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Change Your Smartphone Case Like You Change Your Clothes

We wear different clothes for different activities and we use different tools for different tasks, but for some reason the majority of us use the same smartphone case for everything. Here’s why that’s a silly approach and why you should mix things up.

In Defense of Case Swapping

Somewhere between the age of the venerable Nokia 1100 (a phone so tough you couldn’t kill it) and the delicate butterfly-like constructions of aluminum and glass we use today, cases became an investment-protecting necessity.

During that transition, however, we slipped into a behavior that is mostly habit and not at all practical: we buy our phones, we put a case on them, and then we never take that case off. Lest you think I’m judging you for your one-case-forever-ways, know that I’m a recent reformer myself. Up until my most recent iPhone, I used a single case on every prior phone for the duration of that phone’s service life. My old Samsung Galaxy? It stayed in the same Otterbox case I bought the day I got the phone. My old iPhone? Never left the Speck case I put on it, day one. But that one case lifestyle? That’s the old me. Now I’ve got iPhone cases like Elton John’s got sun glasses.

You wouldn’t wear a winter parka to the beach or a swim suit to the office, so why does your phone where the same outfit everywhere?

Why the change of heart? Now that our smartphones are an absolutely indispensable part of modern life that accompany us through every minute of the day (and on every adventure, be it to the store or the beach), we need a more flexible approach to protecting them. We don’t wear the same clothes for every situation and we shouldn’t use the same case for every situation either.

What Case Swapping Looks Like

Maybe you’ve been a one-case-forever person for so long you’re having trouble even imagining what the fancy free ways of regular case swapping even look like.

Let’s use the iPhone 8 as an example device to highlight how matching different cases to different activities makes for a better user experience. You can emulate this experience with your own phone and similar cases based on the situations you use your device in.

Office Casual: Your Everyday Carry

What constitutes everyday carry varies from person to person, but in general the majority of us aren’t taking our phones scuba diving or training wild animals. For the vast majority of us an “oops, I dropped my phone on my carpeted office floor” level of protection is sufficient.

For every day type cases, all you really want is a bit of shock protection and a slightly raised lip to protect against screen damage. There’s a huge number of cases in this category, but we’re partial to the Presidio and Candy Shell cases from Speck. They’re well made and offers a good level of daily carry protection against life’s fumbles and bumps.

Or maybe, just maybe, you’ve got rock solid reflexes and a house with plush carpets—in which case you fear no fumbles at all and are happy to wrap your phone in a slender and sexy leather case. Either way, a basic casual case is just the foundation of your case wardrobe and you should be ready to swap it out as your life of adventure calls for something more serious than a simple case.

Sporty and Rugged: Keep It Safe While You’re Biking ‘n Hiking

A simple case might be fine for life at home and the office, but what if you’ve increased the chances of your phone taking a spill by living an active lifestyoe? While you’re jogging, enjoying the great outdoors, or working inn an environment with a non-zero chance of your phone taking a nasty knock, you need an appropriate case (that’s probably overkill when you’re relaxing at home).

In such instances it pays to swap out your business-casual case for the hard-hat equivalent, like an Otterbox Defender— a solid case with a inner shock protecting shell, an outer hard shell, and a snap on protective face plate. Really rugged cases are a perfect match for life outside in the woods or construction sites where bumps and bangs are to be expected.

Beach & Pool Wear: Seal It Up Tight

If ever there was an argument for a multi-case lifestyle, it’s a trip to the beach or pool. Everything at the beach, like the phone-drowning waves and the screen-scratching sand, wants to murder your phone. When elderly phones want to terrify their young, they tell stories about trips to the beach and the folks that never made it home and then caution them to always wear protection.

There’s splashproof and then there’s, well, swimming with the fishes.

With that in mind, despite the advances in phone waterproofing found in some premium models, you want to wrap your phone up tight so nary a drop of water nor a grain of sand can get in and cause trouble. To that end you’ve got two levels of protection available. You can go pick up a Lifeproof FRĒ case or similar case. That’ll keep your phone safe from sand and it’ll survive an hour sitting in up to 2 meters of water.

Got a more serious adventure planned and want to ensure your phone will survive a dunk in a lake and maybe even some underwater photography? Catalyst makes phone cases that can stand a dunk up to 10 meters under water—I have one of these cases for my iPhone 8 Plus and while I haven’t tried snorkling with mine like the young lady seen above, I can attest that the seals are the beefiest I’ve seen on a waterproof case and if I was the snorkling sort, I’d snorkle with confidence.

Tips for Saving On Case Purchases

“But guys!” you might protest, “I spent all my money on this new phone! How am I going to afford all these cases!”

Don’t worry, we hear you and we’ve got a backup plan for you to score cases on the cheap. First and foremost, though, it’s important to know when to spend good money and when to jump on a bargain: of any case you purchase, make sure to buy a nice (and new) waterproof case. Saving a few bucks doesn’t actually translate to real savings if the knock-off case you bought leaks.

With that in mind, however, there are some really great ways to pick up cases on the cheap. The easiest way to do so, especially for iPhone owners, is to shop for cases from previous generation phones.

I’ve picked up multiple cases for my iPhone 8 Plus at dirt cheap rates because, according to the inventory management software managing the prices and inventory, they’re “old” iPhone 7 Plus cases and need to be cleared out. Amazon, eBay, and a variety of other online retailers are filled with examples of these kinds of discounted cases.

The other way to save is to skip shopping online and hit up local stores. Between the clearance racks at big box retailers (featuring both “old” but compatible cases and new cases) and the discount retailers like TJ Maxx, you can find bargains hand over fist. My local big box grocery store had genuine iPhone leather cases almost half off, for example, and my local TJ Maxx had a whole wall of deeply discounted premium iPhone 8 and iPhone X cases—why pay $30+ for a really nice Speck iPhone X case when you can pay $6 at a local discounter? Deals like this abound if you keep your eyes peeled.

Whether you’re changing cases to keep your phone dry at the beach and slim in your pocket when wearing dress slacks—or you just like mixing and matching designs—there’s no reason to confine your phone to a single case.

Jason Fitzpatrick Jason Fitzpatrick
Jason Fitzpatrick is the Founding Editor of Review Geek and Editor in Chief of LifeSavvy. He has over a decade of experience in publishing and has authored thousands of articles at Review Geek, How-To Geek, and Lifehacker. Read Full Bio »