Ideally, we’d all carry our iPhones as God intended — naked. But just as our pink and delicate human bodies need protection from the elements, so does the iPhone. Sometimes all it needs is a skimpy Speedo, other times a full suit of body armor, but you can be sure there’s a case for every occasion. Here’s our roundup of the best iPhone cases out there.
Best Rugged Case
It’s almost not fair to call the Aqua Tek a rugged case, as it does so much more. Sure, it protects the iPhone, and it goes underwater, but it also packs a locking panel over the 30-pin dock connector, a microphone, a charge indicator (for the case!), a speaker and it probably even has a phaser gun in there. If you value toughness and utility over looks, this is your case.
Best Elegant Case
Pad&Quill Little Black Book — $45
The baltic birch frame and bookbindery cover might look understated and elegant, but Pad&Quill’s Little Black Book is also one tough little mother, hugging the iPhone 4 tight and protecting body and screen from all kinds of spills. Bonus: It looks so much like a pocket notebook that it might not ever get stolen.
Best Bumper Case
Apple’s own Bumper Case is the one to buy if you want the most minimal protection possible, but the ImpactBand is just a little larger and offers a whole lot more padding. The case itself is bigger than Apple’s, but the main difference is the depth: the bumper sticks out from the screen and the delicate rear like a picture frame, lessening the chance that anything will reach the screen during a tumble.
Best Case for Gamers
Any grippy case would do for a gamer, but the Candyshell grip is purpose made to stop your iPhone flying from your hand just as you are about to defeat M.Bison. Rubber ribs cover the back of the hard-shell case, and a soft rubber lining absorbs impact if you lose your temper and fling it across the room. Also available for the iPod Touch.
Best Replacement Back Panel
Going on anecdotal evidence (gathered by my own two eyes), the iPhone’s rear panel breaks more often than the screen. Luckily, you can replace it with this tough and beautiful wooden plate which comes in oak, teak, walnut or maple. Fitting is a matter of unscrewing the pentalobe screws (tool provided) on the iPhone’s bottom edge, sliding the old panel off and sliding the new one on. Never has your phone been so naturally homey.
Best Embarrassing iPhone Case
This iPhone case protects your phone from the world, and protects the future from the fruits of your tasteless, chauvinistic loins. A "secret" compartment round back has space for up to two condoms (not that you’ll even be needing one), and the case has its name — Playa — etched into the back. Buy this for somebody you hate.
Best Novelty iPhone Case
There are probably tens of thousands of novelty iPhone cases out there, but this fake hard drive is so realistic that it stands above the dross. Just like girls dress for themselves and other girls (boys don’t care what they wear unless it’s tight or see-through), so nerds only buy t-shirts and novelty cases for other nerds to see. And if a fellow geek spots this, he’s going to love you.
Best Case For Photographers
Shutter button? Check. Viewfinder? Check. Tripod thread, magnetic lens mount, strap loops and self-portrait mirror? Check, check check! The iPhone Rangefinder is the most comprehensive (and maybe best-looking) photo case out there, and if you drop $99 instead of $65, you also get a set of magnetic add-on lenses.
Best Screen Protector
Unlike floppy plastic covers, the Glas.t is made from — you guessed it — tempered glass. And instead of a painful and fraught application process, the rear of the panel remains non-stick until you press its middle, whereupon the silicone-based adhesive begins to spread.
It works great, and means trouble-and-dust-free application. Also, the glass surface feels just like the iPhone’s own screen.