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Ballistic Universal Sport Rugged: Tough protection for your iPhone

Just in time for the iPhone 4S, Ballistic sent me one of their Ballistic Universal Sport Rugged (US$29.99) holsters to check out. It's a great case for those who want a clip-on holster-style case that offers a medium level of protection of your iPhone (all models) while providing quick access for calls or working with apps.

Design

I'm usually not a fan of things that clip onto your belt. Way back in the early 2000s, I had a small Nokia phone clipped to my belt while doing some four-wheeling near Ouray, Colorado. To check clearance between the huge rocks on the dirt road and the bottom of my vehicle, I kept hopping out of the driver's seat to take a look. Upon returning to Ouray for a celebratory beer, I discovered that my phone was gone. Since then, I've stuck to dropping my phone into a pants pocket instead.

Things change, though, and most clip-on holsters now have a small bump on the bottom end that does a much better job of keeping the holster attached to a belt or waistband. That's the situation with the clip on the Ballistic Universal Sport Rugged.

The case itself is made of a thick nylon material that is quite stiff. There's also a rubber-like material that covers the right side of the case. This material is punctuated by the trademarked "Soundvent," which offers a way for ringtones and alerts to make it to your ears even when your phone is wrapped in protective nylon.

Considering how many different types of cases are available, it's surprising that the Ballistic Universal Sport Rugged only comes in one color - black. It shouldn't be difficult to make a case like this in other colors and patterns.

A Velcro closure keeps your iPhone in place in the case while you're running, tap-dancing, playing hockey, or getting out of your SUV to check ground clearance. There's a big patch of Velcro, too, not just a tiny strip. This sucker will remain closed, thank you.

Functionality

Since I couldn't activate my iPhone 4S immediately today thanks to a big AT&T fail, I used the new phone to check out the case. Since this is a universal case -- it'll work with just about any smartphone -- there's a bit of extra space for the iPhone. It'll rattle about a bit in the case, but if that doesn't bother you, it'll do the job. I personally wish that the case was designed specifically for the iPhone 4 / 4S for a more snug fit.

On the plus side, the clip on the Sport Rugged is excellent, and the Velcro definitely keeps this thing closed regardless of movement. If you're a law enforcement officer who carries and has a nice holster, you'll like how the Sport Rugged matches your existing gear. For the rest of us, this is a holster case that will have appeal to those who are into the great outdoors.

While the case is protective and should help against most scrapes, scratches, and drops, it is open on the sides at the top and that provides a vulnerable spot. In addition, the Sport Rugged doesn't really protect your device from splashes which could go into the openings.

Conclusion

The Ballistic Universal Sport Rugged will appeal to the outdoorsy types who like the look of holster-type cases. It's well built and should last for a while, but the "one size fits all" case is a bit too large for an iPhone and should be more snug.

For someone who is looking for a more protective case that is specifically designed for your device, you may wish to consider the OtterBox Defender ($49.95). It's a bit more expensive, but offers a lot more protection and comes in colors other than black. Ballistic also has a line of cases called the Hard Core Series that is much more protective and starts at only $5 more.

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