Sunday, December 12, 2010

Hardware Review: Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4


The Otterbox Defender series of iPhone cases has gotten a just reputation over the past couple years as the Cadillac (or should that be M1-A1 tank?) of iPhone protection. Consisting of several separate and integrated layers of protection designed to secure and protect the phone from whatever shock and awe gets thrown its way, the Defender is the iPhone case you’d go to war with. Does the new Defender for the iPhone 4 meets it predecessor’s lofty reputation or are there some chinks in the armor?

Like earlier iterations, the Defender package contains and inner core of shock-resistant plastic, with a felt liner on the interior to protect the phone. A screen protector is integrated to the plastic and cannot be removed (no bubbles!) Wrapping around the exterior of the device is a thick rubberized shell (available in red, blue, or black), protecting all sides of the device from impact, and including retractable flaps over the dock connector, headphone jack (which houses the moisture sensor) and mute button ports. Only the speakers remain “open” to the elements.

All this protection nearly doubles the thickness and heft of the phone, and the thick rubber covers over the buttons and ports take some getting used to, and can be annoying if you have to frequently mute and unmute the phone for whatever reason. For someone who wants this level of protection, these are minor annoyances only. The Defender is a tank, and really protects the phone. I have no qualms taking my phone into humid environments or using it in a light rain shower with this case on (although keep in mind it is NOT waterproof!)

The screen protector is excellent, and bubble free, and I like the fact that it protects the screen without having to actually be stuck on. Dirty fingers are no problem here! Note that sometimes the inside of the screen protector may adhere slightly to the screen. Ironically the secret is to make sure there are some fingerprints on the screen before you put it in the case.

The case can take a ton pf physical abuse as well. The Defender is the case that you can see in videos of iPhones being tossed around against brick walls and cement floors. I wasn’t about to replicate this with my own personal iPhone, but I feel quite confident that it will simply shrug off drops onto hard floors or parking lots from ordinary heights. Based on my experience with the Defender 3G/3GS case, it takes a lickin’ and keeps on tickin’ (or rockin’ or talkin’ as the case may be.)

The Defender comes with a belt clip which doubles as a stand for watching multimedia on the phone. I don’t like belt clips and would not use it, but for those who use these things, it is an effective and very sturdy clip which adds additional protection to the phone. The design is much different than the previous versions. The clip holds the phone horizontal instead of vertical in theory making it less susceptible to disengagement while siting down or bending over. You could literally roll around on concrete with the clip and and the phone would be fine. Without a doubt, the Defender is the most sturdy iPhone protective case on the market. It is the armored vehicle of iPhone cases and will defend your phone from the slings and arrows of daily life.

My only caveat with fully recommending the iPhone 4 Defender case to everyone is the fact that some accessories have trouble working with the phone while in its case. In particular, devices that rely on the dock connector or the headphone jack sometimes had problems. Removing the iPhone 4 from the Defender case takes time as you have to remove each layer of protection. This was an annoyance inherited from previous versions, but the occasional incompatibly is minor compared to having to pay for a iPhone glass replacement, or worse a new iPhone.

Until Otterbox came out with an iPhone 4 Defender case, I wasn’t one of those buying a phone on day one. I trust my iPhone to no other case but the Defender. My numerous near misses with my iPhone 3G and 3GS made me a believer and the iPhone 4 Defender case inherited all the qualities of its predecessor with a few extra bells and whistles.

Pros: Strong, reliable protection for every aspect of the iPhone 4
Cons: Does add bulk, some accessories have problems working with the case

5 out of 5 Dogcows

Article was republished by the Lawrence Apple User's Group 2.0 here as well as other groups listed on the right