By Simon Hill


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Apple’s iPhone is a beautiful device, but beauty can often often fragile. If you work outside in all weathers, you like to go adventuring, or maybe you just drop your iPhone a lot, you should definitely consider investing in a tough, rugged iPhone case that can take the knocks. We’ve gathered together the toughest of the tough right here. These are the best protective iPhone cases around. Some of them offer drop protection, some are weatherproof, and some have both. If you really want to keep your phone safe in any situation, these are the cases that can do it.

The links below will take you to the best rugged iPhone XS cases, but you’ll find that they are all available for the iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8, 8 Plus, and most older models too. You can also read up on exactly how stringent some case manufacturers are with rugged case testing.

Urban Armor Gear Monarch Case ($60)

UAG Monarch Case

You can tell this case is tough just by looking at it. UAG’s wares look like something a space marine would carry, but they’re actually crafted from lightweight plastics, not metal. There are rubber enhancements on the corners to absorb impact shock, and also rubber feet to prevent your iPhone from slipping off surfaces. The oversized button covers are easy to find and make the buttons easy to press — even if you have wet or dirty hands. This case also exceeds military drop-test standards — it can withstand drops of 4 feet 26 times with no damage.

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Otterbox Defender Series Case ($25+)

Otterbox Defender Case

Many people consider Otterbox to be the gold standard when it comes to rugged protection for your iPhone, and the Defender Series is the toughest case it offers. It boasts a layered design with a durable silicone slip cover surrounded by a polycarbonate shell. Usually, there’s also a built-in screen protector, but the iPhone XS version is “screenless.” You’ll also find covers to keep lint and dirt out of your ports and a holster with belt clip that can double as a stand. The button covers are well defined and make the buttons easy to press. Otterbox puts these cases through 24 different tests, for a total of 238 hours of testing, so you can be confident about the drop protection.

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Incipio Reprieve Sport Case ($30+)

Incipio Reprieve Sport Case

Offering a huge range of great options, Incipio puts a lot into making cases, and this is one of its most protective offerings. This case combines a clear, scratch-resistant, polycarbonate shell with a flexible frame and reinforced corners. Your iPhone is most likely to land on one of its corners if dropped, so the design of this Incipio case makes for great drop protection — it can even handle falls of up to 12 feet. Built-in openings offer easy access to your phone’s ports and camera, the button covers work well, and the case leaves the front of your phone uncovered and fully accessible. You might want to pair this rugged case with a screen protector, however, if you want complete protection.

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Tech21 Evo Check Evoke Case ($50)

Tech21 Evo Check Evoke Case

Rugged iPhone cases can be expensive, but sometimes they’re worth it. We’ve seen firsthand how Tech21 tests rugged cases and its full range offers solid drop protection for your iPhone. Just like the other Tech21 iPhone X cases in the range, the Evo Check Evoke has been drop tested from 10 feet, which is higher than the typical height of a smartphone fall. The protection extends around the entirety of the case, with three layers of protection in the bumper to take the sting out of any impact. This case is also relatively light, thin, and comfortable to hold. It has built-in button covers, and generous cutouts for the camera, port, and switch.

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Lifeproof Fr Case ($90)

Lifeproof Fre Case

If you want something that’s really waterproof, then this Lifeproof case is worth a look. It scores an IP-68 rating, which means it can be submerged in water up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) deep for up to one hour without damage. This case is also tough, meeting military drop-test standard 810G-516.6, so your phone should also be unscathed after falls from as high as 6.6 feet. Obviously, you get complete coverage with this case, so no part of your iPhone is exposed to the elements. It’s ideal for skiing, and other adventures in harsh or wet conditions.

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Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro Case ($20+)

Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro Case

Rugged cases can be expensive, but Supcase’s Unicorn Beetle is surprisingly affordable. Not only does it utilize a combination of hard polycarbonate and shock-absorbent TPU, but it also sports a built-in screen protector and port covers. Every angle of your iPhone XS will be covered with this case, and it comes with a holster and rotating belt clip. The button covers are fine and the cutouts are accurate, but the screen protector is a bit of a weak point as it doesn’t look or feel great.

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Speck Presidio Grip Case ($20+)

Speck Presidio Grip Case

This is one of our favorite iPhone cases, period, but it’s also pretty rugged. It can withstand drops up to 10 feet and is capable of handling impacts thanks to the ridges lining the interior that are designed to compress and disperse shocks. A matte finish enables the case to resist scratches, while the edges have raised rubber ridges to provide additional grip, (hence the name). It has a dual-layer design with polycarbonate on the outside. A raised bezel will keep the screen in perfect condition when facedown, cutouts are precise, and the button covers work well. This isn’t the most protective case Speck currently offers,

– that would probably be the Presidio Ultra, which offers 15-foot drop protection and a holster. Unfortunately, there are issues with the Ultra that prevent us from recommending it — the port cover rips off too easily and it’s bulky.

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Pelican Shield Case ($40+)

Pelican Shield Case

A well-known name when it comes to protective cases for all sorts of equipment, Pelican also offers a really tough case for the iPhone. The Shield case combines five protective layers and even includes genuine Kevlar-brand fibers. The result is a case that far exceeds military standards. Tested from heights of up to 24 feet, this case will survive multiple drops. The frame latches together in several places to hold your iPhone XS securely in place, and there are port and switch covers to keep dirt out. It also comes with a lifetime guarantee. It is very bulky, but if you need serious drop protection, this case will deliver.

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Griffin Survivor Extreme Case ($50)

Griffin Survivor Extreme Case

Here’s a case that can accompany you on outdoor adventures and keep your iPhone safe. It has been drop tested at up to 10 feet (3 meters) onto concrete, and it keeps your phone safely cushioned inside. It also seals around the iPhone, scoring an IP55 rating, so there’s no chance for rain, mud, or snow to get in and cause any damage. There are protective covers for the buttons and the ports, but also membranes to protect the speaker and microphone without muffling the sound too much. It comes with a clip for hooking to belts or bags, which can also act as a kickstand.

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Spigen Tough Armor Case ($16+)

Spigen Tough Armor Case

This is a classic dual-layer case with a flexible TPU shell and a hard polycarbonate cover that goes over the top of it. Drop protection is solid from around 4 feet, and there are air pockets inside to help dissipate impact shock. You’ll also find button covers, accurate openings, and a handy pop-out kickstand on the back. There is a very slight raised lip around the screen, but you may want to pair this with a screen protector for real peace of mind.

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RhinoShield CrashGuard NX Bumper ($25)

RhinoShield Bumper

If you hate covering up your iPhone, but you still want real drop protection, then the CrashGuard Bumper is perfect for you. This frame extends back and front and protects your iPhone from drops of up to 11 feet. For most falls and bumps, this bumper will be enough, but there’s always a chance you’re unlucky with the way it lands and this option doesn’t provide the same all-over protection as some of the others on our list. It leaves the back and screen exposed, so you may want to consider a screen protector and a back panel of some kind if you’re concerned about it landing on an uneven surface — RhinoShield offers both. You can change the buttons and choose from seven different colors. The fit is perfect, but it can be a struggle to remove if you don’t follow the instructions.

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