Usually, I’m very much opposed to any type of case or accessory for my phone. From the results in this poll, you’re also pretty confident that your devices are indestructible. Well, with the purchase of my Nexus 5, I got suckered into purchasing a case.

Believe me, I normally wouldn’t buy an in-store sales item without some extremely rare gimmick. But let me introduce you to the Tech21 gimmick (the good stuff starts at about 4 minutes):

The T-Mobile sales guy performed a similar drop onto concrete, twice, with his phone. I’m not saying that two drops from arm’s height was enough to damage his device, but his willingness to drop the phone on its side was enough to help sell me on the idea of a case.

Here’s a quick run-down on how it works:

Some specs

As the video describes, the Tech21 cases include some substance called, D3O. It’s minimalist in nature inside the case, but if the substance lives up to its “rock hard” claim, I’m enthusiastic about the prospect for protection.

D3O Tech21

The D3O acts as a shock absorber, diffusing the impact energy away from device. In theory, this case would have protected my HTC Droid DNA and I probably wouldn’t own a new Nexus 5.

I also like that the back of the case is clear, giving me the ability to brag about my Nexus 5 ownership.

Tech21 Nexus 5 case back view

Now when someone says, “Cool iPhone,” I can quickly retort, “Son, please, this is a Nexus 5, not some dumb iPhone.”

But what about size?

The biggest drawback, at least for me, is the bulk that most cases add to any phone. Generally, I’m okay with a bulky tablet case, since a tablet’s already bulky. But when we’re talking about phones, thinner is better. The Tech21 Nexus 5 case doesn’t disappoint in thinness.

Side-by-side Nexus 5 with Tech21 case

Tech21 side-by-side comparison

The Tech21 case adds minimal thickness to the Nexus 5’s profile. I didn’t measure, but I’d doubt there’s more than an extra 5mm. It’s still pretty thin.

This case is also cut in such a way as to permit easy access to all the key port holes, including the charging, microphone, and audio output ports. Tech21 included stiff button covers (perhaps too stiff), which means you won’t have to fumble around for the power or volume.


And now for the bad news

I’m a little disappointed in the durability of the clear plastic. You can definitely see the wear and tear on my cover, even after only a few days. I guess that’s better than scuffing up the phone or face, but the rubberized back of the Nexus 5 already minimizes those scuffs.

You’ll also only find the covers in two colors: black/smoke or red, which you must purchase at a T-Mobile store or online from T-Mobile’s website (black or red) for $29.99. Outside the US, you have a few more options; see all of Tech21’s retail partners. Incidentally, Tech21 also manufactures cases for Samsung devices and a Nexus 7 case that looks pretty sweet.


Thus far, I’m pretty impressed with the Tech21 Nexus 5 case. I did drop my phone one small time, and if that few inches is any indication of the strength, then I’m even more sold. If you’re looking for a case that doesn’t bulk up your phone and can give the false sense of protection you’re looking for, check out the Tech21 line of cases and screen protectors.

Update: I just weighed the Nexus 5 with the Tech21 case: 6.06oz (171.8g). My uncased Nexus 5 weighed 4.78oz (133.51g).

Jeff Taylor

I'm just an ordinary guy living an extraordinary life. I'm also an attorney and I blog about Android for lawyers. You can follow me on Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, or Google+.


Jessie Minerich · February 4, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Just ordered a new white nexus 5 today and was looking at Amazon for cases. I really like the idea of a clear back (I mean – that’s just cool), but I worry so much about my clumsiness. I am upgrading from a EVO 4G LTE of which I have never taken out of an otterbox defender. Talk about bulk. I want something that protects my phone from my lack of grace + allows it to keep its form factor. I had narrowed in on Spigen Ultra Hybrid and Ringke Fusion after some research. However, like this case, how small and dinky they are (esp compared to my otterbox) makes me doubt they could ever stand up to my abuse. Looks like maybe I need to reconsider that after your post & consider heading into a TMo for this one before my phone arrives in a few weeks!

    Jeffrey Taylor · February 4, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    I really liked the Spigen case, and had actually thought about ordering that one from Amazon, if I was going to order this. The guy throwing the phone at the wall and my salesman dropping his phone on concrete — I mean who does that with a cell phone? — helped sell me on the Tech21 case. I figured, if it’s protected when thrown like a ninja star, Tech21’s better than nothing. The case is more expensive than the Spigen case, but I also like the clear back.

    You’ll also love the case more than the Otterbox. I took Mrs. The Droid Lawyer’s Otterbox offer he S3 and couldn’t believe how thin the phone is.

    I just weighed the N5 with the Tech21 case and it tops in at 6.06 ounces. The uncased N5 weighed 4.78 ounces. For me, 1.28 ounces isn’t too much of a trouble.

      Jessie Minerich · February 4, 2014 at 2:46 pm

      I agree. The whole reason I ever bought an otterbox was because I saw a sales associate launch her iPhone across an AT&T to prove they worked. Dramatic, but effective. Always hates the bulk, though. This round I’ll definitely go with this Tech21. Thanks so much for the perfectly timed (for me!) review. Now I am just impatiently waiting for the phone to get here… estimated shipping date of 2/14. Sigh.

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