While rugged phones like Cat’s S48C and Samsung’s Galaxy S8 Active are great smartphone choices for those in construction and the trades, the vast majority of workers and operators on jobsites around the country are using iPhones and Android phones that require a bit of protection in order to make it through the rigors of the job in once piece.
As we do each year, we’ve rounded up our top picks in smartphone protection. The roundup includes battery cases, thin cases and waterproof cases. Check them out below.
A Tempered Glass Screen Protector
Before we get into the actual cases, if your phone will be frequenting a jobsite each day, it’s probably a good idea to install a tempered glass screen protector over the display.
These screen protectors protect your display from scratches but also do a pretty good job of preventing the screen from cracking in the event of a drop. And because they’re glass they don’t have that awful sticky/plasticky feel of the old film protectors.
My personal favorite brand is amFilm. These can be found on Amazon for a wide variety of phones and devices and usually include two screen protectors for under $10. (Best Buy and most carriers charge upwards of $30 for these screen protectors.) In fact, amFilm’s iPhone X/XS screen protector pack comes with three of these shields for just $8 and they come with a nice plastic frame that serves as a guide for easy drop-in installation. (amFilm also offers shields for the new iPhone XR.) And all of these amFilm packs include plenty of stickers so you can use the hinge method of applying your screen protector.
Best All-Around Case
Silk Base Grip and Kung Fu Grip
With all the new iPhone and Android models out there, researching a good all-around recommendation for everyone can be a challenge. But Silk, which makes svelte cases with a lot of grip and a good amount of drop protection, offers cases for just about every modern iPhone and many new Samsung phones.
I learned about these cases from the Wirecutter, which tested more than 70 different iPhone cases before settling on Silk as their overall recommendation. Beyond a great design that boasts a lot of protection for how little bulk the case has, Silk also throws in a tempered glass screen protector and sells it all for around $12 at Walmart and on Amazon.
Silk says the cases offer highly-texturized sides and air pockets at the corners to soften the blow of a drop.
Silk sells these as either the “Kung Fu Grip” or the “Base Grip,” depending on the phone you’re buying for. So search both of those at Amazon or Walmart and you should be able to find your phone model pretty easily.
Best Battery Cases
Apple Smart Battery Case
If you have an iPhone 6/6S/7/8 Plus model, you probably don’t need a battery case since Apple’s phablet gets great battery life on its own. But if your iPhone 6S, 7 or 8 can’t quite get your through a full day without needing a charge, we highly recommend Apple’s Smart Battery Case.
This $100 case doubles the battery life of your iPhone and earns the “Smart” in its name by both letting you charge the case and phone through a single port and by exhausting the battery inside the case before using your phone’s battery at all. In other words, the case doesn’t charge your phone like, say, a case from Mophie. It acts as a backup battery for your phone.
Plus, the Smart Battery Case is made with a nice silicone material that provides a nice grip and a decent amount of protection.
Mophie Juice Pack cases
If you own an Android phone, your best bet for a quality battery case is Mophie. And though these aren’t quite as “smart” as Apple’s battery case, they do offer a bit more protection and have a handy charge indicator.
Best Waterproof Case
Best for iPhone: Dog and Bone Wetsuit Impact
Though LifeProof’s cases are likely the most well-known waterproof cases for smartphones, one that comes highly recommended from several outlets, including the Wirecutter, is Dog and Bone’s Wetsuit Impact. These are available for both the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy phones and are among the most thin waterproof cases you can buy.
Dog and Bone says the Wetsuit Impact is designed to output better sound clarity than competitors while offering access to all buttons and functions with water, dust and shock protection.
Best for Android: LifeProof Fre
When buying a waterproof case for Android, your best bet is LifeProof’s Fre series, which is offered not just for iPhones and Samsung’s Galaxy lineup, but also for LG and Google Pixel phones.
Best Thin Case
If you’re looking for a case to provide basic scratch protection, Totallee’s Thin series of cases come recommended from several different reviewers and are available for iPhones, Google Pixel devices, and Samsung phones.
At around $30, these cases aren’t the chepaest, but they do come with a two-year replacement warranty.
Best Ultimate Protection Cases (for drops)
Speck Presidio Pro
If you’re looking for a case with amazing drop protection, great grip and not much bulk, it’s hard to do better than Speck’s Presidio Pro. This is the case I personally throw on my iPhone XS Max whenever I venture onto a jobsite. It features two layers of protection: a polycarbonate outer shell and a shock-absorbing inner barrier. On top of up to 10-feet of drop protection, the Presidio Pro is covered in a silicon soft-touch finish that provides great grip without sticking to your pockets too much.
I can’t recommend this case highly enough. Speck has engineered a highly-protective case without having the case feel so bulky you don’t like using it.
The Presidio Pro is available for both iPhone and Android devices.
Pitaka MagCase Pro
Another highly protective case I love is the Pitaka MagCase Pro. It has six layers of protection, including an Aramid outer covering. Aramid is a synthetic fiber known for its strength and resistance to heat. It’s used in everything from body armor (Kevlar is a type of aramid.) to aerospace applications, marine vehicles, tennis racket strings, hockey sticks and snowboards. In other words, when you need a lightweight material that can stand up to a lot of abuse, aramid is a great choice.
While aramid covers the back of the case, TPU plastic is used to protect the sides, provide a protective lip to the case frame surrounding the screen, and to form what Pitaka calls “air bag corner safety zones.”
The case also has metal plates integrated into the back. And no, you can’t see or feel them, and they don’t make the case heavy or bulky. You can pair this case with Pitaka’s MagMount Qi, which not only acts as a magnetic car mount, but also as a wireless charging dock.
Pitaka offers cases and mounts for iPhones, Samsung Galaxy and Google Pixel phones.
The Vena vArmor has a cool ruggedized design with a back that mimics the look of metal. The design incorporates a lot of small ridges and lines that not only add to a masculine aesthetic for the case, but also give you a better grip while holding your device. Along with a better grip on the phone, the vArmor had an impressive fit to the iPhone X i tested it on, accommodating the cameras and lightning port snugly while also retaining a tactile, clicky feel for the volume and power/sleep buttons.
If you’re a belt-clip holster kind of guy or girl, the vArmor comes with one that quickly attaches to the back of the case. The holster swivels and even has a built-in kickstand.
You can grab a Vena vArmor on Amazon for iPhone, Samsung and OnePlus devices from any where between $5 and $20.