Depending on which iPhone 6 model you have—a 6, 6 Plus, 6s, or 6s Plus—your smartphone likely cost you at least a few hundred dollars, and you probably take it everywhere, so protecting it with a case makes a whole lot of sense. The key feature to look for in any case is its ability to protect your handset from scratches, dents, dings, and, for some models, bending or a broken screen. But some cases add useful features such as card holders, waterproof protection, or even extra power, and a case also lets you personalize your iPhone. No matter what you value in a case, you’ll find a model for you.
In general, we look for cases that can adequately protect an iPhone without adding too much bulk or unnecessary embellishments. A respectable degree of shock absorption is important, as is a secure fit. The case should also cover as much of the iPhone’s body as possible, including a raised lip around the glass display to keep it from getting scratched when you set the phone face-down.
I was the accessories editor at iLounge for a little over three years. During my tenure, I reviewed more than 1,000 products, most of which were cases. That number spans multiple generations of Apple devices, from the iPhone 4 to the iPad mini 4 and everything in between. I’ve probably handled more iPhone cases than almost anyone on the planet, so I have a particularly experienced perspective and depth of knowledge when it comes to these products.
The truth is, you have plenty of good iPhone cases to choose from—a bad case is actually a pretty rare thing. But in looking for a few cases that work for most people, we sought models that can adequately protect your phone without adding unnecessary embellishments or too much bulk. We made these assumptions with the backing of data from a survey of our readers in which 86 percent of respondents agreed that protection shouldn’t come at the cost of the iPhone’s feel and aesthetic.
However, while Apple’s guidelines are generally smart, a manufacturer can follow them perfectly but still produce a case that limits real-world usability. For example, a case that adheres to the company’s standards can still prevent compatibility with most dock cradles, which about a third of our survey respondents said was important to them. It’s also important to us that a case’s opening for the Lightning-connector port can accommodate plugs larger than those found on Apple’s stock USB-to-Lightning cables. The same goes for the headphone port, where a too-small opening can prevent angled or thicker headphone plugs from fully connecting.
(We also dislike cases with a circular opening to expose the Apple logo on the back of the phone. We get it, you have an iPhone—no need to leave part of it unprotected just to show off that logo. More important, we haven’t seen a case with such an opening that’s better than the good ones without it.)
It’s important that the case not hinder normal use of the iPhone at all. This means that using the handset to its full extent shouldn’t be any more difficult when it’s inside the case than when it’s bare. Button protection helps in this regard: Cases that have simple cutouts to reveal the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons not only leave those pieces unprotected but also make you press harder to reach through the material. The best cases offer button protection with great tactility, mimicking—or in some instances even enhancing—what you’d feel on a bare iPhone. If a case protects the speaker and microphone with perforated material rather than leaving them unprotected, that’s a bonus.
Sometimes a case will come with extras such as a film screen protector or a small stand, although such add-ons are becoming far less common these days. We wouldn’t recommend an inferior case just because of the presence of these kinds of extras, but given two similar cases, the bonus goods might make one choice more appealing.
Finally, with recent iPhone models including circuitry for near-field communication, cases shouldn’t block the NFC function necessary to use Apple Pay. This shouldn’t be a problem, as a good case won’t block any wireless signals—Wi-Fi, cellular, or NFC—but we test each case in this regard anyway.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $17.
While those with butterfingers may benefit from the extra protection of a thicker case, the NGP’s slimmer but still shock-absorbent design offers the best compromise between protection and aesthetics. The case also allows for easy access to the mute switch, which is an issue with some of the thicker, more-protective cases. As with all good cases, on the NGP the port openings are properly aligned, and the button protection doesn’t dampen the normal sensation of pressing those buttons. The NGP is available in a number of colors, including a translucent frost white.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
Being thin does have some disadvantages. The NGP’s protective lip around the screen, measuring about 0.6 mm, isn’t as tall as those on some other cases but is still sufficient to keep your screen from contacting a flat surface should you set the phone face-down.
In our testing, the “frost” version of the NGP yellowed over time. Still, the case is inexpensive enough, and Incipio offers enough other colors, that we don’t see this discoloration as a huge problem.
Note too that due to the exposed bottom edge, Apple’s Leather Case is compatible with most dock cradles and will work with any headphone plug.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
This Apple case leaves the bottom edge of your phone exposed and won’t wear as well over time (in terms of durability) as plastic will. If you prefer a more protective case of the same style, we recommend Nomad’s Leather Case for iPhone. It costs a few bucks less than Apple’s case and covers the phone’s bottom edge (with appropriate cutouts). The only reason the Nomad case isn’t our main pick for this style is availability: It’s often backordered on Amazon and on Nomad’s site.
We should mention that the version of Apple’s case for the iPhone 5 and 5s loosened up quite a bit after a year of continuous use; while it never got to the point where the case would fall off, it created more wiggle room than was ideal. We’ve been using the iPhone 6 version pretty regularly, though, and that case has stayed snug over time.
At only 0.35 mm thick, The Veil almost disappears when you install it on your phone. It also offers two features we haven’t seen on any other case in this genre. The first is a (tiny) lip around the front of the phone that protects the screen when you set the phone face-down—most superthin cases lack this lip. The other benefit is a 0.7-mm ridge around the iPhone 6’s protruding rear camera lens, which should help prevent damage to that lens. (Caudabe also offers a new version of the case, The Veil XT, that offers additional protection along the bottom edge of the phone but lacks the front lip of the standard edition, so it won’t protect your phone’s screen as well.)
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Veil lacks button protection, as do most cases of this style, and it leaves the iPhone’s bottom edge exposed.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $25.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $30.
What sets the Quad Lock apart is the 1.23-inch, circular mounting point (the kind of connection you’d use to attach a camera lens), housed in an ever-so-slight bump on the back of the case. Four extended lips form a twist-and-lock design that allows you to connect a slew of accessories; you just put the case on the accessory’s mounting bracket and then twist a quarter of a turn to lock the case in place. The company offers a wide range of mounting and carrying options, including the Car Mount, Sports Armband (our runner-up for the best armband), Belt Clip, Bike Mount (a staff favorite), Out Front bike mount, Wall Mount, Universal Adaptor, and Tripod Adaptor. Obviously, the Quad Lock system makes the most sense if you rely heavily on one or many such accessories. If you’re a bicyclist, for example, you might love being able to mount your phone on your bike quickly and securely without needing other bulky accessories.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The minor downside to this case is that the mounting interface adds a slight hump to the back of the case, which means it doesn’t sit quite flat when you lay it on its back. But you can easily get over this drawback if the other features appeal to you.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $23.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $55.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $70.
For more on waterproof iPhone cases, check out our full guide.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
In independent testing, Wirecutter writer Seamus Bellamy found some issues with the Frē. “Any time I took the case off, I had to jam the [silicon ring] back into its groove with a pen knife,” he told us. “Still works like a charm for me [when on], but … annoying.” We didn’t encounter this issue in our official testing, but we’ll look out for it during long-term use. Additionally, we noted a slight gap between the Frē’s screen cover and the phone’s display glass, but the only time this gap posed an issue for us was when we made very light swipes. Just the slightest amount of pressure generally works.
For the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus
The best option for the larger-screened iPhone is the Seidio Obex. With the Obex, everything works as well as we’d like, including the Touch ID sensor, touchscreen, cameras, and speakers. And, of course, this case passed our waterproofing tests.
*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.
For more on iPhone battery cases, check out our full guide.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Ultra Slim doesn’t have an especially premium feel. That’s not to say that it comes off as cheap, but nothing about its physical construction is especially impressive next to other cases. Another minor strike against this Anker case is its lack of button coverage; we almost always prefer (well-designed) press-through button covers that protect the iPhone’s various buttons and reduce the number of places where dust and dirt can get underneath the case.
For the iPhone 6 Plus and 6s Plus
Anker doesn’t make an Ultra Slim for the iPhone 6 Plus or 6s Plus, so for those handsets, we like the Tylt Energi Sliding Power Case. Unlike most of the models we tested, this one has a separate protective case that you can slide out of the battery sled when you don’t need the extra power, making it a more-practical option for the already huge Plus models. It’s also a great power source, providing on average a 93 percent charge to the iPhone 6s Plus in our tests.
An important thing to remember with the cases we dismiss below is that they are not necessarily bad. Although we’re noting any issues we saw with these cases, some of them are fine—they just can’t quite match up to the high quality of our picks.
Our previous pick for a more protective case was Speck’s CandyShell. A perennial favorite, it has two layers of material—plastic on the outside, rubber on the inside—that offer more protection than case designs that are just one or the other. The CandyShell is 10.9 mm thick, which puts it on the chunky side, but it doesn’t feel exceptionally bulky, and it’s one of the only cases we tested that claim to meet military drop-test standards. Speck offers the case in a wide range of colors, and variants add rubbery grips (CandyShell Grip), credit card holders (CandyShell Card), and graphic prints (CandyShell Inked).
The CandyShell has a few problems that keep it from being a top pick, though. For starters, the CandyShell’s glossy back almost instantly attracts small scratches that generally aren’t visible head on but jump out when you view the iPhone at an angle. Granted, these scratches don’t affect the protection the case offers—and we’re of course happier to see scratches on the case instead of on the phone itself—but it would be nice if Speck were to offer the case with a matte finish.
The other issue is the case’s shape. Some of our readers, as well as a contingent of Amazon reviewers, take issue with the fact that the CandyShell’s back is slightly convex. More specifically, when you set the case on a flat surface, this “hump” causes the case to rock when you press along any of its edges, or to spin like a top if you push it. (If you bought a CandyShell and you mind this spinning and rocking, Speck says to contact its customer support department.)
OnePlus (the Android phone maker) surprisingly decided to get in on the iPhone-case game with its Sandstone Case. The big draw is OnePlus’s Sandstone texture; Time says that it “feels like smooth sandpaper” and that “[i]t’s super grippy, making it very hard to drop.” Unfortunately the case is a shell with open top and bottom edges, meaning it’s less protective than a good case should be. Due to this design drawback, it fell out of competition.
SwitchEasy has a mixed history, one that makes it difficult to tell the full story based on its cases alone. Its Numbers case was our original pick for the iPhone 5 and 5s, before a wave of reader complaints about quality and customer service. The answers we got from SwitchEasy weren’t thorough; mostly, the company blamed the problems on third-parties selling knockoffs of its products. (At iLounge, I found the SwitchEasy protectors to be impressive in general—the Numbers earned a rare A rating from me—but readers there contacted me about similar issues.) Ultimately, we pulled our recommendation.
With all of that in mind, we looked at three SwitchEasy cases for the iPhone 6. The first is the Odyssey. Like some of the better cases we’ve evaluated, it’s a combination of plastic and rubber. Instead of being layered, the materials run side by side, with the hardened rubber making up the majority of the case. It isn’t the prettiest case, in our opinion, but it is protective. It covers the buttons without reducing much of their clickiness, and six holes along the bottom line up precisely with the speaker vents. Our favorite part of the case is the port protection: Rubber protectors fit into the headphone and Lightning ports, respectively, when they’re not in use, keeping dust and other debris out.
SwitchEasy’s Tones includes the same port protection and uses the same materials. The body is mostly plastic, though, with the rubber running around the edges as a border as well as across the back of the case, matching the iPhone’s antenna lines. We’d prefer a layer of rubber between the handset and the plastic back of the case, and the Sleep/Wake button requires a bit too much pressure on the handful of units we tested.
Our initial impressions of SwitchEasy’s Numbers were very positive—we were prepared to name it as our top pick—but there’s a lot more to the story than just our review units, and we found a significant fault after some extended use. This case is almost identical to the Incipio NGP, but it offers more protection. Instead of leaving the phone’s ports totally exposed, the case provides protectors that fit into the headphone-jack and Lightning-port openings to keep dust and debris out. It’s a nice touch that’s executed well. Even the phone’s speaker is better protected, with six individual holes instead of one long opening. We actually like the tactility of the buttons a bit more with SwitchEasy’s model than with Incipio’s case, too. An early yellow version of the case we tested accumulated permanent stains, but later iterations exhibited no such issue. The problem is that the case is a bit too loose, so the corners come off too easily. We experienced this issue time and time again while removing the encased phone from our pockets. Because we’ve had other problems with SwitchEasy cases in the past, we’re still a bit wary. If you do decide to purchase a SwitchEasy case, we recommend buying it directly through the company’s website. Doing so will eliminate any potential warranty issues with third-party sellers, should you have any problems with the case.
Combining a rubber skin with a plastic frame, the Spigen Neo Hybrid is a slim, attractive case. Its fatal flaw lies in its button protection. The silver plastic pill over the Sleep/Wake button doesn’t depress properly, so it may not hit the control underneath, and you likely won’t feel it if it does. Former Sweethome editor Joel Johnson confirmed this issue with the iPhone 6 Plus version. Because we received this case for testing so early, we think Spigen might revise later editions to address this problem.
Also from Spigen is the Ultra Hybrid, a single-piece case that fuses a rubber frame with a clear plastic back. It’s a nice-looking case, but once again, it has issues with the buttons. Rather than putting raised material over them, it has left and right edges that are flat from top to bottom with small indentations. For the Sleep/Wake button, the indented label says “PWR,” and for volume, you get plus and minus signs. Without a more pronounced physical distinction, you can more easily miss the buttons, and the frame moves inward when you press.
Twelve South is up front about just how protective the SurfacePad is. In the FAQ section of the case’s website, the company says, “SurfacePad for iPhone is not designed to protect iPhone from falls, drops, being run over by a car or dropped in the loo. SurfacePad is meant to guard your iPhone from scratches and scrapes from things like car keys, nail files or concrete park benches.” It’s actually less of a case and more of a leather sticker with a cover. The SurfacePad adheres to the back of the iPhone, and you can remove it and reapply it as necessary (though doing so is not as easy as the company would have you believe). We like the materials, but the SurfacePad is difficult to recommend unless your primary concern is fashion.
The Vault Slim Wallet from Silk is a much-less-expensive alternative to sister company CM4’s Q Card Case. It’s essentially the same design, except instead of a faux-leather back, the whole thing is made of TPU. Like the Q Card Case, the Slim Wallet can hold three cards, but a raised arch in its card slot causes the cards to curve to a noticeable degree, which may damage the cards over time. The Q Card Case’s positive attributes otherwise carry over, but because of the card bending, I’m a bit wary of the Slim Wallet.
Silk also offers the Armor Tough Case and PureView Clear Case. The Armor Tough Case is a rubber case with interchangeable, polycarbonate-plastic backplates. It’s a good case at an affordable price, but it’s thicker than than our top pick, the NGP. The PureView Clear Case, on the other hand, is a nice pick in the very full category of cases with rubber edges and clear backs, and Silk prices it aggressively. But we’re not terribly fond of this style because of dust’s propensity to get underneath the transparent back, and because of the ease with which the plastic can scratch. Still, next to others we’ve tested, the PureView Clear Case has pleasant-feeling buttons and well-sized port openings.
With Incipio’s Rival, unlike with the NGP, only the border is TPU; the rest of the Rival is hard plastic, about 0.3 mm thicker than the NGP. Everything else about the case is essentially the same as on the NGP, including the cutouts for the ports and the quality of the button protection. While the Rival is very smooth, much like the NGP, horizontal lines across the lower two-thirds of its back add a distinct texture. It isn’t as neutral as the NGP, but if you like the style, it is a good option.
Tech21’s Evo Mesh, which features the second generation of the company’s shock-absorbing lining, is an Apple Store exclusive. Much like Tech21’s Classic Shell (more on this design below), it’s a rubber case with a colored band running around the perimeter. The dimensions are pretty much identical between the two. There’s something about this one that we like more than the Classic Shell, but it’s hard to put a finger on what that is. Perhaps it’s that the somewhat-obnoxious orange band has been replaced by colors matching the various body shades of the case itself. Overall, though, this case is too pricey for what it gives you.
Plastic and rubber with a clear back, the Itskins Venum Reloaded drops the ball when it comes to covering the iPhone’s buttons. Similar to the setup of Spigen’s Ultra Hybrid, the design of the Venum Reloaded makes almost no physical distinction between the button coverage and the rest of the case. This case was also relatively expensive when last we checked, and the plastic border frame feels fragile.
Really more of a fashion case, the Nitro Forged from Itskins currently costs a pretty penny at nearly $70. It consists of a rubber skin with machined aluminum caps that attach at the top and bottom. Thankfully, this design is an improvement over previous versions, which required you to use an included screwdriver to install and remove the caps; instead, it uses small plastic clips that you can put in and remove by hand.
Also from Itskins is the Evolution. A rubber core with a plastic frame, the Evolution has some curves that help make it feel slightly more organic. The big problem is that the screen rises above the edge of the case instead of the other way around. This means that if you drop your handset, there’s far more potential for damage to the display than with other cases.
Incipio makes so many cases that we can’t expect great things out of every one. The Edge is a plastic slider, a style that’s relatively rare these days. The smooth, matte-finish plastic splits into two pieces for both installation and docking purposes. Although it offers proper button coverage and a nice protective lip, we found the case to be too tight; pulling it off, especially the bottom cap, is a struggle.
Weighing a few grams more than the average of all the cases we tested, the DualPro Shine is a solid contender from Incipio. It incorporates both plastic and rubber layers, although instead of being molded together, they’re two distinct pieces. The rubber is rather thick but doesn’t dampen the tactility of the buttons at all, and it still provides acceptable access to the ports. The port openings are exactly the same as the NGP’s. We also checked out the standard DualPro, which has a matte finish. It’s quite nice, but it’s thicker than the NGP and lacking the mil-spec rating of the CandyShell.
The plastic layer of the DualPro Shine fits into grooves in the rubber, helping the case feel like a cohesive unit. We think the most polarizing thing about this case is its texture: Designed to look like brushed aluminum, it certainly doesn’t feel like that, and at least in our tests, the result is a certain level of cognitive dissonance. It’s not a bad thing by any means, but overall it just doesn’t feel quite as nice as it looks.
If card storage is important to you, Verus’s Damda is a fine case. The body is made of black rubber, with nice button protection and properly centered openings for the headphone port and microphone, the Lightning port, and the speaker. Attached to the back is a plastic compartment that adds both mass and depth. A plastic door slides open to reveal space for two, maybe three, credit cards. We initially found it a little hard to open, but with some cards in there it’s easier to work with yet still secure. This is more of a niche case than our pick.
Verus’s Crystal Mixx offers a transparent window plus a rubber frame. The back on this one is plastic, which is one of the two drawbacks. In our experience with iPhone cases, clear plastic scuffs easily and will show those scratches within a matter of days. This case might not be so bad if the frame provided a better lip. Unfortunately, at 0.3 mm, it’s one of the shortest lips we saw, and it could lead to problems if you drop your iPhone.
The Protector Case and Voyager Case from Pelican look a lot alike, and each model is difficult to find—Pelican doesn’t sell them online, and in our experience they’ve been reliably available only at AT&T retail stores. The Protector is a bulkier, more-angular take on the CandyShell design without any additional benefits, so we’d pass on it. The Voyager adds port protection and funnels the sound from the speakers forward. It also comes with a belt clip and screen film. We see this model as an alternative to an OtterBox case, as it’s basically overkill. Most people simply don’t need this level of protection, especially not if they have to go out of their way to find it.
PureGear’s Slim Shell Case is available in seven color combinations, including clear-on-clear. This model is hard plastic with a rubberized but still rigid frame. The metal button covers are a really nice addition, helping the case feel more premium. It won’t offer as much protection as a CandyShell, so it isn’t a top pick, but this one isn’t a bad option at all.
One of the very first iPhone 6 cases to be publicly sold—we saw it as early as May 2014—Minisuit’s Frost is an inexpensive TPU skin. While it does fit, it has almost no lip, and the holes along the bottom are uneven to the point of looking warped.
Monoprice is known for inexpensive products of all kinds. We like some of the company’s accessories—it makes great cables, for example—but Monoprice cases generally don’t impress. The materials often feel cheap, and other companies offer higher-quality products at similarly low prices. For example, the Metal Alloy Protective Case (available in gold, silver, and cosmic blue) consists of a thin, aluminum shell that snaps over a thin TPU skin, with lines matching the iPhone’s antenna breaks. The TPU doesn’t feel as nice as the material that Incipio and other companies use, and the case exposes the Apple logo on the back of the phone.
Monoprice’s Industrial Metal Mesh Guard Case (in black or white) feels a bit nicer but is even less protective. The plastic shell has has a cool-looking steel grille over it, but it leaves the top and bottom edges unprotected, and it features the largest Apple-logo opening we’ve seen on any case.
We checked out the TPU case from Insignia, a Best Buy brand, and it seems to be from the same OEM as Monoprice’s TPU case, but at a higher price.
We don’t like the Monoprice PC+TPU Protector Case quite as much, even though it does offer arguably more protection. This model splits into two pieces, with an inner skin of TPU and a polycarbonate shell that snaps into place over it. The case is fairly easy to assemble, but once it’s together, it just feels big. It’s both wider and thicker than the NGP, without any obvious advantage other than price.
Rokform has long focused on ruggedized cases that can connect to an ecosystem of mounting accessories. Its Sport v3 is no exception. This plastic and rubber case comes with swappable magnetic backplates that allow it to connect to various mounting brackets the company sells. Unfortunately, the instruction insert lists a dealbreaker: “Magnet will disable NFC on phone.” These days the company claims that the magnet won’t interfere with Apple Pay or any antennas, but we haven’t tested this.
OtterBox’s Defender Series is the bulkiest of the cases we’ve tested so far. This is the company’s flagship case, the one most people associate with the brand. It’s made up of a plastic frame that snaps around the handset and a thick rubber skin that covers the whole thing. Unlike most other cases, this model includes flaps over the vibration control switch, headphone port, and Lightning port—all good things for an extra level of protection. It also includes button coverage, but we found that it requires more force to depress the volume and power controls than other cases do.
The Defender Series is also the only case we’ve tested with built-in screen protection in the form of a clear film integrated into the frame. Because you end up with a bit of space between the protector and the screen, very light presses and swipes might not register, which is a drawback. Atop the Touch ID/Home button is a thin sheet of plastic that didn’t hinder the experience in our testing. While the Defender Series does expose the Apple logo, the case at least covers it with clear film that prevents it from getting scratched. And as a bonus, the Defender Series comes with a belt holster.
In the OtterBox family, the Commuter Series represents the next step down in overall protection. Instead of plastic on the inside and rubber on the outside, the layers are reversed. The case still offers port coverage, but the switch on the iPhone’s left side remains exposed. Thankfully, the buttons depress much more easily. Rather than a permanent screen protector, OtterBox includes an optional film with this case. The Apple logo is once again exposed, this time with no plastic covering it. Other than the port protection, this case offers no obvious benefits over a CandyShell, and the size is a drawback that keeps this model from earning a top spot.
The Symmetry Series is a relatively recent addition to the OtterBox lineup and the slimmest of them all. It feels like a direct answer to the CandyShell, with its dual-layer design. This case offers the same level of protection as our top choice and a substantial lip. It’s taller and wider, though, at a higher price. The biggest benefit is that with a matte-plastic back, it won’t show the scratches that a CandyShell does.
OtterBox’s Statement Series is an iPhone 6/6s–specific case. An iPhone 6/6s Plus version exists, but unlike OtterBox’s other lines, this series offers no version for older iPhones or other flagship smartphones. It’s also one of the few OtterBox cases that put aesthetics first, with its large back-panel window and leather-covered lower quarter being its key distinguishing features.
The Hard Candy Cases Candy Clip Series is a pretty crazy proposition: For $30, you get a hard-plastic X-shaped piece that snaps onto the back of the iPhone, covering its corners and some of the edges but leaving the buttons and most of the sides exposed. No thanks.
Urban Armor Gear’s Case is one of the only cases we’ve tested to meet military drop-test standards. It’s excellent as a protective case, but its industrial aesthetic lacks the broad appeal of simpler designs like those from Incipio and Speck. UAG also combines plastic and rubber in this case, but instead of a glossy finish, it uses a matte one, with an industrial appearance that appropriately matches the brand’s name. With ridges and fake screws, it looks like something that would not be out of place on a construction site. We do take issue with the two small, rectangular holes on the back of the case—about a quarter of the way from the top or bottom, respectively, they expose part of the logo and the top half of “Phone” in the iPhone label. It’s a strange design decision on an otherwise impressive case. On the other hand, this model does come with a screen film, whereas most iPhone cases don’t these days.
Tech21’s entire product lineup is based on D3O, a licensed material the company uses in every one of its cases. Mostly present in the borders of Tech21 cases, the bright-orange material is supposed to remain soft when at rest but automatically harden upon impact, dissipating the force and ultimately preventing damage to your phone. The company really likes to show off the stuff; each of its cases is at least translucent, if not transparent, around the edges.
From Tech21, we tested the Classic Shell, Classic Shell Cover, and Classic Shell Flip. The first is the most basic, a glossy TPU skin that’s wider than the NGP, thanks to the layer of D3O. We’d like to see a bigger lip than this case offers, and the buttons are a bit squishier than we generally prefer. The Classic Shell Cover keeps the same frame but replaces the TPU on the back with a hard-plastic plate, and has an attached cover to protect the iPhone’s display. Everything else works the same as with the standard model, and the lid has a cutout over the earpiece so you can speak on the phone with it closed. The Classic Shell Flip is essentially the same, only instead of plastic this case has a leather feel (it appears to be the fake stuff), and the lid comes around from the bottom rather than the side. We find that lids get in the way more than they help, so neither of these covered models excites us, and the soft buttons and wider body of the Classic Shell prevent it from getting a recommendation.
From iLuv, we received two cases for evaluation: the Aurora Wave and Gelato. The first is a simple silicone skin with a grid on the back that glows in the dark. In terms of body coverage, the case lives up to what we’re looking for, but making such a design involves a low degree of difficulty. As we’ve often found with cases of this style in the past, the vertical edges can pull away from the body of the phone more readily than with other cases, allowing dust and other particulates to get underneath. The Gelato, on the other hand, is a TPU case with an attractive checkerboard pattern on the back. It looks and feels pretty good, but the 0.33-millimeter lip is too short.
Poetic’s Atmosphere is a thin case made of dual-molded polycarbonate plastic and TPU. The softer material rings the front edge to create a small lip, and it also runs over the antenna breaks on the back of the phone. While this transparent case initially seems like a nice option for people who want a slim protector but still want to show off their iPhone, it falls short due to button protectors that require too much force to press.
Macally shipped us a handful of different cases, but two of them are styles we simply can’t recommend. Both the Metallic Snap-On Case and the Flexible Protective Frame come in a variety of colors, but the former is a shell, and the latter is a bumper that protects the edges but leaves the scratchable back exposed. The Durable Protective Case, in contrast, does offer more thorough protection, but unfortunately it isn’t an original design. A combination TPU skin and hard-plastic frame, this case kind of looks like an armadillo from the back. We’ve already seen at least one other company offering the same case, and we weren’t impressed with that case’s aggressive looks either.
New Trent’s Alixo 6S isn’t necessarily the prettiest case around, but it is one of the more original designs we’ve seen in the pile. This two-piece case consists of a front frame (black- and white-rimmed versions are included in the package) and a silicone rubber and plastic back. You just snap the phone into your choice of frame and then insert it into the back piece, which includes flip-open port protectors. The amount of protection this model offers for the price is impressive, as it includes a built-in screen film and Touch ID coverage. But the latter turns out to be the Alixo 6S’s downside: Although the fingerprint sensor does work with the thin material over it, we found it to be less reliable, requiring more attempts to unlock the device.
Marblue’s ToughTek is a thick silicone rubber case that comes with a screen protector. While we don’t doubt this thing will be able to tolerate some significant drops, the ToughTek is huge—3 inches wide, 5.8 inches tall, and 0.6 inch deep—and particularly difficult to get in and out of tight pockets due to the grippy material. It may not be a bad option if you’re handing your iPhone 6 to kids.
The Elite, also from Marblue, takes its inspiration from the CandyShell, while incorporating an Aztec-like pattern. The plastic and rubber layers intersect in horizontal and vertical lines, with the latter material sticking up above the hard plastic. The most intriguing part of this case is the pair of inch-long ridges, one on either side. They’re made to work with an array of accessories, including a belt clip. We’ll be keeping an eye out for these accessories, and we’ll see whether they boost the value of the case.
We had high hopes for the Spigen Capella, which is available in multiple colors. Its setup is very similar to the CandyShell’s, with rubber inside and plastic outside. The big difference, and the reason we were excited about it, is it’s much slimmer, measuring about 2 mm thinner from front to back. This is partly due to the smaller, half-millimeter lip around the screen. One of our editors loves the way the case’s slight curve feels, comparing it to the iPhone 3G. Judging by the feedback we’ve seen from readers and Amazon reviewers, many people don’t like that shape as much as we do.
Although the Capella isn’t as deep as the CandyShell, it is a bit taller, and about 3 mm wider. This width ends up being problematic for two reasons, one on either edge. On the iPhone’s left side, the switch is much harder to toggle, as it’s deeply recessed inside the rubber border; if you don’t have nails to speak of, moving it back and forth will be tough. On the other side, the Sleep/Wake button requires a surprising amount of pressure to activate. If you’re willing to deal with those drawbacks, the Capella is otherwise worth considering as a CandyShell alternative.
With its Revolution case, Poetic is looking to compete with companies such as OtterBox at a much lower price. The case starts with a plastic frame that snaps onto the front of the iPhone; a clear sheet of plastic protects the screen while leaving the sensors at the top and the Touch ID button at the bottom exposed. A rubber and plastic body fits around the back, snapping into place with the front piece. The whole thing feels quite sturdy, the buttons click well, and the flap over the Lightning port is a nice bit of extra protection.
Supcase’s Unicorn Beetle Pro Holster offers a similar proposition. The biggest difference between this model and the Revolution is that it comes with a plastic belt holster. Having roughly the same dimensions as the Poetic case, this model requires an installation that’s pretty much the same. This case adds a few flaps for coverage, namely over the side switch and the headphone port in addition to the Lightning port. While it’s a really solid-feeling case, we immediately called the company’s claim of dust-proof construction into question, as it leaves openings for dust to get in, including the fully exposed speaker. At the moment, Amazon users are generally fond of it, with 127 reviews and a 4.1-star (out of five) rating, but we’ve seen quite a few three- and four-star reviews.
Relative newcomer Supcase has a number of iPhone 6 cases, in fact, most of which are part of the “Unicorn Beetle” family. The Slim Armored Protective Case is a lot like Urban Armor Gear’s case in that it’s protective, but the design is rather specific, meaning it likely won’t appeal to the same wide swath of people as something a bit more generic. The plastic and rubber case feels sturdy and has some of the clickiest buttons of any we tested. As for the lip, it’s only about 0.5 mm, so it’s smaller than we’d like, and the case makes no mil-spec claims. If you like the look, it’s not a bad choice otherwise.
Supcase also sells the Hybrid Clear Bumper Case, which combines a clear-plastic backplate with a TPU bumper. That polycarbonate back won’t absorb as much shock as the thick rubber border, but it’s a good way to show off Apple’s design.
In a previous version of this guide, we named Logitech’s Protection [+] as a more-protective pick. It has a very similar design, with the benefits of a matte finish and embedded magnets that allow it to connect to mounting accessories. Unfortunately Logitech has confirmed that it’s no longer selling the case, which is currently on clearance at Best Buy.
No other case we tested is set up the same way as Maxboost’s DuraShield Series (now named DuraSlim). Like many other models, it uses both rubber and plastic components, but here the rubber is a bumper that wraps around the iPhone’s border, and the plastic snaps in place over it while covering the back of the handset. Despite the unusual design—or perhaps because of it—the case offers superior protection compared with many others we’ve seen. It includes a 1-mm lip, plus speaker and Lightning-port protection. It also redirects the audio ports forward, meaning the sound comes at you, instead of down; the design has no impact on audio quality, thankfully. As for the Lightning port, it stays protected underneath a rubber tab that you can flip out when you need access.
Few case manufacturers actively warn that their product doesn’t offer drop protection, but just such a message appears on the Amazon listing for Maxboost’s Liquid Skin. Extremely thin, this transparent-TPU case adds almost no bulk to the handset, not even a protective lip. It’s better than a shell because it offers button protection and cutouts for the ports, even if they are quite tight. But with such a warning from the case maker itself, we can’t recommend the Liquid Skin for most people. If you’re going to use a case, you should use something that’ll stand up to a drop.
Maxboost’s Crystal Cushion and i-Blason’s Halo Series are almost identical to each other and actually may be small tweaks on the same reference design. Both have rubber frames—the Halo Series offers six colors, plus clear—with transparent plastic backplates. The Maxboost case’s edges are more squared-off, while the i-Blason’s are rounder. Both offer good body coverage and responsive buttons, but the lip around the screen is almost nonexistent, especially on the Halo Series. Combine that with the tendency for clear plastic cases to scratch and to expose trapped dust underneath, and these cases aren’t top picks.
The Maxboost HyperPro Series is for all intents and purposes a thicker version of the Incipio NGP. Available only in black, it uses two layers of TPU to protect the iPhone, and it measures 10.2 mm thick; it’s also wider and taller than our pick. The buttons press well and it includes a protective lip, but we can find no real benefit to this case over the NGP, other than savings of just a few dollars.
One of just a few slider-style cases out there, Maxboost’s Vibrance Series offers a different build than most of the cases we tested. A hard-plastic case, it splits into two pieces, both lined with a soft fabric along the back that’s intended to prevent damage during installation and removal. Instead of pushing the phone into the case, you pull off the bottom cap, slide the phone into the top, and then push the pieces back together. Much as with the STM Harbour, this kind of design allows you to keep the iPhone thoroughly protected most of the time, and to plug it into docks when necessary. The lip is somewhat short, though, and pulling off the Vibrance’s bottom cap is harder than flipping up the Harbour’s bottom. Maxboost also offers only one color choice, salmon with a gold cap, which may not appeal to as many people as more basic colors would.
If you find the CandyShell to be too large, you won’t be impressed with Speck’s MightyShell, which once came in several color variants, although black is the only one still available. This model does have a few key differences. First is the extra layer of TPU material that helps absorb shocks to a greater degree; it adds 2 mm in both width and height, as well as 0.5 mm to the thickness of the case. Speck claims that this new design will “double MIL-STD-810G drop test standards,” but we can’t tell whether that means the case is tested to survive drops from twice as high or it means the case can tolerate the standard 4-foot drops twice as many times. One aspect of the case we really appreciate is the hard-plastic exterior, which is matte instead of glossy, so it won’t show scratches nearly as readily as the standard CandyShell. For the price, we expect more than just claims of better drop protection; the circumstances in which this case would survive but a CandyShell wouldn’t are too ambiguous to justify the cost.
Among ultrathin cases, Shumuri’s Slim looks and feels very similar to Caudabe’s The Veil XT, down to the lack of the standard Veil’s screen-protection lip. But it’s also missing both Veil models’ camera-lens protector. The same goes for Monoprice’s Ultra-thin Shatter-proof Case (in clear frost, ice blue, and smoke) and Totallee’s The Scarf (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus).
Rearth USA’s Ringke Slim (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) offers both a screen-protecting lip and bottom-edge coverage, as well as thicker plastic for additional protection. However, we’re not fans of its aesthetics—because the case’s rigid plastic is thicker, the company has added a small slit to each corner to make putting the case on your phone easier. The design works well enough; we just don’t like the way it looks.
Power Support’s Air Jacket and SwitchEasy’s Nude (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) are glossy-plastic cases that are slightly thicker than Caudabe’s The Veil. The former provides good coverage along the phone’s bottom edge but has only the very faintest of a screen-protection lip. The latter has neither.
Amzer’s Crusta may not seem like a great value at $35 (iPhone 6) or $45 (iPhone 6 Plus) as of this writing, but the package includes more than just a basic case. The case itself uses a two-piece snap-together design with a rubber bumper and a glass back that lets the iPhone’s rear show through. The glass likely won’t show scratches as easily as similar cases we’ve seen with a plastic back, but you will still see any dust, hair, or other particulates that get under the glass. Amzer includes a second piece of glass to protect the phone’s screen. The case ends up being bulkier than we prefer—the iPhone 6 version is 14.4 mm thick, including the phone—but it’s one of the better cases we’ve seen from Amzer, a company otherwise known for inexpensive, nondescript accessories.
NewerTech is known more for computer accessories than smartphone add-ons, but the company does offer a line of cases called NuGuard KX (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus). Made more for drop protection than sleekness, the NuGuard KX incorporates a thick layer of gel material that absorbs and evenly distributes shocks. The case is quite bulky, yet an opening on the back of the case for the phone’s Apple logo actually subtracts from the overall level of protection. We prefer the NGP.
We have varying degrees of praise for three cases from Griffin Technology. The Survivor Slim (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) is our least favorite of them. This bulky rubber case feels more like an accessory for a kid’s toy than a smartphone. It could be a good case if children frequently use your phone, but we suspect that most adults will prefer something slimmer.
We like the Survivor Core (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) and All Clear Identity (for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus) better. Both allow the handset’s back to show through a clear back panel. The former has rubber edges, and its rubber corners protrude a bit, helping to cushion the iPhone against drops—but the result is that it’s a little larger than a traditional case. The All Clear Identity, on the other hand, has a transparent back with translucent-rubber edges. The problem, as with all cases sporting a clear back, is that both cases show any gunk that gets underneath the plastic. For some people, that might be an acceptable compromise in a case designed to let you see your phone’s own surfaces, but we generally prefer something translucent or opaque. Neither the Survivor Core nor the All Clear identity is a bad option, but neither particularly excites us.
Belkin’s Grip Case for iPhone 6 is a good alternative to our top pick, but it doesn’t quite make the top tier. The design is very similar to that of the Incipio NGP, as it’s a one-piece polyurethane case. The biggest difference is across the phone’s bottom edge: Instead of having separate openings for the headphone jack, microphone, Lightning-connector port, and speaker, the case exposes the last two through one long opening. A slight indentation in the plastic covering the bottom of the phone allows for use with accessories such as Apple’s Lightning-connector adapters. This is a nice feature that we haven’t seen on other cases, although we worry that the thinness of the material here, as well as near the Ring/Silent switch, might make it more susceptible to ripping. Wirecutter editor Michael Zhao also finds the case’s button coverage to be somewhat problematic, as he doesn’t like that they’re nearly flush with the case.
Among the cases sent to us for consideration, we also dismissed a number of models right off the bat. We cut Spigen’s Slim Armor, Slim Armor S, Tough Armor, and Tough Armor S, along with Verus’s Thor, Iron Shield, and Dandy Diary, plus PureGear’s DualTek, because of their Apple-logo-exposing holes on the back. They do a decent job of protecting your phone otherwise, but we can think of no reason to recommend them for most people when existing hole-free options are as good or better.
We also dismissed a number of shell cases because, as we mention above, they provide a minimal amount of coverage for the device’s body. Among these were the Aluminum Fit, Thin Fit, and Thin Fit A from Spigen. The same goes for the Neo Hybrid EX, Spigen’s bumper case, which offers even less protection.
Originally published: April 8, 2016