So you just got an iPhone 5s for Christmas and you're already on the hunt for a nice protective case to compliment that golden piece of technology. Or maybe you're looking for a different case and you've owned an iPhone for a while now. Regardless, if you like seeing your device in all of its aluminum and glass/ceramic glory then I think we've got just the thing for you. It's now turn for brilliantly clear cases to show what they've got to offer, and we have got two new and inexpensive cases to test from Spigen that promise ultra-clear protection and a slim, form factor.
Spigen's brand new Ultra Fit Crystal Shell for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 is a case that has been designed to preserve the original shape of these devices whilst offering lightweight scratch protection. It's also part of Spigen's Ultra Thin Air collection, albeit improved to offer a full 360 degrees of protective coverage. Influenced mostly by Apple's introduction of the gold iPhone 5s, Spigen has recently released an all-clear version of its hugely popular Ultra Hybrid slim case which combines the best of both worlds using a hybrid design in order to offer drop, impact and scratch protection. What makes these two clear cases so special? Head over to our full review to find out.
Other than the fact that you get to actually every part of your iPhone through the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear case, it is otherwise the same exact Ultra Hybrid model which we have already done a review on. But that's not to say that there aren't any small differences being that this particular Ultra Hybrid is an all-clear version, which means that it features a different type of finish worth mentioning. But first, let's talk about pricing and availability. As always, you can find Spigen's cases on Amazon for much less than what you'd pay when purchasing directly from Spigen. Currently, the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear case costs $11 on Amazon compared to $25 that it costs on Spigen's online store - which needless to say is a superb deal. Other colors are also available like black, gray and "cafe brown". Spigen also makes the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear for the iPhone 5c.
I'd like to quickly point out that you can see the Ultra Hybrid's interior Air Cushion corner protection. As you can see, there's a small pocket of air that helps absorb shock during a drop which is one of the key features that make the Ultra Hybrid a great slim protective case to use.
Although all Ultra Hybrid cases feature a rear four-point raised guard that helps protect the rear panel from scratching by slightly elevating the polycarbonate from reaching a surface such as a table, we found that it the Ultra Hybrid's polycarbonate would still get scratched and marked by other objects with use. Finally, Spigen did something to mitigate this issue. What you can't see is the new anti-scratch coating Spigen has put on the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear's hard polycarbonate surface. If you've read our review on the Ultra Hybrid you would know that while we really like it, its clear rear panel scratches easily.
We're happy to report that this isn't as big of an issue this time around. We can confirm that the clear version of the Ultra Hybrid case is less susceptible to scratches as it features a much slicker exterior and interior surface that isn't as easy to scratch - which is really important when it comes to clear cases. Do note that while the Ultra Hybrid is available in other colors like black, gray and "cafe brown", only the recently released Crystal Clear version of the Ultra Hybrid case features an anti-scratch polycarbonate coating in addition to the standard four-point rear guard design.
One of the biggest, most appalling flaws associated with clear cases, especially clear cases made out of TPU, is the fact that they all tend to discolor and turn into a really ugly looking yellowish hue instead of remaining ultra clear like a piece of ice the moment you took it out of its packaging. Spigen hasn't mentioned anything about a protective anti-yellowing coating or material in its Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear case, so suffice it to say that the inevitable yellowing will be an issue in the future. But if you're using a gold iPhone 5s then you obviously shouldn't be concerned.
We used our case for a month to see whether the clear TPU border discolored. And what we found was that during that time the clear color did in fact turn yellowish, however, in a very insignificant amount. And because the case does tend to reflect colors around it (as shown above), we don't see this becoming much of an issue until a few good months of use, which we can't know for sure whether or not it will discolor any further. All things said, we'd still recommend the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear considering its inexpensive price and high quality, protective design.
What else is different from the rest of the Ultra Hybrid cases is that the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear case is in fact entirely crystal clear, as its name suggest. There's no frosted plastic or rubbery anywhere. Which also means that there's no matte finish to the TPU like there is on other Ultra Hybrid colored cases. The TPU border or bumper on the clear version is actually glossy and shiny in texture. It's less grippy as a result, however, not to the point where you'll feel that this case is very slippery in comparison to other Ultra Hybrid flavors with a matte textured TPU border. That's really the one significant difference between the two models, or color options to be more specific. The Ultra Hybrid is one of the thinnest, drop-protective hybrid cases you can get your hands on, and we love using it. And the fact that the clear version doesn't scratch as easily is a huge plus.
The Ultra Hybrid is a fine slim hybrid case, but nothing compares to the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell if you're after that near-nude look and feel. Made fully out of a hard see-though polycarbonate material, Spigen's new Ultra Fit Crystal Shell case will encase any iPhone 5s and iPhone 5 whether it's gold, black or silver. We think it's the perfect ultra-slim clear case to pick if you'd like to showcase the brilliant design and true native color scheme of your iPhone. But a case like this doesn't offer much protection. You'd need minimalistic protection requirements to rock this case happily. Though Spigen has indeed designed the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell around its popular Ultra Thin Air series of cases which by comparison lack an enclosed top and bottom protection. And like the Ultra Hybrid, the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell case will only set you back $12 on Amazon, or $20 anywhere else.
As you can tell, the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell case features a full 360 degree device protection which protects and covers the top, bottom and sides of the iPhone. There's also a minimal lip around the front of the bezel in order to provide a subtle amount of screen protection in the form of a lay-on-the-table designed edge. And yes, it is fully polished and well rounded so there aren't any sharp corners or edges to be found anywhere on this case - and that's impressive knowing that a lot of slim polycarbonate cases almost always seem to get it wrong when it comes to edge refinement. It may be a very basic, simplistic clear case with no visually attractive substance, yet the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell is a the type of case that has been done correctly. One example is SwitchEasy's NUDE case, which is a very similar case to Spigen's Ultra Fit terms of design and materials, albeit we found it to be inferior.
You'll also find that the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell includes Spigen's decent Steinheil Ultra Crystal screen protector. When I say decent I'm simply comparing it to a tempered glass screen protector which is simply unbeatable. Don't get me wrong, Spigen's Ultra Crystal screen protectors are considered to be the best. Nonetheless, we're not complaining especially considering the inexpensive price tag.
You'll notice that the edges have this exposed notch that looks as if parts of the case are separated slightly. Although the gap does make room for lint and other debris in your pocket to collect comfortably in a crevice, your iPhone's aluminum bezel is kept protected from impact and scratches. You might as well blow into these corners once in a while to clean them out, but you shouldn't need to worry about the gaps causing damage to your device. The design of these four corners, while strange, does have a useful purpose. We think that the real reason for these corner gaps is to help with installation and removal of the case itself, which they seem to really help in practise. The Ultra Fit Crystal Shell snaps onto the iPhone 5s really easily, yet feels like it becomes a part of the iPhone when fully installed. There's no play in the plastic and the fit is extremely precise from all angles.
To better give you an idea of how the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell feels like, if you've ever held an iPhone 5c - this is more like holding the same exact thing only more jagged due to the sharper edges of the iPhone 5s. And again, the corners are all polished so that they don't feel like they're digging into the palm of your hand. It's a really slick case due to the nature of crystal clear polycarbonate, but in a good way as it feels more like holding solid glass instead of just glossy plastic. The polycarbonate is not too thin that it feels fragile to the point where a small impact can crack it down the middle, nor too thick, which is why the whole case feels just so well balanced and right when you're holding your iPhone. There's no cheap feeling here either because of that.
That said, however and unsurprisingly, grip is a little lacking with regards to this ultra smooth and glossed-up polycarbonate exterior surface. I definitely prefer more grip in my cases more along the lines of a Magpul Bump Case or Field Case case. Like the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Shell, the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell also features the same anti-scratch polycarbonate coating as well as a urethane coating to keep the material from discoloring.
While it may be an ultra slim case, the Ultra Fit Crystal Shell isn't lacking any attention to small detail. There is in fact a minimal amount of a raised lip around the front which should protect the iPhone's screen as it elevated it from coming in contact with flat surfaces.
Accessing the iPhone's buttons and controls is done the old school way. Unlike the covered buttons of the Ultra Hybrid, there are cutouts that let you reach and press each individual button or switch. And for the most part I haven't encountered any trouble doing so.
Around the bottom we have very large and wide port openings that are designed to play nice with virtually all third part connectors. Also, a nice touch of detail with the speaker and mic grille openings.
A fun fact about both of these clear cases is that when you have LED alerts turned on for iOS notifications, your iPhone will glow all around when you receive a notification that triggers your rear LED light. Of course this only works when you have your iPhone facing down on a desk which helps the case distribute the light coming from the LED around the border of the case making it seem like an intended feature that will help you visually pay attention to any alerts that get pushed to your iPhone. Just a cool little tip in case you haven't made use of your LED alert setting in iOS 6 and 7. Without a clear case on your iPhone, you'd never be able to actually see that LED alert in action when placing your iPhone screen side up. So I was pleasantly surprised when I actually got to see my LED light notify me once again since I started using Spigen's clear cases. Now of course other clear cases will have the same type of effect that will cause them to ignite your iPhone with light in the same manner.
Spigen's Ultra Fit Crystal Shell is by far and away one of the best slim, ultra-clear cases for the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5. To many, it will most likely be the most enjoyable crystal clear polycarbonate case they've ever used. I know we really like what Spigen has done with this case especially at this price range, and because of that we think it's worthy of our Editors' Choice Award and high recommendation. As for the Ultra Hybrid Crystal Clear case, it obviously continues to be one of our favorite clear hybrid protective cases. And now that its got an anti-scratch protective coating, it's more enticing than ever - hence why we're upgrading its rating this time. Whatever case fits your needs, you won't go wrong with either of these cases if you're looking to provide your iPhone 5s or 5 with the necessary protection, albeit without having to mask its native color and beautiful iconic two-tone design.