Image of a Supcase rugged phone case.

I Finally Found a Great Rugged Phone Case

I’m extremely picky when it comes to high-protection or “Rugged” cases for phones. If I’m sacrificing the slimness of a standard case for something more bulky, I want it to actually protect more, and not just look like it does. Sadly, it’s very common for many cases to look the part but not protect well at all.

If you don’t have time to read the full review, feel free to skip down to my summary below >>>

Quick video summary.

Two part cases and an “air gap” are key to good protection.

After years of dealing with rugged cases, I’ve found that two part cases work the best for maximum protection. These are cases that have an inner hard plastic frame that clips around the phone, which then sits in what is usually a softer rubber wrapper.

Image of the SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro case exploded into parts, to show the inner plastic frame and outer soft shell.
I’ve found two-part cases provide the best protection, with a rigid inner plastic frame which sits inside a softer rubber shell.

The best designs have what I call an “air gap” between the inner frame and outer rubber shell, thus creating a buffer from drops that truly protects the phone. Some of the best cases in this design category can withstand drops from over 20 feet, multiple times, and will certainly keep a phone safe from daily drops in a busy house or while commuting.

Close-up of the corner of the phone case emphasizing the air gap between the rigid inner frame and outer rubber case.
The “air gap” has proven to be a key attribute of a case the truly protects from serious falls. The SUPCASE provides an ample air gap giving a good buffer of protection.

Attached screen protectors are not all that great.

Sadly, the vast majority of this style of case comes with a screen protector included – literally a clear plastic cover that is permanently attached to the inner rigid frame. This traps dirt, works poorly with in-screen fingerprint protectors, and makes it impossible to use the screen protector of your choice. It’s the rare phone case that meets all the above while avoiding the pitfalls, and I managed to find one for my new Samsung Galaxy s23 Ultra.

SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro hits all the marks.

As it turns out, the SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro Case proved to be the only case I found which met my requirements for a high protection, rugged case, with maximum drop protection, an effective air gap, and the ability to use the screen protector of my choosing. Solid protection for from my “busy lifestyle” (read, very active little boys in the house).

The Unicorn Beetle Pro Case has solid build quality and conveys an immediate sense of trustworthiness in hand. Alignment of the cutouts for ports and features is accurate. Further, the button covers, which can be hit or miss on these types of cases, are responsive and easy to find while held, but do not stick out far enough to be in the way.

For those so inclined, there are two options with this case. One with BOTH a frame & built-in screen protector (gasp) and a standard empty frame, as well as a slightly cheaper option with just the empty front frame. However, both come with a belt clip that you can choose to use or not.

Sealing tightly around the phone, this case guards against dust intrusion. In my experience, many cases of this design do not seal nearly as tightly. Also, on many other cases I’ve found the rubber would not hold firmly to the inner plastic frame, which would pull away under use and cause transient gaps. Again, this is not an issue here, which I was very pleased by.

Additionally, the case is designed with a significant raised front bezel, which keeps the screen from making contact with surfaces when placed face down. The raised bezel is higher on the top and bottom of the screen area and lower on the sides, which allows edge-swipe actions on the curved screen to be unimpeded. I have found on other cases with a raised bezel that is higher on the sides, side-swipe actions on the curved screen can be hard to impossible. A deep rear camera cutout keeps lenses off surfaces, even with lens protectors installed. It also accommodates a good sized cutout for models like our s23 Ultra that include the S-Pen, making it easy to use this feature even with large fingers or gloves.

Rubberized feet prevent slipping on flat or slick surfaces. Case lays perfectly flat for wireless charging and the kickstand disappears into the case.

The Unicorn Beetle Pro Case scores points with us for its creature comfort features as well. The back of the case is equipped with an array of small rubberized feet that provide a secure grip, preventing the phone from sliding easily on slick surfaces. It also includes a solid kickstand that can be used in both landscape and portrait orientation, and works on both the left and right sides of the phone. Many kickstand cases only allow use of the kickstand from one side or the other – not both. Furthermore, this case is compatible with all wireless chargers we had on hand, including the Samsung 15w Super Fast chargers, (this is the one we use – and be sure to check colors as white and grey are on sale at different times) laying perfectly flat on its back for easy placement on the charging pad.

One SUPCASE downside…

The only downside I found with this case is the protective flap over the charging port. The resistance it exerts on the charging plug seems unnecessary and potentially damaging over time. However, I found a simple fix by removing the flap altogether. An alternative would be to make a small cut along the flap’s inner hinge (just enough to cut the surface but not all the way through) to reduce the resistance. Granted, if you are primarily charging wirelessly then this is not too much of a concern.

Best screen protector pairing for our new Samsung Galaxy s23 Ultra:

The Unicorn Beetle Pro Case series always pairs best with TPU or film screen protectors and not glass, because the fit is so tight and precise.

For our s23 Ultra, when paired with the Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Phone Screen Protector (model number EF-US918CTEGUS), this case works extremely well. This screen protector mimics the feel of glass, performing well with the S-Pen in our daily use. It’s capable of healing from minor damage, and the installation process is straightforward thanks to the supplied alignment jig. It’s a good value at around $14 for two protectors and is significantly cheaper than many UV glass protectors that come with a complicated installation process and do not typically fit high-protection cases well. I tested a number of other film-type screen protectors but most had a tacky feel that did not work well with the s-pen at all. Some even snagged the tip causing it to detach, or were permanently damaged by the pen under normal use.

Failed attempts at perfection.

I did try several other options which did not meet my approval, so I wanted to detail them here to spare you the time and energy. The Dome Glass 2-pack Screen Protector for the Samsung S23 Ultra proved incompatible with my winning case choice, SUPCASE. The corners did not fit inside the case which caused peeling and lifting. Its high, surprisingly sharp edge didn’t feel good in hand, especially on the rounded edges of the phone when doing side-swipe actions, and it didn’t work effectively with the fingerprint sensor. The sensor was prone to errors and with dry hands the sensor would not work at all. The installation process was also complicated and messy, as is the case with all UV glue screen protectors, which is a drawback.

Another case I had in hand was the ESR Shock Armor Kickstand Case for the Samsung S23 Ultra, but sadly it was another letdown. Although it was compatible with both the Dome Glass and Samsung OEM screen protectors, its drawbacks outweighed its merits. The kickstand bump stuck out too far, causing the phone to wobble & slide on flat surfaces and impeded proper alignment with a wireless charger. The kickstand was small and only usable from the left side of the phone. Furthermore, and most importantly, the protection provided by the case was less than impressive. The back is thin, flexible plastic, offering minimal impact protection. It lacked a functional air gap between the inner frame and outer shell, including the corners, and the inner frame cracked upon a small drop within the first week of testing. To ESR’s credit, they were extremely responsive over email and replaced the case without any questions, but the lack of an air-gap and quickly cracked inner frame caused me to write this off rather quickly regardless.

In summary, for those who value the utmost protection for their Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra, the SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro Case in conjunction with the Samsung OEM Screen Protector turned out to meet my needs perfectly. They deliver good usability and protection without breaking the bank, and I hope they work for you too.

I’d love to know your thoughts on my analysis, so please take a moment to share them in the comments below, including any other tips you might have.


The SUPCASE Unicorn Beetle Pro Case excels in several areas.


  • Solid build with perfect alignment of cutouts for ports and features.
  • Tactile and responsive button covers.
  • Protective air gap between the inner hard plastic frame and outer soft rubber shell, particularly at the corners.
  • Effective sealing around the phone and between the two layers of the case to prevent dust intrusion.
  • Raised front bezel and deep rear camera cutout for protecting the screen and camera lenses. Works with lens covers.
  • Side bezel is lower to accommodate curved screen and side-swipe actions.
  • Accommodation for S-Pen usage & easy access.
  • Back of case equipped with small rubberized feet for a secure grip.
  • Robust kickstand for both landscape and portrait orientation – and works on both the left and right side of the phone.
  • Compatibility with wireless chargers.
  • Lay-flat design when on it’s back.


  • Unnecessary protective flap over the charging port, which can be remedied by removal or making a small cut along its hinge to relieve pressure.

The Samsung Galaxy S23 Ultra Phone Screen Protector (model number EF-US918CTEGUS) pairs well with this case.


  • Mimics the slick feel of glass to a large degree.
  • Works exceptionally well with the S-Pen.
  • Ability to heal from minor damage and scuffs.
  • Easy installation with a supplied alignment jig.
  • Ultra-fast fingerprint sensor functionality.
  • Excellent value at around $14 for two protectors.

Despite the excellence of these two products, there were some that fell short in our testing. The Dome Glass 2-pack Screen Protector for the Samsung S23 Ultra was a disappointment.


  • Good fit and solid glass.
  • Resistance to fingerprints.


  • Incompatibility with our preferred high-protection case, the SUPCASE.
  • High, sharp edge uncomfortable with side-swipe actions on rounded screen of the Samsung s23 Ultra. Would snag on fingers.
  • Poor performance with the fingerprint sensor.
  • Complicated and messy installation process.

The ESR Shock Armor Kickstand Case for the Samsung S23 Ultra, though compatible with both the Dome Glass and Samsung OEM screen protectors, was another under-performer which did not meet out needs.


  • Compatibility with the Dome Glass and Samsung OEM screen protectors.
  • Responsive customer service.


  • Kickstand sticks out too far, causing wobbling and sliding on flat surfaces.
  • Kickstand impedes proper alignment with a wireless charger.
  • Lack of protective air gap.
  • Inner frame cracked upon a small drop within one week of testing.

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