The Fre is like a comfy pair of gloves: tough, snug fitting, and element resistant. The polycarbonate shell is basically an extension of the phone, and the plastic screen guard is well integrated (if potentially violable when dropped facedown). But with an O-ring and über-tight seals that kept out water even when it was six feet under, it does best in all sports aquatic. Some people shun waterproof cases because the mesh covers can impede speaker and microphone sensitivity, but I had no trouble with this one.
THE KNOCK: What you gain in slimness you sacrifice in drop protection.
Lunatik Taktik Extreme
The main reason this water-resistant case is head-and-shoulders better than anything else I tested is that it provides 360-degree protection. The phone is bolted inside a hard plastic cage lined with squishy silicone, for maximum shock absorption. The grippy rubber back keeps it from sliding off surfaces. And the replaceable touch-through Gorilla Glass screen cover sheds water and guards against the same type of face plant that killed my phone. Sure, it’s pricey, but it’s a lot cheaper than a new phone.
THE KNOCK: Water-resistant is good for rain; waterproof would let you take it swimming.
Snow Lizard SLXtreme
This brick of a case may be bulky for around-town use, but for the backcountry there’s nothing better. An onboard battery doubles the life of your phone and is recharged by a solar panel on the back.
The SLXtreme was also the only case in my test with a top-entry hatch, for better waterproofing, and sealed latches over every port. All told, this is one bombproof case that does more than most.
THE KNOCK: Though well recessed, the thin plastic screen cover doesn’t have you covered.
iBattz Mojo Armor
Clumsy users will love it because it nestles the phone inside three layers of plastic, so it held up better than most in my drop tests. Forgetful users will love it for those days when they neglect to charge their phones: the Mojo Armor stores backup power in a battery that’s so well integrated, I hardly knew it was there. It’s not as sleek as the Fre, but the silicone surfaces kept it firmly in my grasp.
THE KNOCK: Charging your phone while it’s in the case requires a micro-USB cord (included).