Sooner of later it happens to all of us: You’re precariously gripping smartphone in one hand along with your wallet and keys. Or you grab for your phone with wet hands. Or you pull your keys out of your purse and your smartphone gets snagged on them. Regardless, your smartphone pays the price and does a triple somersault onto the pavement. There’s no dramatic shatter of glass, just a “thud” followed by the expletive of your choice.
Your connection to the world, your digital buddy, your 21st century status symbol is now a cracked reflection of your clumsiness and unwillingness to purchase some sort of protective cover. Don’t let your smartphone die of exposure—use protection.
Although there is no protective case that can guarantee your smartphone will sustain no damage whatsoever, protective cases are a measure of degrees—ranging from basic screen protection that’s barely noticeable to bulky shockproof flak jackets. But in a nutshell, smartphone protection can be broken down (pun intended) into four categories, which we delve into below. Another factor to consider is that covers that do not dissipate the heat generated by your phone’s process can damage and/shorten your phone's life—more on this in a future post. For now, here are your options.
Can a clear strip of plastic adequately protect your smartphone? Companies like Zagg and Wrapsol, makers of invisibleSHIELD and ULTRA Xtreme, respectively, have produced some convincing videos that suggest just that. The upside to these films is that they don’t add much, if any, bulk to your smartphone. On the downside, they don’t allow much personalization—they’re all business. Price-wise, they average around $30, which is typical for many decent smartphone protection solutions.
You’ve probably seen these basic hard cases being sold at shopping mall kiosks, operator/carrier stores or online stores. Most of these cases either sandwich your phone between two pieces of tough plastic or encase your device in silicone. People like them for their reasonable cost (starting at $4), simplicity and the ability to personalize with a variety of colors, themes and designs. They appear to offer more protection than the films in the event of a drop because of their substance—there’s something there to take the hit and absorb the impact. Note that most do not offer any protection to the display, hence scratch resistance could be an issue.
Flip covers, as their name implies, basically add a screen cover to a case—adding another level of protection along with additional bulk in the form of a cover. Moleskine, a company better known for its paper notebooks and planners, offers a handsome, luxurious suede-like solution. For something a little more streamlined, some manufacturers offer flip covers made specifically for their devices, such as HTC and Samsung. Prices are across the board—anywhere from $30 to $90.
Think of rugged cases as body armor for your smartphone—we’re talking three to five layers of protection, built-in screen protectors, dust proofing, water resistance and more. They can be bulky and dense, but short of an all-out armored smartphone, they’re tough to beat. Ballistic and Otterbox are two of the main players in this space. The Otterbox Armor series goes above and beyond, claiming to be able to withstand two tons of pressure, 30 minutes submersion and 10-foot drops onto concrete. Prices start at $30.
In our research for smartphone protection, we found a lot of interesting cases that went far beyond basic protection. We found cases that were edible, made fashion statements and doubled as self-defense tools. Oh wait, there’s more.