While it is true that often cases can be an illogical choice when they cover up the design of a smartphone, the bumper-type case first pioneered with the iPhone 4 is an attempt at compromise. Bumper cases protect the most vulnerable portions of a smartphone, while still maintaining a very small footprint and leaving the device’s shape mostly unchanged. They don’t provide as much protection from drops as a traditional case, but have become more and more popular as devices continue to get slimmer.
I had been toying with the idea of buying the official LG Nexus 4 bumper for some time when it finally went back in stock on the Google Play Store (it is now out of stock once again), but couldn’t really justify the full $20 it would cost to get one, plus the tax and shipping charges. However, when I saw the Poetic Slimline bumper (also the Poetic Borderline) for the Nexus 4 listed on Amazon for $9.95 with free Prime shipping, I decided to finally pull the trigger. I haven’t used a bumper case before, so the following is my opinion on how Poetic’s case fits and protects the Nexus 4.
The first rule of the Poetic Borderline case seems to be to stay out of the way as much as possible. As you can tell from this image, the case’s front lip is quite thin, and covers little more than the chrome trim around the edge of the Nexus 4. A gray outline does change the look of the smartphone, but I actually think that it looks pretty good for a case and changes the generic, black slab feel of the device. I imagine that the difference would be even more pronounced with the numerous colored variants of the case, although the trim remains the same color.
Because the back of the Nexus 4 is a smooth glass surface just like the front, the case is almost identical in looks. The trim once again changes the device’s look slightly, while still allowing the interesting textured back cover of the phone to show through. The case adds a lip of a few millimeters to the edge of the glass, which makes scratches much less likely on the non-Gorilla Glass back cover.
On the bottom of the case is the cutout for the microUSB port, which is sensibly a bit bigger than the actual port. Some chargers still might not fit, but the stock Nexus 4 charging cable works just fine. The front piece of gray trim towards the bottom in this picture seems a bit loose because of the larger cutout for the port, shouldn’t actually come lose unless it gets caught on something. There is also a small cutout for the microphone, which is tapered on the edges and perfectly placed.
Instead of cutouts for the buttons, the Poetic case raises and covers the buttons in matte finish trim, which contrasts the rest of the gloss black case. Not only does this look good, but it also makes the buttons easy to find. The case is properly aligned as well, and presses are so far always registered properly. Naturally, the buttons feel a little softer with the layer of plastic over them, but the tactile feed back is still very good.
The power button is designed exactly the same way as the volume buttons, so everything that I said about them also applies here. Tactile feel is good, and the button always works, which is pretty much all you could ask for.
Finally, at the top of the device is the headphone jack. The case’s port here is still oversized, but isn’t as large as that of the microUSB port. Most headphone work fine, but a few of my cables such as a 3.5mm to RCA audio cable wouldn’t fit with the case on.
There isn’t too much to say about the appearance of this case, since it leaves the back cover uncovered and generally follows the color scheme for the side of the device as well. It does make the Nexus 4 a little wider, but the gray trim generally looks good without being too obtrusive. As a result, the case doesn’t look out of place on the Nexus 4, and matches the quality and appearance of the device quite nicely.
The case is made from thermoplastic polyurethane, the same material found in TPU cases. Perhaps because of the dual textured glossy and matte polycarbonate finish however, the Poetic case feels like a higher quality product than many other cheap “eBay” style TPU cases. The glossy finish attracts some fingerprints, but the matte edges provide good grip and make the buttons easy to find.
At only a few millimeters thick, the TPU won’t be protecting the Nexus 4 from any major drops. It does, however, do a good job at protecting the device from small dings and short falls, as well as deterring scratches on both the front and back of the device. Because the case is a “low profile” sort of offering, the material doesn’t absorb much shock, but is better than nothing and makes me feel that with luck it might protect the Nexus 4 from even a more serious fall. Of course, the case isn’t really designed for drop protection, so while it offers a bit more than just a screen protector, I wouldn’t rely on it for situations where your smartphone is likely to experience many impacts. For the occasional short fall, however, it will likely work just fine.
At first I wasn’t sure how I would like the idea of a bumper case, but Poetic’s offering has me fairly convinced. For a little more than a high-end Zagg or Skinomi screen protector, you can get a case that offers a good amount of practical scratch protection for the screen and back cover of the device, as well as protection from light drops. While I wouldn’t have minded a traditional case, the bumper does allow the unique back cover of the Nexus 4 to shine through, and keeps added weight and bulk to a minimum.
I can see now why the bumper case would be considered a good compromise between a standard case and nothing at all, and Poetic’s offering is a high quality example of the concept for the Nexus 4. With the official bumper sold out, and the fairly low $9.95 price of the Poetic Borderline, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest it to Nexus 4 owners who want to protect their devices without the added heft of a thicker traditional case.
You can purchase the Poetic Borderline Bumper Case in green, blue, red, purple, and of course black, for $9.95 on Amazon.