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The 6 best protective iPhone cases that don’t make your expensive phone look like a big piece of plastic

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Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

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. A good case also shouldn’t look or feel cheap.

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.

Find out more about how Insider Reviews tests and reviews tech products.

The best iPhone cases:

Best general purpose cases: Speck cases
Speck’s cases offer the best balance of style, materials, durability, and protection.

Best cases for style: Native Union cases
Native Union cases are made of premium materials and deliver a premium aesthetic.

Best cases on a budget: Smartish cases
Smartish cases are incredibly affordable, yet they maintain a high standard of quality and protection.

Best leather cases: Nomad cases
Nomad is known for its high-end leather cases that aren’t more expensive than Apple’s own leather cases.

Best cases for extra durability: Otterbox cases
Otterbox prioritizes protection, and the company has built a reputation with its incredibly durable and protective cases.

Best cases for regular protection: Urban Armor Gear cases
Urban Armor Gear’s (UAG) cases also prioritize protection but are less expensive than Otterbox cases.

Best general purpose casesSpeck’s iPhone cases are durable yet slim, which is why we like them.Speck Presido 2 Perfect Clear, Presidio 2 Armor Cloud, and Presido Pro

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

While some cases specialize in durability or sleekness, Speck’s sweet spot is right in the middle.

Pros: Best balance of style and protection, some models support MagSafe

Cons: Can be expensive

Speck cases provide better 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 demanding 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 X all the way through to the iPhone 13 lineup. For the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 series, there are several case models that support Apple’s MagSafe accessories and chargers, too. Speck cases come in many styles, from clear cases to ones with grips, printed patterns, and glittery or ombre finishes. The options will vary depending on your phone model.

Among the wide variety of Speck cases available, we love how the Presidio2 Grip doesn’t add too much bulk to your iPhone but still feels protective. The grips are also perfectly placed, making it easy to hang on to your 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 for iPhone 11, 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 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:

620a94c7e2fe3c0019ea74abSpeck Presidio2 Grip with MagSafe$54.95 FROM SPECK

620a9534fc23d1001804cd75Speck Presidio Perfect-Clear with Grips and MagSafe$54.95 FROM SPECK

Best cases for styleNative Union’s iPhone cases use materials like wood, leather, and fabric.Native Union Clic Card, Clic Wooden, and Clic Canvas

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

We love Native Union’s iPhone cases for their attractive designs made from materials like leather, wood, fabric, and recycled materials.

Pros: Stylish, slim, premium materials, protective, some models support MagSafe

Cons: Limited options, no selection for older iPhones, wood cases can be fragile, unclear cleaning instructions

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 selection for the iPhone 13 series is also quite limited compared to earlier iPhone models. 

We find that 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:

620a9626e2fe3c0019ea74dcNative Union Clic Classic MagSafe Compatible$59.99 FROM NATIVE UNION

620a96b5e2fe3c0019ea74eeNative Union Clic Pop MagSafe Compatible$39.99 FROM NATIVE UNION

Best cases on a budgetSmartish iPhone cases are affordable but are still high quality and protective.Smartish Gripzilla, Kung-Fu Grip, and Wallet Slayer

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

Smartish’s cases are some of the cheapest you’ll find, but they don’t compromise on quality.

Pros: Incredibly affordable, protective, quality build, options for wide range of iPhone models, easy to clean, some models support MagSafe

Cons: Can get smudgy

Smartish makes it hard to justify spending a lot of money on an iPhone case. Their cases typically cost $20 or less but their quality equals cases with higher price tags, and they come in a variety of colors and finishes. Smartish offers cases for iPhones as old as the iPhone 6, making it one of the few companies still making cases for 5-year-old iPhones.

We’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 coarse finish that makes it easy to hold 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 around $50 for a quality case that checks the boxes when it comes to basic protection.

Worth a look:

620a97efe2fe3c0019ea750cSmartish Gripzilla with MagSafe$24.99 FROM SMARTISH

620a985cfc23d1001804cdd2Smartish Gripmunk with MagSafe$19.98 FROM SMARTISH

Best leather casesNomad makes excellent looking genuine leather iPhone cases that won’t break the bankNomad Rugged case with MagSafe and Rugged Folio

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

Nomad’s leather iPhone cases impress when it comes to looks and protection, and they’re reasonably priced. 

Pros: Premium materials, protective, some models support MagSafe, easy to clean

Cons: Limited selection, no options for older iPhones

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 we’ve used before.

Nomad’s iPhone cases are 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 we are 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, the iPhone 12 series, and the iPhone 13 series, so you’ll have to look elsewhere if you have an older phone. 

Worth a look:

61ae5a907802650019c8e16eNomad Modern Leather Case (iPhone 13 Pro Max)$59.95 FROM NOMAD

620a9a6afc23d1001804ce4aNomad Sport Case MagSafe compatible$39.95 FROM NOMAD

Best cases for extra durabilityOtterbox’s iPhone cases are designed for serious protection.Otterbox Symmetry Series+ with MagSafe, Otterbox Defender Series, Otterbox Commuter Series

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

Otterbox has become synonymous with durability and rugged protection when it comes to smartphone cases, and that’s still true in 2022.

Pros: Incredibly protective, options for wide range of iPhone models, some models support MagSafe, easy to clean 

Cons: Can be expensive for newer models, some cases are hard to install and remove, ultra protective models are incredibly bulky

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 with multiple layers and pieces. Some newer models like the Symmetry Series + are also compatible with Apple’s new MagSafe charger and accessories. 

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 13 tend to cost around $65 while older ones can be found for about $30. 

Part of what makes Otterbox stand out is its extra protection around the iPhone’s ports. Even slimmer cases like the Commuter Series include a cover for the Lightning port. The slim Symmetry Series + is also rated for three times as many drops as the military standard. 

The downside, however, is that Otterbox’s extra durable design means some of 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. 

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:

620a9b10fc23d1001804ce79Otterbox Defender Series (iPhone 13)$64.95 FROM OTTERBOX

620a9b77e2fe3c0019ea75efOtterbox Defender Series XT with MagSafe (iPhone 13)$69.95 FROM OTTERBOX

620a9be2e2fe3c0019ea75feOtterbox Otter + Pop Symmetry Series (iPhone 13)$64.95 FROM OTTERBOX

620a9c47fc23d1001804cecaOtterbox Symmetry Series + with MagSafe (iPhone 13)$59.95 FROM OTTERBOX

Best cases for regular protectionUrban Armor Gear’s iPhone cases are built for protection, but aren’t as bulky or expensive as many OtterboxesUrban Armor Gear Pathfinder, Plyo Crystal, and Lucent cases

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

Urban Armor Gear’s (UAG) cases are generally more flexible and less expensive than Otterbox’s, while still providing an impressive level of protection. 

Pros: High protection, large selection, affordable options, some models support MagSafe

Cons: Some models don’t protect as well, cheaper than Otterbox

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 of choice 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 the 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 Pathfinder successfully guarded our iPhone 12 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.

We also really enjoy the $30 Lucent Series case, which we’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, we 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. After a little soap and water, smudges cleared almost immediately.

Worth a look:

608b1a4934af8d001859a03dUrban Armor Gear Pathfinder Series (iPhone 13)$39.95 FROM URBAN ARMOR GEAR

620a9d91e2fe3c0019ea7656Urban Armor Gear Civilian Series (iPhone 13)$49.95 FROM URBAN ARMOR GEAR

620a9e3bfc23d1001804cf1bUrban Armor Gear Plyo with MagSafe Series (iPhone 13)$49.95 FROM URBAN ARMOR GEAR

Others we consideredTwelveSouth specializes in wallet-style iPhone casesTwelveSouth BookBook Vol. 2, SurfacePad, and Journal

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

TwelveSouth: TwelveSouth makes leather wallet cases for the iPhone 13 series, iPhone 12 series, iPhone 11 series, iPhone SE (2020), and iPhone 8, 7. 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 test iPhone casesWe tested nearly two dozen iPhone cases to find the best onesThe iPhone cases included in our guide from Speck, Nomad, Native Union, Otterbox, Urban Armor Gear, and Smartish.

Lisa Eadicicco/Insider

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.

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