Yellowed phone case.

Smartphones are expensive and fragile, which is not a great combination. Naturally, there’s a huge market for cases to protect these valuable devices. The problem is many cases don’t offer as much protection as you think.

It’s common advice to put a case on your phone as soon as you get it. However, there are tons of different cases out there. Some are more effective than others. You should know that any ‘ol case isn’t going to save your phone from untimely damage.

So Many Options

Phone cases.
Ja Crispy/

Cases come in many different designs, colors, and materials. Some look great but don’t offer much protection, and the opposite can be true as well. There are tons of options for most phones, but not just any case will actually be durable.

Plastic, silicone, and rubber are the most popular materials for phone cases, and they can be used in wildly different ways. There are hard plastic cases that snap on and soft, flexible cases. You’ll also find varying thicknesses and different features like extra padding on the corners and around the camera.

That’s the key thing to watch out for when buying a cheap case. A thin iPhone case such as this one is not going to save the phone if it’s dropped directly on a corner or its face. However, a case like this one with extra padding around the edges probably will.

Not every case is meant to offer protection, either. Some cases are simply meant to add some extra grip or look pretty. Still, many people assume using any case at all is better than none, but that’s not always true.

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Materials Matter

Bellroy phone case.

One of the most important things to look for in a protective case is the material(s). Cases made from one single material are often not as protective. A thin plastic or silicone case that fits the phone tightly isn’t adding much padding.

However, the aforementioned case with extra padding around the edges utilizes a few different materials. The back is hard plastic, the edges are rubber, and the corners have extra TPU cushions. Absorbing shock is one of the biggest things a phone case can do to protect the phone, so having rubber and TPU on corners is a great thing to look for.

Some materials sound like they would be very durable, but they might not be. Carbon fiber is a term people associate with tough, rugged things, but that doesn’t mean a Carbon fiber case will save your phone. A carbon fiber case like this one is so thin it’s probably not going to offer much shock absorption—despite what the listing says.

RELATED: Why Do Clear Phone Cases Turn Yellow?

What Kind of Protection Do You Want?

Phone cracked.
Wild Carpathians/

With all that in mind, you may be wondering which case you should get for actual protection. That depends on which type of protection you want.

If you are looking to simply keep your phone from getting unsightly scratches all over the back, any thin case will work. For a lot of people, that’s enough. They’d rather chance an inopportune drop breaking the display than use a chunky case 24/7.

That’s the beauty of cases. You don’t need to use the same case all the time. Pick up a cheap, plastic case for your average day-to-day life. When you need some extra protection, slap on an Otterbox. You probably don’t need that kind of protection all the time, so just save it for the times when you do.

Phone cases are not the saviors we tend to think they are. Most cases are purely for decoration. Keep that in mind next time you find a $10 case on Amazon.

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Joe Fedewa is a Staff Writer at How-To Geek. He has been covering consumer technology for over a decade and previously worked as Managing Editor at XDA-Developers. Joe loves all things technology and is also an avid DIYer at heart. He has written thousands of articles, hundreds of tutorials, and dozens of reviews.
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