How exciting can iPhone cases possibly be? We’d say potentially… very.

When it’s basically a given that you must house your device in a protective shield, or face the pained looks of onlookers as they notice your unwrapped device teetering on the edge of a table, case designers have begun to pull out the stops when it comes to iPhone cases.

That’s why this issue we’ll be looking at functional device cases that treat protection as the base level, before doing something much more exciting.

What kickstarted our interest in iPhone cases was… well, a Kickstarter. The website that allows entrepreneurs to outline their idea, to seek and gain funding from the masses before they go into production, recently featured a very intriguing iPhone case prototype.

The idea was: How about an iPhone case that turns your Apple device… into an Android phone? Intriguing, sure. Useful? Apparently over 3,000 individuals think so, as a massive $450,000 (at the time of writing) of the original target of $95,000 has been raised, meaning it’ll most definitely go into production.

The Eye – a new case wanting to give iPhone users more flexibility through Android

The Eye – a new case wanting to give iPhone users more flexibility through Android

So what is it? It’s called the Eye, and it adds a hell of a lot to your iPhone. The case includes its own AMOLED screen running the Android OS, wireless charging, extra power, 2x sim slots, up to 256GB more storage, plus NFC functionality. Oh, and a headphone jack.

Of course, for something that essentially provides two devices for the price of one, the price, which starts at $119 for early bird pledges is good value for all the functionality, but it’s still a lot to splurge for an iPhone case. So we decided to look at other, cheaper options for boosting the potential of your iPhone. Check out what we found below.

Battery cases

Let’s start with the obvious one. Cases that turn your phone into a portable power bank, usually doubling your iPhone’s battery.

Apple has its own Smart Battery Case retailing for $99/£99 – which might seem expensive, but you get the reliability and design of an Apple product. They offer an additional 26 hours talk time, and 22 hours internet usage on LTE.

Apple's own battery case isn't cheap, but it's one of the best

Apple’s own battery case isn’t cheap, but it’s one of the best

But there are also some major brands doing great work in battery case technology. One of the key players is Mophie, and while it’s worth checking out their juice packs (Buy US / Buy UK) which focus on safe charging and wireless charging using Qi pads, this does put it in the same price range as Apple, though can often be found on Amazon for the circa $70 mark.

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The Trianium Atomic Pro is a decent, more affordable alternative to Apple’s battery case

For a much more affordable battery case solution, we’d suggest checking out the Trianium Atomic Pro, which is currently on sale for $40 for the iPhone 7 (Buy US), but Plus users will have to pay $60 (Buy US). However, in the UK an almost identical product comes under the PowerBear name (Buy UK)

These packs are just as stylish and slim as the Mophie packs, and contain a 3200mAh battery – more than Mophie’s standard 2,525mAh battery, providing more than 100% recharging capability.

Wallet cases

There’s been a growth in popularity for wallet cases – why fill your pockets up when you can combine your phone and wallet? Of course, with things like Apple Pay, you might not even need cards, but while support is still spotty, why not grab yourself a wallet case. Most of these cases provide slots for ID, banks cards, and usually space for paper money too.

First let’s start with the budget, yet stylish options. For just over $10/£10 you can get a swish synthetic leather case by Dockem (Buy US / Buy UK) which straps onto the back of your device, producing two simple slots for cards and cash. The entry level wallet case for sure, so if you’re not sold this is a cheap way to find out if the phone wallet is for you.

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For the price, you can’t go wrong with a Dockem faux-leather wallet case

However, if synthetic leather doesn’t provide enough protection for your liking, you may want something a little sturdier. We’d point to the Spigen Slim Armor CS case (Buy US / Buy UK – UK design differs slightly.) Spigen is well known in the case game and this model provides an alternate take on the wallet case. Not only does the shock-absorbing case protect your device, cards aren’t slotted into the back where they stick out. Instead, the case has a sliding trapdoor of sorts to keep everything where it should be and out of sight.

Decent protection and a cool hiding place for your credit cards

Decent protection and a cool hiding place for your credit cards

And if you really want to go for the designer approach, you’ll want to check out Grovemade. These cases aren’t cheap (priced from $109 depending on your iPhone model,) but they use real walnut cassis, with a real leather wraparound cover. Inside there’s an opening for storing cash, and cards. A beautiful casing worthy of your iPhone, but if you’re after a more budget case with a similar opening design, check out the Spigen Wallet S (Buy US / Buy UK) with a foldable cover and kickstand for $15.

Want to splash out? This is the case

Want to splash out? This is the case

Headphone jack cases

Apple controversially removed the headphone jack from the iPhone 7, and while it didn’t appear to affect the device’s popularity, many still pine for the headphone jack. But with the right iPhone case, the problem is solved.

Following the announcement of the headphone jack-less iPhone, a number of crowd-funding campaigns hit the web – and one of the most popular was Fuze. The campaign proved successful, and you can now easily bring back the headphone jack. They’re currently on sale for $49 – almost half price – over at fuzecases.com. The cases are also battery cases.

...in case you want the headphone jack back in your life

…in case you want the headphone jack back in your life

However, Fuze only has iPhone 7 Plus cases left, and many of the other promised cases never came to fruition. Incipio demonstrated a case with a headphone jack at CES in January, with their OX case. Though that’s not expected to arrive for another couple of months.

We guess Apple users were less concerned with the lack of headphone jack than many initially thought.

Magnetic cases

Next up is the magnetic case. On first consideration, this may seem like a weird one. And it seems that the world might not be ready for an iPhone case with magnets. Take a recent Kickstarter campaign which wanted to turn the world into a tripod through magnetic cases. The Airo Collective Case was designed to let users stick their device to metal objects, like poles or fences so they could take selfies, or videos from far away without using hands or asking someone else to take the photo. In the end, despite a very detailed campaign, it disappeared without a trace when it only raised $315 of its target of $50,000.

There was no love for the Aero case

There was no love for the Aero case

Perhaps iPhone owners decided sticking your device to an object in public and walking away was a bad idea…

However, there are still uses for magnets in cases, though the premise is far simpler and you don’t even need to get a dedicated case. One of the growing areas of iPhone cases is for car mounting. So, when you enter your car, you don’t have to fiddle with a dock or clasp, you simply slap the phone onto a holder and magnets will keep it in place.

In reality, you don’t need a new case for this. You simply acquire a car mount that comes with all the magnets you need, and you apply the magnet onto the inside of an existing case. A good example is this TechMatte dashboard mount (Buy US / Buy UK – note: UK model differs slightly.)

Magnets can still make it easier to mount your device in the car

Magnets can still make it easier to mount your device in the car

Waterproof cases

Apple’s latest devices might be waterproof to a depth of 1m, but few will risk exposure to this particular element. However, there are cases out there specifically designed to go much further than Apple’s IP67 water resistance rating, which says the iPhone 7 can survive water immersion for 30 minutes at a depth of up to 1 meter.

In reality, there are two types of waterproof cases. The type you take on holiday to stop you dropping your device in the pool, which aren’t really designed with interaction or looks in mind, and the type that genuinely provides an all-round environment-proof protection that still allows full use of the device.

Great for a quick dip...

Great for a quick dip…

For the former, you can’t go wrong with with something like a JOTO dry bag (Buy US / Buy UK.) This pouch isn’t necessarily pretty (though there’s much worse out there,) but it does the job. You can still take photos and check emails, but it’s a little unwieldy. However, it does have IPX8 waterproof certification, meaning it’ll be save in water over 3 feet – perfect for when you want to venture out of the shallow end. And it’s under $10.

Better for all-out protection...

Better for all-out protection…

For the latter, check out the OTBBA case (Buy US,) it’s IP68 certified, meaning it’s good for dust and water (and snow.) It’s also a notch above the iPhone 7’s standard water rating – this case can be submerged to over 10ft for 2 hours. Or if you’re in the UK check out the Defender series for similar specs (Buy UK.)

And that’s it for functional cases – these are the key categories that allow you to turn your device into something much more using just a specially selected case. Which ones will you try?