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What to Look for in an iPhone Case in 2021

Choosing a case to protect your phone from accidental damage as well as wear and tear isn’t as simple as it should be. But when you have a large device like the iPhone 13 Pro Max, a case is even more important.

Bigger, heavier devices will hit the ground with more force, and despite the latest Corning Gorilla Glass and Ceramic Shield improvements, a bad-luck corner drop can still annihilate your expensive phone screen. Because of that, a case is integral.

Silicone cases offer a good compromise between bulk and protection. They also provide a more grippy surface to hold on to, something that matters with larger phones, especially if your hands are on the smaller side. Silicone cases are fine for handling small day-to-day drops, such as from your desk onto the carpet, but they won’t protect too well with drops onto hard surfaces.

Hard cases, especially those with air cushions on the corners, are a much better choice if you suspect that your phone might take a less gentle trip to the ground at some point in the future. Ironically, they offer less grip than silicone cases. This isn’t an issue when holding the phone in your hands, but hard cases are more prone to slide off your lap or any slanted objects you place them on.

Exceptional rugged cases can bulk up your phone, and you may want to consider having a slim case and a rugged case, depending on the occasion. You probably don’t need a rugged case in the office, but if you’re going on a hike over the weekends, it makes sense to add extra protection to your phone.

Whatever case you choose, there’s always a tradeoff between how much weight and bulk a case adds and the protection it provides.

In the end, you need to think about where you want to use your phone, what type of damage it’s likely to suffer, and how much you care about extra weight or thickness. While balancing these factors, you’ll find one of these cases offers a perfect fit.

Note: The cases below only fit the iPhone 13 Pro Max model. They will not fit the other iPhone models, including the standard iPhone 13, Pro, or Mini.

Best iPhone 13 Pro Max Case Overall: Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe

Apple silicone case on blue and purple background
Apple

Pros

  • Soft grippy silicone exterior with microfiber interior
  • Magnet alignment
  • MagSafe compatible
  • Nice color selection

Cons

  • Not a good choice for high-risk usage

There’s not all that much to say about the Apple Silicone Case with MagSafe, other than it’s not as basic as it might appear. A lot of thought has gone into this phone cover, and you’ll find the usual Apple attention to detail in play.

The outer material is a high-quality, grippy, and absorbent silicone that’s soft to the touch. On the inside, you’ll find a microfiber lining. Best of all, the cover is magnetically aligned and held in place. So it should all feel solid.

This case doesn’t add much thickness to the iPhone, but there’s an impact protection tradeoff. Silicone cases will offer some protection for less violent drops, but they mainly protect your phone against scratches and dents. That’s the most common type of damage, and new phones themselves are much tougher against drops than before anyway.

So if you take the balance of risks into account, the Apple Silicone Case offers the best solution for most people.

Best iPhone 13 Pro Max Case Overall

iPhone 13 Pro Max Silicone Case with MagSafe

You can't argue with good fundamentals. The Apple Silicone case has all the most important bases covered at a reasonable price. This is the case most iPhone 13 Pro Max buyers should go for.

Best Budget iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Spigen Liquid Air Armor

Spigen Liquid Armor on green and blue background
Spigen

Pros

  • Thin, yet manages to integrate air pockets
  • Grippy, fingerprint resistant surface
  • Low price

Cons

  • Military-style design isn't for everyone

It may seem odd to pair a flagship phone like the iPhone 13 Pro Max with a budget case, but there’s no reason to spend more money on an accessory if it does the job you need adequately. With the Spigen Liquid Air Armor case, it’s actually surprising that the price tag is so low.

The case certainly doesn’t look cheap, although its military-style finish isn’t for everyone. At least the look serves a purpose, though, since that grip pattern can help you hold onto the large device even with sweaty hands.

Spigen also claims that the case offers military-grade drop protection, and it includes air pockets to increase the survival rate following serious falls. It’s practical, looks like a quality product, and offers real protection. At this price, it’s hard to say no.

Best Budget iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Spigen Liquid Air Armor

Don't let the low price fool you. The Spigen case offers serious protection and features in a military-style wrapping.

Best MagSafe iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Apple Clear Case with MagSafe

apple clear case on light grey background
Apple

Pros

  • MagSafe compatibility
  • Shows off your phone
  • No worries about MagSafe accessories clashing

Cons

  • Clear cases don't offer as much grip as silicone or leather

Apple’s MagSafe feature, which was off to a slow start with the iPhone 12, is finally starting to gain steam. If the range of MagSafe accessories has piqued your interest, you’ll want a case that’s going to offer the best compatibility with MagSafe on all fronts.

While all MagSafe cases from Apple offer proper physical compatibility with MagSafe gadgets, only this Apple Clear Case offers aesthetic compatibility with any color accessory. It’s a good clear case with a special anti-scratch coating and treatment to prevent yellowing.

Of course, the Apple Clear Case has the same magnetic alignment found in Apple’s other MagSafe covers, and you can see them through the case itself. Overall, if you plan on using a variety of MagSafe devices, this is the case we think you should choose.

Best MagSafe iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Apple Clear Case with MagSafe

This solidly-constructed clear case from Apple will go with any MagSafe accessory and let you admire the color and design of your iPhone 13 Pro Max

Best Wallet iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Smartish iPhone 13 Pro Max Wallet Case

smartish cover on dark background
Smartish

Pros

  • Credit card grip and slide mechanism
  • No irritating flip design
  • Grippy
  • Air pockets in the corners

Cons

  • No MagSafe or wireless charging

Your iPhone 13 Pro Max is going to take up a lot of real estate, whether in a pocket or a bag. So why not cut save some bag space and use a wallet case instead? Most of us don’t carry much cash around anymore, so this Smartish wallet case with its capacity for a few cards and a little paper money is perfect.

Many wallet cases use a flipbook design, which can be a little annoying to use. Smartish uses a clever push-pull design that makes it easy to insert and remove cards. It also offers a textured surface to improve grip and air pockets in the corners for exceptional drop protection. The case features raised lips around the cameras and screen, so they don’t touch the ground when the case is flat.

The main downside here is that nothing wireless, like Apple Pay or wireless charging, will work because the back of the case is too far from the phone’s back. It’s not a huge deal, but if you need a case that still allows those features to work, you’ll have to look elsewhere.

Best Wallet iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Smartish iPhone 13 Pro Max Wallet Case

Smartish has a great take on the wallet case concept here, but it comes at the cost of wireless charging and MagSafe compatibility.

Best Rugged iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Otterbox Defender Series

otterbox defender case on pink background
Otterbox

Pros

  • Raised edges to safeguard your screen
  • Four times the military drop-test standard

Cons

  • A little bulky
  • Screen protector not included

The Otterbox Defender Case for the iPhone 13 Pro Max isn’t messing around when it comes to protecting your phone. The case is made of different layers of material, which helps diffuse impacts away from the fragile phone itself. Otterbox claims it can survive four times as many drops as the US military requires for its devices.

Sure, it’s understandably a bulky beast, and you should be prepared for that. But, with the addition of a belt clip, you may even avoid using your pockets entirely.

Otterbox’s Defender Series Case even comes with a port cover for the Lightning port, probably the weakest point in the iPhone’s general water and dust resistance abilities. The only real potential negative is that this rugged case doesn’t come with a screen protector, but Otterbox says that its iPhone 13 Pro Max screen protectors are compatible with this case.

If you don’t mind the extra bulk and work or play in rough conditions, this is the case for you.

Best Rugged iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Otterbox Defender Series Case

The Otterbox Defender lacks an included screen protector, but it's got you covered with a raised lip, port covers, and a stupendous resistance to falling.

Best Clear iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Otterbox Symmetry Clear Series

otterbox symmetry case hitting ground
Otterbox

Pros

  • Clear, but rugged
  • Wireless charging works, even with the MagSafe charger
  • It's surprisingly thin given the protection level

Cons

  • While the MagSafe charger will work, MagSafe devices won't stick

The Otterbox Symmetry Clear Case doesn’t have the full MagSafe compatibility of Apple’s clear case. Still, if you don’t particularly care about MagSafe, we think Symmetry is the better clear case of the two.

The Symmetry manages to combine the best aspects of clear cases with the additional ruggedization you’d usually expect from opaque cases like the Defender Series, our rugged case pick. While it’s not outright as tough as the Defender Series, this offers more protection than typical hard clear cases, and it’s not super thick either.

Although MagSafe goodies won’t stick to this case, wireless charging works fine. If you lay it down on your MagSafe puck, you can still charge your phone. If Otterbox ever puts MagSafe compatibility into this case, it would knock Apple’s offering off the podium.

Still, for now, your attachment to the magnetic technology remains the dividing line between the two clear case options here.

Best Clear iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Otterbox Symmetry Clear Series Case for iPhone 13 Pro Max

Despite not having MagSafe compatibility, this is the best case for those who want to see their phone, yet also want to protect it from the world.

Best Thin iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Totallee Thin iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Totallee case on yellow background
Totallee

Pros

  • Razor thin
  • Includes a raised lip for camera protection

Cons

  • Needs a screen protector more than most
  • Not really meant to protect against drops

When smartphone engineers put in all that effort to shave just a few more millimeters from a phone’s body, it feels like a shame to slap a thick and bulky case on the device. But what about essential protection against cosmetic damage?

That’s where this Totallee Thin case comes into the picture. At only 0.02 inches thick, it’s more like applying a coat of thick paint to the device rather than a case.

This is a case you’ll want to pair with a screen protector, but surprisingly it has a raised lip to protect your cameras. After all, you don’t want to stick anything over those. We like the Frosted Clear option in particular, but there are several attractive color options.

Is there a point to such a thin case? While it’s not going to be much help in a severe drop onto a hard surface, it should be just fine when it comes to preventing cosmetic damage such as scratches or minor dents. Most people encounter these during their phone ownership cycle, so if you don’t have a history of being a butterfingers and want to go the minimalist route, this is a great choice.

Best Thin iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Totallee Thin iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

It's super-thin and will keep your iPhone from collecting scratches and other cosmetic damage, but if you're looking for serious drop protection, something with a thicker skin would be better.

Best Leather iPhone 13 Pro Max Case: Apple Leather Case with MagSafe

apple leather case on green background
Apple

Pros

  • Genuine, premium leather
  • Decent colors
  • Good price
  • Magnetic fit

Cons

  • Minimalist
  • Not for users who want a rugged leather finish

Although we’ve created some excellent synthetic materials over the years, it’s still tough to beat the properties of genuine leather. Apart from feeling and looking more premium than other materials, it’s naturally protective against shocks, dents, and scratches.

At the same time, it doesn’t add the sort of bulk to your phone that synthetic ruggedized cases do. Leather is also a natural product that will accrue a patina over time. Some people find that appealing, so it can be considered an advantage depending on your tastes.

Apple’s Leather Case is designed to fit your iPhone perfectly and uses magnetic alignment to keep it in place. You’ve got full MagSafe compatibility and a very premium soft leather finish. The color selection isn’t exhaustive, but all five colorways are great regardless.

While this cover isn’t cheap in absolute terms, it’s surprisingly affordable given that it is premium leather and has MagSafe features, shared with Apple’s other phone cases.

Best Leather iPhone 13 Pro Max Case

Apple Leather Case with MagSafe

If you're looking for the best mix of protection, quality, and thinness, Apple leather MagSafe case is hard to beat.

Profile Photo for Sydney Butler Sydney Butler
Sydney Butler has over 20 years of experience as a freelance PC technician and system builder. He's worked for more than a decade in user education and spends his time explaining technology to professional, educational, and mainstream audiences. His interests include VR, PC, Mac, gaming, 3D printing, consumer electronics, the web, and privacy. He holds a Master of Arts degree in Research Psychology with a focus on Cyberpsychology in particular.
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