Dissecting the UAG Monarch iPhone case

I’ve used the Urban Armor Gear Monarch iPhone case on my last several phones. I’ve liked its ruggedness, design language, and feel in my hand. The details and finish are impressive, even the screws on the four corners that look like they could be used to bolt the case together. I especially like the layer of Kevlar, a costly rugged bullet-proof fabric from DuPont. That all contributes to the Monarch being promoted as one of the most protective (and expensive) of all iPhone cases.

How UAG describes their product

The Monarch Pro Kevlar – the ultimate all-terrain, rugged protective case now featuring a powerful built-in MagSafe module. Engineered with premium materials for unrivaled protection. Monarch Pro boasts an impressive 5-layer construction, including a shock-resistant core, a distinctive signature armor frame layered with DuPont™ KEVLAR® Material, a polycarbonate shear plate, and an impact-resistant rubber surround. With seamless MagSafe charging compatibility, this case offers both advanced protection and effortless functionality. The Monarch Pro is built to go further, ensuring your essential tech device stays safe and secure no matter where life takes you.

But things are not always what they seem. I was fooled. I assumed this description was accurate until I dug deeper and discovered it’s mostly fiction.

Kevlar, the woven product that seems to be a layer, is only a thin hex-shaped sticker!

I decided, mostly out of curiosity, to dissect one of last year’s cases (an iPhone 14 Pro Max case with MagSafe that I used on my iPhone 12 Pro Max).

I wanted to understand the five layers and the protection offered by the Kevlar material that is used to justify its high cost of $100.

What I found

  1. It is not a five-layer case, but a two-layer case, each layer made of hard plastic glued together.
  2. The Kevlar is not one of the layers, but instead is just a small decorative sticker that offers no protection, because it doesn’t extend across the case as implied. The three dimensional design makes it appear it does, but it’s an optical illusion. It is definately not “layered with DuPont™ KEVLAR® Material
  3. The screws on each corner have no function – they’re decorative.
  4. The case is hefty and rugged and fits nicely on the phone, so it may still may be protective. But it’s radically different from the description used to justify its cost.

Here are photos of the dissected case that documents the above points.

Black plastic bumps are glued onto the hard plastic gray case

Kevlar “Layer” is a decorative strip, not “layered with DuPont™ KEVLAR® Material

Close up of Kevlar “layer”

Single layer case shell with plastic bumps removed and MagSafe module lifted upward.

A legal case?

I’m not a legal expert, but based on UAG’s description, I would assume buyers have a legitimate beef, and the company might even be violating consumer laws. At the very least, they certainly are misrepresenting the case’s design and construction and have fooled a lot of people, including myself.

Airplane Mode

Considering protective cases, I’d like to know what brand of phone case the Alaska Air 1282 passenger had on that scary flight where the door plug fell off the fuselage. Their iPhone, along with its charging cord and charger, were yanked from the seat due to the drop in pressure, shot through the opening, and fell 16,000 feet, where it landed in the grass. When found, it was intact, working and, of course, in airplane mode.

UPDATE

My friend Michael reports that the phone case the Alaska Air passenger had on his phone that survived the 16,000 foot drop was a Spigen Cyro Armor case selling for about $23 on Amazon. It’s not a MagSafe case.

by Phil Baker