Sunday, July 10, 2011

Hardware Review: Griffin Survivor Case for iPhone 4

The Griffin Survivor case is a welcome addition to the line of highly-protective cases for the iPhone 4. This case was literally designed for war as it meets US Department of Defense MIL-STD-810 and UK Department of Defense Def-Stan 00-35. For civilians it means extreme protection at a great price. This has replaced my Otterbox Defender and is the case I use to protect my own iPhone.

Similar to the Defender, this Survivor provides 3 layers of protection. The first layer is a shatter-resistant polycarbonate frame interior that wraps around most of the phone. The second layer is a clear plastic overlay that protects the screen without impeding audio or the camera. Finally, a thick silicone overlay protects every aspect of your iPhone including the dock and speaker jack (where the water sensors are located).

The silicone overlay is truly unique and reminds me of the earlier Otterbox Defender 3G cases. On each of the four corners (where impact is likely) the silicone is up to a quarter-inch thick and when dropped on this corner my iPhone literally bounced (the test was an accident, but I was nonetheless impressed). The flaps protecting the dock and headphone jack actually include a plug to form a tight seal when closed. According to Griffin, the ports block blown sand/dust (up to 18 m/sec for 1 hour). Water resistance isn’t claimed, but can be inferred given this sealed design. In a video shown on their website, the iPhone is dropped in a snow pack and still continues to work.

The belt clip is a great design with a minimal clip that attaches to the bottom of the case. It can be used in a vertical and horizontal position. You need to make sure it clips properly. I didn’t one time and learned the hard way how well the silicone bounces the iPhone when dropped.

An annoying flaw exists that may be a deal killer for some users. The flap protecting the rear facing camera is normally closed, is not removable and won’t stay open by itself. If you want to quickly snap a picture you need to manually hold the flap open. More than once I got a blank picture because I forgot to open the flap before taking a picture. I got used to it, but if you rely on being able to take a quick picture with your iPhone, this may not be the case for you. I didn’t mind, but other testers got quite frustrated and said they’d simply remove the flap if they used the case long term.

Despite the camera flap, I simply loved this case. Sure it adds heft and bulk to your svelte iPhone, but this isn’t about fashion, it’s about protection. Hands down, the Griffin Survivor is the best case to protect your iPhone 4. Its three layer protection, sealed flaps, and excellent belt clip make it an ideal choice for iPhone users needing ultimate protection.

Pros: Great protection for your iPhone 4 from practically any mishap
Cons: Annoying camera flap gets in the way, belt clip can be confusing, bulky

Five out of Five Dogcows