Forty bucks for an iPhone case? Scam of the century. Here are seven cases that will keep your new iPhone 4 pristine and cost less than a couple of apps.
One of my favorite online retailers, Monoprice, doesn't just sell inexpensive cables. They also sell plenty of iPhone accessories—most with very reasonable shipping.
• TPU Case
TPU isn't just the name of the case, but the material from which it's made. Monoprice describes TPU as "a smooth surface material with shining finish that is bendable and protects against shock such as in a case of a drop"—shiny but soft. According to Wikipedia, TPU—thermoplastic polyurethanes—have "excellent abrasion resistance" and "good oil and grease resistance," both welcome qualities in a phone case.
There's no front protector, but at just around $3 shipped, you can probably afford to buy a screen guard if you really feel the need.
You won't get the integrated buttons like Apple's official "Bumper Case", but this knock-off comes with two screen guards and even a stylus—don't ask me why you'd want the stylus—for just $3.30 shipped. Do bear in mind that most DealExtreme gear ships direct from Asia, so it'll be at least a couple of weeks before it shows up in your mailbox. For that price you can learn to deal with the pain.
Why should Paul Frank be the only one to produce cheap Paul Frank merchandise? This white plastic has Frank's trademark monkey on the back, minus the pesky trademark. Only $2.60 shipped.
If you're still working with a 3G/3GS iPhone you'll be able to find cases for even less money. This case is made from our friendly neighborhood thermoplastic polyurethane and has, according to customer "JohnnyG31", a "nice camera hole". So there.
It's a buck eighty-six. Shipped. I can't buy toenail clippers for a buck eighty-six. Well, I mean, I can—from China.
Although hideous iPhone cases are a dime a dozen, I'm actually somewhat fond of these flowers, which could adorn even the most ritzy takeout restaurant vase. It's made from silicone, which always has a tacky hand-feel, but certainly is a proven winner when it comes to drops. Just $2.55 shipped.
There's nothing fancy about this one at all. Just a hard back, rubber sides, and a hole in the back to let your Apple brand loyalty shine through. But all the reviews say it gets the job done. It's actually almost expensive: $3.76 shipped!
There are hundreds of iPhone cases on Amazon under $5, but shipping will obviously nail you unless you are an Amazon Prime customer. (And don't fall for the trick that many retails use, where they price a case at $.99 but charge $5 to $10 for shipping.)
But if you have a 3G/3GS, many cases from name brand manufacturers are discounted direct from Amazon. And plenty of generic cases are nearly the same price for iPhone 4. This iFrogz Luxe Case for 3G/3GS was $20 when it was new, but is just $3.50 today.
And in this case you're just paying for a little bit of rubber, plastic, or silicone. I understand wanting to protect your investment, but let's face it, as long as the case doesn't fall off your phone if dropped and as long as you aren't ashamed to pull it out of your pocket, one case is mostly as good as another. Save your money for the stuff that really sets your iPhone apart: farting vuvuzela soundboard apps.
Each of the retailers linked above have plenty of other cases available, too, so feel free to shop around.