If you’re one of the millions who’ve hopped aboard the Apple train and picked up the iPhone 6, or you know Santa has one ready for you this holiday season, you probably agree with our assertion that the Cupertino clan’s latest is a joy to both hold and behold. If you care at all about the longevity of your shiny new phone, though, you’ve probably thought about covering it up with a protective case. And if you’re the klutzy type, you probably know you should have done it already.
With the holiday shopping season fast approaching, we suspect that cases of all fits and finishes will make their way into many iPhone owners’ hands. Unfortunately, these protectors are a dime a dozen these days, and not all of them are created equal. This can make finding the best shield for your particular iPhone’s needs a real pain in the Lightning port. But the key word there is “can.”
That’s where we come in. Below we’ve rounded up five of our favorite iPhone cases available today, each one chosen for serving a particular purpose well. Although new cases for the most popular phone on the planet are released at a breakneck pace (go figure), we’re confident this five-pack will stand the test of time — and help your iPhone do the same.
For a Better Feel: Apple iPhone 6 Leather Case ($45)
Let’s start with something obvious. Nobody knows the iPhone’s fit better than the people who made it, so it’s hard to go wrong if you grab one of Apple’s first-party cases alongside its new device. This is especially true if you care about improving the feel of your iPhone 6 more than protecting it.
To that end, we recommend Apple’s Leather Case, which currently goes for $45 in the company’s online and retail stores. It’s a basic back-case and bumper setup, with small strips that carry over to the front bezels and keep the phone from lying flat on its face. It’s made of leather, obviously, and it provides little to no coverage for the device’s bottom edge, so it’s not an ideal choice for keeping your iPhone safe from heavier impacts.
You’re not paying for safety, though: You’re in this for how nice that smooth, seamless strip of premium leather, coated in one of five rich colors, feels in your hand. On top of that, you get something that fits snugly and, at just 16 grams, stays remarkably light. The case includes all the necessary port and button cutouts without any garish logos, and the soft microfiber on its inside does help the iPhone’s back avoid its share of scuffs. We’ve got our eyes on future leather builds from the likes of Grovemade and Nodus, but the Leather Case is a worthy choice for those who want their iPhone to feel higher-end.
For Protection: Urban Armor Gear Folio Case ($40)
On the opposite end of the spectrum is Urban Armor Gear’s Folio Case, which is all about heavy-duty protection without a hint of subtlety. Its fusion of rubber and plastic make it one of the few iPhone 6 cases to meet military drop standards, while its folio design and front-screen cover bring some safety to the front of the device as well. Its matte finish, which UAG dubs “Frogskin,” is easy to grip and water-resistant, with just enough room cut out for the iPhone’s cameras, speakers, and ports. It fits like a charm, and its inside even includes room to hold a few credit cards. The corners are heavily padded without being overly bulky too.
The only major downside with the UAG Folio is that its design isn’t for everyone. It’s the definition of industrial, with lines, holes, clashing materials, and a gigantic UAG logo that might as well come in neon lights. The construction site aesthetic fits with what the case is going for, but we wish it wasn’t played up to this degree. If this style is a no-go, we’d point you to the more subdued protective cases of Speck’s CandyShell line. If you do dig the style and crave safety from your clumsiness, though, this is $40 well spent.
For Replacing Your Wallet: CM4 Q Card Case ($40)
Now we turn to something a little more specific. Let’s say you want something close to the protection of the UAG case above, but don’t want too much girth added to your pockets. To give your pants some breathing room, you can opt for a case that doubles as a lightweight wallet. In fact, this would make extra sense with the iPhone 6 given Apple’s newfound acceptance of NFC payments. The UAG Folio’s card-carrying slot is a nice perk for these purposes, but we find CM4’s Q Card Case to run with the idea the farthest.
The back of the Q Card Case is made of an attractive stitched fabric that nails the look and feel of a typical (faux) leather wallet, and even includes a small “access slot” for quickly grabbing cash. It can only hold around 3 cards or so plus cash, but that’s about the standard for cases like these, and it’s more than enough room for the essentials. This also helps the case stay noticeably thin for its type. The rest of the case uses a soft, tight-fitting rubber material, which includes responsive buttons for volume and power, generous cutouts for the iPhone’s ports and cameras, and a 0.8mm lip that keeps the display from getting scuffed when facedown.
The negative here is that the case isn’t overly protective, but those rubber edges do enough, and the whole thing feels nice to hold to boot. Most importantly, it’s convenient. If you’d like your iPhone to be more of an all-in-one tool for your pockets, the Q Card Case is your pick. It normally runs for $40, but Amazon’s currently selling the “black onyx” model for $8 less.
For Budget Buyers: Monoprice TPU Case ($6)
Fancy card holders and Frogskin whatevers are good and all, but what if you just want something cheap? Like, really cheap? Well, as with anything in the tech world, you get what you pay for, but there are a handful of iPhone cases that cost less than $10 and still provide just enough protection.
The pick of the litter comes from Monoprice, whose basic TPU Case is an excellent value at just $5.60. You won’t get any flashy features or premium fabrics for that price, but you’ll be treated to a well-fitting piece of matte plastic that shields your iPhone from casual scrapes and dust buildup. Its various cutouts match up well with the device, its textured edges provide some extra grip, and its minimalist aesthetic is inoffensive. It’ll always feel like a sub-$10 case in the hand, but it does its job without being too thick or too heavy. If you look at an iPhone case as more of a stocking stuffer than a full-on present, give Monoprice a shot.
For All-Around Quality: Incipio NGP ($20)
Alright, enough with this “specific needs” stuff. There’s no such thing as a “perfect” iPhone case, but if you want one that combines most of the top options’ best qualities, we’ll point you to Incipio’s NGP. It isn’t the thinnest case around, nor the most protective, nor the best looking, nor the cheapest, but it excels in all of those categories just the same.
The NGP is primarily made up of a rubbery plastic material that Incipio calls “Flex2O” that’s really just an improved take on the TPU found in cases like the Monoprice one above. Either way, it’s stretchy, grippy, smooth, and sufficiently resistant to the vast majority of mishaps you’re ever likely have with your phone.
This is generally true of most TPU cases, but it’s the little things that put the NGP over the top. It’s attractive, with an understated design that comes in all-black or one of five lively, slightly transparent colors, and features a logo that isn’t overly aggressive. It fits the iPhone like a glove, with just the right amount of room for its cutouts and edges that don’t peel away unwillingly. Its volume and power buttons respond as well as you need them to. And at just around 2mm, it’s wonderfully thin. Adorning the iPhone with an NGP makes it safer from harm without constantly reminding you that it’s covered up.
Best of all, it isn’t that big of an investment. Normally priced at $20 — but now going for as low as $13 on Amazon — the NGP lacks any significant weaknesses, and is our overall favorite iPhone 6 case as a result. For now, at least.