Whether you have the new iPhone 12 Pro Max or any previous generations, a tough protective case is a wise investment for your pricey device. While iPhones continue to get more durable and water-resistant, you’re still at risk of shattering the glass screen if you accidentally drop yours. The best iPhone cases protect your phone against scratches and cracks without adding significant bulk or altering how you use your device. But while they may look similar, not all iPhone cases are created equal. Whether you’re looking for an extra-durable case for when your kid commandeers your phone or one that’s light and slim enough to slide in your back pocket, it’s essential to do your homework.
The Good Housekeeping Institute test all kinds of gadgets, from smartphone cases to shower speakers. To find the best iPhone cases, product analysts in our Media & Tech Lab test dozens of iPhone cases each year, assessing durability and functionality as well as ensuring easy access to all of the necessary buttons and ports. We validate the brand’s own testing data, often performing supplemental drop tests and confirming any weather-resistant claims. Then consumer testers weigh in on how easy the cases are to put on and take off, and ensure that any unique functions — like a built-in wallet or charging battery — work too.
According to the Good Housekeeping Institute, these are the best iPhone cases to buy in 2021:
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Best Overall iPhone Case
Silicone Case with MagSafe
If you own an iPhone 12 or 12 Pro, Apple’s own MagSafe case can’t be beat for ease of use and solid phone protection that fits like a second skin. In our Lab tests, we found that the buttery-smooth silicone version of this microfiber-lined case was consistently easy to snap on and off thanks to built-in magnets. We also like that it’s compatible with Apple’s entire line of MagSafe accessories, meaning you can snap a MagSafe wallet on the back for card-carrying functionality and there’s no need to remove the case in order to wirelessly charge via a MagSafe charger (or any Qi-certified charging stand). Verified Amazon reviewers agree, with 81% giving this case 5 stars, commenting on its high quality and slim profile.
Best Value iPhone Case
Kung Fu Grip Slim Case
For less than $15, this is a reliable choice for anyone seeking a no-nonsense protective case. Made from flexible plastic, our Lab experts were fans of the textured, finger grooves on the sides that allow for better grip. The brand touts that the case features corner air-pockets for extra drop protection (calling them “airbags for your iPhone“), and in our own drop tests the lightweight case did indeed hold up well, demonstrating good shock absorption. Available in a variety of sizes for iPhone generations from 7 to 12, the Smartish Kung Fu isn’t luxe-looking by any means, but you can dial up the style factor by uploading custom images or text via Amazon or the Smartish website.
Add a little sparkle to your phone with this line of Case-Mate cases, which come in 16 different glittery, shimmering colors. But they don’t just look good: The ultra-slim design features a strong grip and is embedded with Micropel technology, a layer of antimicrobial protection that claims to help slow the spread of bacteria. Plus, the manufacturer claims 10-foot drop protection, and in our road testing we found that repeated drops were no match for this style-forward pick. The cases are wireless charging compatible and available for almost every generation of iPhone devices.
Made from “real, old style American leather” without a drop of synthetic chemicals or dyes in sight, this is an ultra-slim leather case designed for those who believe scuffs and scratches add character. Available in black or brown Horween leather, the Nomad Rugged case is structurally comprised of a durable polycarbonate body with a wrap-around thermoplastic elastomer bumper. Translation: Your phone will be dependably protected from drops and falls, no matter the angle. For those looking to add a wallet component, Nomad also offers a tri-folio version that holds credit cards.
Otterbox is known for its super-tough phone cases, and its Defender Series doubles down on durable layers that guard against even the roughest drops, scrapes and bumps. Over months of Lab and road tests, we were impressed that the cases held up to repeated use and abuse, without so much as a single scratch to show for it. We also loved the combination belt-clip holster/kickstand, which made it easy to prop the phone up on tabletops to watch videos and shows, while a handy port cover helped avoid debris clogs. Compatible with Qi wireless technology, the Defender Series comes in six colors.
For those who want the convenience of a wallet-case combo, the Speck Presidio Wallet case is a solid choice. Our testers found that not only did it safeguard their phones, but it also kept up to three cards securely in place. With multiple layers of protection, the manufacturer claims that independent labs have verified it can be dropped up 13 feet with no damage to the phone; the case held up to repeated drop tests in our own Lab, as well. We also liked the button protection, which still allowed for easy volume control. Although thicker than a basic case, it’s still one of the thinnest wallet cases we’ve seen.
- Verified 13-foot drop protection
- Wireless charging compatible
- Offers Microban antimicrobial protection
- Some reviewers added a PopSocket for better grip
If you prefer a transparent case, then Spigen’s Liquid Crystal option is the way to go. The affordable form-fitted case is slim and lightweight, so it can easily slide into your pocket. It’s also compatible with Apple MagSafe accessories for easy wireless charging and is super-flexible for hassle-free removal. Although it might not offer as much protection as some tougher cases, it will protect your iPhone from everyday scratches and dents without added bulk.
Teens need a phone case that’s tough, but cool-looking — and this case features absorbing bumpers and a solid build that claims to provide extended drop protection of up to 15 feet. Indeed, in our Lab tests and via consumer tester feedback we resoundingly found the polycarbonate back shell to be super-strong and scratch-resistant. Plus, we love that the covered ports keeps dirt out.
Our Lab pros are longtime fans of Mophie’s well-built cases. This one is no exception, offering a built-in battery that extends your charge for up to an extra day. (When recharging, your iPhone will charge first, then the Juice Pack Air battery.) As for protection, its rubberized support pads offer cushioning from drops and falls, while the raised corners help prevent scratched and cracked screens. This model is for the XR and XS generations, while the Mophie Juice Pack Access is for later models.
- Magnetic back for compatible accessories
- Wireless charging compatible
- Rechargeable battery
- Adds a bit of bulk
Best Waterproof iPhone Case
FRĒ SERIES Waterproof Case
A great choice for those who love outdoor activities — or simply have a tendency to drop their phones in the toilet! — this ultra-protective case will keep your phone safe from the elements, including water, snow and dirt. The manufacturer claims it can be submerged entirely under 6.5 feet of water continuously for an hour and offers drop protection of about 7 feet. We found these claims to be true in our Lab tests — after fully submerging a phone in water for an hour, it still had full functionality. The coolest part: You can still use your fingerprint sensor to unlock your phone underwater. The case also comes with a built-in scratch protector that is virtually invisible to the eye and touch, but note that it’s crucial to follow proper installation procedures.
- Claims to be waterproof up to 6.5 feet
- Built-in screen protector
- Anti-reflective lens cover
- Reviewers claim screen protector gets bubbles
Best iPhone Case with Strap
Emma Crossbody Phone Case and Wallet
A combination purse and phone case, this crossbody is perfect for running errands while keeping your phone protected and by your side. With an adjustable and detachable strap, you can also use it as a stand-alone cell phone case. It has a hidden snapback wallet compartment that conceals and protects credit cards, driver’s license and cash. You can even take photos without taking the phone out of the case, which is made from pebble leather.
Things to consider when shopping for a new iPhone case
Beyond making sure you buy a case for your model and phone size, here’s a quick rundown of other factors to consider:
✔️Durability You want a case that protects your phone, no matter how many times it drops. Check out manufacturer claims on drop tests, materials and how long it will last. IPX ratings denote how rugged and weather-resistant products are. The first number after IP refers to solids (i.e. dust) and the second for liquids (i.e. water). Higher means more protection!
✔️Protection Nobody wants to see their beloved iPhone cracked or broken. Choose a case made of a shock-absorbent material (like silicone or rubber) that covers your phone’s vulnerable corners.
✔️Weight Some cases are lightweight and thin, some a bit bulkier. Decide what is important to you, as the heavier options generally offer more features like a built-in battery charger or extra rubber.
✔️Usability Is the case easy to take on and off? Does it have easy access to the charging cord? Can accessories such as camera lenses be added and used without any fuss? Can you access all of your buttons?
✔️Cost Some cases run under ten bucks, some well over $50. Figure out what your budget is beforehand, and see what you can afford that meets all of your needs.
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