Which hardshell phone case is best?

There are many reasons to use a phone case, but one of the most common is to protect your phone. For the best protection, you need a hardshell phone case. However, hardshell phone cases aren’t created equally. Some provide minimal protection, while others practically lock your phone inside a safe.

The best hardshell phone case is the Otterbox Defender Series Screenless Edition Case. It wraps your phone in multiple layers of hard and soft material for superior protection, but it leaves your screen open, so it’s still easy to use.

What to know before you buy a hardshell phone case

What phone do you have?

The first step in shopping for a hardshell phone case is knowing precisely what model phone you have. It must be exact, or you risk the case not fitting, which limits its protectiveness and can make your phone harder to use. You can find your phone’s model in the “about” section in your phone’s settings. You can also visit any phone store and someone there should be happy to help you find it.

Once you’ve got your model, make sure your prospective case explicitly states it’s compatible with your model. Some cases work for a handful of similar models.

Degree of protection

Hardshell phone cases offer three tiers of protection:

  • Light cases are no more than a thin layer of hard plastic that clings to the back of your phone. They aren’t good for more than a few low drops, but they’re low cost and add next to no weight and size to your phone.
  • Heavy cases offer extreme protection. They can handle large drops and are often fully water- and dust-proof. However, they have higher costs and make your phone much heavier and bigger.
  • Moderate cases offer above-average protection without adding much weight and size. A moderate case should protect your phone from most everyday sources of damage.

What to look for in a quality hardshell phone case

Ingress protection

The best hardshell phone cases offer dust and water protection, measured using the ingress protection scale, where higher numbers mean better protection. The first number refers to object protection on a scale of 1-6, and the second refers to water protection on a scale of 1-9. Heavy protection cases typically top out at IP68.

Raised edges

Most hardshell phone cases don’t have physical screen and lens protectors as they can make your phone harder to use. Instead, cases have raised edges around both sections, preventing them from coming in direct contact with most surfaces.


The best hardshell phone cases have lifetime warranties that cover most damage. Should your case shatter from a drop, you can go to the manufacturer’s website and order a new one for free. You must register your case as soon as it arrives to take advantage of the warranty.

How much you can expect to spend on a hardshell phone case

Hardshell phone cases can be as low as $10 or as high as $100. Basic cases shouldn’t cost more than $20. More protective cases typically cost $25-$50. Most cases that cost $50 or more are luxury brands rather than ones having superior protection.

Hardshell phone case FAQ

Can I wirelessly charge my phone with a hardshell case on it?

A. With some cases, yes. Most that are wireless charging-compatible will clearly state it somewhere in the product description, but keep two things in mind when shopping for the functionality. First, even cases that are compatible may be hit or miss with functionality depending on your wireless charging pad. Second, having this functionality typically means the case only offers the lightest protection.

However, some special hardshell cases have wirelessly chargeable batteries that, in turn, wirelessly charge your phone. Most of these have softer shells to protect the battery from hard impacts, so you need to look a little harder to find hardshell versions.

Will hardshell phone cases cover the camera lenses or ports?

A. A properly fitting case will not cover the camera lenses. The ports may be covered, such as by flaps, but typically in a manner that makes them still accessible.

What’s the best hardshell phone case to buy?

Top hardshell phone case 

Otterbox Defender Series Screenless Edition Case

Otterbox Defender Series Screenless Edition Case

What you need to know: Otterbox is among the best names in phone protection for a reason.

What you’ll love: It has a multi-layer build with a hard inner shell for strength and an outer slipcover with port covers to protect from dust and soften drop impacts. Raised edges protect your camera lenses and your screen. It’s made of 50% recycled materials and includes a belt clip. 

What you should consider: The case is tight and can cut off the edges of ports, making it challenging to connect chargers, headphones and the like.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Staples

Top hardshell phone case for the money

Speck Gemshell Clear Case

Speck Gemshell Clear Case

What you need to know: This basic case offers some protection while minimally affecting your phone’s dimensions.

What you’ll love: The transparency lets your choice of phone color shine through and makes the case easy to personalize. It hugs the phone tightly to add as little size as possible while still having raised edges. It has two layers of internal cushioning.

What you should consider: After a few drops, the case may become damaged and need a replacement. However, Speck offers a lifetime warranty on the case if you register it.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Kohl’s

Worth checking out

Beasyjoy Metal Case

Beasyjoy Metal Case

What you need to know: If you need to protect your phone from any danger, this is the perfect case.

What you’ll love: It has IP68 protection, meaning it’s completely dustproof and can be submerged for up to two hours in 10-foot deep water. Three layers of protection make it shock-resistant and shatterproof. The ports are sealed, and there’s a loop for attaching a lanyard.

What you should consider: You have to screw the case together, but a mini-screwdriver is included. It’s too thick for cordless charging to work.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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Jordan Woika writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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