In the clear
Phone cases are a necessary evil. They add extra weight and thickness to your iPhone, and they cover up the pretty gold, silver, or space gray exterior you spent an extra five minutes picking out. But you suck it up, because it’s better to slap an ugly case on your iPhone than it is to pay for a pricey screen repair.
What if you didn’t have to choose between protection and design? These ten cases are not only lightweight and protective—they’re translucent, so you can see your iPhone in all its glimmery gold (or silver, or space gray) glory.
Case-Mate Sheer Glam
According to Case-Mate, its Glam collection of cases—which includes the Sheer Glam, Glam, and Brilliance cases—is inspired by the shimmer of fine jewelry. And it shows, because the $40 Sheer Glam isn’t your typical glittery iPhone case. The Sheer Glam features a translucent plastic back dotted with silver glitter. Snap it on, and the glitter floats above the surface of your phone, giving it just enough shine to be eye-catching, but not so much that it looks tacky. The case’s two-part design makes it easy to put on and take off: It has a soft silicone bumper with protective metal covers for your iPhone’s sleep/wake switch and volume buttons, and a hard plastic back that snaps into place.
Casetify Shine Through Collection
Looking for something quirky and colorful? Check out Casetify’s Shine Through collection of slim see-through cases designed by independent artists. These $40 single-piece snap-on shells feature colorful designs printed on frosty translucent impact-resistant plastic. There are hundreds of designs to choose from, but some of our favorites include the Watercolor Pond case, the Simplicity White Transparent case, and the Aqua and White Mandala - Transparent case. If you can’t find a Shine Through case you like, you can also use Casetify’s site to make your own translucent case.
Speck MightyShell Clear
Many translucent cases are also light on protection, but not Speck’s $50 MightyShell Clear. According to Speck, the MightyShell line meets twice the standard for military grade drop-test protection (the standard is 26 drops from a height of four feet onto a two-inch piece of plywood over concrete). The MightyShell Clear has a slate gray bumper and a clear back plate, through which you’ll be able to see the case’s protective raised rubber ridges.
Case-Mate 24 Karat Gold
If the Sheer Glam’s subtle specks of silver glitter isn’t quite shiny enough for you, there’s always Case-Mate’s $50 24 Karat Gold case. The 24 Karat Gold is constructed similarly to the Sheer Glam—it has two parts, a soft silicone bumper and a hard acrylic back plate that snaps into place, so it’s relatively easy to put on and take off. The translucent back plate is thick, because it has scraps of real gold leaf layered inside it. The 24 Karat Gold case is thicker and sturdier than the Sheer Glam case, but it also gives off a more opulent (rather than subtle), glamorous vibe.
Tavik’s $40 Synth case is simple but sexy. This one-piece case features a black bumper that protects your iPhone’s edges from scrapes and a translucent plastic back in three different ombre patterns. The effect is gorgeous: You still see your phone, but through the lens of a pretty, sunset-like gradient. The Synth comes in three color schemes—a “fade-to-black,” where you see your iPhone’s color up top and black on the bottom; a tropical blue-yellow-orange; and a sunset-inspired purple-orange-red.
Incipio’s $25 Octane gives you a pop of color while still retaining a translucent polycarbonate back plate that lets you see your iPhone. The Octane has a bright, textured bumper (comes in neon green, neon orange, neon pink, cyan, and black) and a frosty translucent back plate. The bumper is thick and textured for a better grip, and the neon colors reflect nicely onto your phone. The Octane is a good blend of slim and protective—it doesn’t add a lot of extra weight to your iPhone, but it feels heavy enough that you won’t be worried about dropping it.
X-Doria Scene Plus
X-Doria’s $30 Scene Plus is similar to the 24 Karat Gold case in that it implements three-dimensional patterns in its polycarbonate shell. In other words, the pattern is printed in layers to give a 3D effect, although the Scene Plus does it with paint rather than gold leaf. The Scene Plus comes in three color combinations—a black bumper with a translucent back and black, white, and gray dots; a gold bumper with a translucent back and gold, white, and black paint spatters; and a red bumper with a translucent back and ombre lines that fade from deep plum to white.
Case-Mate Naked Tough
Case-Mate’s $35 Naked Tough case protects all parts of your iPhone—including its buttons—while still maintaining a discreet profile. Like the other Case-Mate cases in our roundup, the Naked Tough has a two-piece design that makes it extremely easy to put on and take off. A soft silicone bumper with metal press-through button overlays for your sleep/wake and volume buttons fits around the edge of your iPhone, and a hard plastic back snaps over that. The Naked Tough doesn’t sacrifice translucence for protection, and once it’s on it looks like it’s a part of the phone.
Tech Armor SlimProtect Ultra Slim Clear
If you want a truly naked look, skip the Naked Tough and head straight over to Tech Armor’s $15 SlimProtect Ultra Slim Clear. The SlimProtect Ultra Slim Clear is a clear polycarbonate snap-on case that protects your iPhone without adding bulk or distracting from its pretty gold/silver/space gray backing. While this case doesn’t protect your iPhone’s buttons (the plastic has cut-outs for all buttons and ports), it does have a slight lip to protect the screen from scratches. The SlimProtect Ultra Slim Clear is easy to put on and take off, and it’s the most affordable case in this roundup.
Incipio’s $20 NGP isn’t the prettiest of the bunch, but it’s an all-around solid choice: It’s affordable, it protects your iPhone’s buttons, and it comes in five translucent colors (and one solid color). The NGP is the only soft-shell, flexible case in our roundup—it’s made of a smooth, grippy shock-absorbing polymer—which makes it easy to put on and take off. The NGP comes in translucent neon orange, neon pink, blue, frosty white, and teal, as well as opaque black. If you’re looking for a soft, simple case that lets you see your device, this is it.