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I tested the most durable iPhone case Apple sells and it has a unique safety feature

The Tech21 FlexPro is rugged enough to protect my iPhone, lightweight, and colorful for when you lose your device in the dark.
Written by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes, Senior Contributing Editor
Tech 21 FlexPro

Tech 21 FlexPro.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The Tech 21 FlexPro is available from Apple and is priced at $55.
  • It's a stylish, well-designed, and rugged case, with cool glow-in-the-dark elements.
  • The Tech 21 FlexPro is a bit pricey and the lanyard isn't for everyone.

I don't discuss smartphone cases much anymore, as they all tend to be similar -- a piece of polymer that covers five sides of your smartphone. Plus, accurately testing how much protection a case provides requires real-world use, and as one person with one phone, that's not feasible for me to do extensively.

Also: The best GaN chargers you can buy: Expert tested

When I upgraded to the iPhone 15 Pro Max, however, I switched my case to a Tech 21 FlexPro. This case has proven to be one of the most rugged ones I've used. Additionally, choosing the clear, glow-in-the-dark version has made my iPhone easier to find, which is a handy bonus.

View at Apple

Tech 21 FlexPro features

  • 20ft impact protection
  • 21x stronger than the military standard (MIL-STD-810)
  • Embedded with a magnetic ring
  • Cool glow-in-the-dark elements    
  • Compatible with all your MagSafe accessories
  • Smooth hardshell finish 
  • Anti-yellowing technology
  • 100% recycled packaging

There's a lot I like about this case. It's easy to fit onto an iPhone (I don't know about you, but I've struggled to get some phone cases on or off) and the buttons are separate pieces molded into the plastic, so they have a more tactile feel than ones that are just part of the case.

The port cover on the bottom prevents stuff from getting into the USB-C port, and all the cutouts line up perfectly with the features of the iPhone.

Also: How to transfer data from Android to an iPhone

I also like the bumper molded into the case that protects the cameras. That feature is nice because cameras hanging out the front can be vulnerable. There are also bumpers on the front of the case to protect the display, both when you put the handset face down on the surface or when you drop it.

Effective camera bumper

The effective camera bumper.

Adrian Kingsley-Hughes/ZDNET

The case also comes with a wrist lanyard. I don't use lanyards because I find they catch on things, but I know some people find them handy in preventing accidentally dropping or misplacing their phone. 

Most of all though, I love the glow-in-the-dark color. The MagSafe ring on the back glows, as do the button elements and the lanyard, giving your device a soft glow that makes it easier to find in the dark or when it's buried at the bottom of a bag. This is not the sort of glow that keeps you awake at night.

Also: What is GaN? Everything you need to know about gallium nitride-based charging tech

This case can also take quite a beating. In the few months that I've owned the iPhone 15 Pro Max, I've dropped it quite a few times, and I feel like some of those drops could have been bad news if it wasn't for this case. I've dropped it on rocks, concrete, and even seen it slide down hills and bump down stairs. Thankfully, the case means there's not a scratch on my phone.

For the record, I'm using a screen protector for added durability. I think this case is certainly one of the best I've tested in a long time, and the first in quite a while that I felt compelled to write about.

ZDNET's buying advice

I know some people say you don't need a case for your iPhone, and that may very well be the case (no pun intended). Nevertheless, I think a case gives you extra protection in the event of a fall or drop and some additional grip -- modern smartphones do, after all, have the grip of a wet bar of soap. I also think a case is a nice way to personalize your phone. Since the iPhone is something that people drop several hundred dollars on, I think giving it some extra protection isn't a bad thing.

My testing suggests cases don't get much better than the Tech 21's FlexPro -- and the glow-in-the-dark elements are a super-cool and unique feature.

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