PROTECT: Cases for your smartphone or tablet

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Ballistic SG iPhone 4/4S case


I was impressed when I first read about the Ballistic SG, a hybrid soft gel/"ballistic" nylon case designed for the iPhone 4/4S (note: The company also makes a version for the iPhone 5). Smartphone owners are often forced to compromise when selecting a case: you either get a soft gel case, which does a better job protecting your device from dropping, or you get a hard case, which isn't as good for drops but does a better job protecting from sharp objects (like keys).

The Ballistic SG has solved this dilemma by bringing both together in a thin, well designed case. In total you're getting three layers of protection, the result being one of the best protected phones I've ever seen. If you're prone to dropping or otherwise abusing your iPhone, you should very much consider this case.

There is one small drawback, but it bears mentioning: the sides of the phone you use to grip the device are made of smooth, hard plastic, which is much more slippery than the soft gel. If you tend to use lots of hand lotion, the case might make the phone a little more slippery than you're used to. If (when) you do end up dropping it, though, there is some extra soft gel used on the corners, which should absorb the brunt of any impact. It really is a great case.

- Dan Hunt

Lifeproof nuud case for iPad and Cover + Stand

$100 (case); $20 (cover/stand)

It seems a shame that people would spend a lot of money on a tablet like the iPad, then not protect it with a cover or case that can prevent damage from drops, or moisture/water/dirt/etc. Lifeproof takes its cases seriously, providing ultimate protection for your iPad with its nuud case.

How seriously? First off, they give you a plastic "test iPad" that they encourage you to place in the case first, in order to test the waterproof-ness of the case. If the case passes that test, you can be sure that your case is good enough to waterproof the real iPad. In addition to the front and back case parts, there are two yellow "O-Rings" that surround the front and back part to seal it even further.

The case is waterproof up to 6.6 feet of depth (fully submerged), dirtproof (from dust particles), snowproof and shockproof (from drops). The extensiveness of the protection offered by the Lifeproof nuud case is pretty impressive, but it also doesn't block any ports that you need to enjoy the iPad. You can still touch, tap and swipe the front of the screen for your apps, and speaker ports let you hear any music. The headphone jack has this elaborate system that lets you plug in your headphones (with an included adapter) that won't break the seal (it reminds me of spaceship airlocks).

The optional cover and stand ($20) provides an extra cover for the front of the iPad - it just snaps onto the front, and then doubles as a two-position stand for viewing movies or typing on the device.

While the case will add some additional weight to the iPad, the benefits of being able to use the device in new locations (outdoors, at the beach, near water, in the rain) outweigh (sorry about the pun) the extra heft.

If the person on your gift list already owns an iPad (the case supports generations 2 through 4 of the tablet), give them the extra security of a great case.

- Keith Shaw personalized iPhone cases

Starts at $39.95

After seeing so many different varieties of iPhone and other smartphone cases, sometimes the best thing to do is just create your own. Fortunately, the folks at have a very easy process to let you do just that.

At least customize with your own photo - you still are limited in the type of case you end up with. Fortunately, you can choose from a bunch of different Case-Mate or Speck cases, and those have always been very good cases (for the iPhone, at least).

Once you've selected a case, you can upload a photo, add text or logos, and then submit the order. Zazzle says it takes from three to five business days to get the case done, which isn't really that long a time to wait (just put your order in early for the holidays!).

If you thought Zazzle was all about custom-made T-shirts and hats, check out the site again - in addition to the iPhone cases, they allow for customization on several types of products.

- Keith Shaw

Jamie James Collection Cellfolio universal phone case

$35 to $58, depending on style

I'm going to admit this up front - clearly these cases are designed for women due to the different colors and styles offered by the website. The Cellfolio is a combination leather wallet and a mobile phone case - it should be able to fit any phone case (save for some of the larger Samsung models). The two halves of the case are connected by a small strap on the bottom - the top is open and another strap wraps around to snap that in place.

When you open the case one side is where the phone would rest (you connect it to the case via a stick-on Velcro patch). The other side is a spot where you can place a driver's license or work badge. This makes it convenient to just snap open the case to flash an ID or your badge, for example.

The outside of the case holds some small pockets that let you insert some credit cards or even cash if you want - the finishing touch is a wristlet (guys - it's like the handstrap on a Wiimote), which lets you wear the case on your wrist.

From my male perspective, I like the combination of functions and features combined in one package (the card holders, snap-on strap, wristlet). I can't speak to the colors or style choices, but I'm sure women would find something to like here.

- Keith Shaw

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