Best Cheap iPhone Cases
Published on By Gina Martinez
Incipio NGP Review
From $9 Best
This case comes in a variety of translucent colors for iPhone 5/5S, 6, 6 Plus. It wins accolades for slim, sturdy construction and unencumbered use of buttons and ports.
Named the top iPhone 6 case out of nearly 100 tested by The Wirecutter, the Incipio NGP (starting at $9, Amazon) is also available for iPhones 5/5S and 6 Plus. This thin case is constructed of Incipio's trademarked Flex2O, a versatile polymer material that combines the properties hard plastic and rubber. It allows the case to resist scratches and tears while providing some shock absorbence and grip. On Amazon one reviewer describes it as a nice middle ground between hard and soft. Others note that the material keeps the phone from sliding on a flat surface and, most important, helps the phone survive an accidental drop.
The Wirecutter found that some cases made from a similar and commonly used material known as TPU tend not to fit so well, but the Incipio NGP is an exception. All the ports and buttons are easily accessible and accommodate cables (for headphones, etc.) from companies other than Apple. Although the iPhone doesn't fit on a dock while wearing this case, according to reviews, users say it's easy to remove.
The Incipio NGP doesn't come with a screen protector, which doesn't escape notice in customer reviews on Amazon, where some users report damaged screens. Still, it does have a lip that prevents the front of the phone from touching a surface when it's facedown. Testers at The Wirecutter measured the lip at 0.6 millimeters -- under Apple's official recommendation of 1 mm but enough to provide some protection. On the upside, the ring/silent switch is easier to access and the case doesn't add too much girth to the phone. The Incipio NGP for iPhone 6 measures 0.38 inches (compared with the 0.27-inch depth of the phone itself). There's enough of a buffer to provide protection, reviewers say, without altering the feel of the phone too much.
The Incipio NGP is available in an array of colors, depending on the model, including black, translucent blue, translucent pink, and translucent red (which some reviewers note is more coral or peachy in color). The translucence allows the Apple logo on the back of the phone to show through. Overall, reviewers conclude you can't really go wrong with the Incipio NGP.
New Trent Alixo Review
From $16 Best
This slim, transparent case shows off the iPhone 5, 5S, 6, or 6 Plus while protecting it with tough, rubbery TPU material and a built-in screen protector.
In New Trent Alixo reviews, users give this iPhone case -- available for the iPhone 5/5S, 6, and 6 Plus -- overwhelmingly high ratings. Experts and consumers laud the fairly uncommon design, which protects the phone from all angles without adding bulk. Hard, scratch-resistant polycarbonate covers both the front and the back of the phone; this is the only one of our top picks that includes a built-in screen protector. The edges are made of TPU, or thermoplastic polyurethane, which is more rubbery than plastic and better at absorbing shock.
Users who have posted reviews on Amazon praise the combination of materials, noting that the TPU sides make the phone feel secure in the hand. The enhanced grip is especially beneficial for owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, in light of reports that the slim, new models tend to be slippery. In terms of performance, the New Trent Alixo (starting at $16, Amazon) has earned numerous testimonials for protecting phones from somewhat dramatic drops, curious and destructive kids, and even small liquid spills. It's important to note, though, that this case is not waterproof.
CNET praises the sleek look of the New Trent Alixo in a roundup of the best iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases. Consumers like that the case is transparent, so the Apple logo and the design of the iPhone itself remain visible. Users want to show off the latest iPhones, which come in gold, silver, or space gray. To match the phones, the case comes with two front covers, one rimmed with black and one with white.
The New Trent Alixo incorporates covers for the ports on the bottom of the iPhone, which makes them a bit difficult to access but also keeps out dust and other potentially harmful agents. There are some minor complaints that the case is hard to put on and the front panel causes a faint rainbow effect, like oil in water.
One concern we saw consistently: The newest iPhones come with a fingerprint scanner built in to the home button, and the screen protector built into this case tends to interfere with that feature, requiring a few tries to get it to work. That's the biggest strike against this case in the eyes of experts at The Wirecutter, who otherwise admire the level of protection for the money. Users advise that you have to peel back the membrane that covers the home button in order to make the fingerprint sensor work. Many consumers consider this an easy fix and are otherwise fully satisfied with the case. Its invisible look, sleek design, and reliable protection make it a winner.
Insignia Case Review
From $9 Good
This minimalist case is available from Best Buy for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. Reviewers like its sleek design and attractive color and pattern options.
Cases from Insignia, a Best Buy brand, provide minimalist protection for the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus. The Insignia Case (starting at $9, Amazon) has earned high ratings from Best Buy customers, who praise its design and performance. It comes in a wide range of colors and patterns with slightly different model numbers -- NS-A64T2B for a black iPhone 6 case, for example, and NS-A64T2BW for a blue and white "watercolor" design. Model numbers for the iPhone 6 Plus cases begin with NS-A65T2.
These Insignia cases are made of TPU. They are slim and sleek, preserving the svelte profile of the newest iPhone models while protecting them from minor drops and bumps. Users appreciate that the case doesn't add bulk and the phone still slides into a pocket.
This is a simple case that's very easy to put on and fits the iPhone 6 models well, according to reviews. A YouTube video review demonstrates that the phone simply snaps down into the case and doesn't easily slip out. The Insignia case offers no screen protection aside from a small lip to keep the glass from sitting flush against a surface that could scratch it. Reviewers generally concur that this case is a solid choice, although some warn that it protects only against minor drops and scuffs; they wouldn't recommend it to people who are prone to dropping their phones.
The Insignia Case comes with a one-year limited warranty (for the case, not the phone inside). Consumers like the simple, slim design and say the case is easy to put on their iPhone 6 models. For users who aren't too rough with their phones, this is an affordable, basic, attractive iPhone case.
Luvvitt Clearview Review
From $10 Good
Boasting excellent reviews and a lifetime warranty, this case is a hybrid of clear plastic and softer TPU to protect the edges. It fits snugly on an iPhone 5, 5S, 6, or 6 Plus.
This transparent case appeals to consumers who want to protect the iPhone without completely covering it up, according to Luvvitt Clearview reviews. Available for the iPhone 5/5S, 6, and 6 Plus, the Luvvitt Clearview (starting at $10, Amazon) is a hybrid case made of rubbery TPU on the sides and rigid plastic on the back. The plastic has a scratch-resistant coating to protect the case from scratches and scuffs. Consumers reviewing the iPhone 6 case on Amazon (where it's a No. 1 best-seller) commend the Luvvitt Clearview for providing solid protection in a compact package and adding grip to the slippery iPhone 6. More than 1,000 reviewers have awarded it an average of 4.6 out of 5 stars.
The Luvvitt Clearview case covers the buttons on the sides of the iPhone (such as the volume control), which protects the buttons but can also make them slightly stiff; they may require a little extra effort to press. Users report that they do loosen up with time, and the full coverage of this case gives many reviewers peace of mind. All the ports, including the headphone jack, are fully accessible. This case does not include a screen protector; many reviewers mention having purchased one separately. However, the Luvvitt Clearview does have a lip that prevents the phone's screen from touching a flat surface when it's lying facedown.
Reviewers admire the unobtrusive look of the Luvvitt Clearview. Many users want to show off the silver, gold, or space gray finish of a new iPhone model. For some, leaving the Apple logo visible is also desirable. Luvvitt offers options with clear back panels and colored bumpers, so that the back of the phone is visible and the sides are colored. One recurring complaint about this case is that lint and dirt can get caught between the case and the phone, potentially damaging the iPhone's surface. This can also cause the phone to appear dirty.
Performance reviews often note that the Luvvitt Clearview fits well, whether it's encasing an iPhone 5/5S, 6, or 6 Plus, and that iPhones in this case have survived drops without damage. Luvvitt promises a lifetime warranty for this case (not for the phone inside -- a crucial distinction), and overall it's an excellent choice at a low price.
Invellop Prime Series Dual Layer Case Review
From $9 Think Twice
This Invellop case for iPhone 6 has two layers: a black TPU core and a colored plastic shell. Reviewers say the fit isn't secure and the functionality is poor.
The Invellop Prime Series Dual-Layer Premium Armor Hybrid Bumper Cover (starting at $9, Amazon) is made for the iPhone 6. It has a two-piece design, with a hard outer plastic shell and an inner TPU core. The inner piece is black and the outer one comes in an array of color options: black, blue, green, gray, brown, orange, pink, purple, and silver. Beveled edges and a small raised ridge around the front of the phone promise screen protection.
However rugged the case looks, some reports about the fit and functionality are troubling. One Invellop case review posted on Amazon says the phone slides and slips around in the case and another echoes that the phone feels like it might bounce out of the case if dropped. Other dismayed Amazon customers have found that this case breaks after a short period or after only one drop, according to reviews. Several users view this as an acceptable temporary solution but not a case that would stand the test of time or protect the phone through any degree of use and abuse. There's no mention of a manufacturer's warranty for this product.
While it certainly has an attractive price tag, the Invellop case doesn't seem worth the risk. Reviews suggest that the iPhone could fall out, the ports and buttons may be compromised, and the case itself is prone to damage.
Incase Snap Case Review
From $10 Think Twice
Available in many colors, the Incase Snap Case for iPhone 5/5S is a hard plastic shell with open cutouts for buttons and ports. Users complain of cracks at the corners.
The Incase Snap Case (starting at $10, Amazon) comes in a wide variety of colors and designs for the iPhone 5/5S. Consumers can find this case festooned with a chevron pattern, animal print, polka dots, graphics such as florals, pop art, typography, and so on. That's one of the only positive things reviewers have to say about the case, though, and the designs generally cost more than the solid colors.
While consumer reviewers posting on Amazon like the look and minimal bulk of the Incase Snap Case, many are disappointed to report that it flakes and chips at the corners or has failed to protect a dropped iPhone. They gripe that this case is made of low-quality plastic, with no rubbery material as a complement. This hard-shell construction makes the case ineffective at absorbing shock. Some also note that the slick plastic makes it easy to lose your grip on the phone -- a bad combination. The design has open ends to provide easy access to buttons and ports but also leaves the buttons and edges vulnerable to damage.
Any price advantage is rendered moot if you have to replace a damaged or broken case, and this type of plastic shell makes an untrustworthy protector for an expensive iPhone. Better to spend a few extra bucks on a more durable case that provides better protection for the precious cargo inside.
There's no denying it: An iPhone is a big expense. Even with a low upfront price under contract, the current models cost many hundreds of dollars to replace. Users naturally want to protect their phones; Apple has found that 78 percent of iPhone owners buy cases. After spending so much on the phone and plan, many consumers don't want to drop another $100 on a case, but the cheapest iPhone cases don't provide sufficient protection. Look to spend between $10 and $20 for a case that will keep an iPhone safe through the daily grind.
Cheap iPhone Cases Buying Guide
The best inexpensive iPhone cases come primarily from third-party mobile accessory makers. Our frontrunners are the New Trent Alixo (starting at $16), a transparent case that shows off the phone underneath, and the Incipio NGP (starting at $9), which comes in a selection of translucent colors. Two other good choices are the Luvvitt Clearview case (starting at $10) and a basic Insignia case from Best Buy (starting at $9) that comes in a variety of colors and designs with slightly different model numbers. These top picks are available in a range of sizes to fit the iPhone 5/5S, 6, and 6 Plus, with the exception of the Insignia case, which comes in versions for the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus.
We also looked at iPhone armbands, a convenient way to keep your phone with you while working out. Our pick for best cheap iPhone armband is the Stalion Sports Armband (starting at $12) for the iPhone 5/5S and 5C. It's water-resistant (i.e., sweat-proof) and includes a pocket for keys or cash.
The Invellop Prime Series Dual Layer Premium Armor Hybrid Bumper Cover Case (starting at $9) and the Incase Snap Case (starting at $10) are some of the cheapest iPhone cases we found, but they get low marks for construction and fit and reportedly fail to protect phones from damage.
Pricier cases include leather and wallet-style designs, with folding closures and pockets, and models with built-in kickstands for watching video. Consumers can also pay more for rugged, military-grade protection and even waterproofing from a brand such as OtterBox or LifeProof. Another popular but costly option is a case with a built-in battery to extend the phone's battery life. Our top picks under $20 are more basic, but they're all you need to protect an iPhone against drops, scratches, and slight spills -- although none promise water resistance. Click on each case at the top of the page for a full review.
Keep an eye out in the coming months for new cases that meet strict design guidelines issued by Apple in late 2014. To meet with the company's approval, a case must safeguard an iPhone dropped on a paved surface from a height of 1 meter, among other requirements. An expert at GottaBeMobile anticipates this will lead to more protective but also more expensive iPhone cases. In the meantime, we used Apple's Case Design Guidelines to help inform our recommendations.
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Features Comparison Buying Guide continues below table
What We Looked For
Durable Construction.Cases made of flimsy plastic can crack or chip easily and don't provide much cushion. Countless cheap iPhone cases fit this profile; the Incase Snap Case is but one example.
The best iPhone cases are constructed with flexible yet sturdy material. One of the most common is thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU, a rubbery material with the durability of plastic, so it won't rip or stretch. The Incipio NGP is made with an equivalent polymer material that the company calls Flex2O. A customer review on Amazon describes a pleasant, jelly-like texture that allows for good grip and doesn't show scratches or wear. Reviewers appreciate the extra grip these cases afford. After all, the surest way to avoid damaging a phone in a fall is to avoid dropping it in the first place.
The Luvvitt Clearview case is a hybrid model with a TPU bumper on the sides and a rigid plastic back with a scratch-resistant coating. The SwitchEasy Tones (starting at $13) is another mixed-material case with a hard polycarbonate back plate and TPU to shield the edges. Hybrid cases are celebrated for being simultaneously sturdy and easy to grip. These traits are especially valuable for owners of the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. The newest phones have slim bodies that reportedly can bend and some reviewers have found them slippery, prompting Business Insider to declare a case a necessity.
A combination of materials doesn't always add up to a good iPhone case. The Invellop case has two layers: a TPU core and a hard outer shell. In reviews, many Amazon customers report that the plastic layer chipped or broke within days. Some assert that this design also doesn't hug the phone tightly enough to make it feel secure.
Full Coverage.Cheap iPhone cases often have cutouts for the phone's buttons (power, volume, etc.) and may not cover the top and bottom edges at all. This provides easy access to ports and buttons but sacrifices protection. We looked for cases that provide the fullest possible coverage around the edges of the phone without inhibiting normal use of the buttons and ports.
In addition to covering the iPhone's back and sides, some cases include a built-in screen protector to prevent the glass surface from cracking. The New Trent Alixo stands out for providing this type of all-around protection. Our other top picks have a lip around the edge that protrudes slightly to prevent the phone's screen from touching a flat surface when it's lying facedown. Under Apple's new guidelines, that raised lip must measure at least 1 millimeter. Most manufacturers don't provide this dimension in the specs, but Luvvitt specifies that the Clearview iPhone 6 case has a 1.2 mm lip. The Wirecutter measured the lip on the Incipio NGP at about 0.6 millimeters. Still, the reviewer says he feels confident laying the phone facedown and declares the NGP the best iPhone 6 case out of nearly 100 the site has tested.
Minimal Bulk.Expensive, ultra-protective iPhone cases tend to be thick and bulky, and consumers often choose cheap iPhone cases because of their slim profiles. The new iPhones are thinner than ever, and many users want a protective case to preserve this quality. Slimmer cases also allow a phone to fit more easily in a pocket or purse. The reviews we read suggest that the most popular cases provide maximum protection with minimum bulk. Review comments describe the girth of the cases we researched in general terms; we also compared the dimensions listed by manufacturers. While an OtterBox case can measure more than an inch thick, our top picks measure no more than half an inch. This is another knock against the Incase Snap Case: With a depth of 0.75 inches, it would more than double the thickness of the iPhone 5S (0.3 inches).
Aesthetic Appeal.Many consumers like transparent cases, such as the New Trent Alixo and Luvvitt Clearview, because they don't distract from the design of the iPhone itself, which now comes in space gray, silver, and gold finishes. Others want to make a statement with the color or design of the case. Our slate of top picks accounts for both tastes.
IPhone Case Reviews
We sought out iPhone cases that have been extensively reviewed online by experts and consumers. Customer feedback on retail sites such as Amazon and Best Buy played a key role in our decision making. Expert sources tend to feature cases well outside our price range of $20 or less. A CNET-curated collection of the best iPhone 6 and 6 Plus cases includes many priced outside our range, although it brought a few contenders to our attention. Professional media outlets provide more roundups like this than full reviews of individual cases. Many also seem to favor form over function or highlight bulky models that appear built for apocalyptic catastrophe. As The Wirecutter argues in its comparison of iPhone 6 cases, most users don't need that level of protection. Overall, consumers want an iPhone case that shields the device from damage without obstructing their use of the phone. Reviewers are also seeking a secure fit.
Protection.The primary concern among reviewers is the level of protection the case provides. The iPhone 6 and 6 Plus scored better than the iPhone 5S (and Samsung Galaxy S5) in "breakability" testing by SquareTrade, but the independent warranty provider considers all the models "medium risk."
The best iPhone cases are designed to absorb shock and keep the phone safe from dings, cracks, and scratches. Reviews of our top picks frequently tell stories of averted disaster. On Amazon, a customer reports that an iPhone 6 clad in the Incipio NGP escaped damage when he dropped it while riding a bike. Another reviewer reports that an iPhone 5S in the New Trent Alixo case remained unharmed after falling down hardwood stairs and falling into the hands of a 1-year-old child.
Button, Port, and Sensor Accessibility. A poorly designed case can impede the many buttons and ports around the outside of the iPhone. Likewise, the touchscreen and Touch ID feature (a fingerprint sensor in the home button on newer iPhone models) may not function properly when covered by a screen protector. The best cheap iPhone cases let users operate the phone just as easily with the case on as they can without it.
According to most reports posted online, our picks have very few or no problems with buttons and ports being blocked when the cases are put on correctly. One of the only consistent complaints we found is that the New Trent Alixo case can inhibit the iPhone's Touch ID sensor. Many reviewers report on Amazon that they had to peel the screen-protector membrane off the home button in order to make the feature work. However, the Alixo case gets such high marks for protection and fit that this easy fix isn't a deal breaker, especially given that many users don't employ the Touch ID feature. Quite a few reviewers gripe that the Invellop case makes the buttons on the iPhone 6 difficult to press and the auxiliary input difficult or impossible to access.
Snug Fit.Apple's guidelines for developers include highly detailed dimensional drawings, and we came across few reports of ill-fitting cases. So long as you choose a case that matches the iPhone model you have, you should be fine. One exception is the Invellop Prime Series case. A number of reviews note that the fit is too loose, allowing the phone to pop out relatively easily.
With an iPhone armband, there are additional considerations. Users want the band to fit snugly on their upper arm, allowing them to carry a phone hands-free. You may have to remove the phone from its regular case before placing it into an armband. Many users say the Stalion Sports Armband for the iPhone 5, 5S, and 5C can accommodate slim cases, like the ones we recommend (one review name-drops Luvvitt specifically).
Additional Products We Considered
SwitchEasy Tones Review
The SwitchEasy Tones (starting at $13, Amazon) is a hybrid case for the iPhone 5/5S, 5C, and 6 with a low price point and a distinctive, two-tone design. The case is constructed with a combination of hard polycarbonate for the back plate and rubbery TPU on the sides for added shock absorption and grip. This mixed-material case is celebrated in SwitchEasy Tones reviews for being easy to grip, sturdy, and pleasantly soft to touch. A reviewer at tech site Gadgetmac, who tested the 5S and 5C cases, notes that the texture resists scratches.
In a review on Amazon, a professedly clumsy New Yorker reports that his phone has suffered no damage the several times he's dropped it on city sidewalks. Other reviewers praise the fit of the case and consider it well made. The SwitchEasy Tones covers the buttons on the edges of the iPhone, for comprehensive protection, but preserves the buttons' tactility and doesn't impede use of the device, reviewers say. An assortment of accouterments -- two adhesive screen guards, a microfiber wipe, and protectors for the headphone jack and power jack -- add value and help set this case apart.
The SwitchEasy Tones has been one of our top picks in the past and remains an attractive choice, but more recent reviews call its durability into question. Too many users report that the case breaks apart after a short time and The Wirecutter warns that it doesn't last if you repeatedly take your phone in and out of the case. According to its website, SwitchEasy offers a two-year limited warranty, but the company warns that misusing the product might void the warranty. Several disgruntled Amazon customers tell of poor customer service when they tried to make claims on the warranty. Whether or not the company honors its guarantee, the inconvenience and apparent risk of a broken case are strikes against this model.
That said, there are more positive than negative reviews of the SwitchEasy Tones, and ultimately Gadgetmac rates the case as recommended. Although it no longer ranks as the best cheap iPhone case in our estimation, it's still worth a mention.
Stalion Sports Armband Review
An armband allows runners, athletes, and gym goers to have a phone with them while they exercise (to listen to music or check their notifications) without having to hold onto it or let it bounce around in a pocket. The Stalion Sports Armband (starting at $12, Amazon) is designed to hold an iPhone 5, 5S, or 5C, fitting securely on the upper arm with an adjustable band and protecting the phone from damage.
In Stalion Sports Armband reviews, consumers have overwhelming praise for this case. A hockey coach comments on Amazon that she regularly runs for miles with her team and this armband doesn't slip or itch. Others concur that it stays put when they move around and is remarkably unobtrusive.
The Stalion armband is constructed with a lightweight neoprene material that is water-resistant, sweat-proof, and washable. The arm strap is made of breathable Velcro. The cover is clear, so the phone's face is visible, and scratch-proof for protection. The sleeve that holds the phone has slots for inserting headphones and a charging cable. A small pocket can hold a key, card, or cash.
One drawback is that bulkier cases won't fit into the sleeve; some users don't like having to uncase their phones in order to use the armband. Very thin cases seem to fit, however. A larger concern with the Stalion armband is its size. Multiple reviewers express disappointment that it's too big for their arms. The circumference of the Velcro band can be adjusted from 10 inches to 14 inches. One reviewer who posted on Amazon identifies herself as a petite woman and reports that this armband doesn't fit her. Even so, a majority of reviewers seem to find the fit acceptable.
Stalion offers a lifetime warranty on this product. Overall the Stalion Sports Armband is our top pick among cheap iPhone armbands.