Buying a colorful phone case can be a quick and easy way to personalize your smartphone and make it stand out in a crowd. But that’s not the only function a case serves.
Some phone cases are made to protect the phone’s hardware and screen from drops and the elements while others can be used as a wallet. There are even some phone cases that are made to protect your mobile device from wireless hacks.
This buying guide will help you find the right phone case for your smartphone model based on your own personal style and what features are important to you.
What Is a Phone Case?
A phone case is typically a soft silicone, leather, or hard plastic shell your phone goes into for decoration and/or protection. While these types of phone cases are the most popular styles, there are others that look like a leather journal with a cover that closes over the screen like a book cover, some that can transform into a stand, and others that basically look like a bag or purse, often referred to as a sleeve, that you put your smartphone into.
Additional types of phone cases include armband phone cases, for strapping a smartphone to your arm during exercise, and lanyard cases, to hang your phone from while attending an event. Clear screen protectors, which protect the smartphone’s screen only, also often fall within the phone case category. Some phone cases feature a built-in screen protector and function as a two-in-one product.
5 Factors to Consider When Buying a Phone Case
The sheer variety of phone cases on the market can make picking one very intimidating. The whole process can be much more complicated than just deciding between a clear phone case and a colorful phone case.
Here are five of the most important issues to consider when choosing which phone case to buy for your smartphone.
- Phone Model
- Type of Protection
- Price and Quality
What Smartphone Model Is the Phone Case Made For?
By far the most important factor to consider when buying a phone case is the smartphone model or models that it’s designed for.
You can’t simply buy a phone case for an average iPhone or Android smartphone. You need to make sure the case is designed to fit the specific model that you own. For example, a phone case designed for an iPhone 12 probably won’t fit on an iPhone 14. Furthermore, a case made for an iPhone 14 Plus won’t fit a regular iPhone 14.
When buying a phone case, check the specific model number in addition to the smartphone brand or type.
Phone case sleeves can be used with a larger variety of smartphone models than a silicone or hardshell phone case but it’s still worth checking the list of supported phones first.
What Type of Protection Does the Phone Case Offer?
If your primary motivation for buying a phone case is to protect your smartphone from physical damage, make sure to check exactly what type of protection it offers. This information can usually be found on the case’s packaging and official website.
Here are some terms to keep an eye out for.
- Waterproof: Protection against splashes and submersion
- Shock Absorption: Protection against hits and bangs
- Drop Proof: Protection from drops and throws
- Dust Proof: Will stop dust from entering a phone’s ports
Most phone cases offer some degree of protection but there’s a big difference between the protection offered by a cheap hardshell phone case and that provided by a higher-end product offered by companies such as Urban Armor Gear and Otterbox.
If you're after a phone case with high-level protection, look for MIL-STD-810G or MIL-STD-810H certification on its packaging. These specifications are used by the US military to guarantee protection against shock, humidity, low and high pressure, and even gunfire shock.
A niche type of protection offered by some phone case companies is hacker or intrusion proofing. These phone cases are sleeves that function as a Faraday cage and block most outgoing and incoming wireless signals.
What Style of Phone Case Do You Want?
Are you just looking for a case to make your smartphone stand out in a crowd and match your aesthetic? If so, there’s an almost unlimited number of colorful phone cases to choose from featuring artwork ranging from traditional paintings to modern pop culture characters.
Hardshell and silicone phone cases that snap onto the back and sides of your smartphone have the most variety in designs to choose from though you may also like to consider the large number of leather and faux leather phone cases which look like a purse or wallet. This type of phone case can usually close around the entire mobile device to cover the screen when it’s not being used.
What Phone Case Features Do You Want?
Many phone cases boast additional features such as notches for connecting your case to a lanyard or strap, a built-in kickstand, a battery for extending the phone’s battery life, and even LED lights.
Lots of leather phone cases include card holder slots which can be incredibly convenient when having a night on the town. If you track your workouts, you may want to consider an armband phone case that can attach to your arm during your cardio sessions.
How Much Should a Phone Case Cost?
Phone case prices do vary quite a bit. Basic colored and clear plastic phone cases usually fall within the $5-15 price range while high quality leather cases and those designed for heavy duty damage protection can cost around $25-50.
Some premium phone cases with professional grade shielding or a famous brand name can cost over $100.
Who Should Buy a Phone Case?
Basic phone cases that mostly just add some visual flair to a smartphone are generally considered to be luxury items. However, those who have a tendency to drop their devices may benefit from a case that offers impact protection.
On the other hand, people with an active or outdoor lifestyle may benefit from investing in a phone case that provides protection against the elements. For example, someone who swims or surfs a lot would do well to buy a phone case that provides waterproofing while someone who goes camping would benefit from a case that has impact protection and a built-in battery.
What to Do After You Buy
After you buy a phone case, there are several things you may want to try.
- Clean your new phone case. Even though it’s new, cleaning your phone case is still worth doing in case there’s any dust or germs on it.
- Remove the screen protector. If your new phone case has a built-in screen protector, make sure you remove your existing one if you have one.
- Clean your smartphone. Cleaning your phone is important so you don’t trap any dirt, dust, and germs when you put the phone case on.
- Clean your phone’s speakers. Make sure to clean your smartphone’s speakers. Especially if your new case is going to cover them.
- Clean the charging port. Sometimes putting a new case on your phone can push grime further into a charging port so make sure you clean the ports on the phone before putting the phone in the case.
More Tips for Buying Phone Cases
Here’s some quick last-minute advice before you make your phone case purchase.
- Plan ahead. Don’t buy a new case if you’re thinking of upgrading to a newer smartphone model as the size may be different.
- Choose a case for every occasion. That case may look great while camping but how will it look in a business meeting?
- Do you need a phone case with cardholder functionality? You may regret not having this popular feature down the line.
- Check for certifications. Make sure that a brand can back up how strong its phone case is.
- How do I clean a clear phone case?
To clean a clear phone case, use mild soap and warm water to clean the case thoroughly with a sponge or brush. Rinse and dry the case. If you're not happy with the results, wet a microfiber cloth with some isopropyl alcohol and wipe down the case, paying close attention to stains.
- How do I take a phone case off?
To take off your phone case, gently pry a corner of the case away from your device, repeat with the corner on the same side, lift out that half, and then pry away the other two corners. Lift the phone out completely; it's best to do this over a towel or cushioned area in case you accidentally drop the unprotected phone.
- How do I customize a phone case?
Various online services let you customize a phone case with your own designs or photos. The Custom Envy website is one option. Websites like Shutterfly and Casetify also allow various photo design, color, and other unique options.