How to Choose Your Ideal Phone Case

5 things to consider, including protection and security features

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 cases protect the phone’s hardware and screen from drops and the elements, while others double as a wallet.

Close-Up Of Mobile Phones With Covers Over White Background.

Getty Images/Buree Lalitathada/EyeEm

This buying guide will help you find the best phone case for your smartphone model based on your style and what features are important to you.

Types of Phone Cases

A phone case is typically a soft silicone, leather, or rigid plastic shell that protects your phone. While these phone cases are the most popular styles, others 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 sleeves that look like a bag or purse.

Other types of phone cases include armbands 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 only protect the smartphone’s screen, 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 deciding between a clear phone case and a colorful one.

Here are the five most important issues to consider when choosing which phone case to buy for your smartphone.

  • Phone Model
  • Type of Protection
  • Fashion
  • Function
  • Price and Quality

Sizing a Phone Case

The most crucial factor to consider when buying a phone case is the smartphone model it fits.

You can’t simply buy a phone case for an average iPhone or Android smartphone. Most cases fit only one smartphone model. For example, a phone case designed for an iPhone 12 won’t work with an iPhone 14. Furthermore, an iPhone 14 Plus case won’t fit a regular iPhone 14.

When buying a phone case, check the specific model number and the smartphone brand or type.

You can use sleeves with more 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, check what type of protection it offers. This information is usually on the case’s packaging and official website.

Rugged smartphone case.

Lifewire/Tamara Staples

Here are some terms to keep in mind.

  • 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. Still, 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. The US military uses these specifications to guarantee protection against shock, humidity, low and high pressure, and even gunfire shock.

Some phone case companies offer 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.

A variety of plastic and wooden smartphone cases on a yellow table.


Hardshell and silicone phone cases that snap onto the back and sides of your smartphone have the most variety in designs though you may also like to consider the selection of leather and faux leather phone cases which look like a purse or wallet. These phone cases can usually close around the entire mobile device to cover the screen when you're not using it.

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.

Rugged smartphone case with stand.

Lifewire/Tamara Staples

Many leather phone cases include card holder slots which can be incredibly convenient for a night out 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. 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.

Set of colored silicone covers for smart phone on rustic wooden table.

Getty Images/Isabel Pavia

Who Should Buy a Phone Case?

Simple phone cases add visual flair to a smartphone. However, those who tend to drop their devices may benefit from one that offers impact protection.

On the other hand, people with an active or outdoor lifestyle may benefit from investing in a phone case that protects 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 need one 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 if there’s any dust or germs on it. 
  • Remove the screen protector. If your new phone case has a built-in screen protector, remove your existing one if you have one.
  • Clean your smartphone. Cleaning your phone is essential so you don’t trap dirt, dust, and germs when putting the phone case on.
  • Clean your phone’s speakers. Make sure to clean your smartphone’s speakers, especially if your new case will cover them.
  • Clean the charging port. Sometimes putting a new case on your phone can push grime further into a charging port, so clean the ports before placing 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 considering upgrading your smartphone, as the size may differ.
  • 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. Ensure that a brand can back up its phone case's strength.
  • 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 it. If you're unhappy with the results, wet a microfiber cloth with some isopropyl alcohol and wipe it down, 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 out 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 designs or photos. The Custom Envy website is one option. Websites like Shutterfly and Casetify allow different photo designs, colors, and other unique options.

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