The iPhone wasn't built to survive in harsh environments like machine shops or nature trails, so you'll need a case to keep it safe. Here are the best rugged cases to protect your device.
Using a poorly built iPhone case is almost as useful as having no case at all. One drop, splash, or smack is all it takes to render your $1,000 smartphone irreparable or useless, so a durable case is a must.
For many users, a regular rubber or leather case will be enough to protect from the average day-to-day dings and drops. However, if you're going to be around bodies of water, loose sand, vibrating machinery, or rocky terrain, you'll need a case to match the extremities.
AppleInsider has gathered the best cases to put on your iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro, or iPhone SE. These cases vary in levels of protection based on the expected environment they could be exposed to, so keep in mind exactly what you're trying to protect against.
The best rugged iPhone cases
Urban Armor Gear Carbon Fiber
UAG's rugged carbon fiber iPhone case is made with five layers of protection. The outer frame, shock-resistant core, polycarbonate shear plate, alloy metal hardware, and impact-resistant rubber combine into a tough case.
UAG tested the case to 20 feet or 6 meters for drop protection. It is also certified to Mil Spec standards.
Despite being packed with layers of materials for protection, it still allows basic wireless charging through the case, but not MagSafe.
Otterbox Defender Series XT
The Otterbox Defender Series XT features dual layer protection in a thin yet tough case. A magnetic plate ensures MagSafe charging and accessories still work through the case.
It is specced to survive 5X as many drops as the military standard MIL-STD-810G 516.6. The case also has port covers to keep out dirt and debris.
Otterbox also offers a rugged iPhone SE case from the Defender series for $49.95 direct from OtterBox.
Spigen Tough Armor
Spigen's Tough Armor cases use a combination of TPU and polycarbonate for protection from drops and scratches. An extra layer of foam provides shock resistance.
This isn't the most robust case out there, but it is among the more affordable rugged cases. It has a kickstand for watching video and features a small cutout to show off the Apple logo on the back of your iPhone.
Griffin Survivor Endurance
The Griffin Survivor Endurance case has a slim profile but is specced to protect from up to 14-foot drops. The three-layer construction is built from recycled materials and has antimicrobial properties.
The case is compatible with MagSafe chargers and accessories. The raised edges around the camera bump and display provide extra protection if the case is dropped.
Griffin also offers a rugged iPhone SE case called the Survivor Strong Case for $26.06 on Amazon.
The LifeProof Fre series provides a waterproof enclosure for your iPhone. It can be fully submerged up to two meters for one hour.
The case is also highly protective, with drop protection up to two meters high. This case also features a built-in screen protector to ensure 360-degree protection of your iPhone.
As an added bonus, the LifeProof Fre is also MagSafe compatible.
LifeProof also offers a case for the iPhone 13 mini called the LifeProof See for $59.99 on Amazon. It is not waterproof but offers protection from drops up to 2 meters and is MagSafe compatible.
Cases usually protect your device from drops and other collisions but don't always have a built-in screen protector. If your phone is going to be in a corrosive environment where sand, rocks, or metal shards may be present, then you'll want to protect the screen too.
Screen protectors aren't perfect and won't last forever — they need to be changed from time to time. We recommend finding glass protectors that emulate the texture of the iPhone display for the best results.
We've found the screen protector from Nomad to provide great protection at an affordable price. Get the iPhone 13 screen protector from Nomad for $24.95. Be sure to choose your corresponding iPhone size before purchase.
Spigen makes an affordable screen protector for iPhone SE for only $13.99 on Amazon.
When all else fails, don't forget Apple's in-house insurance and warranty service called AppleCare. When you purchase a new device, you have sixty days to register for AppleCare to ensure you're covered for up to three years.
With AppleCare, you'll be able to get your iPhone repaired or replaced for much less than an out-of-warranty claim. However, it doesn't cover all forms of damage, like water damage, so make sure to read the fine print on your coverage.