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Otterbox Defender iPhone

A truly remarkable case
(by Conrad H. Blickenstorfer)

I have a love-hate relationship with PDA and phone cases. On the one hand, I want to protect my personal devices from harm. On the other hand I just hate the clumsiness and bulk of most cases. I mean, why get an ultra-elegant jewel-like marvel of high technology just to then hide it in a big ugly case? There was a time when it was probably cool to have a big cellphone hanging off your belt. But that was when cellphones were big status symbols. Today they are tiny and for the most part I no longer see a need for a bulky case with a plastic belt clip. I also don't like one-size-fits-all cases that accommodate a variety of devices. If I consider a case, I want for it to fit like a glove. The Otterbox iPhone Defender Series delivers everything I want in a truly functional case.

What's so special about the Otterbox Defender?

Good question. Otterbox is famous for its waterproof cases, and the Defender isn't. Otterbox says this case is unlike any other they ever made, and as far as I am concerned, they really thought this through. Among the many challenges for phone and PDA case makers is that to protect the screen, you need some sort of lid or membrane. This usually means you have to flip the case open or take the phone out of the case—neither a good solution. Yet, protecting the display is especially important in devices where it is exposed like in the iPhone (as opposed to a fliphone). Then there's the need to protect the device from harm, and doing so without adding much bulk.

So what did Otterbox do? They designed a case that:

  • has a tough, hi-impact protective polycarbonate shell that the iPhone tightly fits into. It's like a polycarbonate suit of armor.
  • has a rubbery silicone skin that encases the tough inner shell like a diver's wetsuit, provides additional protection, and makes the phone easy to grip and hold.
  • has an amazing clear polycarbonate sheet that protects the screen.
  • keeps all the iPhone's ports accessible behind silicone plugs that are part of the silicone outer skin.
But here comes the most amazing thing: You can operate the iPhone THROUGH the screen protection membrane without ANY impact on touch screen performance. Drag, pinch, tap. It all works as if the membrane weren't even there. Now that's different and special. So special, in fact, that as much as I am in love with the iPhone's sleek, elegant, metallic design, I have been using it inside the Otterbox Defender ever since I got the case. Before, I forever feared that my precious iPhone would get scratched or dented. No more.

Below you can see, from left to right, the rubbery outer skin, the tough polycarbonate protective shell that easily snaps together, and the iPhone itself.

Using the Otterbox Defender for the iPhone in everyday life

Truth be told, initially I did not know if I'd actually use the Otterbox case. Sure, it had those compelling features, and it even comes with a well-designed holser stye belt clip for those who abolutely want to use one. But was I willing to hide the iPhone in a black rubber and plastic case (shown above is the yellow/black version from the front and the black/black version from the rear)? Would I feel that as long as I had an Otterbox case it really had to be waterproof as well? Turns out I didn't.

I've now used the Otterbox Defender iPhone case for over six months and it hardly ever comes off. Touch screen operation through the patented membrane is indistinguishable from using it without. The case adds hardly any size and weight. It's wonderfully grippy. And the peace of mind that comes from knowing that my iPhone won't get scratched is priceless.

Nothing is totally perfect, and there are a couple of things worth mentioning. First, with the case on, you can't insert the iPhone into its dock. Instead, you charge it with the cable. Second, initially I thought there were air bubbles behid the membrane, the kind you often get when you put a thin plastic foil onto a flat glass or plastic. However, it wasn't air but a bit of greasiness, probably from fingerprints ot such. I gently washed the inside of the membrane with liquid soap, rinsed and dried, and no more "bubbles."

The video on the right shows how it all fits together.


There are many good iPhone cases out there, but none that provide the combination of protection and functionality that the US$49.95 Otterbox Defender does. In my book, it's a mandatory option for anyone who uses their iPhone as more than just a conversation piece.

Check it out at Otterbox.