Getting a new phone is exciting – you get to explore the new features, play with the camera, make the most of the software updates, and enjoy the sleek new look. But smartphones are delicate, and you want to make sure you don’t drop your new phone and break it a week into having it. You need to have a solid case that will protect your phone when it inevitably hits the ground.
Having a good phone case is a protective measure and a fashion statement. Choosing the best phone case for you is a matter of looking at what functionality you want, how much you want to spend, which cases have the best reviews, and what you want your case to look like. Read on to learn more about what to look for in your next phone case.
When you drop something glass – say your phone screen – on the ground, a shock wave of force ripples through the glass. When that shock wave hits an imperfection in the glass, even a tiny one, it splinters out from that imperfection, shattering the glass.
That’s why it’s so important to have a phone case that’s made of a shock-absorbent material. Instead of transmitting that shock wave to the glass of your phone screen, it will deaden it, preventing your screen from shattering. Hard plastic isn’t very shock-absorbent, so you want to look for a phone case with a rubber lining.
Full Corner Coverage
You can have all the shock-absorbent material you want, but it won’t do any good if there are still unprotected spots on your phone. Many cases just wrap around the sides of the phone and serve as decoration, rather than providing any real protection. You want to avoid cases like this in favor of ones that provide full coverage.
Your phone is likely to land on one of its corners when it hits the ground, so you need to make sure those are covered. Check to see if the shock-absorbing material completely covers the corners of the phone, wrapping around to the front. If not, there’s a good chance the case won’t do enough to protect your phone.
Thick Enough to Protect Your Phone
How thick of a phone case you get depends a lot on your lifestyle and how you treat your phones. If you’re the sort of person who is very careful, works a desk job, and hasn’t ever cracked a phone screen, you may be able to get a phone with a thinner profile.
But if you’re the kind of person who throws your phone onto the couch/bed/chair when you get home, works a manual labor job, and is best friends with your phone repairman, you may want a bulkier case. There are some cases that provide full coverage of every inch of your phone, suspending it in a nest of premium shock-absorbent material. Some of these cases also provide hard plastic shells to further deaden any impacts and keep your phone safe.
Thin Enough to Use
The flip side of the bulkiness issue is usability. Your phone could be wrapped in the most protective case known to man, but if it’s too big to fit into your pocket, it’s going to be a hassle. You need to strike the right balance between protective and useful.
They key to getting enough protection without a ton of extra bulk is to buy high-quality materials. Cheap phone cases have to pile on the packing to keep your screen intact. But higher quality materials will be able to use less and still provide the same shock absorbency.
Another factor to take into consideration is whether your phone will often be near water. There’s nothing worse than falling into a pool or lake with your phone in your pocket and knowing it’s fried. But some cases can stand up to quite a bit of water exposure.
If you work around swimming pools, on boats, near lakes, or with plumbing systems, you should look into getting a waterproof case. Lifeproof cases, which we’ll talk about more later, purport to being fully functional underwater. We wouldn’t test that theory too much, but it should keep your phone safe for quick dips.
Raise your hand if you have to charge your phone at least once a day, not counting overnight. Now raise your hand if you have to charge your phone twice a day or more. Running out of battery is one of the biggest downsides of modern smartphone ownership.
Luckily, some cases can give you an extra boost when you need one. These cases come with extra battery packs that you can activate and even swap out throughout the day. They’re more expensive, but they eliminate the panic of having to live your life within ten feet of a phone charger.
If you’re the kind of person who likes to only carry a few things with you, you may like phone cases that have slots for your credit cards, loyalty cards, driver’s license, and some cash. Most of these cases are folio style, meaning they have a flap that folds over the front of your phone.
You’ll need to think about how you want to use your phone every day before you buy one of these cases. If you want a little more protection and a sleeker look for your phone, the folio style can be a great option that provides a ton of storage. But if you don’t want to have to move a flap every time you get a text, you may want to look into one of the cases that has wallet slots built into the back.
If you use your phone for taking notes or watching Netflix a lot, you may want to look for a phone with a kickstand. These pop out of the back and can let you stand your phone up. You may also see cases with a piece that pops out of the back to help you grip the phone better.
If you get a case with a kickstand, be sure the locking mechanism is secure. You don’t want it to either collapse when you’re using it or pop out of the phone at random as it starts to wear out.
No matter what kind of case you get, it’s a very good idea to get a screen protector for it. No case is perfect, and your phone is going to hit the floor at some point in its life. When that happens, you want to give your screen the best chance possible.
Your case may come with a plastic screen cover, especially if it’s a waterproof case. You can also get adhesive screen protectors made of a thin sheet of bulletproof glass. These protect your screen from shattering without compromising the clarity or sensitivity of the screen.
Once you decide on what style of case you want, you need to start doing your research and reading reviews. A case can look amazing on a website, but pictures are worth a thousand lies. And a thousand reviews are worth far more than a picture.
You should take bad reviews with a grain of salt, since disgruntled customers are more likely to make the effort to leave a comment. But look for themes emerging among the negative comments. If fifty different people say the case broke within a week or was too inflexible to get it on their phone, there’s probably a grain of truth there.
You can just about spend as much or as little on a phone case as you want to. There are cheap plastic cases that are little more than $8 or $10. Or you can spend $2.7 million on a diamond-studded case that will only fit an iPhone 6 – and no, we aren’t kidding.
On average, you can expect to pay between $30 and $100 for a good case that will protect your phone and last for a while. Decide on your budget and what’s reasonable for the style of case you want.
And, of course, we can’t forget how important the look of a case is. Phones have become another accessory, a sort of permanent signature piece of jewelry that represents something of who we are. You look at your phone several hundred times a day, so you should love how it looks.
You can find cases in wood, leather, and even (for pretty high prices) metal if you want a slick, classic look. Or you can find any manner of fun patterns, pictures, references, and colors. If you can’t find the perfect case, you can also get a customized case that has photos of your favorite people, places, or quotes.
Spigen has gorgeous sleek cases for shockingly affordable prices. Their Rugged Armor case for Google Pixel 3 phones is made from carbon fiber that matches the Pixel’s patched aesthetic. And it sells for an incredible $13, a steal for the amount of protection it offers.
Spigen’s Tough Armor case for Samsung Galaxy Note8 phones is a little higher profile than the Rugged Armor. But the case is made from military-grade dual-layer protection with a TPU body and a polycarbonate back. This case continues the low-cost trend, retailing for just $17.
Otterbox is one of the best-known names in the smartphone protection game. They made the original durable case with a soft, flexible inner layer that could absorb shock waves and a hard outer case that protected your phone. Their original designs were a little bulkier, but Otterbox has slimmed down over the years to provide the highest level of protection in a thinner profile.
Otterboxes have traditionally been more expensive than some other cases, but they’re still fairly affordable. The Commuter Series for Samsung Galaxy S8 is only $36, and the Defender Series is $38.
If you’re looking for something eye-catching and affordable, it’s hard to beat Speck’s CandyShell case. The case lives up to its name, with a variety of riotously fun patterns and textures. It’s also made of a durable polycarbonate that can protect your phone.
And Speck cases are a steal for the quality they provide. Their iPhone XR case starts at under $10, and their Presido case, a more conservative design that comes with wallet and folio options, is available for as little as $13.
Lifeproof is known best for making a case that can stand up to a dunk in water. It also protects the glass on your phone, with secure shock-absorbent material that hugs your phone both front and back. And the cases come in a variety of fun colors for you to choose from.
Lifeproof cases are slightly more expensive than the other cases we’ve listed here. They start around $49 and can be as much as $75. But considering that they can save you from repair bills of $150 or more or replacement fees of several hundred dollars, we think they’re worth the investment.
Find the Best Phone Case for You
Picking the best phone case for you is a matter of knowing what you want and how you use your phone. You can find cases that are sleek, rugged, colorful, subtle, waterproof, recharging, affordable, expensive. Decide on your budget, read reviews, and look for a case that covers the corners of your phone.
If you’d like to learn how to make the most of your phone, check out our recent posts to stay in the know. We have the latest in smartphone news, from foldable phones to information on the best cases.