With every new iPhone comes a new wave of iPhone cases. Now, after one billion iPhones have been shipped to customers worldwide, every microscopic iPhone change causes waves in the case industry.
Take the iPhone 7 Plus dual camera system this year as an example. I had an old Twelve South BookBook for iPhone 6 Plus kicking around after a few years, and I figured it would be worth a try to see if the new iPhone would fit. The slight shift of the camera and the increased size of the iPhone 7 Plus make the BookBook completely unusable, even with the same dimensions as the iPhone 6 Plus. This is the impact Apple has on the case industry.
And despite the engineering marvel housed in the iPhones veins, the iPhone is far from indestructible. For most people, a case purchase is an immediate necessity.
General Use Cases
It’s really hard to justify the claim of “Best iPhone 7 Plus Case.” There are too many to try and too many that handle different uses effectively.
For me, I have no use for thick, durable, rugged cases designed to handle a 90 mile-per-hour toss at a concrete wall. I far and away prefer ultra-thin, ultra-light cases that barely feel like they’re there. I also work in an office all day long, while the next person might work on a construction site.
So, what does “General Use” mean? Well, that’s hard to pinpoint as well. These are a few cases that we think fit across a few different categories. They’re relatively thin and light, relatively durable, relatively stylish, and relatively affordable. They don’t break the bank, but they aren’t super cheap either. And most importantly, they cover most bumps and bruises.
What a difference one year can make.
Last year, we chose Apple’s Silicone Case as our favorite iPhone 6s case instead of the Leather Case. The reasons for the choice were small and decisive: The Apple Silicone Case had more pressable buttons than the Apple Leather Case. I personally loved last year’s Leather Case, but it was clear to me the Silicone Case was, in fact, better.
Not so this year. I feel like Apple read our review last year and directly fixed our specific complaints. As a whole, the iPhone 7 Plus Leather Case remains largely unchanged from last year, save for those specific improvements.
First and foremost, the Apple Leather Case has all new machined aluminum buttons. The aluminum buttons have a satisfying click and give plenty of feedback when changing volume or putting your iPhone to sleep. There’s no more need to look down at your phone to ensure a button was pressed.
The aluminum buttons don’t feel like cold aluminum but rather like a hard plastic. I wouldn’t say the buttons are ultra-high quality, but rather have a fair enough feel to get the job done properly. I also like how the buttons aren’t inset aluminum plates in the leather — this means the buttons don’t rattle back and forth when an iPhone isn’t in the case. Instead, the buttons are seamless and only provide clicking feedback when the iPhone is in the case.
The rest of the Apple Leather Case is what we’ve come to expect from Apple. There’s a new range of colors this year, ranging from Sea Blue, Storm Grey, Tan, Saddle Brown, Black, and (Product) Red. I prefer the Storm Grey color myself, if only because it doesn’t pick up the color of your jeans as quickly as the lighter leather colors. After a full year of use, my iPhone 6s Saddle Brown leather case had tremendous darkening on the edges which went beyond the point of weathered leather. As a whole, the darker the leather case, the better the wear looks.
The 7 Plus Leather Case also has a slightly altered camera cutout. In last year’s iPhone 6s Leather Case, there was a simple cutout with a hard, black plastic ring lining the edge. This year, the leather sort of rounds down to the plastic ring, making for a more unified look when viewed from the back. If you look directly at the 7 Plus Leather Case camera cutout, you can’t see the black ring. If you look at the 6s case, you can.
I’m still not in love with the Leather Case’s vibrate switch cutout. The case is just a bit too thick to be able to quickly change the vibrate switch with the blunt end of your thumb or finger. Instead, it takes a little wedging to get your finger into the cutout. Not a major complaint, but an imperfection nonetheless.
Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus has utterly owned the camera bump, so any cases you buy should ideally keep the back camera glass from scraping against the table. Although a naked iPhone 6s or iPhone 7 doesn’t have as noticeable a rocking issue, the extra big camera on the Plus could be enough of an annoyance to garner a case purchase on its own. The Leather Case, like last year, brings the iPhone to level ground when on a table or desk. There’s no rocking to be found, and the camera lens is lifted up and away from the table.
As far as changes go, the last minor change is a more pronounced Apple logo on the back of the case. The iPhone 6s Apple logo was a simple debossed logo that tended to fade after long periods of use. The iPhone 7 Plus Leather Case’s logo has a sharper debossing, almost to the point that it feels like the logo is a different piece of leather unto itself.
Overall, we like the Apple Leather Case as our general purpose iPhone 7 Plus case. It provides ample protection for general bumps and drops, yet still feels like premium leather in your hand. The machined aluminum buttons are tremendous upgrades over last year’s iPhone Leather Case and singlehandedly propel the new iPhone 7 Plus Leather Case into our list of favorites. At $50, the iPhone 7 Plus Leather Case won’t break the bank, either.
I think it’s evident Apple put all its iPhone case R&D resources into this year’s Leather Case. The Apple Silicone Case is nearly identical to last year’s and has no alterations that I can find.
Apple introduced a new range of colors for its Silicone Case variety this year, though. The colors range from Pink Sand, to Sea and Ocean Blue, all the way to Cocoa, Stone, and Midnight Blue. The lineup has more pastel colors than last year and should come off more muted and understated. I appreciate these color choices, but the bright and loud choices may float others’ boats. This is something to keep in mind if you’re looking to make a statement with your iPhone 7/7 Plus case.
The Apple Silicone Case provides some tactility for an otherwise slippery and unwieldy iPhone 7 Plus. The silicone has just enough grip to stay in a slightly-sweaty hand, yet still slides properly out of a jeans pocket. There were complaints in the past of the silicone picking up all sorts of lint, but I haven’t run into anything noticeable with this year’s case.
The inside of the Silicone Case is also identical to last year, meaning it has one of the softest micro-fiber interiors I’ve ever put my hands on.
Unfortunately, since there are no changes I can find, last year’s Silicone Case buttons are also this year’s Silicone Case buttons. In the same manner as last year’s Leather Case, I find myself looking down at the new Silicone Case to see if I actually pressed the sleep/wake button or changed the volume. In fact, I’d say the iPhone 7 Plus Silicone Case’s buttons are more mushy than last year’s — they’re worse than last year’s iPhone 6s Leather Case buttons. This is disappointing, and has left me reaching for the Leather Case instead during my testing.
For general purpose iPhone 7 Plus cases, we’ve given our favorite picks a complete switch. The improvements to the Leather Case make it our favorite case, period, and the lack of change to the Silicone Case drops it a step down the ladder. At $39, we recommend spending the extra $10 to get the Leather Case.
Thin and Light Cases
On one end of the spectrum, there are large, durable, and extra-rugged cases, built to withstand the harshest contexts. On the other, there are thin, light, hard-to-notice cases that protect your iPhone from next to nothing.
Yet, they show off the beauty of the iPhone’s design and fit in your pocket. They’re also easy to handle with one hand.
Everyone needs something different. I’m in the “Thin and Light” category because of my occupation. If, like me, you prefer a near-naked iPhone and don’t need rugged protection, these cases will be right up your alley.
If I had to choose my favorite case from this entire list, the Spigen Thin Fit might be my choice. For a mere $11, the Spigen Thin Fit case provides unmatched value and fairly impressive aesthetics and utility.
The Thin Fit fits exactly as the name implies. The case is made of a hard plastic that snaps into place on the iPhone. The edges are rounded and feel good in the hand, while the cutouts on the side allow fair access to the vibration switch and power/volume buttons. The bottom of the case is completely cut away for the speaker/microphone grilles and Lightning port. The top is the same as the bottom, however I’ve found the top corners to be a little edgy — if you run your finger around the top corner of the Thin Fit, you can feel your fingertip catch on the corner. This might be the only part of how the case fits that I don’t like.
Getting the case on and off is a relative breeze. The Thin Fit snaps into place and basically snaps off when you’re ready.
The plastic is relatively smooth, but has a grippiness on the back side that improves how you handle the phone. It gets less grippy when you carry the iPhone with a sweaty hand, but it’s definitely an improvement over a naked iPhone. And, whatever the finish that has been applied to the Thin Fit’s back side, it’s notorious for picking up fingerprints and hand smudges. It can look a bit unsightly, especially after eating greasy foods and forgetting to wash up.
Aesthetically, the Thin Fit is exactly what you’d expect. This case is straight black, but there are gold, clear, white, and jet black options for all the iPhone colorways. There’s nothing more than a Spigen logo on the bottom-right backside. As I look at it now, there’s really nothing to this case.
Here’s the kicker: The Spigen Thin Fit is only $11 on Amazon. $11. If you were feeling spunky, you could grab a few of them. These cases don’t get in the way, add a higher level of traction, are thin and light, and are more durable than our second “thin and light” pick because of the hard plastic.
If you need a quick, inexpensive case that’s ready to handle a few bruises, the Spigen Thin Fit is for you.
The Peel case takes “thin and light” to an entirely new realm. If you didn’t know better, you’d think your iPhone was naked. Some people are going to love the Peel case, while others are going to hate it.
It’s hard to talk about the Peel case because of how straightforward it is. It’s a very thin piece of plastic — pliable enough to wrap around the iPhone, but hard enough that it feels like plastic and not silicone. The silver Peel is translucent and not perfectly clear, giving off a matte finish when it’s applied.
Applying the case is slightly difficult, as the thickness of the plastic is too thick to wrap around the corner, yet too soft to snap into place. In fact, when putting on the case the first time, I became worried I was going to rip or crack the case. Taking it off is also very difficult, especially if you don’t have long fingernails. I’ve heard from long-time users that Peel cases tend to stretch if you constantly take them on and off, so this might be something to keep in mind if you’re as noncommittal to cases as I am.
The Peel case has cutouts for all the iPhone’s ports, buttons, switches, and camera(s). The back camera cutout is especially well done — the plastic raises to match the camera ridge on the iPhone 7 Plus; it’s more than just a straight cutout. The cutout for the camera flash is also well done, if a bit misaligned.
That said, thanks to the incredible thinness of the case, the Peel case is the only case on this last that doesn’t sit flat with a table. The flat-backed iPhone is a thing of the past and something I’ve grown past, but the annoyance is rekindled with the extra large 7 Plus camera. Is the Peel’s table-rocking a deal breaker? No, but it is the only one on this list that doesn’t make short work of the larger camera bump.
The translucent/matte finish gives the Peel case some grip, but not as much as the Spigen Thin Fit. The benefit of the matte finish — in comparison to the Thin Fit — is it doesn’t pick up skin oils and fingerprints.
This is probably what the Peel case does best: look good. Your iPhone was designed to look as good as it works, and I doubt Apple’s designers design the iPhone to be put into a case. The Peel case accentuates the iPhone’s curves and edges unlike any other case I’ve seen and works hard to keep that out-of-box design at the forefront. To this end, the Peel case is greatly successful.
What bugs me about the Peel case is its price. You can pick up an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus Peel for $25 on Peel’s website. $25 is more than twice as much as the Spigen Thin Fit. For half the money, you get more protection, better traction, and a slightly thicker case. If you’re looking to maintain your iPhone’s curb appeal, then sure, the Peel might be a great choice. But if you’re hoping to go thin and light and not break the bank, we recommend the Spigen Thin Fit instead.
Thick and Durable Cases
Generally speaking, those who need a durable case know who they are. Whether their work demands a durable iPhone case, or whether they understand their own clumsiness, these people tend to have a good understanding of how valuable a rugged case can be.
The range of cases in this category is a little larger than other categories. If absolute protection is a must, the Otterbox Defender is probably the best choice. However, if you’re looking for good protection that can fit in your pocket, the Caseology Titan might be a better choice.
Let’s take a look.
The Defender makes a return on this list after taking the durable crown last year.
Like every other annual iteration, the Otterbox Defender is a tank. Of all the cases on this list, it’s the only one to come with a dedicated screen protector and Touch ID protector, and it’s the only case to come with a dedicated belt attachment. The Defender is made of three parts: an internal, hard plastic shell with shock-absorbing padding, a hard plastic screen and Touch ID protector, and an external silicone casing that wraps around the screen protector/hard shell combo. This entire casing can be secured inside the belt attachment to be worn outside of your pocket during the day.
All buttons, switches, and vibration locks are covered and protected by the exterior silicone casing. The Apple logo on the back of the iPhone is also covered with a transparent plastic shield. However, and perhaps significantly, the camera cutout does not have protection — you can stick your finger right through the hole and touch the camera on the back of the iPhone. Clearly, the lack of plastic shield is to avoid messing with your photos, but this is a clear vulnerability in an otherwise invulnerable case.
Installing and uninstalling the Otterbox Defender is a process. When I took the case out of the box, I actually used a screwdriver to pry apart the hard plastic shell and screen protector. Once you have the two apart, the iPhone sits nicely inside the hard interior shell and the screen protector snaps into place with satisfying clicks. Uninstalling is a bit easier than installing, but there’s no way you’re going to do this on a daily basis. Once the Defender is on, it’s going to stay on.
Overall though, it’s hard to measure the other two durable cases with respect to the Otterbox Defender. This case is nearly indestructible and will protect your iPhone from many of the worst drops, scratches, and falls. With a water-resistant iPhone-and-Defender combination, it’s hard to imagine a more durable smartphone.
But, it’s huge. It’s thick and probably unpocketable, and it’s not for those who want a slim iPhone. If you need a case like the Defender, you know who you are.
If we were to put aside the Defender and only consider the Caseology Titan and Incipio DualPro, we’d be comparing apples to apples. And if we were to recommend one of the two, it would be the Caseology Titan.
The Titan is an affordable, heavy-duty case with a hard plastic outer shell and a silicone, shock-absorbing inner shell. It comes in four different colours: Jet Black, Deep Blue, Matte Black (as shown), and Rose Gold. The Titan’s look is the biggest thing going for it — I’d say this is the best looking heavy duty case on this list.
The Titan has cutouts for the camera, Apple logo, Lightning connecter, speaker grilles, and vibration switch, but has silicone coverings for the volume buttons and sleep/wake button. The interior silicone shell is actually quite rigid itself, making this case quite easy to snap on and off your iPhone without pulling off the exterior hard plastic shell. Oddly though, the exterior shell is hardly more rigid than the interior shell, again allowing the case to be put on and off quite easily, but also preventing this case from being as protective as the Defender.
On the back, the matte black color looks more to me like a dark grey, and the only bit of branding on the case’s exterior is a Caseology logo etched into the bottom middle of the back and “Caseology” etched into the side of the exterior shell (the area underneath your palm if you hold the phone with your left hand).
And that’s about it really. The Caseology Titan is a very standard, very middle-of-the-road heavy duty case that will neither break the bank nor cause wanderlust. It’ll protect your iPhone from many of the harsher drops, but it won’t defend it from concrete walls like the Otterbox. At $16, you can’t go wrong with the Caseology Titan.
But that doesn’t mean this is an insta-buy.
What case list would be complete without an Incipio offering? Incipio is so quick at introducing iPhone cases, I’m pretty sure they’re announcing cases before the iPhone itself is announced. I mean, the box says “New iPhone 5.5,” not “iPhone 7 Plus.”
Sometimes you can judge a book by its cover. Or in this case, a case by its box.
Perhaps it’s just me, but I don’t find any satisfaction in the Incipio DualPro. The case is protective enough, but it’s so generic. It inspires no fun, looks bland, feels absolutely regular, and doesn’t drop the ball or take the cake in any specific facet. For $15, the Incipio DualPro is a fine case, but I don’t think it provides as much value as the Caseology Titan.
Just like the Titan, the DualPro has an interior silicone shell and an exterior hard plastic shell. Also identical to the Titan, there are cutouts for the camera, vibration switch, Lightning port, and speaker grilles (no cutout for the Apple logo, mind you), and the volume and sleep/wake buttons are covered by the interior silicone. Aside from the rounder edges and the larger camera cutout of the Incipio DualPro, there’s very little difference between it and the Caseology Titan.
On the back side, the Incipio logo is found in the bottom right corner. The rest of the case is very…normal. The hard plastic is less rigid, like the Titan, but I find it provides less grip than the Titan.
It may not be fair to judge the Incipio DualPro based on looks, but it needs to differentiate itself from other heavier-duty cases. The DualPro is exactly what you’d expect from Incipio, especially at the $15 price point. If you’re going to spend $15 on a case, spend one extra dollar and get the Caseology Titan.
While we made a flat-out claim that the Apple Silicone Case was our favorite case in 2016 for the iPhone 6s, it’s a bit harder this year to be so steadfast.
The Apple Leather Case improved 99% of our complaints from the iPhone 6s version, which all surrounded around the mushy buttons. Now that the Leather Case has machined aluminum volume and sleep/wake buttons, it’s our pick as an overarching, general purpose iPhone 7 Plus case. The Silicone Case is still pretty great, but it hasn’t been changed in the slightest from 2016. For an extra $10, we recommend the Leather Case.
On the thin and light side, we’re excited to recommend the Thin Fit from Spigen. Somehow, this case checks all the boxes. The hard plastic, grippy shell is thin enough to feel great in your hand, while still thick enough to protect the iPhone from minor drops. It’s also super inexpensive, making it very easy to recommend.
And on the heavy duty side, the Otterbox Defender continues to go the extra mile in terms of defending your iPhone from harsh work environments. The Defender picks up right where last year’s model left off, meaning it’s next to impossible to install and uninstall quickly, but also provides unprecedented protection for your now water-resistant iPhone 7 Plus. If you need a case like the Otterbox Defender, its $45 price tag will feel like peanuts.
The wide industry of iPhone cases is hard to nail down on any given day. There are so many shapes, sizes, colors, durabilities, features — it’s impossible to flat out state which is the best iPhone case. After 10 years of iPhones, and more years of smartphones, most people will know how harsh they are on their devices. In all likelihood, most people buy the same updated case each time they buy an updated iPhone. If you’re one of those people, it’s likely you’ve already made up your mind.
But, if you’re looking to jump categories, the Apple Leather Case, Spigen Thin Fit, and Otterbox Defender are our favorite iPhone 7 Plus cases so far.