ask a cool person

The Best iPhone Cases, According to Cool People

Photo-Illustration: The Strategist. Photos: Retailers

When your iPhone falls, it’s always in slow motion. Otherwise there wouldn’t be enough time for you to feel your heart stop, regret every decision that brought you to that moment, and then give up and look on helplessly as you wait for the glass to shatter into a 1,000-piece puzzle. And of course, you didn’t sign up for AppleCare. To help you avoid turning your life into a series of mental Zack Snyder action sequences, we asked 14 stylish people (including a few phone-loving Strategist writers) to tell us about the cases they use to protect their precious iPhones. Their favorites include thin, sleek-looking options, cases so thick they look like they could be dropped off a building, bumper cases that safely bounce, and more artsy cases that protect while also providing some self-expression. One quick note before we begin: While most of the cases featured in this story are for the iPhone 13, you should be able to find a majority of them for older models.

Best clear iPhone cases

It’s all about “functionality,” says Octavio Platon Akel, an illustrator and creator of the stylish footwear Instagram page Monsieur Saturday. He’s used the Clear Case on his iPhone 12 since getting it last year. “The most important thing is protection from my two kids — a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old,” he says. “They fight over the phone, and the case protects it when it inevitably flies all over the place.” Akel likes the minimal design and says he also needed his case to be sleek enough that he can quickly grab his phone out of his back pocket while dealing with situations with his kids (or photo ops).

“I’ve always had a thing for clearish phone cases,” says Strategist staff writer Tembe Denton-Hurst, who uses the Spigen Ultra on her iPhone 12. “If I’m spending so much money, at the very least, you should be seeing the phone I paid for.” She chose this one after a quick search on Amazon, because she liked the raised bezels that protect the screen and the camera bump. Unlike other cases, this one also has larger covers on the volume rockers and power button, making them much more responsive. Plus, “its back is clear but the edges match my phone color, which I think looks sleek but still has a little bit of flair,” she says. “I have dropped my phone more than a few times in impressively dramatic ways. Recently, I tripped up the steps at McNally Jackson and slapped my phone against the steps. It landed facedown, but I was impressed to see that it was crack-free and my case was totally intact.”

Designer Amardeep Singh always chooses low-profile minimal cases. “This one is grippy, which is nice, and has a lip for the front and for the cameras, which is kind of the only thing I look for in a case,” he says. The lips keep the delicate surfaces of your phone raised and protected from anything you might set your phone on.

After using the Casetify Impact case for a few weeks, I really appreciate the lifted camera ring, which protects the phone’s multiple cameras from getting scratched when you lay it down on a table or slip it into your pocket. I was also surprised by how light the case felt compared to the more bulky leather cases I’ve tried in the past. If you want a little more personality in your phone case, Casetify also has graphic options with the same impact technology.

Best thin iPhone case

Thin cases protect your phone without adding weight or bulk, keeping it comfortable to hold and easy to use. The case was suggested to us by Isaac Hindin-Miller, a DJ and the founder of I Like You. After using thick cases in the past and still smashing his screen into oblivion, he now prefers the thin and sleek Peel case. We’ve been fans of Peel for years at New York magazine, too. Contributors Jake Swearingen and Paris Martineau describe Peel cases as “low-key [options] that won’t hide the glory of your shiny new iPhone from the world.” They say the cases are “crazy thin — like, ‘you will forget you have a case on’ thin … [and] still offer some protection if you fumble your phone onto the sidewalk.” Strategist columnist Chris Black found his Peel cover via Instagram. He says it’s the definition of barely there, so innocuous you barely notice it on your phone. Although it doesn’t provide any protection for the camera lenses, “the price is right, and it fits in the pocket comfortably,” he says, before adding that Peel also makes a great glass protector.

Best ecofriendly iPhone case

We were put on to the Pela case by Bianca Valle, an artist, nutritionist, and all-around creative, who uses it for her iPhone 12. The soft and flexible case is biodegradable and made from flax-straw materials that will break down naturally in compost. Valle says she’s a fan of the green color, since it matches with almost anything. There’s also a wrap-around lip that protects the camera and your screen from scratches.

Best rubber iPhone case

Illustrator Maggie Stephenson bought this case because she loves the nonslip material and says, “the cases almost have a rubbery feel to them, which is great if you’re clumsy like me.” Before getting this one, she had several phones “literally slip out of my hand and break,” and one time a phone “slid across the kitchen counter … only to fall on the ground and shatter.” But that’s no longer an issue for her, thanks to this case. “Another bonus is the clean look and the trendy colors,” she says. “It’s hard to pick just one!”

OtterBox has long been known for building the toughest cases, but they’ve also long been known for something else, says Strategist writer Louis Cheslaw: “Nobody, not even people who recommend them, thinks [the] cases are particularly nice-looking.” After two unsuccessful tries with other OtterBox options, Cheslaw finally landed on the Aneu. It’s “far slimmer than the Commuter case,” he says, “and it has a rectangular shape (and edges) and an open charging port. The body comes in a handful of simple, solid colors, and some styles have a bit more visual interest in the form of different colored sides and side buttons.” Plus, “It slides in and out of pockets with ease, yet its sides have some grip to them so the case never feels as though it will slip out of my hand,” Cheslaw says. “And it still functions like an OtterBox where it counts: I’ve dropped my phone a few times since getting the Aneu case, and there’s not a scratch — on it or the phone — to be found.”

The Strategist is designed to surface the most useful, expert recommendations for things to buy across the vast e-commerce landscape. Some of our latest conquests include the best acne treatments, rolling luggage, pillows for side sleepers, natural anxiety remedies, and bath towels. We update links when possible, but note that deals can expire and all prices are subject to change.

Every editorial product is independently selected. If you buy something through our links, New York may earn an affiliate commission.

The Best iPhone Cases, According to Cool People