August 11, 2020

Our guide to picking the best case for your new phone

We take a look at some of the best smartphone case manufacturers out there and see what they have to offer to offer.

Google Pixel 3a Purple-ish Case Headphone Jack

Most smartphones nowadays feature metal or glass builds, and so, keeping them safe and free from damage can be quite difficult. A good case or cover goes a long way, even if you don’t want to hide the phone’s beautiful design. However, some cases can add some style points to it as well. From the ultra-slim to the extremely rugged, there’s a type of cover for everybody.

If you’re looking to buy a case, you might be curious to 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, as well as highlight some of the best smartphone case manufacturers around!


What kind of case do I need?

Phone cases can be broadly divided into four different categories — thin, hybrid, wallet, and rugged. These categories are mostly self-explanatory, but let’s take a quick look at what they entail.

  • Thin cases: These cases are usually ultra-thin and barely add any bulk to the phone. They are generally single-layer covers made with either TPU or polycarbonate. You’ll find a lot of good-looking thin cases out there, and everyone wants as minimal a case as possible for their phones. 
  • Hybrid cases: Hybrid cases are a great middle between ultra-thin and rugged cases. A lot of these cases are really thin and light as well, but offer a lot more protection than thin cases. Hybrid cases include anything that uses a combination of materials, like a polycarbonate back and a TPU bumper, like the Ringke Fusion-X, or a relatively thin dual-layer case.
  • Rugged cases: Rugged cases are big and bulky but will ensure that your phone can survive almost anything. Extremely heavy-duty cases are usually for those that work in harsh environments or are particularly clumsy.
  • Wallet cases: Wallet cases let you keep cards, ID, and some cash while keeping your phone protected. The folio cover also helps keep the display safe without needing a screen protector.

The best bet for most smartphone owners would be a hybrid case. There are a lot of excellent options out there, and they offer a lot of protection despite being quite thin and light. Cases like the UAG Plasma and Ringke Fusion-X come with the same MIL-STD 810G-516.6 certification for impact resistance as rugged cases, and do so without making the phone heavy.

Ultra-rugged cases are a niche category, but users will appreciate the fact that the phone will survive almost anything. If you work in harsh environments or are particularly clumsy, these cases will certainly offer some peace of mind.

Ultimately picking the right case comes down to knowing what kind of protection and features you need.

A wallet case is great for anyone that wants the convenience of it. Not only do you get to carry cash and cards, but the folio cover often doubles as a kickstand. Genuine leather wallet cases are a touch expensive, but look fantastic as well.

Thin cases are minimalistic and what most people would prefer. However, they offer varying degrees of protection. Some of these options aren’t the most protective, might leave buttons and the screen exposed, and aren’t for anyone who isn’t careful. There are exceptions of course, like the Spigen Rugged Armor or Liquid Air, which are both excellent cases.


Our recommendation: Spigen for the win

pixel 4 xl spigen tough armor

At Android Authority we highly recommend Spigen cases. Why? They tend to be a perfect blend of affordability and reliability. There are rarely issues with Spigen cases when it comes to fit (and they tend to be very good at protecting our phones. The brand also makes a variety of cases in pretty much every style and type you could dream of. 

Of course, Spigen isn’t the only worthwhile brand out there. Any of the other brands on this list are also definitely worthy of your consideration. What about brands not on this list? Honestly, it’s about doing your homework. There are tons of brands out there and really any case can be worth the investment.

Before you buy a case from a brand you’re not familiar with, just be sure to check for the following:

  • Look through owner-submitted reviews on sites like Amazon. What are people saying? Do these short reviews look legit? For example, it’s possible they are paid or sponsored submissions if they are super vague and poorly written. 
  • Look for oddities like if the product reviews aren’t actually for the product! This surprisingly happens a lot with 3rd party cases from obscure brands. 

Reader recommendation: Everybody loves Spigen!

It’s not just Team AA that recommends Spigen. In a poll from January this year, the vast majority of Android Authority readers (38.1%) voted for Spigen. That’s not a huge surprise to us. As mentioned, Spigen makes some of the best cases around. The smartphone selection is quite diverse, and most of their cases are quite affordable.

A distant second with 12.2% of the votes goes to the “I have no allegiance to one particular brand� crowd. Third place with 8.6% of the votes goes to first-party cases, like ones from Samsung, Google, or other smartphone OEMs. Otterbox is another popular one amongst our readers, garnering 5.6% of the votes. Finally, the “I just choose whatever’s cheapest� crowd made up 6.2% of the votes this time around.

 


Now for a look at our six favorite case manufacturers

You  should now know what brands are most popular and what kind of case types are out there. Now it is time to pick the right case! Below we take a closer look at our six favorite case brands, as well as give you advice about some of the specific types of cases each brand produces. 

Editor’s note: We’ll be updating this list of the best manufacturers of smartphone cases regularly.

1. Spigen

spigen

Credit: Spigen

Spigen is one of the most popular case makers out there as we’ve already made quite clear, and with good reason. It has a wide variety of cases in its portfolio, from the ultra-thin hard shell to the rugged dual-layer cover. It also does a pretty great job as far as phone selection is concerned. You will definitely get a Spigen case if you have a flagship phone, even going back a few years.

That said, the company also offers at least one case for a number of mid-rangers and even some entry-level devices. Spigen cases are also relatively cheap, with the price of the different types of cases usually between $8 and $20.

The best Spigen case: Rugged Armor

The Spigen Rugged Armor is a personal favorite and one of the best cases the company has to offer. It’s thin and light, and utilizes air cushion technology and a spider web pattern on the inside to help with shock absorption. Adding to its protective capabilities are covered buttons and a raised lip around the display.

It’s also a good-looking case, with carbon fiber elements on the back adding a touch of style. If you’re looking for a decently protective case that doesn’t make the phone too heavy, the Rugged Armor is a great way to go. The Spigen Rugged Armor is available for most current generation flagships.

Get the Spigen Rugged Armor case for:

Other Spigen cases

Regardless of the type of case you are looking for, Spigen has something for you. Its ultra-thin options, like the Thin Fit and Air Armor, are great. The Liquid Crystal and Ultra Hybrid are transparent cases that let you show off the phone’s design, and the Spigen Neo Hybrid is a stylish alternative to the Rugged Armor.

The case maker also has an excellent rugged option in the form of the Tough Armor, a dual-layer case with a built-in kickstand. And that is just to name a few. You’ll find cases like the Liquid Crystal, Rugged Armor, and Tough Armor for most phones. Popular devices have even more options though, with a couple of wallet cases added to the mix.


2. Otterbox

otterbox

Credit: Otterbox

The go-to case brand to keep your phone completely safe is undoubtedly Otterbox. It has a few different types of cases available, but the common theme across the board is heavy-duty protection. These cases are big, bulky, and might not be the most visually appealing, but they’ll certainly keep your phone protected during accidental bumps and drops.

Otterbox cases are on the more expensive side, with prices ranging from around $30 to $70. But it might be worth getting an expensive case to make sure that the far more expensive smartphone stays undamaged for as long as possible.

Otterbox cases are available globally, but its smartphone selection is limited to US releases. That said, if a phone is available in the US, from the entry-level to the flagship, you’ll probably find an Otterbox case for it.

The best Otterbox case: Defender series

The Otterbox Defender series is one of the more protective options available from the rugged case maker. The case is thick and heavy, but the multi-layered protection is great. All buttons and ports are also covered, so it keeps the phone safe from environmental ingress as well.

A version of the Defender case also comes with a front plate with a built-in screen protector, but that is mostly available with older phones. A “screenless� edition comes with a raised lip to keep the display safe, but allows easy access to under-display fingerprint scanners. Both versions of the case come with a holster with a belt clip, that also doubles as a kickstand.

Get the Otterbox Defender for:

Other Otterbox cases

The Defender might bring more to the table in terms of protection, but the Symmetry and Commuter cases might be the better option for most people. These are sleeker and lighter, but don’t compromise on safety in any way. These cases are also available for a wider range of smartphones when compared to the Defender series.

The company also has a cheaper Commuter Lite case that is intended for entry-level and mid-range phones. At the other end of the price spectrum is the Defender Pro series, which earns the Pro moniker by adding an anti-bacterial layer to its protective features.


3. Speck

speck

Credit: Speck

Cases by Speck are also great options if you’re looking to keep your phone in great condition. Speck has a few case variants on offer, but the basic principle stays largely the same. They lean towards the slim and light side of things, but that doesn’t mean that they are any less protective than other options on this list.

You’ll find Speck cases for most major flagship smartphones, but while there are some random surprises, the company doesn’t really dive into mid-range or entry-level territory. Speck cases are also a little expensive, with a price point between $25 and $40 for most of their products.

The best Speck case: Presidio Grip

The company’s most commonly available case is the Presidio Grip and is also the most easily recognizable. The thin case earns its name courtesy of raised ridges on the back that are great for grip. Extra corner protection and dual layers ensure that the phone will be fine after a drop. All recent versions of the case come with Microban’s anti-microbial technology that keeps 99% of bacteria away.

Get the Speck Presidio Grip for:

Other Speck cases

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 10 feet. All recent versions of these cases also come with Microban’s anti-microbial technology.

These variants are generally only available with the more popular flagships though, while the Presidio Grip seems to be universal. Speck also offers cases for a few mid-rangers in the form of the Presidio Lite, but these aren’t always as good as its more expensive counterparts.


4. Urban Armor Gear

uag

UAG (Urban Armor Gear) cases are also extremely popular among smartphone users, but that’s not surprising at all. All its cases are quite rugged and meet the MIL-STD 810G 516.6 standard for drop protection and impact resistance. Complete protection is the name of the game here across all its cases. But some of its popular options are also surprisingly light-weight and thin enough to allow wireless charging and NFC payments.

UAG’s phone selection is quite diverse, and you have nothing to worry about if you a recent flagship. The case maker, surprisingly, has options available for almost every Samsung smartphone released in the US, going all the way from the Galaxy S20 Ultra to the Galaxy A11. However, its luck of the draw if you’re hoping to find one for other mid-range and entry-level devices.

UAG cases are also on the more expensive side, with a price range of $25 to $60. The perfect blend of rugged features and sleek designs is well worth the price though.

The best UAG case: Plasma

The UAG Plasma is a feather-light case but doesn’t compromise on protection in any way. The corners are reinforced and you get covered buttons, all without making the phone bulky. It also has a distinctive look, so there’s no mistaking this for anything other than a UAG cover.

Get the UAG Plasma for:

Other UAG cases

The UAG Plasma is the most widely available option, but if you’re looking for more rugged protection, the Monarch is a great choice. It comes with multi-layer protection and is made with premium materials to ensure that your phone is safe. The case will still let you wirelessly charge the phone and make mobile payments though.

Samsung and Apple flagships come with a wider variety of case types, with the likes of the Pathfinder, Civilian, and Plyo available for these phones. When it comes to mid-range and entry-level smartphones, the UAG Scout is the case you’re looking for. The company also recently launched the Outback series with cases that are completely biodegradable and compostable.


5. Ringke

ringke

Credit: Ringke

Ringke may not a variety of case types to choose from, but it remains a very popular choice for a lot of users. The cases are great, of course, but one of the reasons for the company’s popularity is because of the large number of devices it supports.

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.

If you’re looking for a case for a phone going as far back as 2016, don’t be surprised if you find a Ringke option. It certainly helps that these cases are quite cheap too, with most of them hovering at around the $10 mark.

The best Ringke case: Fusion-X

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 when it comes to Ringke cases.

Get the Ringke Fusion-X for:

Other Ringke cases

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 light-weight case that may not be suited for the clumsy. The Ringke Fusion and Slim are the cases you’ll get for phones that are more than a couple of years old.


6. Poetic

poetic

Credit: Poetic

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 some of the 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 definitely get the job done and will 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.

The best Poetic case: Poetic Affinity

The Poetic Affinity is a thin, ultra-light case that is similar to the UAG Plasma at a fraction of the price. It may not be as protective as the latter, but its safety features are more than good enough. The case comes with a TPU bumper to help with corner protection and shock absorption, and while it is thin and light, it comes with a MIL-STD 810G-516.6 certification.

Get the Poetic Affinity for:

Other Poetic cases

For complete all-round protection, one of the best is the Revolution series. The Revolution case is Poetic’s rugged option, that not only keeps the device safe from accidental drops, but also comes with port covers and a front panel with a built-in screen protector. These cases also feature a built-in kickstand, and some even have a belt clip holster.

Along the same lines are the Poetic Guardian and Spartan cases, without the benefit of a belt clip holster. The Revolution, Guardian, and Affinity are available for most smartphones. The Karbon Shield isn’t as widely found, but is another excellent thin, light, and stylish option to consider.


Device specific case recommendations

Looking to get a case for a specific device? Below is a link to just some of our device-specific case recommendations:

Of course we have literally hundreds of device-specific case lists, though above are some of the most popular ones. If you can’t find what you’re looking for, be sure to hit Google.

Frequently asked questions

Below are some of the questions we get asked most frequently by folks looking to buy a new case, or simply learning how to best maintain their existing cases. Have a question not listed? Let us know in the comments and we’ll be sure to add it to the list. 

Do I need a waterproof case?

Honestly it depends on your use case. Many of today’s phones already have basic waterproofing. 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. 

What does MIL-STD 810G-516.6 mean?

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. 

How do I clean and disinfect a phone case?

There are a variety of ways to disinfect and clean a phone, including using special wipes or a microfiber cloth. For more specifics, check out our guide to properly cleaning your phone.

How do I clean a clear phone case that is turning yellow?

Over time, clear cases sometimes get a bit of a yellow tint to them. 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 tootbrush 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 if the case is very worn, the process might not make much of a difference.

How do you get sticky residue off a phone case?

If you’re the kind that likes to decorate your case with stickers, you might find that removing them leaves sticky residue behind. Thankfully the residue can easily be removed 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.