Communication tool, game system, calculator, flashlight ... whatever your iPhone does for you, it's fair to assume breaking it would be a big bummer. Whether you've busted one before or fear the moment every time you fumble to pick it up, protecting your device should be a priority, especially if you don't have an upgrade due. Some models cost upwards of $500 without a contract discount, so do yourself a favor and check out a case.
You don't need to be a foreman or a total klutz to get use out of a heavy duty case. If you're willing to trade sleekness for function, larger (and generally more expensive) enclosures can protect you from everything from drops to dunkings. Even if you're usually sure-handed with your iPhone, it only takes one drop to ruin your day. Brands like OtterBox, LifeProof, and Ballistic offer big, bulky, and in some cases waterproof cases in their product lines.
You probably know someone with an OtterBox or similar mid-sized protective case for their smartphone. Though they're less bulky and it's a little easier to operate your phone while using them, most cases in this tier don't offer extra features like waterproofing or more protection from drops and bumps. These cases are often a little less expensive than their larger counterparts as well. Besides the OtterBox, manufacturers like Griffin, iFrogz, and Case-Mate offer products in this range.
These cases are often the smallest, and thus least noticeable, options. They also tend to offer less (and in some cases far less) protection than other rugged covers. If light drop and scratch protection are all you need, options include one-piece gel enclosures of varying thickness, as well as gel-and-plastic shell combination cases. These tend to be the least expensive of the three tiers as well. Case-Mate, iFrogz, and Ballistic are three manufacturers with smaller and lighter options.
Different cases have different capabilities. Be sure to carefully read the packaging and any included instructions when you purchase a new case. Improper installation can make the case ineffective or even void its warranty. Some, like the LifeProof, require a short test to ensure full functionality before the manufacturer will honor the warranty. If possible, purchase a case from a retailer with trained salespeople -- in a lot of cases, they can assist you in installation.
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