In an ideal phone, a phone case would be optional, just something to customize a phone rather than a necessity to protect your investment. But we live in an era of glass-backed, metal-framed prestigious Android phones that are slippery and shatter-prone, so the first thing we do after unboxing a phone is slap it in a case before we can drop it and break it.
We need something better to hold, something that will hold up to the everyday wear and tear from crumb-covered tables, dusty parking lots, and the rock tumbler known as your mother's purse. How well you can grip your phone — and how well it will stay put when you set it down — is critical to your phone's longevity.
After all, it doesn't matter how durable a case may be; if it keeps slipping out of your hands or off your nightstand, it's going to take a bad bounce eventually. Drop testing (when it actually is tested) is only made to withstand a set number of impacts — usually five on each face, edge, and corner — and if your phone hits an edge or a particular surface, the cruelty of physics can still win out.
It's easy to get lost in the features when looking for cases, especially online, as many case listings — and even case guides like ours — focus on materials, durability standards that don't actually mean much, and add-ons like kickstands, MagSafe support, and card slots. These things are easy to spot, easy to quantify, and can easily grab attention.
This article was produced in partnership with Supcase, but its contents were not shown to the company beforehand. All content is written independently and meets Android Police's stringent editorial standards.
If grip does get mentioned, it's usually just keyword-stuffed in a case's proper name or its online listing. But it's seldom described in detail, which is important because there are different types of grip, and where grip is the strongest can vary widely from phone to phone. It doesn't help that grip quality depends on the hands holding them and how smooth or sweaty they are.
So, let's start with a few classic kinds of grip styles, how to recognize them even when they're not explicitly stated in a case, and how they tend to fare for different hand types.
The first, and by far my favorite, is a style I like to call "Abrasive," classified by having textures that increase surface area to solidify your hold on the case. Caseology and dbrand both use this style in their cases to great effect, with the Caseology Parallax being one of my most frequent recommendations, specifically because of the abrasive side grips paired with a modeled geometric grip across the back.
dbrand's main case series is rightfully called the Grip Case, and its bezel is absolutely covered in a microdotted texture to produce a case that you know will stay put in your hand or on a table. Microdots are also employed on many other cases as a way to get grip on a case while staying subtle, as seen on the Caseology Nano Pop.
To spot an abrasive grip, look for cases with raised or embossed ultra-fine textures across the bumpers. It does reach around to the back on some rare cases, but for most, the grip around the sides is all that's needed to keep it in place.
I mentioned our next style a paragraph ago, "Modeled." Modeled grips are sculpted grooves or textures across the back or sides of a case to add texture and help steady your phone in your hand, and this is by far the most popular type of grip style. From affordable cases like the Spigen Rugged Armor to premium cases like Speck's iconic Presidio series and the Mous Limitless, grooved sides are popular for grip, but it's easy to mess them up. Make them too shallow, and you won't get enough grip, but make them too deep, and it'll be too uncomfortable to hold.
Modeled grip for case backs — like we see on the Spigen Liquid Air, Gear4 Denali, and the Supcase UB Pro — are a welcome boon to grip when done properly, but some can find them annoying. In non-MagSafe cases, cases with uneven, modeled backs also don't play nice with any adhesive accessories like phone grips stick-on wallets. There was quite the war of attrition between my Pixel 6's Parallax and my Popsockets Poptop base as it ever so slowly slid down the textured back due to air gaps between the grip and the case.
Modeled cases are the easiest to spot, as their grooves, ridges, and patterned backs are all easy to spot on the images and renders, like this lovely Parallax's cube pattern here. If possible, go for one where the modeling on the back differs from the modeling on the bumper.
The final main style, "Sticky," doesn't actually have any adhesives involved; rather, it makes up a subsection of cases with particular materials and finishes. Ever grabbed a clean, new clear case and felt like it was suctioned to your hand? Or a silicone case with a more rubbery surface, which feels exceedingly tacky at first but starts to lose grip as pocket lint and the grime on your hands slowly accumulate on it? That's what I mean by sticky.
TPU cases and clear cases are predisposed to this grip style, and it's part of why Samsung's Silicone Cover is both loved and hated for its grip. Sticky-style cases turn into lint magnets and grime gatherers easily without regular cleaning, but when done right — like on the Tech21 Evo Check and Casetify Impact Series — they can offer superb, long-lasting grip without breaking the bank.
The only downside to them is that the grip can disappear when your hands are wet/sweaty or when the case has accumulated enough surface particulate over time. However, these cases also have the hands-down best grip when placed on desks, end tables, benches, and that one weird cubby in your car's center console, as the friction that allows them to feel slightly tacky will also resist lateral movement after you securely set it down.
This category is all but impossible to spot on sight in pictures — it's a matter of the exact finish and composition — but you can increase your chances by focusing on TPU cases — especially clear or semi-opaque — with minimalist designs. There's also a subset of Sticky cases that function in the exact opposite matter: they almost feel powdery to the touch, but just like dusting your hands before rock climbing, it helps you keep a better grip even when things get sweaty. It's mesmerizing but exceedingly rare to find outside Pela's uniquely earth-friendly cases.
All three styles have benefits, and many cases will combine different aspects, trying to achieve the best grip without sacrificing the structure or style of a case. No matter the style, you need to take a good look at your next prospective phone case.
Because if your next phone case isn't grippy, you'd better let it go now and buy something better.
- Source: Caseology
Caseology Parallax for Pixel 8 Pro
- Source: Supcase
Supcase UB Pro for Galaxy S23
- Source: Casetify
Casetify Impact for Galaxy Z Fold 5
Pela Case for Pixel 7a