It’s not exactly newsworthy to report that the true cost of owning an 8gb Apple iPhone isn’t really the advertised $199 that we once thought it was. Instead, when you combine AT&T’s least expensive 2 year plan of $39.99 a month with the additional $30 a month for the required data plan and another $69 for AppleCare, that $199 phone is just shy of needing another zero on the end of it. But that’s where OtterBox’s Defender Series case comes in. Spring for an extra $49.95 and you can be sure that your iPhone is as ready to travel as you are.
The Defender Case is made up of two parts: the inner polycarbonate that houses and protects the phone and the soft silicone that absorbs the shock of any impacts. To be perfectly honest, the polycarbonate innards are not a pretty sight to look at. In fact, the first thing that popped into my head when I saw it was Luke Skywalker’s first reaction to the Millenium Falcon, “What a piece of junk.” To which Han Solo, and in this story, OtterBox, aptly replied, “She may not look like much, but she’s got it where it counts, kid.” Indeed, once you’ve managed to finagle the plastic inner workings of the case open (which takes at least a college education), insert your 3G phone, and finally slip that silicone cover onto that disgustingly formed mound of plastic, the entire unit instantly transforms into a very elegantly rugged product.
Sorry to mix science fiction metaphors here, but the Defender Case is kind of like Tony Stark’s Ironman suit for your iPhone – everything still looks the same and works how it should, but all the vulnerable bits are all covered up. There are even rubber flaps that cover up the headphone jack and the connector port. Heck, even the speakers have tiny covers over them to protect them from any dust or dirt particles. But these covers aren’t intrusive by any means. Instead, they go about their protective duties, but are also easy to swing out of the way when it’s time to access the ports or buttons that they hide. Likewise, the Defender case does not inhibit the use of the volume or home buttons. And this case is one of the few to completely encase the phone and protect the screen without negatively impacting the touch screen experience. That being said, it did take me a little while to get used to typing some of the letters (especially those in the lower corners of the screen) as my pudgy thumbs sometimes had trouble competing with the indentation caused by the case.
On a style note, the Defender is a little bulkier than most other cases, but still fit into my pocket easily enough. It comes with a belt clip, which the whole unit just slides in and out of. On the back, are two circular cutouts (also protected by a clear plastic film) – one for the camera and one to show off that stylish Apple logo. And there are a variety of colors to choose from: black, white, pink, and “yellow.” While the first three are solid colors, the yellow is actually a black case with a yellow trim. If you’re thinking of a scuba diver, then you’ve got the right idea.
However, despite the undeniable ruggedness of the Defender Case, it does have some serious drawbacks. I found that when in noisy environments, like walking down the street, I often had trouble hearing the person on the other end of the line. Whether this was due to a muffling effect caused by the thin protective covering over the speaker or to the increased distance between my ear and the speaker caused by thickness of the case, I can’t be sure, but either way, the net effect was the same – I couldn’t hear the person I was talking to. Equally alarming was the fact that my Griffin PowerJolt car charger couldn’t fit in the opening at the bottom of the case for the connector dock which meant that whenever I wanted to charge my iPhone in the car, I had to go through the huge rigmarole of taking my phone out of the case just to plug it in. Whether this problem is unique to that specific charger, I’m not sure, but either way, it seems like poor planning. Fortunately though, the standard Apple USB power adapter fits snugly into the allotted space meaning that you can charge your phone each night without removing it from the case.
So, given that the OtterBox Defender Series Case has as many ups and downs as a roller coaster worthy of Six Flags Theme Park, what’s the verdict? Ultimately, the Defender Series is a great case, but only for those who value protection above all else. Construction workers, folks who love the great outdoors, and people who know that their kids are going to want to get their grubby hands all over their iPhone will love the Defender in spite of its drawbacks simply because the fact of the matter is that it will probably save their phone’s life on at least one occasion. But for the rest of us who aren’t living in a world otherwise known as “A Cell Phone’s Worst Nightmare” I say that the OtterBox Defender Series is overkill.
8GB and 16GB iPhone™ 3G AND 16GB and 32GB iPhone 3GS ONLY. Please note: This case does NOT work with the first generation iPhone OR the iPod® touch.
3 LAYERS OF PROTECTION!
First, a clear layer that protects your Touch Screen
Second, a hi-impact Polycarbonate skeleton
Lastly, a Silicone skin to absorb bump and shock
ClipStand holster included with the case
Weight (case only): 1.9 oz.
Dimensions: 4.87″ x 2.77″ x .8″
*Technical specifications and Images courtesy of Otterbox