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?
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.
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. Ballistic, Speck, Urban Armor Gear and OtterBox are a few examples of iPhone case makers that consider every bit of your phone worth protecting.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
Rugged iPhone cases from Ballistic combine form, function and style, but protection is the highest priority for this iPhone case manufacturer. The Ballistic cases are designed to take a hit – even the cases that aren't necessarily for an active user. There are three series of iPhone cases by Ballistic that definitely fall into the rugged category.
Ballistic's Tough Jacket MAXX series includes strong, reinforced corners that prevent cracks and shatters to your iPhone's screen if it takes a tumble. The raised edges that surround your iPhone also protect it from bumps and slides. The back of this Ballistic rugged iPhone case is textured to give you a better grip on your phone to prevent it from falling from your hand to begin with. This is Ballistic's toughest iPhone case.
Another good choice for an active lifestyle and your iPhone is Ballistic's Tough Jacket case series. It includes multiple layers of protection to prevent damage to your iPhone's screen, shell and inner workings. Even if you drop your phone from 6 feet high, this case is meant to withstand that fall with no damage to your phone.
The Ballistic Tungsten Tough series proves you can have strength and beauty in an iPhone case. A brushed metal plate adds style to the back of your phone, while tough corners keep your iPhone safe. Ports are left open for easy access, but some of the buttons are covered with this iPhone case.
Like the other rugged iPhone cases from Ballistic, the Urbanite Select series includes raised corners and edges to protect your phone from bumps and falls. This design, though, is slimmer and lightweight. It's crafted with leather, so you get a soft exterior with a luxurious look, and you don't have to sacrifice protection.
Ballistic offers a limited lifetime warranty on its cases, so you can rest assured that your purchase is a solid choice. If your case is defective, you can return it to the manufacturer for repair or a replacement.
Ballistic makes a variety of iPhone cases, but its rugged series of cases are stronger than cases meant to just add a pop of color or protect your phone from everyday scratches. Every Ballistic phone case still ensures that you get a stylish product, even when protection is your main concern.
Body Glove Mobile understands that every day you carry your iPhone in your pocket, purse or backpack, where it is exposed to keys, books and other sharp objects. You can drop your phone at any time and scratch or shatter your screen. Body Glove Mobile makes cases that protect your phone from the world and you.
The ShockSuit by Body Glove Mobile is a durable, rugged iPhone case that protects your iPhone by wrapping it in a dual-layer case. This case meets MIL-STD-810G military specs and is constructed from shock-resistant plastic and rubber. This case's grip construction prevents the phone from slipping around, and it is especially sturdy on the corners, where the most damage can be done. Dropping your phone on one of its corners can seriously damage your screen as well as the components inside your phone, but a Body Glove Mobile military-grade iPhone case reinforces the weakest points on your phone.
The ShockSuit comes with a sturdy rubber outer casing that is hard on the corners and sides, and it has a softer backing that is comfortable on your hand. The sides have no-slip grip, making it easier to hang on to your phone and drop it less. Each button and port is covered but accessible, making it easy to plug in your earbuds or power cord. The speakers are exposed on the bottom and mostly unobstructed, letting the sound flow free. The camera is also unobstructed, letting you get clear shots with no interference. However, while this case is very effective in protecting your iPhone from scratches, impacts and dropping, it is not water-resistant, so you need to be careful when you are around liquids.
The inner casing is a thin, shock-resistant plastic shell that fits snugly and securely inside the outer casing. This gives your iPhone 360 degrees of protection. There is a built-in screen protector on the inner casing so you don't have to install a separate screen protector. The screen protector is very responsive. You can swipe, tap and use your iPhone screen just as if the protector wasn't there.
The ShockSuit iPhone case is stylish and rugged-looking, but the best design feature is that it retains the slim, thin profile the iPhone is known for. Other rugged cases can add a lot of bulk and weight to your phone, but thanks to the lightweight, innovative Body Glove design, your phone still fits in your pocket without it feeling like you are smuggling a brick.
Body Glove Mobile's ToughSuit is also a heavy-duty iPhone case, but it is meant for the minimalist. Although the case is even slimmer than the ShockSuit series, it is still durable and meets the military-grade specs. It has a textured grip, so you're less likely to drop your iPhone, but if you do, the shock resistance is more likely to handle the drop.
Each Body Glove Mobile case has a one-year limited warranty. This warranty is only good for the original purchaser and does not cover you if you have altered, abused or misused the case.
Body Glove Mobile offers excellent rugged iPhone cases. With strong military-grade casing and no-slip grip, these iPhone cases stand up to the shocks and dangers your phone encounters every day. And you can still enjoy the sleekness of your iPhone thanks to the ultra-slim designs.
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.
The Survivor All-Terrain iPhone case is designed to meet the rigorous military durability standards for electronic devices and still be functional. It can endure extreme conditions, including dust, dirt, rain and shocks. This is possible thanks to the multiple layers of protection that wrap it in polycarbonate, foam and silicone.
The Griffin Survivor Core iPhone case gives you a sleek look in addition to solid drop protection. The edges and corners are protected by layers of shock-absorbing materials, and a hard polycarbonate shell covers the back of your phone.
The Survivor Summit iPhone case includes a tough, scratch-resistant screen shield that clips onto the front of your iPhone, deflecting wind, rain and dirt. The screen responds well, and all swiping, tapping and pinch zooming function as if the case isn't even there.
Many iPhone owners like the look of their phones, so they're torn on having to cover up the shiny apple on the back and adding bulk. Griffin Technology's Survivor Adventure doesn't make you choose between having a rugged iPhone case and keeping your iPhone's style. You can choose a transparent back plate that is strong and stylish.
All of these rugged iPhone cases help your phone survive a 6-to-10-foot drop. Most are slimmer than standard military-grade iPhone cases – even Griffin Technology's most burly case, the Survivor All-Terrain.
With all this protection, the Griffin Technology Survivor series does a great job of keeping your iPhone safe and secure. No phone case can completely protect your iPhone from everything, and you should always be careful with your device, but these Griffin Technology rugged iPhone cases give it protection beyond what a normal case can provide.
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.
The ATLAS ID is waterproof up to 6.6 feet for up to 30 minutes. This Incipio case embraces your phone in silicone, polycarbonate and flexible plastic to keep dirt and water out. It also has a scratch-resistant glass screen that maintains your iPhone's touch sensitivity.
Incipio's Performance series is a rugged iPhone case that includes many helpful features for anyone who wants extra protection from the elements and accidental drops. The screen protector is anti-glare for clear views, and the material is scratch-resistant. The material that surrounds the edges of your iPhone is soft but durable, so it diffuses shock and prevents damage from falls. This military-grade iPhone case also includes a rotating clip holster so you can keep your iPhone on you for more security.
Although both of Incipio's tactical iPhone case series offer supreme protection from the elements, you need to choose the one that best fits your lifestyle, because each one performs better with specific issues. The ATLAS ID is better as a waterproof iPhone case. It offers protection from drops, but not nearly as well as the Performance series of iPhone cases. And though the Performance series completely covers your phone with its layers of protective materials, it is not officially waterproof.
All of Incipio's rugged iPhone cases come with a one-year warranty that protects your purchase. If you have a defective unit, you can return it for repair or replacement from the manufacturer.
Incipio's ATLAS ID and Performance series of rugged iPhone cases offer solid protection against natural elements and unintended drops and fumbles of your phone. The multiple layers of silicone, rubber and plastic absorb shock, and the port covers keep dust, dirt and liquid from damaging your iPhone's fragile interior.
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.
The LifeProof FRE is a specialized protective iPhone case that defends your device from the hazards you encounter in the real world. The design of this iPhone case retains the slim, sleek design of the iPhone, only adding 1.5 mm to your iPhone's profile. This makes it easy to slip your iPhone into your pocket, unlike with many other rugged cases. LifeProof makes the FRE from tough, shockproof plastic and rubber, giving your phone complete protection from the elements and your fumbling hands.
The best feature of the LifeProof FRE is that it is waterproof up to a depth of 6 feet for up to an hour. This lets you take your iPhone to places previously off limits to cell phones, like the beach and the pool. Now you don't have to hold your breath as you watch your drink tip onto your phone. The LifeProof FRE doesn't just provide superior protection against liquids; it is highly effective against dirt, sand and dust particles, and it works great in cold conditions with ice and snow as well. This is possible because the case is designed to completely seal out the elements.
The LifeProof NUUD is another rugged iPhone case that fits snugly on your phone, but it leaves your screen bare so you get direct contact with it. It also leaves the buttons, ports and cameras on your iPhone open for easy access. However, the LifeProof NUUD still offers strong protection. It's made of four different materials to keep your phone safe from water, dust or dirt, snow, and long falls from your hand or pocket.
LifeProof's rugged iPhone cases come in a variety of colors and with a one-year warranty. They meet the U.S. military standards for drop and shock protection, and they're waterproof for up to one hour.
The LifeProof FRE and NUUD cases can open up a whole new world for your iPhone and you as well. Now you can take it to the beach, on a bike ride, camping or to your dangerous job site with confidence that it will be protected from water, ice, dirt and dust.
Rugged iPhone cases are best suited for people who want to protect their phones against the elements or whose phones need extra protection from shocks and rough treatment. OtterBox is well known for the superior protection its cases provide mobile devices and tablets. With the OtterBox Defender or Commuter case for the iPhone, you can rest assured that your phone has the same superior protection.
The Defender case uses a multilayer system to envelop your iPhone in plastic and rubber, giving it complete protection from bumps, drops and scratches, though not from water. The front of the iPhone is covered by a screen protector that is built into the case. This protector is not too thick, so the screen still easily responds to finger motions such as swiping and tapping. The screen protector easily snaps on and fits snugly, so you don't have to worry about it shifting around or falling off.
The inner layer is made from polycarbonate and has a thin foam lining to absorb impact shocks that happen when you fumble and drop your phone. There is a cutout on the back, so you can display the Apple logo proudly. A second cutout frees the camera lens so that you can take photos and shoot videos without any interference from the case. The inner layer also fits snugly on your iPhone and doesn't wiggle too much.
The screen protector and inner layer fit perfectly inside the rubber outer casing. This durable silicone slipcover absorbs the energy from impacts, and the corners are reinforced well to provide extra protection. A belt-clip holster is also included, so you can carry your iPhone outside your pocket. The belt clip doubles as a kickstand, so you can watch a video on your iPhone without having to hold it up the whole time.
OtterBox's Commuter series has gone through a series of drop tests by the manufacturer to ensure that your iPhone is protected from accidental drops and general wear. It's also as stylish as it is strong. The slim design doesn't add a lot of bulk to your phone the way many rugged iPhone cases can. The self-adhesive screen protector keeps your screen safe from scratches as it bounces around in your pocket or purse.
While these OtterBox cases do not protect phones from water, they are rugged enough iPhone cases to shield your phone from damage during intense daily use. With the fun color combinations to personalize your iPhone case and the great protection it provides, an OtterBox Defender or Commuter is a strong iPhone case choice.
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.
The Adventurer case doesn't appear to be a rugged iPhone case because it's so slim and lightweight, but it has been tested to military specifications. The rubber liner absorbs shock, so the impact of a drop is soaked up by the case and not your phone. And it comes in a variety of colors to complement your iPhone.
Pelican's Protector has a minimal design, so you aren't adding extra weight or bulky angles to your iPhone. This iPhone case is constructed of various plastic materials that are meant to take several impacts and prevent damage to your phone.
Although the Voyager series from Pelican is slim in design, it's a rugged, all-around protective case for your iPhone. This case includes a screen protector that resists scratches to your expensive phone, and it has survived many drops in its military-grade tests. This is one of Pelican's few iPhone cases that also include a holster with a swiveling belt clip to help keep your phone secure.
Pelican's Vault series of iPhone cases is unique in that it's durable and practical with a phone screen that closes over your iPhone. This cover not only protects your screen, it also holds credit cards or an ID. It has been dropped several times to meet military standard tests, so you know a drop likely won't do damage to your phone. The Vault rugged iPhone case also includes a kickstand so you can prop your phone up anywhere for hands-free viewing.
Perhaps one of the best features of Pelican's rugged iPhone cases is that they all include lifetime warranties. So, if you ever break your phone case, Pelican replaces it.
Pelican makes several series of rugged iPhone cases that protect your phone. All of them keep your phone safe from falls and bumps and come in various colors, styles, weights and features.
Speck is a top contender in protective iPhone cases. The manufacturer makes many military-grade iPhone case series. A rugged iPhone case doesn't have to look like you're going to take it traipsing through jungles and forests – Speck makes several cases that are sleek in appearance, but made with tough materials meant to take a hit or two.
The Presidio is one of Speck's latest iPhone case series that features shock-absorbing materials such as polycarbonate. The scratch-resistant surface surrounds your phone, along with buttons, with layers of protective materials. If your phone falls, the impact is absorbed by the phone case – not your iPhone. The best part for those who want style with their protective phone case is that the Speck Presidio series comes in a variety of looks. The clear case lets you show off your iPhone, while the Presidio Grip is a solid color with rubberized grips on the back to keep your phone secure in your hand. For a pop of pizazz, you can get the Presidio Clear with glitter.
Speck's classic phone case is the CandyShell Grip iPhone case. Its hard white shell is covered with black rubber bits on the back to help you keep your phone in your hand. If it does fall, your iPhone is less likely to be damaged thanks to the case's military-grade drop protection.
The MightyShell series is even stronger, exceeding military-standard drop tests. Its raised edges keep your screen safe, even in the event of a fall. It has three layers of material to absorb shock and prevent or minimize damage to your phone.
Most Speck rugged iPhone cases include limited one-year warranties, so if you have an issue with your case, you can return it to the manufacturer. It's up to Speck whether to repair or replace your phone case. The MightyShell and Presidio series are some of the toughest iPhone cases, and they include limited lifetime warranties.
Speck makes rugged iPhone cases for everyday use and active lifestyles. Not only are these tough iPhone cases, they're also stylish. With the Presidio, MightyShell and CandyShell series, you don't have to choose between protection and pretty.
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.
The Spigen Rugged Armor iPhone case keeps your phone protected but also light. The case is a plastic shell with a single layer, but the interior is lined with a textured pattern to absorb shock in the event of a drop or fall of your phone.
Tough Armor is another Spigen series of iPhone cases that offers two layers of protection. It offers strength in its sleek design, and it doesn't compromise in either area. This tough iPhone case comes in a variety of colors to complement all of the iPhones.
An even stronger iPhone case from Spigen is its Slim Armor line. It has dual layers and protects against drops. It's one of the few Spigen series that offers true military-grade iPhone cases. These cases are sleek and slim in design, so you don't have a lot of extra bulk surrounding your iPhone. It also includes a built-in kickstand, which adds even more function to your phone, as you can use it to watch videos hands-free.
Another Spigen rugged iPhone case is the Neo Hybrid Carbon. This durable iPhone case has a burlier look to it, which gives it a more masculine appearance. The shell is made of strong polycarbonate and thermoplastic polyurethane to keep your iPhone safe if it suffers an accidental drop. The raised edges help protect your screen too.
Spigen iPhone cases come with a limited two-year warranty. So, if you notice a flaw or defect in your case, you can return it to the manufacturer for repair or a replacement. If you're unsure whether your case qualifies for the warranty, you can contact Spigen by email.
A rugged iPhone case from Spigen proves you don't have to go with big and bulky to have strong protection. This manufacturer's iPhone case series offer various levels of strength and sleekness.
The makers of Urban Armor Gear iPhone cases know that you want the toughest iPhone case to ensure your phone doesn't get damaged from regular or rough use. The manufacturer also understands that you don't want to bulk up your iPhone so it takes up more space in your hand, pocket or purse. The company makes several series of rugged iPhone cases that can work for your active and adventurous lifestyle.
Impacts can potentially damage your iPhone in various ways, shattering the screen or affecting the inner workings. Urban Armor Gear's Monarch series offers multiple layers of protection from drops. The materials that protect your phone include metal, rubber, polycarbonate and leather. This series of rugged iPhone cases goes beyond the military-grade standards – its tests show that it can handle 52 drops from 4 feet high with no damage.
Urban Armor Gear's Magma series fits active iPhone users with its rugged design that protects phones from drops and scratches. Pads on the back of the case keep your phone from skidding across a surface and damaging its shell. The rubberized edges of the protector add another layer of protection. This strong iPhone case is also lightweight, so it's unobtrusive in your pocket.
The Pathfinder series is another rugged iPhone case series from Urban Armor Gear, which offers protection from bumps and drops. The shell surrounds your iPhone in strong composite material with rubberized corners for impact resistance. Although it totally covers your phone, the case is slightly see-through, so you can still see your iPhone's design.
For added protection, the Monarch series offers a 10-year limited warranty. This is one of the longest warranties available for an iPhone case. All other Urban Armor Gear cases offer a one-year warranty.
Urban Armor Gear takes protection of your iPhone seriously. It has several series to offer different levels of armor for your iPhone, so you can choose one for everyday use or a more rugged iPhone case for your more daring ventures. A 10-year warranty is available for the Monarch series of iPhone cases, which is a generous warranty for any iPhone case.