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Outdoor cases for smartphones: what good protection costs and what it brings


Plastic cases, bracelet holders, transport bags, bike or car holders: the right case minimizes the risk of damage to your smartphone. An overview of the offer.

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Outdoor covers are designed to prevent fall and water damage

Photo: c't

The smartphone replaces navigation systems, cameras, MP3 players, wallets and more, it has become an irreplaceable companion both indoors and outdoors - and it needs to be well protected in all situations.

But do you still need a mobile phone case when more and more smartphones are at least protected against splash water?

Many models even have an IP68 stamp and are therefore, at least in theory, completely sealed against dust and water.

While that's true, it's important to remember that it's still safer to keep your phone less exposed to the elements.

Water protection also usually only applies to clean fresh water, no dirty broth, soapy water or salt water.

Anyone who thinks of “protection” only in terms of water and dust is also forgetting a point that is at least as important: fall damage.

Smartphones are hardly immune to splintered backs, dented frames and broken displays, so you need a case that absorbs shocks.

Above all, outdoor covers must be robust, and plastic is a good material for this.

It can be a bit thicker, especially at the corners and edges.

It is important that the case is higher than the protective glass above the screen, at least at the top and bottom, and preferably around the entire display.

This may make operation with swipe gestures a little more difficult, but it means that the sensitive screen is less affected.

In order for the cases to do their job, they have to fit properly - better a little too tight than too loose.

You should try it out at the latest when you have bought the case or had it delivered, then it is not too late to exchange it.

Custom-fit cutouts for cameras as well as charging and headphone connections are a matter of course.

Among the best-known manufacturers of outdoor cases are Otterbox and Rhinoshield, with the latter there is a larger selection for smartphones from different manufacturers.

There you will not only find a suitable case if you have an iPhone, Samsung Galaxy or Google Pixel in your pocket, but also for at least some models from Xiaomi, Oppo, OnePlus and other manufacturers.

At Otterbox, the selection is smaller apart from the big names, the range only has cases for individual cell phones from Huawei, Honor, Xiaomi and OnePlus.

Otterbox also sells cases for tablets and other devices.

Otterbox cases are a bit thicker;

if you like it optically lighter, take the transparent models.

At Rhinoshield there is more design choice and different cases, the SolidSuit offers the best protection for 30 euros.

Otterbox charges 50 euros for the standard Defender model.

An alternative is Zagg's Gear4 branded cases, which cost between 40 and 60 euros, with the Denali model, which costs 40 euros, promising the best protection.

Gear4, Otterbox and Rhinoshield also offer a suitable screen protector or additional glass to protect the sensitive screen.

Protection with added value

However, an outdoor protective cover can do more than just being a safe lap for the smartphone.

Cases with an integrated interface for a holder are ideal for active people.

With them, the smartphone also has a safe place on the bicycle handlebars, on the motorcycle, in the car or on the action cam mount.

This is practical, but also a little more expensive.

Recommended cases with such modular systems come mainly from the manufacturers Peakdesign, Quadlock and SP Connect.

All three approach the subject in a similar way, but set slightly different priorities when selecting accessories.

The central point is the respective case with the docking point for the accessories.

With Quadlock and SP Connect, the cases cost just under 30 euros, the more elegant "Everyday Case" from Peakdesign with a fabric cover on the back is ten euros more expensive.

The system from Peakdesign, which relies on a combination of an inconspicuous clamp and strong magnets, is less bulky on the case, so the smartphone slips a little more comfortably into your pocket.

They all guarantee a secure hold.

All three manufacturers offer different brackets for mounting on bicycles, motorcycles or in the car.

The optional rubber dampers, which you can get from Quadlock and SP Connect for 20 to 30 euros, are particularly useful for motorcyclists.

Depending on the application, the brackets are available for screwing, gluing or with rubber and cable ties, they cost between 30 and 70 euros for Quadlock and SP Connect;

Peakdesign drives prices almost into the three-digit range.

With armband holders, the Quadlock and SP Connect systems are also suitable for running and for all other activities where the smartphone on the upper arm is not in the way.

The counterpart to the case is for sticking, so the cell phone basically claws wherever you stick a holder.

Both manufacturers sell replacement parts for their systems.

Peakdesign leaves out the sports area and focuses on taking photos and paying with a mini tripod made of metal (80 euros) and a small wallet for credit cards and banknotes (depending on the model 50 or 60 euros).

Both additional parts dock to the case purely magnetically and hold securely.

If you own an iPhone or a current top model from Samsung or Google, you have a free choice from all case providers.

But what if there is no suitable outdoor cover for your own smartphone from these providers?

First of all, it helps to look at import shops such as Tradingshenzhen or AliExpress, especially for cell phones from China, where there is often more choice for less common models.

However, the quality is usually a grab bag, something good can end up in the mailbox or scrap.

If necessary, a simple silicone cover has to be used, which some manufacturers supply or which can be bought on the Internet for a few euros.

Even such a case is better than none at all - and can prevent or reduce damage in an emergency.

The systems from Peakdesign, Quadlock and SP Connect are also available for retrofitting, the corresponding breakpoints are then glued to the back of the case - better not directly to the smartphone.

If you do this, you should firstly make sure that the adhesive surface is clean and free of grease, and secondly check the hold in a safe environment before tough outdoor use.

It's better for the cell phone to tumble onto the thick carpet at home during the dress rehearsal than from the bicycle handlebars during a mountain tour.

Special cases for water sports and diving

Water sports enthusiasts will find a wide range of transparent transport bags with a shoulder cord, in which the smartphone can usually also be operated via the touchscreen.

Such bags are usually large enough for almost any smartphone and can be had for less than ten euros.

Many manufacturers - mostly unknown names from Asia - offer the covers in a double pack.

In view of the low prices, you can access it almost without hesitation, but you should urgently try out whether the bag is really tight.

You can, for example, pack newspaper or a dry sponge in the cover and then send it to the sink or bathtub to immerse yourself.

You should also take a critical look at the leash and attachment, because even the tightest cover is of no use if it tears when you fall into the water.

With special diving cases, smartphones can not only be transported waterproof, but also used as a camera at depths of at least 15, sometimes even 40 meters.

However, this is a bit more expensive fun: high-quality cases, such as the SportDiver case from SeaLife, can cost over 250 euros.

Cheaper models like the Shellbox are available for around 50 euros.

No matter what price range you choose, you should definitely check in advance whether everything is leakproof – and before you buy it, check whether your own smartphone fits in at all and whether it can be operated through the case under water.


A protective case is a must for outdoor use to minimize the risk of damage.

Anyone who already knows that the smartphone should do its job on a bicycle, motorbike or in the car is best to use a case with a holding system, but you have to calculate more money for the accessories.

If you can't find what you're looking for from the more well-known names, you'll have to search the web to find a suitable case for your own smartphone.

If the worst comes to the worst, even a simple cover is better than none at all.

Source: spiegel

All tech articles on 2022-08-18

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