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Phones

We found the toughest iPhone XR case

A lot of phones were broken in this drop test to find the toughest iPhone case.

vanessa-drop-test

If you've just spent your hard-earned dollars on a brand-new iPhone XRiPhone XS or Galaxy Note 9, you'll definitely want to get a tough case to protect it against accidental drops, bumps or scratches. Just check out some of our drop tests to see what happens if you drop a phone without a case, like the iPhone XR that suffered from a cracked camera from a 5-foot drop. Our regular drop tests for phones are done in more real-world scenarios, but to find the toughest iPhone XR case we took our testing to the extreme.

Disclaimer: CNET may get a share of revenue from the sale of products featured on this page.

The challenge

We invited the top case makers in the market to take part in our drop test at CES 2019.

Ten manufacturers took us up on the offer: Gearlock by Spigen, Caseology, PureGear, Griffin, OWC, Skech, Catalyst and last year's winners from our iPhone X drop test, Zizo, Pelican and i-Blason.

Each brought a brand-new iPhone XR and its toughest case to face our challenge: dropping them from various heights onto a hard surface covered in paving tiles. We also had a special force test involving a ball bearing just in case we had a tie on our hands (like we did in 2018's drop test, which was a three-way tie).

We only allowed screen protectors to be used on the phones if they were included in the retail packaging with the case.

Round 1

We started off the first round dropping phones from 6 feet (1.8 meters). That's a foot more than the height at which the iPhone XR cracked without a case in our earlier drop test, so we thought it was a good place to start.

Each case was dropped screen side down onto the tiles. These were the results:

iPhone XR cases, round 1

Manufacturer Name Price Survived?
Zizo Bolt $18 Yes
i-Blason Ares $25 Yes
Pelican Shield $60 Yes
Gearlock Classic (bike mount) $30 Yes
Caseology Nero Pro $19 Yes
PureGear Dualtek $35 Yes
Griffin Survivor Endurance $40 Yes
OWC NuGuard KX $38 Yes
Skech Echo $40 Yes
Catalyst Impact Protection $40 Yes

After each drop, we assessed the phones. If there were any cracks on the back, or damage to the screen and camera, the case would be disqualified. But all of the phones survived our first round without any scratches.

Round 2

This time, we took them to 10 feet. Vanessa hopped up on the scissor lift and made her way up to the set height.

iPhone XR cases, round 2

Manufacturer Name Price Survived?
Zizo Bolt $18 Yes
i-Blason Ares $25 Yes
Pelican Shield $60 Yes
Gearlock Classic (bike mount) $30 Yes
Caseology Nero Pro $19 Yes
PureGear Dualtek $35 Yes
Griffin Survivor Endurance $40 Yes
OWC NuGuard KX $38 Yes
Skech Echo $40 Yes
Catalyst Impact Protection $40 Yes

Again, we inspected each phone after each drop and there was no damage to any of the phones.

Round 3

Originally, we had planned to take the phones to 15 feet. But in the interests of time, we decided to go straight to the last round. Vanessa took the 10 phones all the way to the roof, which was approximately 19 feet.

iPhone XR cases, round 3

Manufacturer Name Price Survived?
Zizo Bolt $18 Yes
i-Blason Ares $25 Yes
Pelican Shield $60 Yes
Gearlock Classic (bike mount) $30 Yes
Caseology Nero Pro $19 Yes
PureGear Dualtek $35 Yes
Griffin Survivor Endurance $40 Yes
OWC NuGuard KX $38 Yes
Skech Echo $40 Yes
Catalyst Impact Protection $40 Yes

All the phones survived from our highest drop, even if some weren't rated for that extreme height. We genuinely didn't expect all the cases to survive this last drop height. Seeing as we couldn't raise the roof any higher, we had to take it to the next level.

Bonus round

Enter the force test. We had a long length of plastic tubing standing by with a 2.5-pound steel ball bearing that was going to help break the tie -- literally.

Rather than dropping the ball directly onto the screen, which would definitely break the phone, we flipped each one over and let the case take the impact of the ball. This meant the screen was face down on the paving tile.

We dropped the ball bearing from 4 feet, down the tube onto the backs of the phones. Here's what happened.

iPhone XR cases, bonus round

Manufacturer Name Survived?
Zizo Bolt Yes
i-Blason Ares Pixel damage from ball impact
Pelican Shield Cracked screen
Gearlock Classic (bike mount) Yes
Caseology Nero Pro Screen protector damaged, but phone worked fine
PureGear Dualtek Cracked screen
Griffin Survivor Endurance Yes
OWC NuGuard KX Yes
Skech Echo Cracked screen
Catalyst Impact Protection Yes

Here's the caveat: The paving tile cracked from the impact from the first ball bearing drop. Each subsequent ball drop caused the tile to crack a little more. We know this was less than ideal and may have given an advantage to the first phones on the surface, but we weren't able to swap it out.

brokenphone

One of the damaged iPhones after the ball impact. 

CNET

Also bear in mind this was far from a scientific test and definitely not a real-world situation!

With six phones remaining and our time well and truly running out, we went straight to the top of the cannonball tube to determine a winner. We dropped the ball bearing from 16 feet onto the phones.

iPhone XR cases, tiebreaker

Manufacturer Name Survived?
Zizo Bolt Screen protector damaged, pixels damaged from impact but phone still intact
Gearlock Classic (bike mount) Cracked screen
Caseology Nero Pro Cracked screen, dented
Griffin Survivor Endurance Cracked screen, dented
OWC NuGuard KX Cracked screen, dented
Catalyst Impact Protection Cracked screen, dented

All the phones were damaged from this final ball drop.

To determine a winner, we decided to choose the phone that was least damaged overall, and that was the one in the Zizo case. But in our eyes, all the cases were winners since their phones survived the initial 20-foot drop.

Watch the entire event unfold in the video on this page to see all the damage and the crowd reactions. Plus, you can also watch the drop test on YouTube.

If you didn't see your favorite case manufacturers in our drop test, encourage them to enter next year's competition!

iPhone XS drop test: This phone would not crack.

It took us four drops to break the iPhone XR camera: We dropped a brand-new gold iPhone XS onto the sidewalk four times to find out how durable the glass is on both sides.

Mentioned Above
Apple iPhone XR (64GB, black)
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