7
Jan/12
2

Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4 Review

Update: I have received a couple questions about which dock I’m using. Unfortunately, it seems to be discontinued, however I have seen reports that the SendStation Dock Extender works with the iPhone 4 Defender.

I’ve never been easy on my iPhones, and now that I have a 15 month old son whose favorite toys are iDevices, things have just gotten worse. Even still, my iPhones have always remained relatively unscathed, until now.

I bought my iPhone 4 back on release day in June 2010. For my previous iPhones, I’ve always gone case-free, but I decided to try one when Apple gave them away following “antenna gate”. I selected the Incase Snap Case, which I liked based on its slim profile, and because it actually made the phone more comfortable to hold. It’s a good case, and I’ve used it for over a year, but the downside is that it really doesn’t provide much protection for the front glass.

Even still, my iPhone had survived hundreds of drops on all kinds of surfaces until about 3 months ago when I got a tiny crack in the bottom corner of the screen. The crack was hardly visible, but it did make the lower screen less touch sensitive, which was a bit of an annoyance. I had planned to live with this until my AT&T contract expires in 2012, but last week I dropped the phone face down on the sidewalk, which took care of the glass for good.

Fortunately, Apple was willing replace it for $150, even though I hadn’t purchased the extended AppleCare coverage (very cool of them). Now I’m hoping to keep the new phone in good condition so that I can resell it when the 2012 iPhone comes out.

In discussing more protective cases, a co-worker suggested the Otterbox Defender. My initial impression was that it was too bulky, but it did seem protective, so I thought I’d give it a try. Amazon offers several different color options which range from $20-$25, and I decided to go with the Black and White model.

Profiles of Otterbox Defender, iPhone 4 and Incase Snap Case

I received the Otterbox today, and it definitely is much more bulky than my old case. The additional thickness doesn’t cause the phone to feel much different in my pocket, which was my primary concern. With the case on, the iPhone sits within a hard plastic shell, which is then wrapped in an outer rubber covering. Both the front and back glass are inset well inside the plastic case, very well protected from impact. The rubber covering is texturized, and gives the iPhone a ruggedized look and feel. The plastic case has a screen cover built in, which I also didn’t think I’d like. After using it for the day, I’ve almost completely forgotten that it’s there, so I don’t think it will be a problem going forward. The case also comes with a substantial belt clip, which when fully assembled is about the size of the case itself.

Inner plastic case and outer rubber case

The only thing that I really dislike about the Otterbox is that you have to lift a small rubber flap to plug in headphones. I use my headphones all the time, so it seems like this will be kind of annoying. The flap has a hole, which appears to be intended for the headphone jack, but it does not properly align. At first this seemed like a defect, but the Otterbox FAQ says that the hole is actually intended for the microphone instead of the headphone jack.

Headphone jack flap

The only other possible area of concern is docking. The case has a rubber flap that exposes the connector on the bottom of the iPhone, but it’s likely that the size of the case will prevent it from fitting properly into some docks. I use a third party dock that’s similar to the Apple iPhone dock, and after completely removing the custom molding for various iPhone models, my phone fits in the dock nicely with the Otterbox cover on.

Docked in base

The bottom line is that the Otterbox Defender is good choice if durability is your primary concern, and you don’t mind adding significant bulk and loosing some of the iPhone’s design aesthetic to get it.

Comments (2) Trackbacks (0)
  1. What is the third party dock that you used? Looks really useful.

  2. I bought the dock through a black friday special from pcmicrostore.com back in 2009. It doesn’t have a brand name and they don’t appear to sell them anymore. With the Otterbox on the iPhone is considerably thicker, so it may take some trial and error to find a base that fits.

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