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Published Aug. 23, 2021

We give most of our gadgets a break every day. Even if you’re practically attached to your laptop or your smartphone, they still get plenty of time to chill out on their chargers while you sleep. The Apple Watch is different. We expect these wrist-based computers to stick with us at all times, whether we’re snoozing, typing away at work, or clanging weights at the gym. With that kind of workload, these tiny gadgets can use a little extra protection. The best Apple Watch case will guard that precious little squircle from dings, drops, and scratches without adding lots of bulk or ruining the clean aesthetic. 

Every Apple Watch user is different, so you’ll have to ask yourself a few simple questions before choosing the right amount of armor. Do your workouts involve a lot of potentially abrasive equipment? Is your wrist big enough to accommodate a burly case? How often do you attempt to deflect dangerous projectiles with your wrists as part of an elaborate Wonder Woman cosplay? All of these affect your choice of Apple Watch case. Luckily, this guide is here to help you choose.

How We Selected The Products 

The Apple Watch case market is fraught with false promises and flimsy junk. Some barely provide any protection at all, while others overpower the Apple Watch’s understated design with overly gaudy embellishments. Do you really want to commit to a ring of fake rhinestones around your Watch all the time? Trust us, you don’t. 

For these picks, we weeded out the superfluous choices and pared down the selections to include options that we would wear all day, every day. They include a variety of materials and designs to address specific users and use cases. It’s also crucial that the cases don’t interfere with typical functions. That burly protective case isn’t much good if it prevents you from turning the Apple Watch’s crown. 

We’ve also limited our picks to the 40mm and 44mm sizes found in current generation Apple Watches. Apple Watch 3 and earlier came in 38mm and 42mm sizes, but those models are relatively obsolete by now making updates difficult and functionality limited. If you’re still using an Apple Watch 3 or earlier, it’s time to think about upgrading. 

Things to consider before buying

Screen protection

Some cases have built-in screen protection, which can be handy and easy to install, but you’ll have to switch out the whole case once the screen protector starts to get beat up and grimy. Some cases leave the face open and rely on a raised edge around the face to protect the glass surface. This setup is good if you just want basic protection or you want to apply your own stand-alone adhesive screen protector later on.

Material

Apple Watch cases run the gamut from soft silicone to rigid plastic. The softer cases are typically easy to install by simply stretching them over the body of the Watch. Hard cases typically require some assembly. Soft cases often don’t provide quite as much protection against a hard impact and they will eventually tear. Hard cases will eventually crack once you whack them hard enough. It really depends on what you find comfortable and what fits the best.

Strap compatibility

Most good Apple Watch cases will leave enough room to work with Apple’s straight strap attachment system. Some cases, however, offer matching straps that fit the aesthetic and sizing of the case itself. If you buy a case with an integrated strap, you won’t have to worry about compatibility issues, but you’ll have to replace both the strap and the case if either part gets damaged. Also, if you’re using a particularly bulky or expensive strap, you’ll want to make sure the case doesn’t rub against it in a weird way and cause unnecessary wear.

Apple Watch sizing

There are currently two sizes of Apple Watch that you can buy: 40mm and 44mm. If you buy a current-gen case, make sure you choose the right one. If you see a great deal on a previous-gen Apple Watch case, you’re probably out of luck because anything before Apple Watch 4 came in 38mm and 42mm sizes, which means those legacy cases won’t fit.

Best Apple Watch Cases reviews and picks

Best Apple Watch case: Rhino Shield Bumper

Bump it up

Simple protection that’s easy to install Rhino Shield

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Specs:

  • 1.9mm thick
  • 8 color options
  • 4g weight
  • Swappable rims

Why it made the cut: A simple, durable design provides ample scratch protection in a wide variety of colors that compliment the Watch’s design.

ProsCons
Easy to installNo screen protector
Sturdy constructionNo rear protection
Replaceable front edgeSlightly chunky around the crown
Rhino Shield Bumper

You don’t always need to entomb your entire Apple Watch in a case to get the protection you need. The super-light Rhino Shield Bumper surrounds the outer perimeter of your Apple Watch with a layer of impact-resistant polymer that can absorb bumps and impacts that would otherwise affect the Watch’s aluminum or stainless steel case. It’s like wrapping your Watch’s body in a little pillow fort that protects it from dings and dents. 

For screen protection, a small ridge made of that same resilient polymer extends out around the display. When you put the Watch down on its face, the ridge holds the glass off of the surface to prevent potential scratches. It’s tall enough to protect the screen, but doesn’t stick out enough to get caught on your clothes or pockets. That front-facing edge is removable, so you can replace it when it gets dinged up or you just get bored of its color.

Best Apple Watch case with a glass screen protector: Mixsi Hard Case

Glass master

Save your screen from scratches Mixsie

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Specs: 

  • Tempered glass screen protector
  • Available in 40 and 44mm
  • 5 color options

Why it made the cut: The tempered glass panel covers the Apple Watch face without the need for an adhesive or complicated application process.

ProsCons
Easy installation with no bubblesThin front glass will eventually crack
Strong tempered glass surfaceNo side or back protection
Easy access to controlsLimited color options
Mixsi Hard Case

The Apple Watch’s face is impressively durable all on its own, but it’s not indestructible. Even a brief skip across the floor after falling from the charger or a quick scrap against a wall can be enough contact to leave a scratch that will annoy you for the rest of the gadget’s life. That’s where a hardened screen protector case comes in. The Mixsi Hard Case’s screen protector is made of tempered glass, so it’s difficult to shatter despite its super thin material. 

Many dedicated screen protectors require you to apply them with a liquid solution that sometimes till leaves ugly bubbles between the two surfaces. This case, however, simply snaps over your Watch’s face and holds the tempered glass shield in place. You still get full touchscreen access. 

This case isn’t meant to provide extra protection from moisture or sweat, so it’s probably not the best bet if you’re looking for extra protection during intense workouts

Best Apple Watch case to give an old school look: Supcase Unicorn Beetle

Classic vibes

It looks like it’s from the past in the best way. Supcase

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Specs:

  • Attached strap
  • 6 color options
  • Snap-together installation

Why it made the cut: The case-and-strap combo provides excellent protection as well as a cohesive style.

ProsCons
Easy installationChunky for small wrists
Room for extra screen protectionNon-clear colors slightly cheesy
Cool clear colorwayNo rear protection
Supcase Unicorn Beetle

The heart of this burly Apple Watch case consists of a chunky bumper that hugs the perimeter of the device. The Watch itself easily snaps into place and stays there thanks to a firm hold. Unlike other bumpers, however, this one also comes with a perfectly matched strap with an equally sturdy build. 

The case covers the Watch’s button, but doesn’t impede its operation and leaves plenty of room around the crown so you can still perform all the typical functions. The Supcase doesn’t come with its own screen protector, but it leaves plenty of room on the front of the device so you can add a supplementary glass or plastic shield if you want to on your own. 

There are several options like this out there on the market, but I particularly like this one because it offers a totally clear colorway. The translucent plastic case and strap evoke a truly old school look like you’d find in a classic Timex or a limited edition G-Shock. It’s not often you can upgrade style and safety at the same time. If you need proof, look at just about any bike helmet. 

Best Apple Watch case for working out: Elkson Bumper

Sweat captain

It doesn’t mind a hard workout. Elkson

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Specs: 

  • 5g weight
  • 1.2mm raised protective edge
  • Sensor cutout in the back

Why it made the cut: With the exception of the screen, this tough case wraps all the way around the Watch with a cutout for the sensors on the back.

ProsCons
Low profile designNo built-in screen protection
Easy button accessTame monocolor design
Full device coverageNeeds a good wash every once in a while
Elkson Bumper

The Apple Watch is a fantastic fitness tracking tool, but the gym is a dangerous place for any gadget. The Elkson Bumper Apple Watch case fits around the entirety of your Apple Watch’s body, including the back. It leaves a perfectly sized cut-out in order to let the sensors do their job. 

The thermoplastic polyurethane case even covers the slots where the strap attach without affecting strap compatibility. Though, according to the company, you can expect the best results when you’re using a Sport Loop style strap. 

The face is open, so you can add a secondary screen protector if you want, but screen protectors typically don’t like heavy workouts because sweat can get underneath and cause bubbles. The Bumper’s 1.2mm ridge surrounding the display does a lot to deflect random bumps and errant barbells that may try to scratch your glass. 

The case covers the Apple Watch’s mode button, but it actually increases the surface area and reduces the accuracy with which you need to press in order to give the device a command. That comes in handy when you’re trying to adjust mid burpee or you’re slumped over in the corner trying to recover while stopping your Strava app from recording your workout. 

Best transparent Apple Watch case: Julk Case

Clear quality

The material flexes enough for easy installation. Julk

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Specs: 

  • Tough, but flexible thermoplastic construction
  • One-second installation
  • Protection extends past the screen

Why it made the cut: Sometimes you just want the most basic possible protection while adding almost zero bulk.

ProsCons
Doesn’t mess with the designNot great around water
Dead simple installationWill yellow over time
Soft material won’t shatterNot as burly as competition
Julk Case

If you’re looking for a little extra protection without stomping all over the Apple Watch’s beautiful industrial design, then a clear case likely fits the bill. This kind of case employs a softer plastic that makes the whole thing easier to click on and off when you don’t need the extra barrier. It’s not meant to be worn during heavy workouts or when the watch will spend time fully underwater. 

It’s perfect, however, if you work in a particularly rough environment and you would rather a cheap case take the abuse than your expensive gadget. 

The Julk case wraps around the perimeter of the Apple Watch and covers the entire screen. Despite that crystal protection, you still get full touchscreen functionality. The clear plastic allows 99 percent of light to travel through it so it has almost no effect on the overall look of the watch, especially if the screen brightness is turned up. 

Just be sure to switch this kind of case out fairly often. It will start to get yellow and less translucent as you wear it and it picks up grime and dirt. 

FAQs

Q: Are cases bad for Apple Watch?

While an Apple Watch case can add some extra protection to your expensive wearable, it can also have some downsides if you’re not careful. For instance, if you let sand get in between your case and the watch itself, those little grains can eventually wear down the exterior of the Watch’s case or screen. Regular cleanings should help prevent this.

Q: Do Apple Watches damage easily?

The Apple Watch is a fairly tough device. Scratched screens represent some of the most common damage, which a case can help with. A raised edge around the display keeps the glass surface off the ground and away from small particles that can cause distracting scratches. If you have an aluminum model (as opposed to stainless steel or titanium), the metal case is also more prone to dents and dings. A case can help protect the edges that take the most abuse.

Q: Do Apple Watches need a screen protector?

Since the screen takes up most of the outside of the device, it’s likely to take the most abuse. A full-on screen protector can provide ample protection, but they can also break themselves or prove challenging to apply. A case with a raised edge around the screen can provide a handy bumper that surrounds the display and protects it from small bumps, scrapes, and accidental trips to the floor.

Final thoughts

Your Apple Watch is already pretty tough, but accidents happen. Even the most innocuous bump, drop, or scrape can leave you with anything from an annoying scratch on the display to a wholly unrepairable gadget. Adding a case makes your wearable tougher, but it can also give your Watch a whole new look. Pick one case and stick to it or buy a couple and switch them depending on your activities, environment, or even your outfit. It all plays into finding the best Apple Watch case.

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