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The Best Rugged iPhone Cases of 2017

Rugged iPhone cases protect your iPhone.
The products you'll see throughout our Buying Guide

Imagine dropping your brand-new iPhone. Not just letting it slip out of your hand onto a table or onto a soft, carpeted floor, but dropping it hard onto concrete or pavement. It tumbles, as if doing cartwheels, away from the protection of your hand or pocket. 

You spend hundreds of dollars on an iPhone, and there's no guarantee that you won't drop it. It's a fragile piece of technology full of your contacts, photos and more that you value. Sure, smartphones generally come with a warranty, but you can't get free repairs for having butter fingers. A recent study by independent tech gadget warranty provider SquareTrade revealed that Americans have spent nearly $11 billion on iPhone repairs since the phone was first released. You can buy a regular phone case to protect your phone from scratches and nicks, but you need a rugged iPhone case with layers of materials to withstand falls, drops and slips onto the hard ground. Read more about these protectors of iPhones in our articles on rugged iPhone cases.

Whether you work in an office or out in the field, you can justify a military-grade iPhone case. These rugged cases are made with shock-absorbing materials that can make the difference between shrugging off a clumsy move and panicking because now you have to buy a new smartphone.

Rugged iPhone cases come in a variety of styles, and most of them provide complete wraparound protection with multiple layers and screen protectors. Their materials provide good grip and also keep your iPhone from sliding around. Some offer waterproofing or water resistance. The best rugged iPhone cases don't interfere with your reception and provide button covers and screen protection. Many of the toughest iPhone cases have slimmed down in recent years, complementing your iPhone's sleek, trim design. After all, your iPhone is stylish, so why would you want a case that takes away from that?

The Best Waterproof iPhone Cases

Aside from keeping your phone safe from falls, bumps and slides, some iPhone cases can even keep it safe from water. One of these sturdy cases can prevent you from having to buy a new phone or spend money on pricey repairs after dropping your phone in the water. Although some iPhones include waterproofing technology, you probably shouldn't go dunking your naked iPhone in a pool of water. A good iPhone case meant to protect your phone from water damage, though, can help considerably in case of an accident.

The Pelican Marine gives you a solid barrier that keeps water out of the delicate inner workings of your iPhone. In fact, it sports an IP68 rating, which means it can withstand submersion in 6.6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes.

LifeProof's iPhone cases are all waterproof. Whether you choose a model with a screen protector or without, the case creates a tight seal around your iPhone to keep water out. It's good for prolonged exposure to snow too, so you can take your protected iPhone with you out on the slopes.

Although Griffin's iPhone cases cover every millimeter of your iPhone with water-resistant materials, there's no guarantee that your smartphone will survive a plunge in a pool, lake or toilet. A splash, raindrops or a spill, though, aren't likely to wreak havoc on your iPhone with one of these cases.


LifeProof makes a few series of iPhone cases to keep your phone safe from anything life throws at it. The multiple layers of protection keep out water, dirt and snow, and these cases can save your phone from a damaging drop.

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A rugged iPhone case doesn't have to be bulky and armor-like. Pelican is a manufacturer of phone cases that are all drop-resistant and include non-slip grips. This iPhone case maker helps you protect your phone from falls with rubberized bits so the phone stays in your hand. However, if it drops anyway, your iPhone is less likely to sustain damage with Pelican's protective surface.

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Affordable Rugged iPhone Cases

You spent a fair amount of money on your iPhone, and we'd never suggest buying a cheap case to house your new phone, but there's no need to drop more money than you have to. Several high-rated brands offer strong protection at a slim price.

Spigen offers a military-grade rugged iPhone case for older models and the latest model that retails at less than $30, but you're likely to find it at a lower price than that online. Griffin also makes an all-terrain iPhone case for less than $30, but you may pay a bit more for a newer version for the latest iPhone model. Incipio offers some of the least expensive covers for iPhones. Although its Performance series retails at about $40, you can typically find it for $20 or less, depending on which iPhone you have.


Incipio makes iPhone cases for a variety of lifestyles. The ATLAS ID is a series of waterproof, rugged iPhone cases that cover your phone in layers upon layers of protection from dust, dirt, water and falls. Incipio also offers its Performance series, which protects your iPhone all the way around, including its ports, buttons and screen. Additionally, you won't lose phone functionality with these iPhone cases.

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The Thinnest Rugged iPhone Cases

If you're shopping for the toughest iPhone case, you're likely resigned to having to carry a bulky phone. Not all iPhone cases that are built to withstand bumps, drops and splashes are also burly. You can find flexible, glove-like cases that protect your phone and still fit in your pocket.

Spigen is known for attractive, slim cases, and its Tough Armor Volt series offers military-grade protection without adding a lot of weight to your phone. Another iPhone case manufacturer known for its shock-absorbing technology is Griffin. The Survivor Core series is a hybrid design that combines style and function for solid protection, but it's lightweight and minimal.

The brands we cherry-picked are known for offering high-quality, rugged iPhone cases in a variety of styles. Each brand has several series from which you can choose to find the right case for your phone and your active, adventurous lifestyle.


If you are active outdoors or work in harsh environments, you may be a little gun-shy about bringing your iPhone along for the ride. Why would you want to risk dropping your phone on a rock or constantly worry about the dust and wind that could damage it? Griffin Technology gets it. That's why the iPhone case manufacturer created its Survivor series. These rugged iPhone cases wrap your iPhone in multiple layers of tough protection and give you peace of mind while you work or play outdoors.

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Spigen has several series of phone cases, but for its rugged iPhone cases, the company focuses on making them with a slim and stylish fit. You have options for a plain black case with strong materials to protect your phone, or various colors and styles that still keep your iPhone safe.

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What Makes the Toughest iPhones Cases So Durable?

Manufacturers of the toughest iPhone cases use rubber, silicone, polycarbonate and thermoplastic polyurethane because they offer superior protection. One of these cases surrounds your smartphone with layers of hard, soft, elastic and durable plastics to ensure it stays safe.

Complete Coverage
Many iPhone case manufacturers offer a rugged case series with 360 degrees of defense. One of these cases may include air-cushioned corners, resilient outer layers of plastic and a clear, touch-sensitive screen protector. Details such as port and button covers are taken into account to prevent loose debris like dirt or sand from invading. A raised edge around your phone's face means a drop is less likely to result in a broken screen. A rubber backing can keep your phone from sliding across your car's dash. These cases seem to be tailor-made to fit your phone like a second skin. And because phones are so similar in size, these cases may even work for another smartphone you have. Speck, Urban Armor Gear and OtterBox are a few examples of iPhone case makers that consider every bit of your phone worth protecting.

Rigorous Testing
You can find military-grade iPhone cases that have gone through tough testing. A phone with one of these tactical iPhone cases must be dropped from a height of 48 inches and land on its back, sides, corners and face in tests, all without damage to its screen. These tests, created by the United States Department of Defense, ensure phones covered by these burly cases meet military-grade protection standards. Griffin, Body Glove and Urban all meet these standards.