FEW PEOPLE HAVE greater insight into the follies and foibles of humans than smartphone repair technicians. Sure, Shakespeare is the master when it comes to cutting observations about human nature, but the people who repair our phones see us at our most vulnerable—mangled hardware in palms, usually with some embarrassing and revelatory mistake to confess.
Laxmi Agrawal of Cupertino iPhone Repair and Sam Shoman of SF Smart Wireless have seen it all. A client who dropped his phone in the snow and found it two months later in a puddle of snowmelt. A client whose phone was run over by a truck and brought the device in with tire chain marks crushed into the screen.
Their experience shows that even if you’ve vowed to be careful, the world is filled with potential tech treachery, so it’s best to act preemptively and wrap your phone in a protective case. We talked to these two experts who have witnessed the most harrowing smartphone horror stories, and they offered some advice you can use to avoid witnessing your own.
If you buy something using links in our stories, we may earn a commission. This helps support our journalism. Learn more.
Protect Your Phone From Impact
The most common problem Agrawal says brings customers to repair shops is shattered glass screens. Screens are particularly vulnerable to shattering if the point of impact is at a corner of the phone, where the force exerted on the glass is more concentrated.
For a baseline level of protection, choose a case made of a shock-absorbent material (like silicone or rubber) that covers your phone’s vulnerable corners. Shoman advises smartphone owners against plastic cases, which do not effectively absorb shock and are likelier to translate any impact to the device itself.
Beyond that, what you buy depends on how and where you use your phone. A slim case may be fine if you’re confident you’ll only subject your phone to everyday bumps and minor drops. Try a translucent slim case like Totallee or Peel’s cases for iPhones, Google Pixel handsets, and Samsung Galaxy devices to show off your phone’s design.
Cases with thick, bulky shells add more weight and absorb greater shock. Agrawal recommends these cases for younger phone users.
“Teenagers are very much prone to breaking their phones,” she says, noting stories of younger customers dropping or stepping on their phones. For teens (or let’s face it, grown adults) who prefer heavy-duty protection, Agrawal recommends OtterBox brand cases. OtterBox offers cases for iPhone and a wide variety of Android phones. The hallmark of the OtterBox brand is the Defender series cases, which undergo rigorous tests for durability. The Defender Series Case for the iPhone 13, for example, offers a durable polycarbonate shell, flaps that shield charging ports, and a holster. (Yes, a holster.) It gives your phone the hardy air of a miniature Transformer.
Consider Your Needs
In Agrawal’s experience, water damage is less common than screen damage, though she notes that aquatic accidents tend to occur during long weekends and summers when swimmers mistakenly take their phones along for a dip. If you can’t resist the call of the sea, Pelican’s Marine cases for iPhone offer waterproof, drop-tested protection to withstand surprise dunks.
Water damage is less of an issue since water resistance became standard in the top phones, but bear in mind that this type of protection doesn't extend to the ocean. Saltwater is corrosive, so a waterproof case could be a good idea if there's any risk your phone is going to come into contact with it.