Purchasing your iPhone was the easy part; now you’ve got to find a case that best suits your style and needs. But what to choose? There’s more to consider than just looks alone—do you want something that shows off the iPhone’s svelte design? Something to keep it safe in your slippery hands? A case that clips to your belt? Some stores are jam-packed with options that make it overwhelming to settle on a choice. Here are a few case recommendations based on what your needs might be.
Best Value: Speck CandyShell series (iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, $35)
If you’re not exactly sure what you’re looking for in a case, Speck’s CandyShell series is an excellent place to start. While $35 doesn’t exactly sound like a value upfront, the CandyShell provides a little bit of everything—it’s lightweight, easy to hold, and protective without being too bulky. It features a matte, impact-resistant, hard polycarbonate plastic cover that's designed to easily slide in and out of pockets. The surface of the case is smooth to the touch and easy to handle. Inside, a soft rubber coating fits snugly around your device. The hard shell and TPE-basedsoft interior are molded together, while the case features rubberized button covers and cut-outs for the iPhone's lenses, speakers, ports, and sensors. A thin raised front bezel helps protect your screen from coming into contact with other surfaces that might damage it. Plus, the CandyShell line offers a wide variety of color combos and designs, and Speck offers a one-year warranty if the design doesn't quite work as promised.
Best Holster Case: PureGear Kickstand Case & Holster (iPhone 4/4S, $20; iPhone 5, $30)
It may not be the sleekest case on the market, but PureGear offers a smart solution to the holster case design. While most holster cases require you to completely remove your iPhone from its case—which leaves it unprotected—PureGear made a holster designed to work with its iPhone 5 Kickstand Case. The holster holds your iPhone snugly; it’s still easy to remove, but there’s no way your iPhone will budge unless you apply pressure. PureGear recommends that you place your iPhone into the holster with its display facing inward, so that the case's soft felt inside keeps your iPhone’s touchscreen safe from scratches. However, this position prevents access to the iPhone’s touchscreen, buttons, and ports. The holster and case are designed to work with the iPhone facing in or out, so use them as you prefer.
Best Wallet Case: Pad & Quill Little Pocket Book (iPhone 5, $60)
Wallet cases are tricky. Most of them are advertised as being a complete all-in-one solution, allowing you to leave your standalone wallet at home—but in reality they only offer room for a few must-have cards. We’ve often found that the wallet compartments are too small to actually be useful, or that adding cash makes the case uncomfortably bulky. We've also ran into the opposite problem, with items sometimes coming loose and falling out of their slots.
Pad & Quill’s Little Pocket Book provides an elegant workaround to the usually clumsy wallet case—it has separate pockets for cards and cash. This thin book-style folio case has three card pockets (one with a window for your driver’s license or photo ID) and one larger pocket for cash. It has a thin, wooden frame to house your iPhone and a cloth “bookmark” to remove your phone quickly if you’d prefer to take calls without using the case.
Best Sleeve: Dodocase Durables iPhone 5 Wallet (iPhone 5, $50)
Yes, technically this is also a wallet case, but the additional pockets make this already-stellar iPhone sleeve stand out even more. If you prefer the look and feel of a naked iPhone, a sleeve is the way to go—your iPhone will be protected when not in use, and easy to remove when you do need to use it.
This upscale-looking Durables iPhone Wallet sleeve is made of a sage-green waxed duck canvas and lined with a bright orange cotton fabric; a flap of mahogany leather rims the bottom half of the sleeve and is bound to the canvas at each edge, creating two pockets for cash or cards. Remember, because it's a sleeve, you must remove your iPhone from the case in order to make calls and have full access to its touchscreen, cameras, and ports. Plus, it keeps a slim profile, so it should fit into most pants pockets and purses without taking up too much room.
Business savvy: Sena Hampton Flip (iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, $60)
Sena’s Hampton Flip is sleek, understated, and crafted from fine leather—it’s a professional-looking case packed with style. This flip case has a cover that protects your iPhone’s touchscreen when not in use; just flip it up when you need access. The flap has a snap on the bottom that keeps it closed, but easily rests flat against the back of your phone when in use. The top flap has three slim card slots which are a little too slim for credit cards, but are perfect for stashing a few business cards.
Most Protective: Otterbox Defender (iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, $50)
If you’re accident-prone (or just worried about that fatal drop that ruins your iPhone), pick up the ultra-protective Otterbox Defender. Two separate plastic pieces snap around your iPhone; the front piece has a built-in screen protector, and the back piece has a window that reveals the Apple logo, yet still keeps it covered with a clear plastic piece to fully protect the iPhone’s back. Once those pieces are clicked into place, a hefty silicon layer gets placed around the iPhone, which covers the Home, volume, and Sleep/Wake buttons with press-through button overlays. This layer also includes flaps that protect the Ring/Silent switch, headphone jack, and dock-connector port.