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Remember the days when cell phones cost only a couple hundred dollars, at most? And I’m not just talking about your standard flip phones (which, by the way, are kind of a thing again). Even coveted relics of the mid-aughts — who didn’t want a Motorola Razr in 2006? — had relatively modest price tags, at least compared to the cell phones of today. These days, we walk around with $1,000 glass computers in our pocket, and we rely on them for pretty much everything.
If you aren’t already, you should be protecting that precious hardware with a heavy-duty phone case. The latest iPhones are works of technological art, and with each iteration comes a slimmer, lighter design. So if you’re resistant to a clunky case, that makes sense. But that fragile phone was not meant for the clumsiest of us. If you’re prone to drops, you know the drill of paying for monthly repair coverage or spending hundreds for a new screen at a third-party shop. A heavy-duty phone case takes all that stress out of the equation. Safety first, right?
And if you still hate the notion of adding bulk, try this — enlist a trimmer phone case for lower-risk daily life around the house (you can even go full commando if that’s your thing), then pop on a heavy-duty phone case when you’re more likely to incur damage (traveling, working out, etc.).
How to Shop for Heavy-Duty Phone Cases
When shopping for heavy-duty phone cases, you’ll read a lot about the military drop test, which is an actual military procedure developed to assess the durability of the equipment. MIL-STD-810G — as it’s often stylized as — drops gear 26 times from a height of 48 inches. Encased phones that pass this test must emerge fully intact, function and free of any aesthetic or internal damage. Look for that military code when shopping, as it essentially guarantees great protection. It should be noted, however, that the military drop-test does not consider screen damage, so we recommend snagging a good screen protector if you’re particularly prone in that department.
Lastly, though it might seem like everyone you know uses an iPhone, we’ve done our best to keep things brand agnostic. Many of the heavy-duty phone cases we sourced are available in styles designed for multiple phone models, and we’ve noted when that’s the case (pun intended).
1. Otterbox Defender Series
True to its name, the Otterbox Defender is one of the toughest heavy-duty phone cases available. It touts protection that can withstand four times as many drops as the military test but still features a relatively slim design. Made with 50% recycled plastic, the Defender is also compatible with wireless chargers and features a holster you can also double as a hands-free kickstand. The Defender also wins the top spot for its versatility — it’s available for pretty much every smartphone on the market. The option linked below is for the latest iPhone.
2. ORIbox Case
At only $10, this heavy-duty phone case is a great case for iPhone users, as ORIbox offers nine different color options in addition to the clear choice pictured below. It’s one of the most affordable cases on the market, and if that price sketches you out, just take a look at the nearly-12,000 Amazon reviews and the case’s 4.3 average rating. The heavy-duty plastic case provides plenty of protection while boasting all the necessary cutouts for all the necessary functions. It adds raised lips around the screen and camera for added protection.
3. Scooch Wingman Case
Scooch is another phone accessory brand that makes everything from cases and screen protectors to kickstands and car mounts. Its Wingman case is another worthy addition to this list and offers a handful of eccentric patterns (if that’s your thing) in addition to its standard clear and black options. A major perk here is Scooch’s ReStyle inserts, which allow you to swap different styles in and out, depending on what you’re feeling. Scooch also offers a one-year warranty on its case and offers options for iPhone and Samsung users.
4. MXX Case (Galaxy S21 Ultra)
BEST FOR SAMSUNG USERS
If you’re all about that Android life, check out this Samsung Galaxy S21 case from MXX. Its triple-layer defense features an inner shell, outer cover and frontside trim to protect your phone from drops up to 14 feet. Each piece is detachable, making it easy to clean, and reviewers compare this one favorably to the Otterbox, which is a high price for a case a quarter of the price.
5. Spigen Tough Armor Case for Google Pixel 5
BEST FOR PIXEL USERS
Google hardware fans, we’ve got a case for you. The Spine Touch Armor Case enlists a foam technology for extra shock resistance while utilizing a relatively slim design that still passes the military test. The case features a kickstand on the back, and an advanced sound tunnel technology to actually enhance the speaker quality while the case is on. It’s available in a trio of dark, industrial colors.
6. Poetic Spartan Case for OnePlus 9
BEST FOR ONEPLUS
Though OnePlus isn’t quite the household name of some of its competitors, there’s still a loyal base of users looking to protect their precious phones. This case from Poetic Spartan provides military-level protection with a kickstand and leather-textured exterior that looks straight out of a sci-fi movie. It’s admittedly not the slimmest case out there — and reviewers note that this does affect wireless charging capabilities — but you can rest assured that your OnePlus is safe from drops.
7. Rokform Rugged Case
BEST FOR MOUNTING
Rokform makes awesome cases for both iPhones and Samsung Galaxies, and true to its name, offers rugged protection for all of life’s adventures (and risks). The Rugged case has a powerful built-in magnetic for secure mounting in your car or bike and is compatible with Apple’s MagSafe accessories, which gives it a huge leg up on some of its bulkier competitors. It’s military drop tested, plays nicely with external screen protectors, and comes with a two-year limited warranty.