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- The best iPhone cases provide extra style and protection.
- Quality varies depending on the price, but there’s an option for every budget.
- Our favorite iPhone cases come from brands like Smartish, Speck, Nomad, Otterbox, and others.
A great iPhone case should serve a few different purposes. First and foremost, it should protect your iPhone from scratches, scuffs, and dirt.
But given the number of times most of us pick up our phones each day, it’s also important that your phone case is easy to grip. At the same time, a good case should also add some style to your device. At the very least, it shouldn’t hinder your device’s aesthetics or make it too cumbersome.
We’ve tested nearly two dozen products to find the best iPhone cases. Whether you’re looking for extreme protection, an attractive wallet case, or just a slim shell to prevent smudges, these are the best iPhone cases we’ve found.
The best iPhone cases:
- Best general purpose cases: Speck cases
- Best cases for style: Native Union cases
- Best cases on a budget: Smartish cases
- Best leather cases: Nomad cases
- Best cases for extra durability: Otterbox cases
- Best cases for regular protection: Urban Armor Gear cases
While some cases specialize in durability or sleekness, Speck‘s sweet spot is right in the middle.
Speck cases provide more heft and protection than cheaper covers, but aren’t quite as big and bulky as Otterboxes.
That’s also reflected in the pricing: Speck’s cases certainly aren’t cheap, with some models costing about $60 at their regular price. But they’re also not as pricey as certain specialty cases.
Speck offers a variety of cases made to fit models as old as the iPhone 7 all the way through to the new iPhone 12 lineup. So no matter which iPhone model you have, there’s probably a case that fits. Speck cases come in many styles, from clear cases to ones with grips, printed patterns, and a glittery or ombre finishes. The options will vary depending on your phone model.
I love how the Presidio 2 Perfect Clear with Grips doesn’t add too much bulk to my iPhone but still feels protective. The grips are also perfectly placed, making it easy to hang on to my phone securely. But this case is more stiff than some others we’ve tested, making it more difficult to remove.
The Presidio 2 Armor Cloud, meanwhile, claims to have air capsules that compress to suspend your phone on a cushion of air to prevent damage, although other companies have made similar claims. Regardless, the Speck cases we tested handled a 5-foot drop onto a marble floor with ease, showing no signs of damage.
In our grease test, Speck’s Presidio 2 Perfect Clear and Armor Cloud cases picked up a seemingly normal amount of smudges, while the Presidio 2 Pro looked particularly greasy. Each case was easy to clean using a lightly dampened cloth with warm water, but the Presidio 2 Pro and Armor Cloud still show some streakage if you look very closely.
Worth a look:
Best for classy designs: Native Union cases
We love Native Union’s iPhone cases for their attractive designs made from materials like leather, wood, and fabric.
While protection is the main reason you may choose to put a case on your iPhone, style is important too.
The cases are super slim, barely adding any extra heft to your device. And for how nice they look, they aren’t all that much more expensive than other cases on this list. The Clic Canvas fabric case for the iPhone 12 currently costs $30, while the Clic Wooden for iPhone 12 is priced at $40, and the Clic Card wallet case for iPhone 12 Mini costs $50. If you have a slightly older iPhone, the prices will be even cheaper.
The downside about Native Union’s cases, however, is that the selection isn’t very big. They only sell cases for the iPhone 11 generation and higher.
The Clic Wooden case also isn’t the most durable if your phone takes a hard fall. After being dropped from five feet onto a marble floor, the Clic Wooden case had a small chip near the bottom. But more importantly, the iPhone 12 it was protecting came away unscathed.
These cases can also be more difficult to maintain depending on the model. The Clic Canvas requires an eraser to clean, and we were unable to find instructions for cleaning the Clic Wooden. But thankfully the Clic Card can be cleaned with a damp cloth and mild hand soap.
The Clic Card and Wooden didn’t get unusually smudgy when we held them with dirty fingers, and the Clic Card looked good as new after following Native Union’s cleaning instructions. We used the same method to clean the Clic Wooden, but it still looks a little smudgy when the light hits in at certain angles.
Still, these cases are a great choice for those who care about looks first and foremost, and they’re reasonably priced.
Worth a look:
Best cases on a budget: Smartish cases
Smartish’s cases are some of the cheapest you’ll find, but they don’t compromise on quality.
Smartish makes it hard to justify spending a lot of money on an iPhone case. Their cases typically cost $20 or less but don’t feel like it, and they come in a variety of colors and finishes. Smartish offers cases for iPhones as old as the iPhone 5S, making it one of the few companies still making cases for 5-year-old iPhones.
I’ve been using the Gripzilla for the iPhone 12, a sturdy general-purpose case priced at $20. It’s not the most attractive case, but it feels well-built and is a great middle-ground between a slim case and a heavy-duty case. It’s also easy to put on and remove from the phone, which is always a plus.
The Kung Fu Grip is also a great choice for those who want a no-frills case for basic protection. It has a course finish that makes it easy to hold — as its name implies — and a flexible, jelly-like build that makes it easy to put on and remove from the phone. Best of all: it’s only $12.
Smartish’s cases also provide enough protection should your phone take a tough fall. After dropping each case mentioned below from a height of five feet onto a marble floor, neither the cases nor the phones they were protecting showed any signs of damage.
However, these cases attracted the most smudges and debris of all the cases we tested in our grease test. But they were also among the easiest to clean, and looked brand new after a quick wipedown with warm water and soap.
Overall, Smartish’s cases prove that you don’t need to spend close to $50 for a quality case that checks the boxes when it comes to basic protection.
Worth a look:
Best leather cases: Nomad cases
Nomad’s leather iPhone cases impress when it comes to looks and protection, and they’re reasonably priced.
Nomad’s iPhone cases may be pricey, but they’re made of high-quality Horween leather to back it up. You can even smell the leather upon unboxing the case.
The company’s Rugged case is sleek yet protective, with the company claiming that it can withstand a 10-foot drop. While we didn’t test these cases in a 10-foot drop, the Nomad Rugged and Rugged Folio held up just fine when being dropped from five feet onto a marble floor. The MagSafe compatible cases also snap in place against my MagSafe Duo charger more easily than most cases I’ve used before.
Nomad’s iPhone cases are definitely on the high-end of the spectrum when it comes to price, but the difference in quality is certainly noticeable, especially when it comes to the Rugged Folio wallet case. It just feels more durable and premium than cheaper leather wallet cases we’ve tested. Each leather case also comes with a packet of leather conditioner to keep it clean.
Nomad’s cases attracted some mild smudging in our grease test, but I’m impressed with how easy they are to clean with soap and water. Although the cases looked a bit streaky while wet, they were back to normal after air drying for a few minutes.
Nomad’s selection is better than that of some companies like Native Union, but it’s still fairly limited. It only sells iPhone cases for the iPhone XS/XR series, the iPhone 11 series, and the iPhone 12 series, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you have an older phone.
Worth a look:
Best for extra durability: Otterbox cases
Otterbox has become synonymous with durability and rugged protection when it comes to smartphone cases, and that’s still true in 2021.
The company makes a wide selection of cases that vary when it comes to their level of protection, from relatively slim models to all-encompassing shells that come with multiple layers and pieces. Some newer models like the Symmetry Series + are also compatible with Apple’s new MagSafe charger.
Otterbox also offers cases made to fit models as old as the iPhone 5, so there’s plenty of choice. Prices will vary depending on the case and phone model, but newer cases for the iPhone 12 tend to cost around $60 while older ones can be found for about $30.
Although many other cases offer decent protection, part of what makes Otterbox stand out is its extra protection around the iPhone’s ports. Even cases like the Commuter Series, which is on the slimmer side for an Otterbox, include a cover for the Lightning port. The Symmetry Series +, which is considerably thinner than other Otterboxes, is also rated for three times as many drops as the military standard.
The downside, however, is that Otterbox’s extra durable design means its cases can be difficult to remove. It takes a decent amount of prying and pulling to remove the Commuter Series case thanks to its protective yet stiff build.
The Otterbox Defender rugged case also looks intimidating to remove, but once you get the hang of disassembling it it’s actually not so difficult.
Unsurprisingly, the Otterbox Defender, Symmetry Series Plus, and Commuter Series cases all passed our 5-foot drop test onto a marble floor with ease. They also showed minimal smudging in our grease test, and were among the easiest to clean with soap and water. Some Otterboxes come in multiple pieces, so just be sure to clean any debris that gets in any creases.
Worth a look:
Best for regular protection: Urban Armor Gear
Urban Armor Gear‘s (UAG) cases are generally more flexible and less expensive than Otterbox’s, while still providing an impressive level of protection.
The company sells cases for the iPhone 6S and higher, making its selection a bit smaller than Otterbox’s and Smartish’s, but still wide enough to cover most iPhone owners.
The Pathfinder is the case to go with if protection is your top priority. It comes with two layers of protection and meets military drop test standards, which is lower than the 3x military drop rating that Otterbox’s MagSafe-enabled $60 Symmetry Series + promises.
But UAG’s Pathfinder is also considerably cheaper at $40 and provides enough protection for basic drops. During our five-foot drop test on a marble floor, the UAG Pathfinder successfully guarded the iPhone 12 it was protecting from scuffs and scratches. The thick edges even prompted the case to bounce upon hitting the floor.
If you don’t want a case that screams rugged like the Pathfinder, the $40 Plyo Crystal Series also offers decent protection in a much more subtle design. The clear case still has thick corners for impact resistance and meets military drop standards, but doesn’t have the Pathfinder’s Rugged look.
I also really enjoy the $30 Lucent Series case, which I’ve been using on an iPhone SE. It’s one of the easiest cases to install and remove, but its thin design means it isn’t the most protective for drops. While the Pathfinder and Plyo Crystal aced our drop test, I noticed some very minor scuffs at the bottom of the iPhone SE afterwards.
These cases also picked up a normal amount of smudges during our grease test, but the fingerprints looked most noticeable on the Plyo Crystal. We were unable to find maintenance instructions on UAG’s website, but these cases were still among the easiest to clean. After a little soap and water, smudges cleared almost immediately.
Worth a look:
Other we considered
TwelveSouth: TwelveSouth makes leather wallet cases for the iPhone 12 series, iPhone 11 series, iPhone SE (2020), and iPhone 8, 7, and 6S Plus. While these cases are plenty spacious, we ultimately don’t feel like they’re the best wallet cases available. The $70 BookBook Vol. 2, which resembles a leatherbound book, feels a bit too bulky to be practical. This case as well as the TwelveSouth’s SurfacePad and Journal provide a lot of storage, but aren’t as flexible as other wallet cases we’ve tested, which makes it difficult to use with one hand. TwelveSouth’s cases may serve a niche, particularly if you love the novelty of having an iPhone case that looks like a book. But for most people, we’d recommend the similarly priced Nomad Rugged Folio or a cheaper non-folio case with a card slot, like Smartish’s Wallet Slayer.
Survivor: We also considered the Survivor Extreme, which has a four-layer construction and is rated to protect against 16-foot drops, for our extra durability category. But this case is too difficult to uninstall to make it our top pick. While it’s common for rugged cases to have a multi-layer design that makes them challenging to install or remove, we had to use pliers to get this case off our iPhone 12.
How we tested
For this guide, we judged iPhone case brands based on a variety of criteria to determine the best picks. A large part of the decision comes down quality of each brand’s cases, which we decide based on the following factors:
- How durable the cases are
- The build quality of the materials used in the case
- Whether the case is easy to grip
- How easy it is to put on and remove each case
- How easily each case picks up dirt and grease
- How easy it is to clean each case
We also evaluate each brand based on other factors including the selection of cases available and price.
To test durability, we dropped a compatible smartphone wearing each case from a height of five feet onto a marble floor. We then examined the case and the phone for signs of damage.
In addition to protection, we also know looks can be important to a case’s overall value. That’s why we’ve tested how well these cases resist smudges from greasy fingers, and how easy they are to clean. To do this, we rubbed our hands in a bowl of one of the messiest (and most delicious) store bought snacks available — Nacho Cheese Doritos — and wiped our hands all over each case. We then cleaned each case by following the manufacturer’s guidelines unless specified otherwise.