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Choosing a Case For Your Mobile Phone

OnePlus 7t phone in a Caseology Vault case

Cell phone cases range in design from slim, decorated covers or skins that are intended to be purely ornamental, to bulky, virtually indestructible phone cases that meet military specifications for use in combat environments.

Most phone cases fall somewhere in between the extremes, like the one in this picture. That's one of my own phones. It's a OnePlus 7t, and it's sporting a Caseology Vault case and a Supershieldz Tempered Glass Screen Protector.

As with most thing technology-related, there is no one mobile phone case that is the "best" for all users in all circumstances. Choosing the right cell phone case (or even deciding whether to use one at all) depends on the device itself, the user's lifestyle, and the environment in which the device will be used.

Let me explain it to you.


Benefits of Using a Cell Phone Case

Some people refuse to use mobile phone cases at all. Many of these folks believe that the phones themselves are beautiful (which most high-end phones are nowadays), and they don't want to hide that beauty inside a relatively ugly case.

Although I appreciate the aesthetic basis of that position, I also think it's misguided. As beautiful as high-end cell phones may be, they're also expensive, slippery, and fragile. As a life-long techie, I also believe that the real beauty of a modern mobile phone lies in what it can do, not just how it looks. Nobody carries a broken phone around everywhere they go just because it's pretty. It's functionality is like its soul. Once that's gone, the phone's carcass is just a paperweight.

Clothing your phone in a quality case can help prevent that from happening. The benefits of a quality cell phone case include:


Types of Cell Phone Cases

There are many, many different kinds of mobile phone cases, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. As with most things technology-related, the case you choose will depend upon your lifestyle and the environment in which you use your phone. Here are some of the more popular kinds of phone cases.

Bumper cases

Silicone bumper case installed around the edge of a smart phone

Bumper cases fit around the edge of the phone and are usually made of rubber, silicone, soft plastic, or TPU. Traditionally, bumper cases had no backs; but some cases with backs are marketed as bumper cases.

Bumper cases help protect the edges and corners of the phone from damage due to minor drops or bumps. Most also have at least some "lip" around the screen to protect it from damage if you lay the phone face-down on a flat surface.

Many people like bumper cases because they don't significantly change the size or shape of the phone and don't cover up its design or beauty. They're also inexpensive and easy to change if you want them to match whatever outfit you're wearing, or if you just like variety. Gamers also like bumper cases because their open backs make them less likely to cause their phones to overheat.

On the down side, bumper cases provide the least protection for your phone. If you live an active lifestyle, you may want to consider something more protective.

Back Cases

Credit card held against the lip around the camera lens shows a several millimeter protective gap between the card and the lens

Back cases are similar to bumper cases, except that they also cover and protect the back of the phone. They're also available in a wider variety of materials including fabric, leather, carbon fiber, and even wood.

Typically, back cases also provide at least some lip or recess around the phone's back camera lens, as shown in the picture here. That's a Caseology Vault case on my OnePlus 7t. Notice the protective gap between the credit card and the lens.

The obvious advantage of back cases over bumper cases is that they protect the back of the phone. This is a significant advantage nowadays, when so many phones have glass or ceramic backs that are easy to break and expensive to repair.

Another functional advantage of back cases is that the protective lip around the camera lens allows you to place the camera on a table or desk face-up so you can read notifications on the screen. Some also have kickstands that prop up the phone so you can use it to watch videos or movies.

The disadvantages of back cases are that they make the phone slightly thicker, which some people don't like; that they trap heat, which is mainly a concern if you're a gamer; and that they slightly reduce the efficiency of wireless charging.

Full-Body Phone Cases

Supcase full body case for an iPhone shown from three angles

Sometimes called "rugged phone cases" or "tactical phone cases," full-body cases like the Supcase one shown here cover the entire phone. Most are made of TPU and have built-in PET or TPU screen protectors.

Some of the more popular brands of full-body phone cases are Otterbox, Supcase, Impactstrong, and Youmaker.

Full-body phone cases usually meet MIL-STD requirements for drops, falls, and sand. Almost all are splash-resistant, and some are waterproof. They provide the best possible protection for your phone. If your lifestyle includes activities like mountain climbing, sky-diving, or spelunking, then these are the kind of cases you want.

The drawbacks to full-body phone cases are that they are bulky, which also means that they won't fit in many car mounts; they're more likely to cause a phone to overheat during gaming or other intensive use; they're more difficult to install and remove than other case styles; they reduce the efficiency of wireless charging; and the built-in screen protectors vary in quality and feel.

Wallets, Holsters, Checkbooks, etc.

Cell phone on top of a leather phone case

There are many holsters, wallets, checkbooks, and so forth that are also designed to hold mobile phones. Some of these are specific to a particular model phone, while others are generic. Common materials include leather, fabric, and carbon fiber.

The protective value of these cases varies widely from excellent to almost none at all. Most are actually pretty good. You do have to be careful to keep them free of sand or other debris that might scratch the phone, however.

I personally use a back case and a Supershieldz screen protector on my phone, and insert it in a vertical holster with a belt clip when I'm traveling. That's more of a convenience than anything else because I prefer phones with large screens that won't easily fit into a pocket.


In the end, choosing a phone case comes down to evaluating the risk your phone will be exposed to given your lifestyle and the environment in which the phone will be used.