There’s a honeymoon period in iPhone ownership, carefree and nonchalant, where you don’t have a worry in the world. And then there’s the period after you crack its screen for the first time, or drop it in the sink, or leave it on the roof of your car. After that incident, you’re never the same again; you won’t leave your phone unprotected for even a second.
The best iPhone cases don’t need to be a bulky impediment to regular phone use. Instead, they should enhance your experience and become part of your daily routine. It’s a relationship you’ll cherish, one that will bring you back to those honeymoon days when you weren’t constantly living in fear of dropping your phone.
Our handy guide will give you five points to consider when buying a case for your iPhone 12, so whether you’re focused on functionality, protection from the harshest conditions, or pure style, we’ll help you find the right case.
- Best transparent iPhone case: Speck Products GemShell
- Best leather iPhone case: Mujjo Full Leather Wallet Case
- Best waterproof iPhone case: Diverbox for iPhone 12 Waterproof Case
- Best designer iPhone case: Smartish iPhone 12 Pro Max Crossbody Case
- Best rugged iPhone case: OtterBox DEFENDER SERIES SCREENLESS Edition Case
- Best budget case: Spigen Liquid Air Armor Designed for iPhone 12 Case
Features to consider when shopping for the best iPhone cases
Consider these five major points when shopping for the best iPhone cases and you’ll rest easy knowing your phone is protected while enjoying your enhanced iPhone experience. Note to editor: Include keyword with anchor text linking to related Camden article.
Go minimalist with a transparent iPhone case
For some, the biggest deterrent to buying a case is that you essentially shove your sleek and gorgeous iPhone under ugly plastic, never to see it again. Get past that hangup with a transparent iPhone case that allows you to see the classic logo with the finish you went out of your way to select. Transparent iPhone cases generally provide great protection without hindering usability.
You’ll want to make sure your transparent case meets drop-test standards. It’s also important that it’s protected from scratches and smudges; otherwise, you’ll be seeing more of your fingerprints and evidence of every mishap rather than your phone. If you use wireless charging devices, double-check to make sure the case will not interfere.
Best transparent iPhone case: Speck Products GemShell
The Clear Winner
A raised bezel design protects your screen from face-down drops. Amazon
Your phone won’t be able to hide from you with this clear case for iPhone 12. Its screen will remain uncracked and pristine, thanks to double-layer, drop-tested protection and Microban technology, which keeps it from collecting dust. The case is thin enough to allow for wireless charging.
Leather iPhone cases are sleek and fashion-forward
Leather iPhone cases are a great way to give your phone a sophisticated swagger with increased functionality. A good leather case can feel like your favorite wallet while replacing it, thanks to built-in cardholders for your ID and credit cards. Leather cases aren’t as bulky as large plastic cases and are generally easier to grip. However, many of them interfere with wireless charging and don’t guarantee the same amount of protection as hard-shell cases.
Best Leather iPhone Case: Mujjo Full Leather Wallet Case
Lined with luxurious Japanese microfiber. Amazon
This Mujjo leather phone case strikes a handsome profile with its leather and microfiber design. Beveled edges protect against front-facing drops. A card pocket stores up to three IDs or credit cards for added convenience, so you can leave your wallet at home. This leather iPhone case is more about style and useability than it is about protection, but we’ve dropped our phone a number of times with this case on and haven’t had any issues. If you’re looking for a serious and sophisticated fashion upgrade, this is your best bet.
Waterproof iPhone cases can give you extra peace of mind
Whether you’re an adventurous content creator who wants to capture all of your dives for your subscribers, or a parent who is looking after little ones at the beach, a waterproof iPhone case is a pretty worthwhile investment. To get the most out of your money, you’ll need to make sure a prospective case can hold up to your planned usage. Check to see how long the case promises to protect your phone while underwater as well as how deep you can take it. You’ll also want to see if the case allows for wireless charging and how much drop protection it offers.
Best Waterproof iPhone Case: Diverbox for iPhone 12 Waterproof Case
A built-in screen protector is an added bonus. Amazon
Waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof, this iPhone case promises to protect your phone in a number of ways. A built-in screen protector keeps it safe from water and scratches while delivering a sensitive touch response. The waterproof phone case’s lightweight materials make it easy to carry and do not interfere with wireless charging.
Look for smart designs
Phone cases have a range of pretty neat features—some practical and some stylish. Sometimes both things come together to produce a hyper-useful product that changes the way you think about a phone case. Smartish has two such designs; one, the Gripzilla, features indentations on its rugged design to mimic the indentation that would be made by human fingers. It allows for greater stability while holding your device while preventing slips and drops. The second Smartish design is our featured product in this category (see below). Other cases hide multiple stands to make watching Netflix or Facetiming with the family easier. Some high-minded designs incorporate hand-crafted pillow casing that makes your phone feel more like designer furniture or—dare we say it—a designer handbag. Speaking of handbags…
Best iPhone case design: Smartish iPhone 12 Pro Max Crossbody Case
Wear your phone across your arm or dangle it from your wrist thanks to the Crossbody’s ingenious design. Amazon
While the leather case replaces the wallet, this Smartish case replaces the purse. Smartish advertises that the case fits up to give cards. Straps allow you to carry the case around your shoulder or dangle it from your hand. It also features lip gloss loops for, you know, lip gloss. It does not allow for wireless charging, but the way Smartish describes that drawback should make you forgive that. “NOT compatible with Wireless or MagSafe Chargers. She too thicc,” reads their product copy.
Give your phone extra protection with a rugged case
If protecting your iPhone at all costs is your mission, style, and usability be damned, you need to consider higher-grade protection. You’ll want to make sure the case meets military drop standards or exceeds them.
These larger, thick plastic cases tend to have room for other features like belt clips and viewing stands. Some of these cases also offer shock and water protection. They all tend to interfere with wireless charging due to their prominent shell.
Another thing to watch for is whether the case comes with a built-in screen protector. Many of them do, but some brands require a separate purchase.
Best rugged iPhone case: OtterBox DEFENDER SERIES SCREENLESS Edition Case
Multilayer defense with hard inner shell and softer outer casing. Amazon
The OtterBox Defender is an old standby that has gotten us through many scrapes with a functioning phone when only the worst outcome seemed possible. While the Defender does not have as much flair as some other rugged cases, it has proven useful time and time again. Its sliding outer case features a belt clip that keeps it from jumping out of your pants pocket and also functions as a stand. Otter promises that it passes four times as many military drop tests as required. It also protects against dust and dirt. It does not come with a screen protector and is not compatible with wireless charging.
Best iPhone cases on a budget: What you can get for under $15
Some protection is always better than none. But in many iPhone cases, budget protection gets the job done just as well as pricier brands. If protection trumps concerns about functionality, storage, and design, you should not feel like you’re missing out by going with a budget case. However, it’s worth checking to see if the case meets military drop-test rates and provides adequate screen protection.
Best cheap iPhone case: Spigen Liquid Air Armor Designed for iPhone 12 Case
Form-fitted for a slim profile. Amazon
This Spigen iPhone case offers bang for your buck with military-grade drop protection and “Air Cushion” shock protection. Its thin, ridged, matte case prevents slips and drops while allowing for wireless charging. This is a very decent case no matter how much you’re paying for it. But for under $15, it’s unbeatable.
Q: What is the best iPhone case to protect your phone from dropping?
Our experience has shown us that Otterbox Defender series cases are absolute beasts. We’ve witnessed them protect against some of the worst possible situations, including drops, being thrown, and even being driven over. That’s not to say they will produce the same result every time but it’s a good indicator that they do exactly what they are supposed to. These cases go through 24 different tests at a length of 238 hours of total testing, so it’s a pretty good bet that they are getting the results you want.
Q: Does the iPhone 12 need a case?
Yes, much was made of the iPhone 12′s Ceramic Shield screen that is infused with nano-ceramic crystals. No, that does not mean it will not break and no, that does not mean the rest of the phone is impervious to drops, scratches, and all other manners of misfortune. You’ll still need a case unless you’re ready to pony up hundreds of dollars every time you have a mishap. Yes, even if you like the feel of the phone. Even if you think it’s not cool to use a case. We’ll be Mom and Dad here and tell you that you absolutely need a case.
A final word on shopping for the best iPhone cases
Before buying your iPhone case, identify what exactly your priorities are. Do you want to protect your phone at all costs? Are you more carefree and interested in devising various ways to carry it? Or do you simply want to put it into your pocket without taking up too much space? Once you’ve done that it’s time to check the stats and features—drop-protection rates, built-in proofing, and designs that make your phone easier to handle. You don’t have to spend a bundle on the best iPhone cases. But if you do, make sure you end up with something ultra-protective that fits your personality.