How to protect your smartphone from weather, accidents, and everything bad

Top products and best practices for the active user and everyone else who values their mobile tech.

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Many of us spend lots of time in the summer participating in outdoor activities, including water sports, hiking, running, sitting by the pool, and more. We also carry around our smartphones to those places so it's a good idea to have a plan in place in case something happens.

You can stay inside or leave your phone behind, but in most cases that just isn't going to happen. So what can you do to protect your investment from the elements and from accidents?

Buy a rugged phone

If you have an active lifestyle or tend to be a bit clumsy with your phone, then you may want to seriously considering buying a phone that is designed to withstand rough treatment.

I recently spent time with the excellent Samsung Galaxy S6 Active and highly recommend that rugged device. You could also pick up something like the Sonim XP7, Caterpillar model, or Kyocera model.

There are not that many rugged phones and unfortunately not every carrier has one available to purchase. You could pick up a lower cost rugged flip phone to carry around for those times when you know you are risking your expensive smartphone.

Add a protective case

If you already own a smartphone and want to add protection, then you can enclose it in a rugged case. It seems that just about everyone I know who hunts, fishes, boats, or plays outdoors with an iPhone has their iPhone wrapped in an Otterbox case. I tested out a few other iPhone 6 case options to keep my 6 Plus safe while cycling and running.

The trade-off with a rugged case is usually the added bulk and weight of the case. The LifeProof models offer protection with less bulk than most of these other rugged cases.

I like to capture video when I snorkel on vacation and in the past have placed my smartphones into a waterproof, sealable bag. DryCase is one brand that I have used successfully in the past. These types of cases are nice because they provide protection for a number of smartphones, and other gear, so they can be used by others on vacation too.

Add a screen protector

While I often get feedback from readers that you don't need a screen protector, I personally like to have one on my most expensive phones. A screen protector acts like a sacrificial anode as a first line of protection. I get peace of mind knowing I can slip my phone in my pocket or bag without worrying about incidental damage.

The glass screen protectors are my favorites since the glass feels just like the glass on the smartphone. In some cases, the glass screen protector is easier to keep clean than the phone display itself.

Purchase a protection plan

If you don't want to put anything on your phone, but still want some peace of mind, then you may want to consider a protection plan. If you buy an HTC One M9 then you get the free HTC Uh Oh protection coverage that provides one free replacement phone in your first year of ownership. The new ZTE Axon Pro also comes with protection and replacement coverage, but you will have to pay an $80 deductible for each incident.

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As you can see in the photo in this post, I dropped my original 2013 Moto X on my garage floor just a day after upgrading it to Lollipop. Thankfully, I purchased the Moto Care Accident Protection plan and Motorola replaced it within a couple of days. That plan cost me $85 for two years and then I had to pay $39 to replace it so I'm still not sure it was worth the cost.

Apple also sells AppleCare+ for the iPhone and if you have a local Apple Store then that is one convenient way to get back up and running quickly if you break your phone. There is also a deductible associated with AppleCare+, but it still may be a better deal if you tend to drop your phones a lot. I see so many broken iPhone screens and am glad we had the coverage when my daughter dropped hers in Disneyland.

You can also look at third party protection plans, such as those from SquareTrade or from your wireless carrier.

There are plenty of ways to either buy a rugged phone, protect your phone, or replace your broken phone so as we approach the new phone season consider which option is best for you.