially for the iPhone, which is a very strong phone. It’s extremely resistant to damage; the build quality is supremely high, higher than most phones produced. The problem is the glass; more specifically, the glass will crack pretty easily if you aren’t careful. But even if the glass cracks, as you have undoubtedly seen in dozens of drop tests, the phone still works.

What the HC can offer is protection for the glass in three waves, two of which are useful mostly in hard-hat areas or conditions. The first layer covers the phone directly and is the actual case, a hard-plastic shell which clips onto the iPhone with it’s own clear-plastic cover and rigid frame. The case itself is actually very comfortable to hold and use thanks to the ridged edges. It makes the iPhone much larger and thicker, and while it’s easier to hold it fits in a pocket or bag much worse.

The second layer is a thick rubber sheet that goes over the case, which adds shock support for falls. That’s because of how thick this layer is, which absorbs falls very well, and is especially thick on the corners, which are most susceptible to hitting the ground first. The final layer is a hard case belt buckle attachment, which can hold the iPhone when both the first and second layers are on.

To paint this picture better for you, I dropped the iPhone from hip height with all three cases, and it rebooted. Yet the same sort of iPhone, with all the same parts, has been seen dropped off of 3-story buildings with no damage to the phone. So why did mine reboot? Because of the way it was dropped, completely flat on it’s back. The iPhone faltered because it hit the ground at the path of most resistance, where there was the least amount of protection. This structural weakness forced the iPhone’s internals to shake, which even without any moving pieces forced the reboot.

Since that incident all of my drop tests were more realistic, falling on a corner or side as most drops occur. In all of those tests, with one layer, two, or three, the results have been exceptional. No problems with my iPhone, with the case, and minimal scratching all around. Of course, the payment is in adding a lot of thickness to the already small iPhone, which may or may not be a good thing for you.

As someone who’s already very careful with his smartphone, I find that I don’t need a case like the Hardcore Series from Ballistic. Then again, 3/5 iPhone owners I’ve spoken to over the last month either currently own or have owned a broken iPhone, which they themselves cracked. There’s definitely a market for such a case, but I feel that it’s very large. If you like the iPhone because of it’s smaller size, then you probably should look for a sleeker case unless protection is your number one priority. If you work in serious environment, like a construction yard or if you’re in a motorcycle gang, the whole three layers will be incredibly helpful and provide the protection you need. Just remember that no case will guarantee complete protection; with that in mind, there is no better case for making sure your iPhone’s glass never shatters.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★☆


Bottom Line: One of the best cases for ultimate iPhone protection.


  • Multiple layers to provide the most protection
  • Good price at $50
  • The case doesn’t obstruct the ports…


  • …except the auxiliary port for some headphones/cables that aren’t very thin at the end
  • Large case, negates the small size of the iPhone
  • Multiple layers are difficult to manage, more work than it should be

James Pikover

Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.