Plastic Vs. Rubber Vs. Silicone Phone Cases

By Mindi Orth

A cover protects your phone from damage.
i Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images

Like a screen cover protects your phone’s touch screen from scratches and smudges, a phone case protects your phone against impact damage resulting from bumps and falls. These cases typically are hard plastic, silicone or rugged rubber and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colors. Although all three types of cases provide adequate protection for your phone, understanding the differences between each style will help you select the best case for your needs.

Size and Fit

Each case fits securely, typically covering the entire phone except for the screen, buttons and input ports. Silicone covers consist of a single piece of silicone that stretches around your phone. Because the silicone covers the phone like a skin, this case adds the least amount of bulk to your phone. Sturdier than a standard silicone case, a rugged rubber case contains thicker sides and corners. As a result, this case adds the greatest bulk to your phone. Plastic covers consist of two pieces that slide together around your phone. A plastic case adds more bulk to the size of your phone than a silicone cover; however, it adds less bulk than a rugged rubber cover. Regardless of style, you must select a cover specific to your phone model to ensure proper fit.


All cases offer some protection should you drop your phone; however, the level of protection varies depending on the type you select. A rugged, rubber case offers the greatest protection because it often consists of a combination of layers, including a rigid layer and a silicone liner for increased shock absorption. In addition, these cases often offer additional protection, such as screen protection and water resistance. A silicone case protects your phone from short-distance drops and the texture helps prevent your phone from sliding. Because the case consists only of a thin layer of silicone, however, it may not prevent damage if your phone falls from a great distance or with a lot of force. Plastic cases are hard, offering solid protection if you bump or drop your phone. Smooth, this case may slide off a table when bumped, but it will protect your phone against damage from impact.

General Maintenance

A drawback to using a silicone case is lint attraction. The dust and lint from your purse or pocket may stick to the case. Removing the case from your phone and washing it with water and a mild soap typically resolves the problem. Similarly, a rugged rubber case also may attract lint and other debris, depending on the texture of the outermost layer of the case. Because the layers involved in these cases often differ, refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for specific information on how to clean your rugged rubber case. Although a plastic case doesn’t attract lint, scratches may mar its surface over time. Unlike dirt and dust, you can’t wash away surface scratches, which may result in a premature, well-worn look for your phone case. If your plastic case does get dirty, wiping it with a damp cloth should resolve the problem.

Personalized Appearance

If you want your phone’s case to make a statement, then a plastic case potentially offers the most creative solution. Although many retailers sell plastic and silicone cases with character designs and other decorative personalization, a plastic case lets you be the designer. You can purchase a plain plastic case and create your own design with stickers, crystals and decals. These decorations, however, may not properly adhere to a silicone phone case.