Having the best iPhone case can be both armor and evening dress. So much of our lives and personalities manifest through our phones—they are often an extension of ourselves, making them both invaluable tools and cherished treasures. The case we use is the cherry on top, often reflecting our personal styles. Some of the perks that today’s cases feature include antimicrobial silvered surfaces, magnet arrays for cordless charging, full waterproof protection, and compostable plant derived bioplastics. With a million and one designs, functions, and quirks to choose from, there’s something for everyone.

Best Overall: Pela Phone Case for iPhone XR
Best Budget: Speck Products Gemshell iPhone XR Case
Best Case for iPhone 13: Spigen Ultra Hybrid
Best Protective: OtterBox Commuter
Best Designer: Prada Saffiano Case
Best Waterproof: LIFEPROOF FRĒ SERIES Waterproof Case
Best for Gen Z: CASETiFY Ultra Impact Case
– Most Sustainable: CASETiFY Custom Compostable Case
Best Premium: Black Ops X3 Case

How We Picked the Best iPhone Cases

To create this list, I explored numerous iPhone case designs from over 20 makers. I factored my own experience owning numerous iPhone cases, read up on the specs, and nodded to the trends I’ve spotted while living and writing in New York City for years. Though an iPhone case at its rudiment is meant to protect a phone, our prioritization of cell phones quickly turns these phone accessories into fashion. Consequently, while there is a certain level of protection standard that makes a case good, what makes a phone case great always comes down to our own particular wants. When choosing the best iPhone cases, I looked for a few factors:

Protection: As the most central function of a cell phone case, solid protection was the first quality I looked for in judging the best phone cases. While not every user needs a hard outer shell holding a rubber insert with over-screen plastic, or full waterproofing, everyone does need a case that fits tight and still gives good protection.

Sustainability: The ubiquity of cell phones and the prevalence of cell phone cases go hand in hand. However, while there is significant awareness of the polluting components of cell phone ownership, cell phone cases are less talked about. These (primarily) plastic shields are everywhere, and with each new iteration of the iPhone usually being a slightly different size, iPhone cases so often end up at the landfill. That’s why features like compostable materials and recycled plastics are so important. 

Style: Fashion is forever... and forever changing. There’s a lot of fashion labels in the iPhone case market. But while a Louis Vuitton iPhone case is easily had (if you have the funds), if you ask a Gen Z TikTok aficionado what makes an iPhone case it, you might be looking at less waxed calf leather and more customizable high-chroma recycled plastics. That said, I sprinkled in some of both.

Price: When it comes to iPhone cases, a higher price doesn’t necessarily mean a better case, and you shouldn’t have to shell out hundreds to protect your device. That’s why I factored the price into each of my picks. While you can easily pay hundreds of dollars on a designer iPhone case, you can also get a pretty good case for under $20. 

The Best iPhone Cases: Reviews & Recommendations

Best Overall: Pela Phone Case for iPhone XR

Eco-Friendly and High-Quality. Pela

Why It Made The Cut: This iPhone case gives great protection at competitively low prices, while still being eco-friendly in its construction. 

Specs:
– Material: Flaxstic (plant-based bioplastic)
– Thickness: Slim case
– Texture: Yes
– Special Features: Compostable bioplastic

Pros:
– Can be shipped back to company to be repurposed or composted
– Durable case
– Plastic-free packaging

Cons:
– No official drop test data
– Not a lot of flashier design customization

Pela offers an eco-friendly iPhone case that’s a true show-stopper, making it the best iPhone case overall. Using Canadian-made bioplastics made from a combination of flax straw waste, bio-polymers, and recycled material, “Flaxstic” is the main component in these cases. Fully compostable, these cases can be broken down in a home compost system, an industrial composter, or sent back to Pela in the same package your replacement case comes in to be reincorporated into the next batch of cases. 

These well-loved cases have solid drop resistance, though the company doesn’t offer drop test data that’s standardized in the same way some other companies do. However, with a raised wrap around ridge to protect your screen, these iPhone cases are sturdy. The cases also support wireless charging, and you can order a separate card holder to attach to your case. If you order a Pela and don’t like it, the company promises a seamless return. Pela also offers cases for other iterations of the iPhone, in case the XR isn’t your pick.

Best Budget: Speck Products Gemshell iPhone XR Case

Crystal-Clear Choice. Speck

Why It Made The Cut: This slim budget pick from an industry leader does everything well for a small asking price. 

Specs:
– Material: Polycarbonate, thermoplastic polyurethane
– Thickness: Basic sleek
– Texture: Plastic / none
– Special Features: None

Pros:
– Raised bevel edges offer solid protection
– Cheap
– MagSafe compatibility offered in the pricier version
– Good button control

Cons:
– Bad camera protection
– Scratches easily
– No antimicrobial priming on clear plastic

If you're looking for the best budget iPhone case, the Speck Products Gemshell case is a solid choice. With slim but sturdy clear polyurethane construction, this case has you protected for a significantly low price. The button construction doesn’t take any thumb bending to use. The bevelled front lip offers solid screen protection. It’s available for other generations of the iPhone, outside of the iPhone XR.

What the phone doesn’t have is great camera protection. As is common with slim cases, the lip of the rear case doesn’t rise far past the camera lens, meaning that drops can easily damage your phone camera. While this is a common issue in case design, it’s still a significant drawback, as your phone’s camera is one of the most expensive components to fix. That said, for such a low asking price, this case’s level of protection is still nothing to balk at. For those that use MagSafe charging, a MagSafe-compatible Speck model is available for a bit more. 

Best Case for iPhone 13: Spigen Ultra Hybrid

Clear Competitor. Spigen

Why It Made The Cut: Show off your fancy new phone with this transparent and affordable pick.

Specs:
Materials: Thermoplastic polyurethane
Thickness: Slim
– Texture: Smooth
Special Features: Wireless charging

Pros:
– Modern design
– Budget-friendly

Cons:
– Design won't appeal to everyone

Got yourself a new iPhone 13? Show it off with this clear case from Spigen. The design is sleek, made from thermoplastic polyurethane and beveled edges that will still protect it should you drop it. This forward-looking case also allows for wireless charging with MagSafe, Apple’s magnetic technology. That said, the transparency might not appeal to traditionalists, however.

Best Protective: OtterBox Commuter

For The Rugged. OtterBox

Why It Made The Cut: With an internal rubber slipcover beneath a hard outer shell, and raised bevels around all the squishy bits, this iPhone case is a tank.

Specs:
Material: Synthetic rubber and polycarbonate shell
Thickness: Thick construction
Texture: Smooth plastic over synthetic rubber
Special Features: Antimicrobial construction

Pros:
– Multi-layer construction with hards shell and soft slip suspension
– Works with cordless charger
– Dust protection for ports

Cons:
– May require a proprietary OtterBox cordless charger for best cordless charge results
– All plastic

The OtterBox Commuter is a classic iPhone case, accepted as one of the best protective iPhone cases on the market. With a synthetic rubber slip that nestles into a hard outer shell, this case provides two layers of fall protection that will keep your phone safe on the job or the climbing wall. OtterBox offers antimicrobial integration achieved by bonding microscopic silver ions across the material. For more on this, a report on similar antimicrobial silver bonding can be found in Nature. This technology is also offered as a handy ionized antimicrobial phone screen protector which is applied to your phone’s glass. 

The OtterBox Symmetry Series brings much of the rugged design of the Commuter case into a far sleeker body. If the large size of the Commuter is too much for your pocket, then the Symmetry is a good bet (especially since it’s also available with antimicrobial construction). While the bezel depth around the camera does suffer, the case still offers quality drop protection. 

Best Designer: Prada Saffiano Case

Iconic and Sleek. Prada

Why It Made The Cut: With the iconic Prada logo in the rear, this case reinvents the classic black iPhone case with high-end calf leather.

Specs:
– Material: Saffiano leather
– Thickness: Slim design
– Texture: Crosshatch leather with waxed finished
– Special Features: None

Pros:
– Classic Prada quality
– Saffiano leather
– Neutral design

Cons:
– Expensive

The Prada logo is one of the most eye-catching emblems of modern design. This iPhone case from Prada ushers luxury Italian design into the 21st century. Made of waxed Saffiano calfskin leather with the enameled metal Prada logo on the rear, it’s the best leather iPhone case we’ve seen. The Saffiano crosshatch creates a wonderfully subtle visual appeal that updates the classic black body of the case without doing too much. Without the logo one might miss the luxury design of this case, and it’s that subtlety that makes it special and the best designer iPhone case. 

The Prada case won our hearts, but when you’re shopping for a designer phone case, so much of the choice comes down to taste. We also loved Gucci’s 1970s-inspired GG Marmont design. The Marmont conjures a world where the iPhone is in the midst of 1970s fashion. It looks timeless—which is a supremely rare quality in phone accessories.

This iPhone case from Louis Vuitton also deserves a mention, with its black canvas construction paired with a calf leather pocket. The printed LV monogram on the pocket is a nice touch and makes for another subtle pick, making this a contender for the best iPhone case with a card holder that we’ve seen—for those who can afford the luxury price point.

Best Waterproof: LIFEPROOF FRĒ SERIES Waterproof Case

Waterproof and Shock-Resistant. LifeProof

Why It Made The Cut: With its excellent seal and solid build, this is a case that’s ready for anything.

Specs:
– Material: Silicone
– Thickness: Somewhat thick
– Texture: Basic plastic
– Special Features: Water-, snow-, and dust-resistant 

Pros:
– Waterproofing up to 2 meters
– Drop protection up to 2 meters
– Built-in scratch protection

Cons:
– Covers and muffles speakers and microphone, can be difficult to hear
– Space between screen and protector can make it harder to type

LIFEPROOF FRĒ SERIES is the best waterproof iPhone case on the market. Submersible up to two meters (a little over 6.5 feet), you won’t need to worry if you accidentally drop your phone in the pool or in a puddle. With excellent drop protection and raised bezels around your phone’s camera lenses, you won’t need to worry about accidental phone-shattering blunders. All this extra waterproofing and armor does come with a drawback though, and this case does cause noticeable muffling that bothers some users. The covering over the screen also creates some space that can interfere with the comfort of texting for some. 

Best for Gen Z: CASETiFY Ultra Impact Case

Viral Chic. CASETiFY

Why It Made The Cut: With bright patterns, customizable designs, and eco-conscious decision making, CASETiFY delivers quality as well as flash.

Specs:
– Material: Polycarbonate, thermoplastic polyurethane
– Thickness: Slim
– Texture: Basic plastic with edge texture
– Special Features: Eco-conscious choices available

Pros:
– Customizable on the CASETiFY web shop
– Solid drop protection
– Eco-friendly options available that use up to 65 percent recycled plastics
– Shipped in 100 percent recyclable plastic
– Antimicrobial designs available

Cons:
– Can be pricey
– Not great camera protection

CASETiFY is known for super bold customizable cases with a nod to the eco-conscious. The CASETiFY Ultra Impact case comes in lots of available designs, some flashy and some subdued. These are good quality cases, but the one design drawback is in the low bezels around the camera. The slim case doesn’t have great camera protection. However the front screen-protecting bezels do a good job at keeping your screen away from the floor.

However, CASETiFY is not just bright colors and suspended glitter. One of our favorite parts about CASETiFY is the RECASETiFY program which offers a 15 percent discount to your next purchase when you return a used plastic phone case (of any brand) for recycling. Many models from the company use 65 percent recycled plastics. In July 2021, CASETiFY also launched a 100 percent compostable phone case, which you can check out below. This is an exciting innovation from such a buzzy company, and puts them in healthy competition with Pela for the best eco-friendly iPhone case. We love to see it.

Most Sustainable: CASETiFY Custom Compostable Case

Eco-Friendly Protection. CASETiFY

Why It Made the Cut: CASETiFY offers customizable iPhone cases for a range of models  — but this case stands out because it can be composted when you’re ready to move on to another case.

Specs:
– Material: Proprietary ecotify (a blend of biopolymers, corn starch, and bamboo)
Thickness: Slim
Texture: Soft and flexible
Special Features: Completely biodegradable and compostable; can be engraved

Pros:
– Eco-friendly construction
– Customizable
– Recyclable cardboard packaging

Cons:
– Customers report it stains easily and gets nicks when dropped

CASETiFY offers tons of phone cases, but its Custom Compostable Case is one that can provide both solid protection and waste-free disposal once the time comes to replace it. The case is made of CASETiFY’s proprietary ecotify material, which is made using biopolymers, corn starch, and bamboo. The result is a flexible case that is completely biodegradable and compostable, so you can take it to a composting facility or send it back to CASETiFY to be disposed of properly. 

The compostable case is, as its name suggests, customizable. You can choose from among five colors — Night Tulip (black), Camellia (pink), Rose (red), Cactus (sage green), and Lavender (light purple) — for the case itself. Then you can pick from five fonts and four layout styles for the engraving. While customers report that the case is prone to nicks and scratches, CASETiFY touts a high stress capacity and a four-foot drop-proof build, preventing your device from bearing the brunt of any falls.

Best Premium: Element Black Ops X3

Tactically Perfect. Jaime Carrillo/Futurism

Why It Made the Cut: For the ultimate in phone protection, Element Black Ops X3 isn't just ready, it's military-grade ready. 

Specs:
– Material: Hard anodized aircraft grade aluminum, military grade G10 fiberglass composite, polycarbonate and thermoplastic polyurethane
Thickness: Thick
Texture: Hard and sturdy
Special Features: Military grade durability

Pros:
– Military specification drop shock body
– Removable card magazine
– Doubles as a multi-tool

Cons:
– Requires installation
– Pricey

There's protection, and there's mil-spec protection. The Element Black Ops X3 is rife with tactical features that are equally great for civilians.

Off the bat, the case is heavier than it looks. That's because the shell is made from aircraft-grade aluminum. If it's good enough for fighter jets, it's gotta be good enough for a $1,000 iPhone. It can withstand slips on carpet, kitchen tile, and concrete without fail. But the top-of-its-class protection is the beginning of the Black Ops X3 features. A money click slides in and out easily, and holds up to three cards, that slide out whenever you need them. That's less than I can report for Apple's official MagSafe wallet attachment. The wallet even has a deep pocket clip for tool belts and naturally, deep pockets. There's even a mechanical kickstand that props up the iPhone at a 35 degree angle for easy streaming. Unlike any other case in its class, one of the corners doubles as a glass breaking tool, which is essential for survival in the event of the emergency. Tactical readiness aside, this isn't the kind of case that slips in and off in seconds. You actually have to break out a screw driver to install it on your phone. Luckily, these tools come packed in with the case, and in its own case no less. This unmatched durability and versatility comes at a premium though, but it's a small price to pay for the best in protection. - Jaime Carrillo

Things To Consider Before Buying an iPhone Case

Needs And Wants

Before you purchase a cellphone case be sure that you examine your lifestyle and what it demands. A quality iPhone case contains both form and function. However, those that contain the most of either often exclude the other. If you’re a fashion forward city dweller, you likely don’t need guaranteed waterproofing up to two meters. Luckily, there are rugged options for those of us who find ourselves climbing mountains, and designer options for when we get invited to the Met Gala. 

Price—And How to Circumvent It

Authentic Gucci accessories will always be prohibitively expensive for most of us. Luckily, a simple, clear $20 iPhone case can be spruced up into an eye catcher with a few collaged photographs, drawings, or magazine clippings. Stickers also do wonders. As with so many things in the modern world, you can spend as much as you want to on an iPhone case—but you don’t have to. Finding the right price point for your needs is always achievable.

Sustainability

The goal of better sustainability is part of the global zeitgeist, and today it’s easy to find an iPhone case that’s better for the environment. Cases made of bioengineered plant based materials like the Pela case and the CASETiFY compostable case come with a promise of strong protection that isn’t made of plastics. These companies and others also offer perks like discounts for recycling your phone, donations to environmental charities, and compostable packaging to ensure your iPhone case purchase isn’t causing harm to the environment. This offers demonstrable change. When millions of people choose to buy compostable phone cases, it takes millions of individual plastic objects out of circulation and replaces them with bioplastics that break down to non-polluting compounds in months-to-years instead of millennia. 

FAQs

Q: Which is the most protective phone case?

While the OtterBox Commuter is our pick for the best protective iPhone case, the LIFEPROOF FRĒ SERIES with its waterproofing is more versatile. However it does come with a price, as it tends to muffle vocals. Consequently, the OtterBox is the better day-to-day protective case for most people.

Q: What type of iPhone case is best?

This greatly depends on your needs, but we like the slim compostable eco-friendly cases from Pela and the customizable CASETiFY compostable case. Both do the job of protecting your iPhone well while minimizing polluting waste. However if you’re looking for a case with maximal protection, opt for the OtterBox Commuter.

Q: Are MagSafe cases more expensive?

MagSafe cases are more expensive. The Speck Products Presidio Perfect Clear is significantly more expensive than the basic Speck clear case, and that’s not unreasonable. MagSafe technology amplifies a phone's potential if you use wireless charging. Many cases offer MagSafe technology, but some like the OtterBox function better with their own brand proprietary wireless charger rather than the official Apple MagSafe charger. Thus, an Apple MagSafe charger case might be your best bet if you’re a dedicated MagSafe user. 

Final Thoughts on the Best iPhone Cases

With so many options out there, shopping for an iPhone case becomes quite exciting. As more of our social expression moves online, our smartphones become pocket portals through which we access our digital selves. Along the way, maybe our phone case presentation becomes like a physical avatar for our digital selves.

You certainly have options for self expression in 2-21. However, if you’re shopping for protection the OtterBox Commuter is a natural crowd favorite. We also love the Pela for its solid fall resistant design and successful compostable build that feels like a beacon of hope in consumer technology accessories.

This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.


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