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Tags: Blush · Case · Defender · iPhone · OtterBox · Packaging · Retail · Sale · Series
I got my iPhone 5 today (through carrier sources) though it’s yet to be activated and the first thing I did naturally was put the Otterbox Defender case on it. I had the Defender for my 3GS and it protected my phone all these years. Didn’t have the iPhone 4/4S so I can’t compare it to that. Quick impressions so far:
PROTECTION – Protection wise, the iPhone 5 Defender is at par with the 3GS. Industrial grade protection with complete coverage. Same concept and overall design, though the silicone feels slightly thicker and more solid in the 5. The silicone has a matte finish compared to the smooth finish in the 3GS, which hopefully should help avoid dust and lint – this was the only drawback with the 3GS case, it needed cleaning frequently.
BUTTONS/PORTS – Power and volume buttons are covered with silicone shaped like the buttons themselves. No problem pressing either of these buttons with the silicone. The headphone jack, charging port, and silent button have silicone plugs that can be pulled out to expose the jacks. (TIP – to open the plugs, insert nail and push the top silicone part higher to get behind the plug to pull it out. Hope this makes sense. The headphone plug is tiny and it can take some time getting used to opening it). The charging port plug, when opened, keeps snapping back into the case, which means it has to be held open with one hand to insert the charger. Insignificant issue, and I’m hoping that with use, this piece will loosen up a bit so that it stays open if needed. Opening at the back for the Apple logo is covered with a transparent plastic film. The front camera/speaker, the back camera/flash, and the two speakers at the bottom are left open and are the only exposed parts of the phone.
SCREEN COVERAGE – Clear plastic film on the screen integrated into the case, the touchscreen experience is as good with the film as it is without the case. The transparent film creates a tiny layer of air or moisture between itself and the screen, which can create watermarks on the screen. This was an issue with the 3GS as well. (TIP – I had read several forums for my 3GS that recommended applying baby powder before installing this case, but I personally didn’t find that to be a lasting solution. Applying an Anti-Glare film to the phone’s screen before installing the case was the best solution. I am still waiting for my Anti-Glare film to come in, but I installed a spare I had for my 3GS just to see if that solved the issue with the 5, and it did).
HOLSTER – The silicone is kept intact with two plastic tabs on the side. This really helps keep the silicone in shape and prevents it from stretching or loosening over time. These tabs also work as the locking mechanism for the holster. The case can be inserted facing in or out in the holster, a fine improvement by Otterbox. Most such holsters I have seen only allow face-in orientation (3GS allowed only face-in which I found annoying when going for a run). This holster has a fully rotating belt clip so that it can be attached vertically or horizontally on the belt. No chance of the case falling out, nice secure fit. The holster is much better and ergonomically designed than the 3GS version. It is easier to access the phone with this design.
Here are a few details that I would have liked to see improved/addressed:
- Front and back camera openings – the two openings are huge! The front camera/speaker/light sensor opening is one big opening. For the 3GS version (3GS only has speaker on the front, no camera) and from what I have seen for the 4S, the cases had a precision opening which provided better overall coverage. For the back, the opening is approximately 30-40% bigger than it should be for the camera and flash. It would have been nice to have more precise openings on both places for even better protection.
- Headphone jack plug – this perhaps has more to do with the placement of the headphone jack itself, but the case opening is really small and it’s not very smooth to open the silicone plug. For the 3GS, the silicone plug went around the headphone jack to the back, which made opening it a breeze. They could have used the same design for the 5 as well. With the current design, it takes time opening the headphone plug. It’s entirely possible it is just something that takes getting used to, or that the silicone will loosen over time making it easier to open.
- The iPhone 5 is a super sleek, light, and slick looking device. Putting the Defender case makes it bulky (more than doubles the thickness). Now this is a pro in that it offers super-protection which I cannot live without. The downside is that it takes away the aesthetic beauty of the iPhone.
I bought this in black when that was the only color available. Now it seems there are a lot more choices. Wish I had waited for the Glacier (just a personal preference)!
Other than these minor issues, I am…
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Summary: If you’re looking for the best protection for your iPhone 5 right now, this is the case you’re looking for. The fit on the iPhone 5 is superb, and the peace of mind it will bring you is worth the cost of entry if protection is the utmost priority. The case makes some compromises to afford you that protection, which could be a dealbreaker if you’re not totally onboard with a bulkier case. I’ll detail those below.
Installation: Installation is a breeze if you’ve ever used an OtterBox case before (I hadn’t). The best way to start is to open up the tab on the upper left corner by the volume controls, then pull the silicone bumper off the case with your fingertips. Things are easy from that point on.
Durability: Rock solid. I field tested this in NYC over the weekend, and the case acquitted itself very well. Wasn’t at all worried about it, and minor bumps and the usual commuter jostling while trekking around the city were no match for this case. I haven’t dropped it yet, but would be willing to bet the phone that it will survive the usual momentarily clumsiness onto city sidewalks.
Bulk/Aesthetics: These are the biggest–and related–points of contention. Much has been said about this, so I’ll say this plainly: if you don’t like the pictures of this case, nothing about seeing this in person will change your mind. From a usability standpoint, if you’re a male wearing slim or skinny jeans, the front pocket is out of the question. Back pockets work surprisingly well, and retrieving the phone quickly is slower but still doable. If you’re a female and wear skinny jeans, you’ll need to carry this in your purse for sure. You’ll also need to make room accordingly.
Feel: Somewhat subjective, but important enough to warrant mentioning. The screen protector that comes with the front panel of the hardshell interior doesn’t quite sit flush the screen. As a result, the case takes off some of the “snappiness” of the UI. This is most noticeable when you lightly swipe the screen, since it sometimes doesn’t register. Additionally, you can actually feel the screen depress slightly while working with the phone. This is less annoying than when I first noticed it, but it’s still an issue I’m struggling with personally.
Headphone jack: The headphone jack is troubling, and this is where the bulk of the case works against it. Earbuds with square, 90 degree jacks (or even straight jacks that are bulkier than usual) will NOT fit on this case. The bulk of the case means that a 3.5mm that isn’t straight and slim won’t sit flush with the jack. This also applies for the auxiliary cables to connect to your car’s entertainment system. (For reference, I’m using the Monster aux cables, which are slightly larger at the 3.5mm end.)
Lightning cover: I thought the cover for this was well done. The lightning connector sits well protected by a cover that integrates nicely with the case.
Recap/Bottom Line: This case is worth the 4 stars for the sheer amount of abuse it can withstand. The tradeoffs to usability and aesthetics are understandable, but noteworthy. If you’ve read this far and are still on the fence, you should probably weigh this case against a slimmer case with a separate screen protector.
I have owned and used an Otterbox case for my iPhone 4 and my iPad 2 and now, finally, for my iPhone 5.
These cases are great and offer a lot of protection. With that being said, you have to anticipate this case making your phone a little bit bulkier. I personally tend to love the added “bulk” that this case adds to my phone because I have very large hands and long fingers. This case gives my phone the extra bulk needed to allow me to grip it and text without letting my hands get fatigued or painful.
As with all of their other products, this case is extremely well-made and fits the phone perfectly. If you’ve never owned an Otterbox before then perhaps you should check out some pictures before deciding if this case is right for you. If you’ve ever owned an Otterbox… Then you know exactly how great these things are.
Here’s a funny side story:
I once left my iPhone 4 (inside of its Otterbox, of course) on the of the roof of my car after the gym and drove away. While going 50 m.p.h I heard a huge “thud” on the side of my door and had no clue as to what it was. Long story short, I realized that my phone had basically fallen off of the roof, slammed into my door and hit the pavement and was completely fine. The case and the phone didn’t even have a dent.
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