The Ultimate Battle of Phone Case Materials, and the Winner is...


Ladies and gentleman, welcome to today’s exciting phone case materials competition.

You might have noticed that the question, “what is the best phone case material?” is one of the most frequently asked questions on Google.  

Whilst there are a wide variety of materials used to make phone cases, from simple ones such as plastic, synthetic leather through to more exotic materials such as real leather, carbon fiber or aramid fiber.  Some are better than others and will provide better protection in the event of a fall.

So, to see which is the best, let’s go through each one and get a better understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.

1. What are the different phone case materials out there?

OK, let’s get one thing clear from the start, sadly, there is no "best" material, if there was, everyone would be using it.

Each one of the materials that we will look at has their own set of characteristics, and once we understand all of them, we should be able to see which one is ‘better’ than the others.

If you are familiar enough with the phone cases, you will find most of them are made from at least one of the following materials.

1) Plastic

If you were to randomly pick up a case from a pile of them on a table, the chances are that the one you pick up will be made of plastic, or more specifically PC (polycarbonate).  Why is that? Well, PC is a durable, tough material used in many different situations, for example, it is used to manufacture security windows as some grades are optically transparent.  Also, it is easy to manufacture, easy to work with and mold using thermoforming processes, which save time/energy without needing to worry too much about the manufacturing processes, and it’s because of this that you can get cheap, pretty accurately made cases.

The Pros

  • ✔ More affordable
  • ✔ Easy to hold
  • ✔ Easy to customize or decorate
  • ✔ Offer basic, limited protection

The Cons

  • ✔ The appearance often looks cheap
  • ✔ It`s not sustainable
  • ✔ Over time, the color will often change due to the exposure to sunlight
  • ✔ Some can have cushioning material that provides limited protection for the phone although this does end up making it quite bulky

2) Leather and synthetic

This can be a very good material to go for if you like a case with a good texture and these typically come with an added layer for you to hold your essential stuff like credit cards (combining case functionality with a basic wallet).  The material can either be real leather that is made from hide of cows and other animals (which will be more expensive), or synthetic leather that is made from different types of plastic. 

The Pros

  • ✔ Good texture, feels great in the hands
  • ✔ Stylish and elegant
  • ✔ Easy to grip and hold
The Cons
  • ✔ Offers limited protection if you drop the phone
  • ✔ More expensive if it’s real leather
  • ✔ Can be hard to tell which material has been used, whether it is made from animal skin or synthetic leather

3) Silicone

Silicone is a soft material made from a mixture of petroleum products and silicon, a naturally occurring material found in sand and quartz and some people consider it a safer alternative to plastic.

It’s a soft, flexible material that can provide very soft finish cases.

The Pros

  • ✔ Quite affordable
  • ✔ Comes in a variety of styles and color
  • ✔ Easy to grip and hold

The Cons

  • ✔ May appear cheap and unattractive
  • ✔ Not easy to clean
  • ✔ Gets dirty really easily
  • ✔ Can be difficult to slip in or out the pocket

4) Carbon fiber

Carbon fiber has high stiffness, high tensile strength, low weight, high chemical resistance, high-temperature tolerance and low thermal expansion.  It is usually used for aircraft and aerospace, wind energy, as well as the automotive industry with optimized resin systems.  If you are looking for a case with a futuristic look, stronger than steel but weighs next to nothing, this could be a good choice.

The Pros

  • ✔ It’s very strong
  • ✔ Very lightweight
  • ✔ Attractive

The Cons

  • ✔ The most expensive compared to the other materials
  • ✔ Comes in a limited variety of patterns or colors
  • ✔ Can affect the phone signal

5) Other materials

OK, you can also find cases made from metal and wood so we should cover those too, although they tend not to be as popular as the other ones, especially wood.

Many wooden phone case producers specialize in bamboo as it is considered to be a green material and besides, for anyone who wants a case with a custom designed etched into the back, wood is one of the best choices.

The Pros

  • ✔ More sustainable than plastic
  • ✔ Can look very attractive
  • ✔ Highly customizable
  • ✔ Easy to grip and hold

The Cons

  • ✔ Does not provide enough protection
  • ✔ Not widely available
  • ✔ Can be a little expensive

OK, what about the metal then? Aluminum is probably the most commonly used metal in phone cases, although you can find ones made from titanium, brass or even precious metals like gold.  Metal cases can protect your phone from falls and scratches, though it tends to be heavier than other materials and the metal can affect the wireless charging capabilities of a phone due to its magnetic shielding properties.

The Pros

  • ✔ Very strong, it will do a great job of protecting your phone if it is dropped
  • ✔ Modern and sleek-looking

The Cons

  • ✔ It is the type of case that is most likely to block your cell phone signal
  • ✔ Typically more expensive than other types of cases
  • ✔ Can be slippery and difficult to hold

Ok, enough of the “boring” descriptions, I know you can’t wait to see the exciting competition section so let’s go!

2. Phone case materials competition

For most users, the choice of material is largely influenced by factors such as appearance, the environment it will be used in, the ease of use, how expensive it is and the protection it can provide against impact and scratches.

So how well do our materials perform?

1) Protection from impact and scratches

Suffice to say, this is the most common reason why we want a case because most of the modern smartphones available today are made from fragile materials such as glass and they aren’t strong enough to withstand a drop to the floor.  Therefore, a case could help reduce the impact and chance of scratches on your phone.

So how can our material selection help when it comes to protection?

Check the recommended ratings below:

Materials Score (Total Score: Five- Star)
Plastic ★★
Leather and synthetic ★★★
Silicone ★★★
Carbon fiber ★★★★★
Wood ★★★★
Metal ★★★★

2) Appearance

As we previously discussed, in this part, carbon fiber, wood, and metal typically have good ratings when it comes to their appearance, they never go out of style and tend to be more aesthetically pleasing.

Materials Score (Total Score: Five- Star)
Plastic ★★
Leather and synthetic ★★★
Silicone ★★
Carbon fiber ★★★★
Wood ★★★★
Metal ★★★★

3) Ease of use

There are a few factors that could be used to explain this particular attribute: Does it feel good in the hand, is it easy to grip and hold, is it lightweight, is it easy to clean and so on.

Materials Score (Total Score: Five- Star)
Plastic ★★
Leather and synthetic ★★★
Silicone ★★★
Carbon fiber ★★★★
Wood ★★★
Metal ★★★

In this round of the competition, plastic performs the worst, and carbon fiber has a higher mark based on how easy it is to use.

4) Eco-Friendly

From its literal meaning, this is all about how sustainable are the materials used and do they make the most out of it.

Materials Score (Total Score: Five- Star)
Plastic ★★
Leather and synthetic ★★★
Silicone ★★
Carbon fiber ★★★
Wood ★★★★★
Metal ★★★

Wood will definitely win whilst the others tend to lead to irreversible resource usage.

5) Budget

This is probably the last thing you will consider before you place your order.  Obviously plastic wins here, as it can be very cheap, whilst the others will be more expensive.

Materials Score (Total Score: Five- Star)
Plastic ★★★★★
Leather and synthetic ★★★
Silicone ★★★★
Carbon fiber ★★
Wood ★★★
Metal ★★★

Each one of these has their own strengths and weaknesses; though none of them offer a complete all-around set of strengths, or to be specific, they are not so good as to justify selecting one of them as your phone case.

Why? Well, I believe that the best material for making phone cases must meet two fundamental requirements: durability and lightness and hopefully you will agree with me?

3. The best case should be light/thin and yet still durable

This is the main reason why PITAKA user aramid fiber (Kevlar) for its case material.

Aramid fiber is a futuristic material that is five times stronger than steel but just as light, it has been used in AeroSpace, Racing Vehicles, and Body Armor and it is loved for its excellent resistance to heat.  Besides, unlike carbon fiber cases that may block your phone signals dramatically, this material does not have any impact on your phone’s signal at all.

Let’s just do a quick check of our material criteria against Aramid Fiber.

A) Protection

Check a real-life test to see how it is.

In the video, you can see that MagCase Pro protected the phone. One thing you need to know is the edge of MagCase Pro is made out of TPU while the center part is Aramid Fiber.

B) Appearance

or

C) Ease of use

You might be interested in a few useful features of this material: they are super easy to clean! Simply wipe the smudges or stains over with an alcohol cloth, or failing that, a damp microfiber cloth should suffice. 

D) Eco-Friendly

It has an everlasting protection capability that enables you to use as long as you like.  Compared with the wooden cases it is not as Eco-friendly, but if you compared it with other materials, it still stacks very high.

E) Budget

I wouldn’t suggest you use a case made out of aramid fiber if you own a low-cost phone such as Xiaomi or Huawei, as it may not be very cost effective.

However, if you have a sleek, premium phone such as the iPhone X or Samsung S9, it would be a pity to cover these up with a case that could affect your overall experience, so you need to go for something made from a premium material, an exotic material!

Surely scientifically designed, aramid fiber cases such as the MagCase or the MagCase Pro will add more value to your expensive phone.  

Why? Well, both of them provide durable protection (MagCase provides basic protection, and MagCase Pro offers upgraded protection) whilst remaining slim and light enough without affecting your phone’s overall design aesthetics.  Also, it’s super easy to clean, simply wipe away any stains or smudges with a microfiber cloth or alcohol cloth, and they will look as good as new.

So, to close out our exploration of materials and cases, as you now know, there are many kinds of materials used to make phone cases including PC, leather, silicone, carbon fiber, metal and wood, and each of them has shortcomings that seem to outweigh the benefits (at least in my personal experience).

If I were there to choose a material, aramid fiber (Kevlar) would be my No.1 choice as it is exceptionally light, thin while remaining highly durable, very protective in the event of a drop, zero interference to your phone’s signal and always looks premium.

The MagCase and MagCase Pro are designed to perform at the highest level of protection and look great on your phone, don’t believe me? Why not check them out for yourself!

 

Lily

About the Author

Lily, not just a blogger of PITAKA but also an aficionado of science fiction and fantasy. From books such as Harry Potter to movies such as Interstellar. One of her greatest interests in her daily life is discovering the coolest inventions from various fields especially electronic products.



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