The kids’ backpacks are packed, their lunches are planned, and you’ve argued out who’s going to be taking the kids to their first day back… but there’s always something that gets forgotten.


I have a cousin who had a tendency to leave his toothbrushes and shoes (how???!) behind when he was a kid, like a travelling Hansel & Gretel, but in August, it’s way more likely that you’ve forgotten something far less dire. Like, say, to update the kids’ (and your own!) phone and tablet cases for back-to-school.


How to pick the perfect phone case


My mom got a new work phone this summer (an iPhone), so, of course, I got roped into helping her pick out a phone case. It took us a surprisingly long time to choose one—when I bought my cell phone case, I knew exactly what I wanted, and have just been buying the same case ever since, but this was a different experience entirely.


(I have a Cygnett iPhone 5/5s Hard Shell Case in Silver, a thin metal and carbon fibre case that suits my lifestyle perfectly: it’s androgynous, lightweight, and practically impenetrable.)


As a first-time case-buyer, she had no idea what she wanted, and the process really opened my eyes up to just how many options there are out there! (Spoiler: there are lots. Like, lots and lots and lots levels of lots.)


Hard shell plastic cases, like the Kate Spade New York Confetti iPhone 6 Fitted Hard Shell Case in Cream/Gold or the Case-Mate Naked Tough iPhone 6 Fitted Clear Hard Shell Case, are the most popular and prevalent kind of smartphone case. Solid, slim, and shiny, they’re perfect for the standard smartphone user and can—depending on the case—withstand a couple major drops.


You can find them with or without a bumper (the Kate Spade case has a removable one), which is a rubberized band that goes around the phone to add additional shock absorption, shatter protection, and grip.


Flip cover cases, or “wallet cases,” are great for two types of people: those whose bags are so big that their phones just get unceremoniously chucked into them, and those who don’t carry a bag at all. In flip cover cases, like the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Wallet Folio Case, a book-like cover protects your phone screen from things like keys and pocket change, while the flip cover usually contains a little elasticized pocket for cards or cash—just enough to get you by if all you want to bring with you is your phone.


Charging cases, like the Mophie Juice Pack iPhone 6 Battery Case in Black, are cases that quite literally have a battery pack worked in. They’re usually a little heavier and bulkier than your standard cell phone case (the Mophie is a bit of an exception; it’s heavy, but it’s a lot slimmer than most charging cases), but they’ll keep your phone juiced up all day long—usually doubling their power supply.


Charging cases are great for people who are on their phones constantly (which, I mean, really shouldn’t be the back-to-schooler? But probably is,) or for those with older phones whose batteries are slowly losing their juice.


Heavy-duty cases, like the classic OtterBox Commuter Galaxy S6 Fitted Hard Shell Case or the Lifeproof nuud iPhone 6 Plus Waterproof Fitted Hard Shell Case, are perfect for the adventurer … or the klutz. These heavy-duty contraptions are some of the bulkiest cases available, but they come with their own perks. Depending on the case, that can include waterproofing, shock-absorption to protect from drops, and port covers to keep sand and sludge out of your phone.


How to pick the perfect tablet case


Picking a tablet case, on the other hand, is (thankfully!) considerably easier than picking the perfect phone case. There are far less options, and unlike a phone, everyone more or less uses a tablet the same way. No one runs around with only their tablet at the grocery store, and no one’s planning on dropping their tablet half a dozen times a week.


(I mean … hopefully no one’s planning on dropping their tablet half a dozen times a week.)


The type of cases that I see most often on campus are keyboard folio cases, which are extremely thin cases that cover the front of the tablet while closed, then serve as a keyboard and stand when opened. They’re great for college and university students, as they allow you to take notes as quickly as you would on a laptop (but at just a fraction of the size and weight), and they transition well into the workplace following graduation, too.


A few great examples of these cases are the Logitech Samsung Galaxy Tab S Keyboard Case and the Logitech Type+ iPad Air 2 Keyboard Folio Case, which connect with the tablet via Bluetooth for fuss-free typing on the go.


Keyboard folio cases do tend to be some of the most expensive, however, so they’re definitely not what you want to look at for very casual tablet usage. They’re well worth the investment for anyone in a school or business setting, but if your tablet is for Netflix and long car rides, I recommend opting instead for a lightweight, keyboard-less case that you’re never going to have to charge.


The most popular non-keyboard case that I see around is the Apple Smart Cover, which acts as a cover and stand and has a magnetized spine. However, it’s far from your only option! For a non-iPad tablet, something like the Tucano Riga Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8″ Tablet Case in Gold is a great pick; it’ll fit the Samsung Galaxy 8″ like a treat and has a chic, slim gold cover. Or, for something a little more practical, the Tucano 7″ Universal Tablet Folio Case in Blue is a good option—the wide elastic bands on the front not only provide stylish contrast, but they’ll strap things like papers and business cards onto your case for easy access.


And, finally, I have one last case recommendation for you, and one last tip. To keep your smartphone or tablet in top condition, consider applying a screen protector before you start your school year. They’re not mandatory (I use my phone without one, and have no significant scratches despite many years of use), but for those who don’t want to worry about their tech at all, they definitely provide an extra layer of peace-of-mind.


As for that last case recommendation? May I suggest, for the back-to-school crowd still doing half-days, the Grablet iPad 2/New iPad Case, which functions … basically like a hilarious, wonderful, super-handy backpack for tablets. (Think backpack leashes for children.) It’s fun and multi-purpose, and lets you hang, strap, and carry around your iPad securely—perfect for little arms that can’t quite grip those sleek tablets securely just yet.





Rae Chen
Rae Chen covers everything from handbags to speakers here on the Best Buy Plug-in Blog. They can also be found at, where they've been writing about beauty & wellness since 2007.