In the US there have already been several cases of the rear camera glass shattering on V20s despite their recent launch, and the fact that the camera extends beyond the rest of the chassis certainly doesn’t help. As documented in my initial review the V20 includes a clear rubber case from Hong Kong retailers which does an adequate job creating extra leeway between the camera and the various surfaces. Unfortunately the clear case doesn’t quite look that good on my phone and being the shallow guy that I am I opted for some replacements.
You can typically get hints about the general reception of a smartphone by the amount of accessories that local shops have on hand. Hot ticket devices from OEMs like Apple and Samsung are sure to have a variety of generic brand cases, flip covers, and screen protectors from eager shops looking to capitalize on the crazy margins. With the V20 it’s a bit of a different story in that while shops do carry cases most of them are tacky flip covers or generic cheap rubber, with very few choices that actually look good or protect the phone adequately. Doing the rounds in Wan Chai didn’t really yield anything interesting so we traveled to Mong Kok in hopes of improving our choices.
I ended up buying a Rugged Armor on the day simply because it looked cool and maintained the slim form factor that I loved about the V20. There was little room to haggle as the shopkeeper retorted that they were the only shop in the entire building to even carry such a case for the V20 and even invited me to see for myself. I took her up on the offer and looked around before eventually finding my way back to her store, defeated, and $178 poorer.
As always the margins in Hong Kong are incredibly steep in order to make rent and maintain profit for the shops. To shed some light on the matter the exact same Rugged Armor case can be had for $11 USD right now off Amazon. In the past the Tough Armor case has retailed for close to $300 HKD but it can be had for a mere $16 USD ($130 HKD) off Amazon. With the right forwarding company or a good friend international shipping costs are negligible.
While the two cases share similar layouts and materials on the inside the Tough Armor is visibly thicker to allow it to better absorb impact. I’m not the type of person who just throws their gadgets around and treats them roughly, but I have found that it’s always better to prepared for that one accidental drop than to shell out 2K+ HKD to replace a shattered screen.
From an aesthetics perspective it’s hard to argue that the Rugged Armor isn’t the clear winner, it’s much slimmer and the overall design and consistent color scheme look a lot better. However that slim form factor comes at the sacrifice of not being able to protect the rear camera very well as there is only several mm of separation. This should be sufficient in most cases, but the Tough Armor offers much more clearance providing better peace of mind.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to pick a winner between the two as it seriously boils down to form or function. On most slower days I find myself going back to the Rugged Armor since it simply looks nicer and I really like the thin profile of the phone with it. However, there are days I really want to use the kickstand and find myself out and about, so I do keep the Tough Armor close as well.
If you aren’t a fan of Spigen cases for whatever reason there are other similarly attractive options from Ringke that seem to match up quite well with Spigen’s lineup. Based on the naming scheme you might assume that they’re doing a direct budget version of the Spigen offerings, but at the very least the pictures do look quite appealing. A quick glance at the number of reviews as well as average rating would indicate that the two are virtually interchangeable.
In the coming weeks as more people decide to stop waiting for Pixel shipments in the US I have a feeling there will be more tempted by the V20, and that just might be the small boost needed to prompt more companies to make affordable yet solid cases.