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Our guide to picking the best case for your new phone
Most smartphones nowadays feature metal or glass builds, so keeping them safe and free from damage can be quite difficult. If you’re looking to buy a case, you might be curious about what kinds of cases are out there or what phone case brands you should trust. In this case buyer’s guide, we do our best to answer these questions and highlight some of the best smartphone case manufacturers around.
Looking to get more out of your phone? Check out our guide to the best phone accessories you can buy.
What kind of phone case should I buy?
One of the first key decisions you need to make is the type of phone case you want to buy. We’re happy to report that nowadays you have a lot of options. Here’s a quick breakdown:
- Thin cases: These trade protection for style and simplicity. They add little bulk to the phone itself, but offer limited drop protection or additional features.
- Hybrid cases: Hybrid cases are the “normal” cases that you see at most retailers, and there’s a lot of design variety here. For most people, these are the cases to buy.
- Rugged cases: Thick and bulky, rugged cases offer maximum protection from drops, often at the expense of design niceties. They also often include extras like kickstands and waterproofing.
- Clear cases: Transparent and simple, clear cases allow you to show off your phone’s design while protecting it from drops. Just be aware that they can be difficult to keep clean.
- Wallet cases: Wallet cases allow you to store cards, IDs, or cash while keeping your phone protected. Apart from cardholder cases, there are also folio-style cases with a cover to protect your screen.
- Magnetic cases: These are designed to work with magnetic accessories like Apple’s MagSafe ecosystem. There aren’t too many options, and they’re fairly niche, but they can open some interesting possibilities.
- Battery cases: While too bulky for everyday use, cases with a built-in battery pack are great for camping or long trips. Often they have reverse-wireless charging for other accessories, too.
- Waterproof cases: Nowadays, most flagship phones offer some form of water resistance, but none of them will stand up to saltwater. These relatively rare and niche cases exist to fill that gap.
- Skins: Skins aren’t exactly cases, but they often perform the same task. However, they offer very little protection as they just stick to your phone with adhesive, like a sticker.
For most people, thin and hybrid cases are the way to go. They offer a good mix of protection and style, often without breaking the bank. Plus, there are so many designs and colors to choose from (including clear cases) that you’re sure to find one that suits your style. With some brands, you can even customize the case with text or other designs.
If you want a little more utility from your case, you’ve got even more options. Wallets and magnetic cases offer everyday convenience, and more niche options like battery cases can be a great pick for certain situations. If you work in the field (or are just a bit clumsy), rugged cases frequently offer military-grade protection, preventing major damage from drops as high as 20 feet.
Foldable phones are a bit of a different beast since they typically require a two-piece design. Hinge protection is what really matters here because that’s the most vulnerable part of the phone. For more on these, check out our favorite cases for the Z Flip 3, Z Flip 4, Z Fold 3, and Z Fold 4.
What are phone cases made of?
Phone cases are generally made from polymers like thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU), polycarbonate (PC), and silicone. The most common material is TPU, which offers the ideal balance between weight, flexibility, and durability.
More rigid plastics like PC are typically used in conjunction with TPU to add bumpers and other protective elements to a case. These cases also offer lots of design options, including clear finishes and a host of color options.
Silicone has great properties for phone cases like flexibility, durability, and a nice soft rubbery finish. It’s less prone to cracking than TPU or PC, and they’re typically thinner and lighter. They also offer great color options, although they tend to be much more difficult to clean due to their rubbery texture.
TPU, PC, silicone, bioplastics, and luxury materials like leather and wood can all be found in phone cases.
Leather is also sometimes found in cases but typically as part of a hybrid design. This means that the case’s interior is TPU, and the exterior has a thin layer of leather. These cases can be beautiful and develop a patina over time, but the thin leather layer can get damaged fairly easily. Keep this in mind before purchasing.
In recent years we’ve also seen more environmentally-friendly materials like biodegradable plastic and even wood used in cases. These are less resistant than polymers and often don’t last as long. That said, most people will upgrade their phone every few years, and when they do, that plastic case is going right into the trash dump. This is a way to lessen your impact on the planet.
What are the best phone case brands?
Of course, at some point, you are at the mercy of what phone case brands have for sale. Each brand has its own lineup of unique cases, and generally releases the same designs for different phones. That said, popular phones like the Samsung Galaxy S22 or Apple iPhone 14 often have a much wider variety of cases on offer.
To help you give an idea of what’s out there, here’s a breakdown of each major phone case manufacturer and the types of cases each one offers.
Spigen cases have long been favorites of ours here at Android Authority, and they’ve also been popular among our readers. The company offers an excellent range of cases, primarily thin or rugged, for a wide range of phones.
Most importantly, they’re all extremely affordable, ranging from $8 to $20 on average. That’s a fraction of the cost of most cases, which in some cases can cost well over $50.
The easiest Spigen case to recommend is the Rugged Armor, which is thin and light but offers everyday drop protection. The carbon-fiber elements on the back look great, and the raised lip around the display help prevent damage to your screen. Learn more about this case for some of the most popular phone models below.
The company offers many other cases, too, of course, ranging from the ultra-thin Thin Fit and Air Armor models to clear models like the Liquid Crystal and Ultra Hybrid. There’s even an ultra-rugged case called the Tough Armor that features a built-in kickstand. It isn’t the most rugged we’ve tested, but it’s good value for the price.
If we have any criticism of Spigen cases, it’s that they don’t offer the best color options. Most cases are limited to black or gray colorways, and there aren’t any options to customize them. Most of the designs are decidedly masculine, as well. If you’re looking for colorful or intricate designs, you’d best look elsewhere.
Learn more: Spigen cases — a buyer’s guide
Otterbox is yet another giant in the phone case space, and its specialty is heavy-duty cases. Otterbox cases are typically big, bulky, and might not be the most visually appealing, but they’ll certainly keep your phone protected during accidental bumps and drops.
This also means they’re on the more expensive side, with prices ranging from $30 to $70. But it might be worth getting an expensive case to make sure that your far more expensive smartphone stays undamaged for as long as possible. Thankfully, the company makes cases for all the leading brands, including Samsung, Apple, Google, Motorola, OnePlus, Huawei, and others.
Our favorite Otterbox case is the Defender series, which is thick and heavy with lots of layers of protection. It also has covers for all buttons and ports to protect from dust and debris, as well as a built-in belt clip that doubles as a kickstand. Learn more about this case for the most popular phone models below.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S22 Plus: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S22: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S21 Ultra: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S21 Plus: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S21: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy Note 20: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S20 Ultra: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S20 Plus: Otterbox | Amazon
- Galaxy S20: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 14 Pro Max: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 14 Pro: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 14 Plus: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 14: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 13 Pro: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 13: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 13 Mini: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 12 Pro: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 12: Otterbox | Amazon
- iPhone 12 Mini: Otterbox | Amazon
Otterbox offers other cases as well, of course. The company’s Commuter and Symmetry series cases are a bit lighter weight and offer above-average protection for your phone. They’re also available for a wider variety of phones, including midrange and entry-level devices via the Commuter Lite series.
Apart from its protective cases, the company also offers a folio-style wallet case called the Strada. There are few color or material options available here, but it is a nice case with a magnetic clasp and good drop protection. Check out the full range of Otterbox cases here, or learn more in the article below.
Learn more: All you need to know about Otterbox cases
Speck cases are a great option between the two case brands above. They don’t offer as much protection as Otterbox cases, but they’re cheaper. They’re not as cheap as Spigen cases, but they’re more protective and have better color and design options.
The company produces a variety of cases for all major flagships, but support for midrange and entry-level phones is limited. Prices range from $25 to $40, with the few entry-level cases the company offers a bit cheaper than flagship offerings.
Speck’s most popular case, and the one we’d recommend for most people, is the Presidio Grip. The name comes from the raised ridges on the back of the case, which help with grip. It’s available in various colors (including clear), and there’s even a more recent version called Presidio2 Grip, which has an anti-microbial coating. Learn more at the links below.
- Galaxy S22 Ultra: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S22 Plus: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S22: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S21 Ultra: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S21 Plus: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S21: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy Note 20 Ultra: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy Note 20: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S20 Ultra: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S20 Plus: Speck | Amazon
- Galaxy S20: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 14 Pro Max: Amazon
- iPhone 14 Pro: Amazon
- iPhone 14 Plus: Amazon
- iPhone 14: Amazon
- iPhone 13 Pro Max: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 13 Pro: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 13: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 12 Pro Max: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 12 Pro: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 12: Speck | Amazon
- iPhone 12 Mini: Speck | Amazon
Speck also has excellent clear cases on offer if you want to show off the phone’s look with the Presidio Grip Clear and Presidio Stay Clear. The Presidio Pro is another great option with its slim profile still allowing for dual-layer protection and should be able to handle a drop from up to ten feet. All recent versions of these cases also come with an anti-microbial coating.
For more recent mid-range releases, though, the Speck Exotech and Speck ImpactHero are the cases to get. Speck also offers cases for a few mid-rangers in the form of the Presidio Lite, but these aren’t always as good as their more expensive counterparts.
Learn more: A buyer’s guide to the best Speck cases
Urban Armor Gear
Where Otterbox made a name for itself by offering rugged cases, Urban Armor Gear (UAG) takes that concept to the next level. Its most popular cases are very rugged and feature up to 20 feet of drop protection and impact resistance. However, some of its other options are also surprisingly lightweight and thin enough to allow wireless charging and NFC payments.
They’re not the cheapest, running anywhere from $30 to $60 for most cases, but they’re a great choice for sporty or outdoorsy types. The only downside is that the company doesn’t offer as many options as other case makers. Unless you have a flagship device from Samsung or Apple, coverage can be hit or miss.
The UAG case we’d recommend for most people is the Plasma, which features a nice balance of protection and convenience. It isn’t the most rugged case UAG offers, but with 16 feet of drop protection and two layers of protection, you can rest assured your phone will stay safe in even the harshest of environments. Check it out for the most popular phone models below.
If you want maximum protection, check out the UAG Monarch. It’s the most rugged case the company offers, and it is built to take a beating. The Pathfinder series is a step below that, offering similar protection to the Plasma, but with a slightly different design.
On the lighter side of things, the Civilian, Plyo, and Lucent series cases are great everyday choices, but they don’t stand out as much compared to competitors. The company also makes the Outback series with completely biodegradable and compostable cases, which is a great pick for the environmentally-conscious consumer.
Learn more: Everything you need to know about UAG cases
Ringke may not have a variety of case types to choose from, but it remains a very popular choice for many users. The cases are great, of course, but one of the reasons for the company’s popularity is the large number of devices it supports and the low price point its cases come in at.
Apart from the popular flagships, you’ll find Ringke cases for most mid-range and entry-level devices, and phones from the likes of Xiaomi, Poco, and OEMs that other case makers don’t cover. Ringke cases are available for a bunch of old phones as well.
Ringke’s most popular case, the Fusion-X, is also the most recognizable. Its slim polycarbonate back is combined with a thick TPU bumper that is not only unique-looking, but offers excellent protection for the phone. The company has both slimmer and more rugged options available, but the Fusion-X is the usual go-to for Ringke cases. Check it out for the most popular devices below.
Read more: The best iPhone 14 Pro Max cases you can buy
Ringke doesn’t have too many other case types on hand, with the Ringke Slim and Fusion rounding out the list. The Fusion is essentially a slimmed-down version of the Fusion-X without the distinctive TPU bumper, while the Slim is an ultra-thin and lightweight case that may not suit the clumsy. The more durable Ringke Onyx fills that gap, and it’s simple but comes in some nice colors.
The Ringke Fusion and Slim are the cases you’ll get for phones that are more than a couple of years old. The company also makes specialized cases for the Galaxy Z Fold and other niche devices, but overall support is more limited than other phone case brands.
Learn more: The best Ringke cases you can buy
Poetic is another well-known phone case maker that offers a few types of cases, with rugged protection on offer with its popular options. There is some similarity between Poetic’s cases and others on this list, so they don’t have too many standout features or capabilities.
That doesn’t take away from the fact that they get the job done and keep your phone safe. And at a cheaper price point too. Most poetic cases are under $20, and some options are available for under $10.
Poetic’s smartphone compatibility is pretty good too. Apart from the flagships, you’ll find Poetic cases for a bunch of mid-rangers and older devices as well.
As for which Poetic case to buy, we recommend the Poetic Revolution. It has military-grade drop protection, thanks to its two-part design. The back is a typical two-layer design with rugged bumpers, but the front panel has raised bevels and an integrated screen protector. It also has a built-in kickstand and is significantly cheaper than most rugged phone cases.
Apart from the Revolution, the Poetic Guardian and Spartan cases also offer great protection with slightly different designs. The Guardian, in particular, offers a unique look, and both are typically available on the cheap. However, device support is limited, so you might be out of luck if you don’t have one of the latest flagships.
Learn more: A buyer’s guide to Poetic cases
Next up is Incipio, which has been around for more than two decades. However, the company recently revamped its case lineup, and as part of that process, it pared back its offerings to just the latest Samsung and Apple devices. Still, if you have a flagship device from either of those companies, Incipio makes some excellent cases.
The company’s best general-purpose case is the Incipio Grip, a relatively thin case with a distinctive grippy texture on the sides. Despite the somewhat spartan appearance, you’re also getting great drop protection of up to 14 feet. It runs a little pricier than some alternatives, but if you’ve already spent the money on a flagship, it’s worth investing in a case you like. Note that for certain models with curved edges, Incipio instead makes a case called the Duo. Learn more about the Grip for your model at the links below.
Incipio has also recently buffed up its environmentally-friendly options with the Organicore line, made entirely from plant-based materials. The Organicore Clear is also the world’s first 100% compostable clear case. It still features textured grips around the rim of the phone, but the streamlined design is a step up from most clear TPU cases you’ll find from other manufacturers.
If you’re looking for something a little more flashy, Incipio has also teamed up with designers like Kate Spade and Coach to offer their signature looks in a thin hardshell case. These cases aren’t quite as protective (up to ten feet), but they are lightweight and add a touch of luxury to a device you’ll be handling every single day of your life.
Learn more: The best Incipio cases: A buyer’s guide
Supcase, short for Super Case, is yet another phone case brand specializing in rugged, outdoorsy cases and accessories. Case in point: every phone case the US-based company sells has passed MIL-STD 810G certification. And unlike a lot of alternatives, it covers a wide variety of phone models and comes in at a price that won’t eat a hole through your wallet.
The company’s signature lineup is named after the Unicorn Beetle (or UB for short), an exceptionally hardy type of rhinoceros beetle capable of surviving in the harshest of conditions. Supcase takes that inspiration to heart, with some UB cases surviving drops of up to 50 feet.
Obviously, your mileage may vary, and unless you’re extremely lucky, you should expect possible damage at a third of that height. Which, for the record, is still incredible.
By far, the most ubiquitous case, and the one we’d recommend for most people, is the UB Pro. Supcase produces this case for just about every major phone on the market, and it has a lot going for it. The rugged design features hybrid protection, with a thick TPU bumper and a polycarbonate shell to prevent scratches. On flat-screen models, there’s also an integrated screen protector for even greater protection. Learn more at the links below.
Other Supcase cases, like the UB Style, offer slightly less protection, but the clear design is much more subtle. The UB Exo is a nice middle ground, with a clear finish and an integrated screen protector. However, neither of these options are available for most phone models.
In fact, outside of the iPhone lineup, Supcase generally only offers the UB Pro. It’s a fine case, to be sure, but we hope the company expands its offerings in the future.
Learn more: The best Supcase cases and accessories
Caseology is technically a sub-brand of Spigen, and it’s one of the newest case brands to make a breakthrough in recent years. And for good reason. Unlike Supcase or Otterbox, which have a hyper-focus on rugged designs, Caseology seeks to offer stylish cases with unique, eye-catching designs.
That isn’t to say that they can’t take a beating. All Caseology cases pass MIL-STD 810G-516.7 certification, so you can rest assured your phone will be safe and secure. Even better, Caseology cases are remarkably affordable, typically coming in between $20 and $30.
Our favorite Caseology case is the Parallax, which has a striking textured pattern on the back. This dramatically improves grip and, combined with dual-layer hybrid protection, gives the case excellent impact resistance. The Parallax is one of Caseology’s most ubiquitous cases, with more than 40 phone models supported in several attractive colorways. Learn more below.
Read more: The best Pixel 7 Pro cases you can buy
However, the Parallax isn’t Caseology’s only stylish case, with the two-tone Nano Pop providing a more subdued (but still striking) option. More niche options like the clear case Skyfall and cardholder case Vault are also available, but availability is more limited, and the designs themselves aren’t as unique.
Still, with the pedigree of Spigen behind it, Caseology cases are a great buy for just about anyone. Like Spigen’s main offerings, they hit that sweet spot in pricing, too, making them an affordable and safe choice.
Learn more: Caseology cases: A buyer’s guide
Other phone case brands
There’s no shortage of phone case brands out there, but outside of the options above, few support cases beyond the Apple and Samsung lineups. Here’s a quick roundup of these niche case brands and what they might have to offer for you.
- First-party (Samsung, Apple, etc.): Some phone manufacturers also make cases, and often they’re some of the best you can buy. However, they tend to be significantly more expensive than alternatives, especially for standard designs.
- Tudia: Tudia doesn’t offer much in the way of variety, but its Merge case is an affordable option for mid-range and budget devices. Strangely, the company does not make cases for the latest flagship devices.
- Casely: If you want design options, Casely is incredible. It features hundreds of designs from real artists and designers, with three case types to print them on. There’s even a phone case subscription box. However, support is limited to Apple and Samsung devices.
- Pela Case: Much like Casely, Pela offers a wide variety of designs. Its cases are a bit pricey, but they’re also super soft and noticeably higher-quality than most. It also supports a slightly wider range of devices, including Pixels and some Huawei devices.
- Moment: Moment is best known for its phone camera accessories, but it makes some excellent cases to mount them too, as well.
- Nomad: Nomad’s most unique cases are its leather offerings, including standard cases and folio-style wallet cases. They’re beautiful cases, but keep in mind that leather isn’t the most durable material.
- dbrand: dbrand made a name for itself by selling phone skins, but it also offers a simple Grip case for the latest flagships. It isn’t cheap, but it has some unique features and interesting colorways.
- Case-Mate: Case-Mate is worth checking out if you want a simple, clear case with a more feminine design. Many cases are made with recycled or plant-based materials, too.
- Popsockets: Popsockets phone grips have been popular for a while, but the company also makes highly customizable cases for them. The Otter + Pop Symmetry series is a joint effort with Otterbox, one of the most trusted brands in phone cases.
- Smartish: Smartish is best known for its excellent Wallet Slayer card holder case, but it also makes a few other wallet cases. Most, however, are limited to iPhones.
- Quad Lock: This company only makes one case, but it unlocks its ecosystem of mounts for bikes, motorcycles, running, and more. It also makes water-resistant ponchos for rainy days.
- Rokform: Rokform also offers rugged cases that work with an ecosystem of Roklock mounts. They also feature magnets, meaning they’re also compatible with MagSafe accessories.
- Lifeproof: Lifeproof’s signature FRĒ and NÜÜD series cases are some of the few genuinely waterproof cases out there. They’re expensive, but you get what you pay for.
- Catalyst: Catalyst also offers waterproof cases, some of which are capable of up to ten meters of depth. However, cases are pricey and limited to just Apple devices.
- Casetify: Casetify is a leading brand for custom cases. Designs are limited to iPhones and Samsung devices, but you can choose custom text, colors, and more for nearly every case.
What brand of case do you currently use?
Frequently asked questions
Below are some of the questions we get asked most frequently by folks looking to buy a new phone case, or simply learning how to best maintain or clean their existing cases.
Honestly, it depends on your use case. Many of today’s phones already have basic water resistance. That said, these devices have limits to how much water exposure they can go through before the seals start to weaken. If you want the best waterproof protection, we highly recommend getting a waterproof pouch case instead.
Many manufacturers offer one or even two-year warranties on their cases. How long your case lasts will depend on what it’s made of and how well you take care of it. Generally, expect leather cases and cases with printed designs to wear faster than alternatives.
Essentially, this means the case meets military standards for drop tests, based on publicly available MIL-STD-810G documentation. For more details on the standard and what it all means, you’ll want to check out our guide.
Over time, clear cases sometimes get a bit of a yellow tint. Thankfully, cleaning them isn’t hard. You’ll want to use a mixture of warm water and a drop or two of dish soap. From there, you’ll use a toothbrush to scrub the solution over the case. Be sure to let it air dry for a few hours before putting it back on. Keep in mind that if the case is very worn, the process might not make much difference.
If you’re the kind that likes to decorate your case with stickers, you might find that removing them leaves a sticky residue behind. Thankfully you can easily remove the residue by dipping a cotton ball in nail polish remover. Just be sure to take some lightly soapy water afterward and rinse off any traces of the polish, so it doesn’t damage the case. Also, be warned that this can damage printed designs on some cases.