Best heavy duty cases for iPhone SE

Whether you want protection from a drop, your job puts you and your gear in harm's way, or you're simply out in the elements a lot, an iPhone SE case can keep it safe and sound. Here are our current favorites.

Otterbox Defender

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Otterbox boasts one of the largest color combination selections — you aren't restricted to muted colors or an industrial look. The belt clip holster doubles as a kickstand so you can clip it on when you're hiking the trails and set it down for hands-free operating just about anywhere.

It comes with a built-in screen protector, so there's no need to buy one. Otterbox is known for withstanding drops, dust, and scratches of every kind, and it remains at the top of many review lists because it works. Port covers ensure that no dirt, sweat, or grime will make their way into tiny crevices, while still giving you access to charging and headphone jacks. For an all-around protector that looks fun and performs well, Otterbox is a keeper.

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SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle

SUPCASE has been a go-to name for heavy duty cases for awhile now, and the Unicorn Beetle is an example of why. The combination of polycarbonate and TPU materials mean the case is tough on the outside and shock-resistant on the inside, keeping your iPhone secure even when your hands don't.

The belt clip holster is unique in that it swivels 360 degrees, which means you don't have to fidget too much to clip it on while you're running, biking, or surrounded by concrete streets. The front casing is designed to protect your screen, providing a bumper that stops the screen from touching the ground. It's available in several metallic colors that keep your iPhone visible in the great outdoors or on a crowded work site.

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UAG is known as the brand that is military drop-tested. It's part tough outer core, part soft inner protection, so the case will take the beating while your iPhone stays pristine. The harder you're going to be on your iPhone, the more trustworthy your case needs to be, and UAG is about as tough as it gets.

The case does come with a basic screen protector, but most users opt to install a tempered glass screen protector instead, and UAG cases are designed to fit these protectors seamlessly. The case looks sleek, modern, and industrial; a perfect look for the iPhone SE. It protects the ports while leaving them accessible, and has built-out corners that absorb shock without adding bulk. If it lived up to military standards, it's going to live up to whatever you put your iPhone through.

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Lifeproof: FRE and NUUD


The original name in waterproof cases, Lifeproof FRE is a trusted brand. It's known to keep your iPhone alive for up to one hour in 21 feet of water, slush, or snow. If you're constantly hopping in and out of vehicles or live in an unpredictable climate, this kind of guarantee will save your iPhone every time.

The FRE version has a built-in screen protector that doesn't inhibit touch screen sensitivity. It's not made of tempered glass, but it is scratch resistant. The case also comes with an adapter so that you can use your headphone jack without compromising the waterproof seal, and the other ports and buttons are protected, too. Feel like running in the rain? Go for it!

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Lifeproof NUUD waterproof iPhone SE case

Lifeproof NUUD is the next generation of waterproof cases. It has all the features that FRE loyalists love: port protection, protection for 21 feet of submersion for up to one hour, and an adapter for the headphone jack. The big difference with the NUUD? No screen protector.

Lifeproof and fans of the NUUD maintain that the rubber seal that surrounds the screen locks out moisture completely, so there's no need to have anything covering your screen. The NUUD does ship with an optional scratch protector screen, which is still advisable if you plan on really rugged treks with your iPhone, but it isn't necessary to make the case water, dust, dirt, or snow proof.

Both options from Lifeproof are excellent cases if you need to protect your iPhone from moisture. The styles vary only slightly, so this tough choice is entirely up to you.

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Speck MightyShell

Speck MightyShell cases come in versions with a faceplate and without a faceplate, so make sure you verify which one you want before you make your purchase. Cases with a faceplate will not only provide extra protection for your screen, the border colors of your iPhone's face (top and bottom) will color coordinate with the case. If you buy the MightyShell without a faceplate, you can still add your own tempered glass screen protector, and it will fit perfectly.

The case itself is low-profile; it adds virtually no bulk or weight to your phone at all. The rubber bumper provides extra grip and several layers of protection against drops and bumps, so don't be deceived by its lightness. Speck offers a lifetime warranty on its cases, so if you give the case (and your iPhone) a real run for their money and something actually does go wrong, Speck's got your back. And your iPhone.

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Ballistic Hard Core Series

You expect your iPhone to handle a rugged environment, so maybe you want the case you buy to look rugged, too. If that sounds like your style, then let us introduce you to the Hard Core Series from Ballistic. The case corners are significantly built out, adding extra layers to vulnerable areas of your iPhone. The ports and buttons stay safe and out of harm's way.

It comes with a screen protector and a concealed kickstand that clicks back into the case when not in use. The larger case design makes your phone easier to grip and easier to spot from a distance. It's designed to take a 12 foot drop onto hard, uneven surfaces, and the shock absorbent silicone of the outer case can take whatever you toss at it.

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The bottom line

Your decision for a heavy duty case comes down to environment and style. What are you actually going to put your iPhone SE through in an average day or week? What do you expect your case to do for you? We know our list has some of the best cases you could hope to get your hands on. If you've got another one that deserves a spot on our list, shout it out in the comments and tell us what makes it a heavy duty contender.

Christine Lachance