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Smartphones are getting more expensive and fragile with every new release, making it more important than ever to protect them with a case. In fact, a case is one of the first accessories I recommend buying for a new phone, as it goes a long way in protecting your phone from accidental drops and scuffs. Personally, I am a huge fan of rugged cases as they tend to offer the best protection for these expensive gadgets along with some thoughtful extras, and I almost always prefer them when picking a phone case over a regular one. But is a rugged phone case really necessary and, more importantly, worth the added bulk? Let's find out.

While it's not "necessary" to buy rugged cases, I do believe that they're better than regular cases. But whether a rugged case is worth considering for your phone really depends on the type of smartphone you have and the kind of smartphone user you really are. I've already highlighted a few reasons why I personally use rugged cases for my phones over a regular case in a separate post, so let's try to piece this puzzle together by trying to answer a few questions this time.

What does your daily usage look like?

One of the most important things to consider is your day-to-day routine, meaning when and where you find yourself using your phone more often. People who work in, say, construction or those who spend more time outdoors should definitely consider buying a rugged case for their phones. A phone is less likely to withstand a drop on a hard rock at a construction site compared to a smooth and flat surface in an office room, so I truly believe it's important to cater the phone case to your living.

An image showing a person holding Samsung's Galaxy S23 with Spigen Tough Armor case installed on it.

Of course, there's no way to tell when your phone will actually break, but logic dictates that you run more risk of damaging your phone by actively working and trying to use it in harsh environments versus keeping it on a desk for the majority of the day. Cases like the Supcase Unicorn Beetle Pro are my go-to recommendation for those with an active lifestyle. Not only does the UB Pro offer excellent and reliable protection against drops with a hard shell and a built-in screen protector, but it also features some thoughtful extras like a belt clip, making it easier to carry and access your phone when you need it. Spigen's Tough Armor and the OtterBox Defender cases are also great options, but you'll need to add a screen protector to them for the best results.

A render of the SUPCASE UB Pro case for the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra over a white-colored background.
SUPCASE UB Pro for Galaxy S23 Ultra
Best for complete protection

The SUPCASE UB Pro for the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra is an excellent rugged case. It offers 360-degree protection for the phone and even comes with thoughtful extras like a belt clip and kickstand support that other rugged cases don't offer.

How often do you drop your phone?

While this sounds like a very weird question, it's important to acknowledge how clumsy you are at handling your phone before deciding a case for it. Some users tend to drop their phones more often than others, and I highly recommend investing in a good-quality rugged case if you're one of them. A thin and light case may look good, but it also comes with an increased risk of damage, especially if/when you drop your phone more often or from a height.

Galaxy S22 i-Blason Ares
Source: i-Blason

Plenty of cases out there claim to be "military drop-tested" these days, but that literally means nothing, in my opinion, and I don't recommend buying a case simply because it says it's drop-tested or it passes MIL-STD standards. I say that because those numbers and certifications aren't foolproof, and there are plenty of variables at play when you actually drop your phone. Instead, you should consider buying cases that offer complete 360-degree protection with durable shells and built-in screen protectors. Brands like i-Blason and even Poetic have some great protective cases out there that are worth considering for those who drop their phones often.

How much do you care about the aesthetics?

If you're the type of person who prioritizes aesthetics and cares about having the best-looking phone in the room, then you may not like a rugged case. Rugged phones have certainly come a long way in terms of size and design, but they're still a bit on the bulkier side and keep you from showing off the color and the design of the phone. Various brands like OtterBox, UAG, and even Spigen are trying to dish out rugged cases that look great while offering the best protection, but they still leave a lot to be desired.

dbrand Grip case

One case I've been recommending a lot lately to those who care about how their phone looks is dbrand's Grip. The Grip is also a bit on the bulkier side, but it offers excellent drop protection and lets you pick from a variety of skins that change the look and even the feel of your device. Customizing the Grip case with different skins is a great way to make your phone stand out while offering the best protection. Brands like Spigen and UAG also have some simple-looking rugged cases, so be sure to check them out.

A render of the dbrand grip case for pixel 7 with green and tan colored skins on it.
dbrand Grip for Google Pixel 7
Highly customizable case

Dbrand's Grip is one of the most premium and versatile cases out there for the Pixel 7. You can customize it with a ton of different skins, including this TMNP finish, and it also offers good drop protection and a nice in-hand feel while maintaining a low profile.

Closing thoughts

It's not "necessary" to pick a rugged case, as I mentioned previously, and it mostly comes down to your personal preference. But if you're the type of person who spends a lot of time outdoors, working or indulging in activities in harsh environments, or you tend to drop your phone more often than others, then you must consider buying a rugged case. It's definitely worth the added bulk in those cases as you constantly run more risk of damaging it, and there's only so much a regular thin case can do. It also helps if you don't care about the looks or the aesthetics, as it opens up more options.

I am not saying that all rugged cases have a tasteless design, as almost all cases highlighted in this post look far better than the bulky cases of the past. But design is entirely subjective, and there is no denying that almost all rugged cases tend to take a little bit away from the modern and clean aesthetics of smartphones these days. Don't let it affect your purchase decision, though, as there are plenty of good-looking and customizable rugged cases out there like the ones mentioned above. It's better to be safe than sorry, so I'd say it's worth considering a good-quality case and saving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars and maybe even a couple of visits to the service center.