Four transformer cases for the Google Nexus 6

The ‘phablet’ space is interesting in many ways, not least that the name itself is going out of fashion since these things are just ‘phones’ in the end, but also because devices like the 6″-screened Nexus 6 are embracing further convergence, rolling in tablet and even laptop functionality. Of course, it helps to have a little physical help and protection along the way, which is where this case selection should help a lot.

The four accessories in question were all sourced by me from Mobile Fun in the UK, but note that they didn’t approach me – I approached them and hand picked the products, these are representative of the best in Nexus 6 protection and transformation at the moment. And, if you have a ‘6’ or something similar, say a Galaxy Note 4, then hopefully the prose and photos will get you thinking about just what your ‘pocket computer’ is capable of.

The Nexus 6 as mini-tablet, here editing a spreadsheet....

I’ll be going into more detail on uses, applications and techniques in a future article, so for now we’ll crack on with the hardware itself. I’ve included the link to each product in the title below, but of course if you live in a part of the world where this site isn’t applicable then just search for the case name and I’m sure you’ll find a local match – the brands are all well known.

Each of the four cases here are classed by me as ‘transformers’ by virtue of including a way of supporting the body of the Nexus 6 in landscape mode – there’s nothing more annoying that settling down to watch some media on a large-screened smartphone and realising that you have to prop it up on a salt cellar or similar – and then it slips down half a dozen times in the first ten minutes. These cases solve that problem, as well as providing first class protection and a few other niceties.

Encase ArmourDillo Hybrid Protective Case (£13)

ArmourDillo case

The ‘ArmourDillo’ (sic) name is appropriate because the back here is made of really tough plastic, with spikes giving an amazing amount of grip. Really though, the spikes are there to help disguise one of the biggest selling points of this design – a cantilevered kick stand that folds neatly out of the centre of the case. It’s as tough as the case itself, thankfully, and clicks back into position afterwards, nice and flat.

The ArmourDillo includes this full cantilevered kick stand!

The Nexus 6 itself sits in a TPU inner sleeve, which is then gripped solidly by the exoskeleton, as it were. It’s a clever design all round and my only big concern is the necessary increase in thickness of the cased phone, from about 8mm to 15mm. Probably not a showstopper, bearing in mind the protective advantages, but worth mentioning all the same. Also worth noting is that the thickness prevents the Nexus 6’s Qi charging from working – there’s simply too much distance between the phone and a charging pad.

Using the cantilevered kick stand! to watch media comfortably...

For anyone living a rough and tough, active life, at £13 this is a real bargain – the spiked design is a ‘love it or hate it’ thing – but I definitely err on the side of the former.

Spigen Slim Armor Tough Case – Metal Slate (£20)

The Spigen case's kick stand is simple and folds flat, into the plastic

Based on exactly the same premise is this from Spigen, with another two piece design, a hard plastic (metal effect) shell clipping around a soft TPU inner. It’s very different in looks though. Where the ArmourDillo would be great out and about on a weekend away, the Spigen design is more for the office and social occasions. The Slim Armour design here is a lot less grippy, but almost as protective overall.

The kick stand is simple, but effective

Crucially, there’s a kick stand again, letting the Nexus 6 work in landscape mode, though it’s a simply metallic strut here, hinged into the soft plastic back. If this sounds less substantial than in the ArmourDillo then you’d be right. When in place it works well enough, but the strut has already come away once during the review period and there’s a risk that it would pop out under stress (e.g. in a bag) and then eventually get lost.

The kick stand is flimsily secured, though with the device in place it's slightly more solid...

Being picky, the right hand side power and volume button covers are 100% flush, making them impossible to find by feel. It’s a case of style over function and I’d rather have had dimples or… something, anything to help a seeking thumb find the right spot to press!

A professional looking in-situ case though, certainly well worth a look if you don’t fancy spikes all over the back of your 6″-screened phone. The reduced thickness also has the benefit that Qi charging works, again emphasising the office-friendliness of this design.

Case-Mate Stand Folio Case (£25)

The Case-Mate design, folded into landscape mode

And so to leather. Or at least faux leather, in this case, allied with a nice felt on the inside of this ‘folio’ design. The idea here is the classic semi-attached shell for the phone, so that in landscape mode, the shell is free to fold down against the folio’s front flap. And, on the whole, the system works, even though there’s no ‘stop’ for the shell when folded.

The Case-Mate materials are decent but the finish not quite up to what youd expect for the price

With the look and feel here very much for the professional, I was glad to see that the shell is thin enough that Qi charging still works, rather crucial for those based around the office. The front flap includes the right magnet so that the Nexus 6 turns on when opened and turns off when closed, again a handy feature for the ‘pro’ user, plus the right hand side buttons are premium and positive in terms of discovery and feel.

The folio design, of course, includes a flap to protect the screen when closed...

Which is not to say that this somewhat expensive case is perfect. The shiny metal effect plastic button caps detach too easily from the shell when extracting the Nexus 6, so care is needed. And the materials used aren’t finished perfectly, the review sample had several small defects.

The Case-Mate's button caps feel wonderful, but watch out when the Nexus 6 isn't in place - they can pop out!

Still, functional overall, and worth a look for the Nexus 6 professional on the move.

Encase Leather-Style Wallet Case (£13)

With the smell and feel of real leather, at any rate, the Encase product impresses at the price...

Rather incredibly, at half the price of the Case-Mate product and with very similar design, the Encase offering uses arguably better materials – claimed to just be ‘leather-style’ (hmm… it’s very convincing though), and a softer material for the inside of the shell, plus cutouts for the Nexus 6’s right hand side buttons, avoiding any fit or pop-out issues but meaning that your thumb has to ‘reach in’ somewhat to operate them, plus there’s the jarring feel of the hard case back pressing into the side of your thumb.

The Encase design's exposure of the buttons is low-tech and unfortunately exposes the thumb to the hard ridge of the back of the case on every press....

In landscape mode there’s again no real detent, but this is again a minor issue and I enjoyed the feel of the phone ‘encased’ in this way. There’s the usual slight issue of a folio case getting in the way slightly when making phone calls and getting in the way a lot when taking photos, but then again you’re gaining storage for credit cards and that full-screen protection.

Folded over, the Encase design works, but the leather is slippery and only a couple of angles are viable...

Definitely not as high end as the Case-Mate design, but I preferred the feel and smell of the ‘leather-style’ and you can’t beat the value for money proposition here.

More of the Encase 'leather feel'...

Picking a winner

By a small margin, I’d pick the ArmourDillo when out and active and the Case-Mate Stand Folio when at home and in the office. But each product here has its selling points, pros and cons. It’s rare that I can’t pick an outright, stand out winner in a round-up, but that’s true here. Hopefully, at least, I’ve shown each off to best advantage anyway and you can make your own mind up!

You can buy the Nexus 6 cases at MobileFun, they were kind enough to provide us with cases for the review.

PS. Of course, other cases are available, primarily simpler and thinner TPU in-situ designs that offer protection at lower cost. But then you don’t get the kick stand and you’ll always be commandeering small household objects to use to prop the phone up with. Comments welcome, of course!