I drop my smartphone a lot. Like an absurd amount of times. Practically multiple times a day. So it's surprising that my iPhone 12 Pro has lasted nine months without a cracked screen yet. Part of that has to do with the late-2020 model's durability, and the other part is thanks to my protective case.
All of the late-2020 models — the iPhone 12, 12 mini, 12 Pro, and 12 Pro Max — sport Corning's Ceramic Shield as the display glass, and it's a beast. If it weren't so durable, I probably would have had at least three replacement displays by now — maybe even completely new phones.
Ceramic Shield is a combination of glass and ceramic, making it one of the toughest displays in the industry. Unlike previous models ' curved edges, the glass is flush with the metal frame, which also likely plays a role in the durability of the 2020 models. But the glass on the rear is not Ceramic Sheild; it's the same slightly-less strong Corning-made glass found on the 2019 models.
The iPhone 12 and 12 mini have aluminum frames, and the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max use stainless steel bands instead. While the Pro models' frames are built with stronger material, they will still develop scratches, dings, and dents after a fall. It's inevitable, though a high-quality case can help protect the device.
Overall, the iPhone 12 series have bodies made with impressive materials meant to last. But if I didn't have a case, I'm sure my iPhone 12 Pro would have dents and scratches all over its frame, and both the front and rear glass would have been significantly cracked. I would likely have used up all of my allowable screen repairs under AppleCare.
I've always been a fan of Apple's silicone cases, and a lot of that has to do with how it feels in my hand. The silicone feels smooth but isn't extremely slippy, and the MagSafe on the 12/12 Pro versions creates a strong connection with MagSafe chargers and accessories. But after so many falls, the material gets all gashed up (which is not a pretty sight) until the corners eventually snap. Plus, the amount of dirt it attracts is unimaginable.
Over the years, I've tried and tested many iPhone cases, but many end up being too bulky, smooth, gimmicky, or ugly to work for me, and many can't survive a month full of my iPhone drops. Few cases have impressed my need for simple, durable protection, but Smartish offers some great ones.
One of my new favorite iPhone cases is the Gripmunk, which comes with or without MagSafe built-in. I've been using it for a while now and have dropped my iPhone 12 Pro more times than I can count, and the phone looks and works just like it did before trying out the case.
I'm actually surprised not to see any noticeable damage to the edges of the Gripmunk itself, which blows Apple's silicone cases out of the water.
The Gripmunk is made of flexible thermoplastic polyurethane, or TPU, a polymer-based material with both hard and soft properties. This makes it more resistant to damage than softer silicone cases since it can protect against shock, not just scratches and abrasion.
While TPU is slightly heavier than silicone, it's barely noticeable in phone cases, but you definitely will notice how tough and sturdy it feels in comparison. Plus, it has a grippy texture added to the case's frame, with a less grippy texture on the rear. While silicone is known for providing great grip, Gripmunk's textured surface and side grooves help prevent slips out of your hands.
Gripmunk also has "protective air-pocket corners" that act as "airbags" for your iPhone, as Smartish likes to put it. These corners help protect your iPhone from falls even more than the case's material, softening the blow from an impact so that the iPhone barely notices anything. On the clear version (seen below), you can really see the air pockets in action.
If you use MagSafe chargers or accessories, there's a Gripmunk model that includes MagSafe support. There's also a MagSafe-less model if you don't care about magnetic accessories for $5 less.
Overall, it's a fantastic choice for an iPhone case and one of my favorites. Wirecutter even calls it "the best basic case for every iPhone," and that's about right since there's a Gripmunk available for every iPhone since the iPhone 7.
However, one thing that I've noticed is that the magnet in the MagSafe-compatible case isn't as strong as I'd like it to be. Compared to Apple's silicon MagSafe cases, the Gripmunk's magnets are just a tiny bit weaker. You really have to pay attention though to even notice it, and there are definitely weaker MagSafe accessories out there that make Gripmunk look like a winner.
Gripmunk with MagSafe comes in either black or clear and runs for $19.99. The one without MagSafe has more color options — black, purple, blue, and clear — and it's five bucks cheaper at $14.99. Plus, there's a "Flavor of the Month" design that changes every month, as well as a "Chef's Special" variant, which cost $19.99 each.
There's one more thing that I wish was better about the Gripmunk; while the TPU grippy texture matches silicone's famous traction surface, it could be improved. I still find my iPhone 12 Pro slipping out of my hands more than I'd like it to, and Smartish has a case that does a much better job in the grip department — Gripzilla.
Both the frame and rear of the Gripzilla have impressive grip-friendly textures, but it doesn't come with MagSafe. If the Gripmunk had the textures of Gripzilla, it would be unstoppable.
Gripzilla comes in black, gray, Flavor of the Month, and Chef's Special options. The black and gray options go for $19.99, and the special editions are $24.99 each. So you're paying a little bit more for that extra grip.
Smartish also has iPhone 12 series wallet cases, if you're into that. I rarely need it since my main wallet is always on my person, and I worry about having cards too close to the iPhone's magnet array, but I did test out Smartish's Wallet Slayer Vol. 1 card case.
Its side texture falls somewhere between Gripmunk's and Gripzilla's, but the rear wallet area is more slippery than both cases. It can hold up to three cards and cash, and it holds it in there tight, but there's also a chance that it could loosen up over time.
Wallet Slayer Vol. 1 comes in black, purple, blue, Chef's Special, and Flavor of the Month options. Like with Gripzilla, the regular colors cost $19.99 each, while the special ones cost $24.99. There's a Wallet Slayer Vol. 2 with a different design and kickstand, and it has similar colors and pricing.
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