As a rule, I try not to review iPhone cases, mainly because they are a dime a dozen and really all depend on your own personal taste. Every once in a while though I come across one that offers a little something extra, a flavor thats been missing, one thats just…special. Today that case is the OtterBox Defender. Unlike most other case makers out there OtterBox is known for designing with quality in mind opposed to flooding the market with cheap pieces of junk. The Defender series for the iPhone 3G/3GS is no different and built with one specific quality in mind, to protect.
In a very DEFCON like mentality, this class of cases come with three lines of defense.
1. A hard polycarbonate skeleton that fully encases the phone.
2. An airtight screen protector that protects all of the glass as well as the sensors on the front of the phone.
3. A soft but rugged silicone skin that surrounds the entire phone.
The hard skeleton shell which surrounds the phone contains three windows, two on the back one on the front. The two on the back are there to provide viewing accesses to the Apple logo and more importantly the camera. To date, this is the only case I've come across with a protective window for the camera itself. The window on the front is in fact the actual screen protector which is fully attached and sealed on the skeleton. The skeleton itself is designed to recess the screen by about a 1/4 inch, which is important to reduce the risk of cracking the screen if dropped on its face. The recessed screen and protector raise two of my only concerns with the case.
The first being that the gap between your face and the screen makes it slightly uncomfortable to talk on, specifically in a noisy place that you need to press the phone harder to your ear in order to hear. The other being that screen protectors get scratched (that's what they are supposed to do), but having one that is attached to my case means one of two things. Either I have to buy a screen protector for my screen protector, or I have to buy a new case every time the scratches get too bad. Not the end of the world but depending on how long it takes to get marred up it could quickly turn into an expensive proposition at $50 a case.
Moving on, the silicon skin as I said before is very soft but retains a rugged feel. The issue with most skins is that over a short amount of time they tend to stretch out and become floppy around the edges. To combat this OtterBox has added in grips and guides that actually attach the skin to the skeleton. In addition, the skin has protective covers for each of the ports around the phone, including the dock connector, headphone port, and the ringer switch. It's important to note all of these covers DO NOT make the case waterproof. Highly resistant to it and other elements, yes, but it's not weather proof.
A nice addition to the case is the included belt clip. For added protection the clip is designed to hold the iPhone with the screen facing inwards and even through the most abusive of situations the clip itself never seems to fail. It's built with a 360° swivel and can also be used as a iPhone stand for watching videos.
I guess I should spend at least a moment talking about the aesthetics of the Defender. In most cases style usually takes a back seat to durability, but I'm pleased to say OtterBox seems to have made a good mesh of the two. While the case does add some bulk to the phone, it certainly isn't overwhelming and personally, I like the overall look. It's offered in four different flavors, Black, Pink, White, and Black & Yellow.
In the end, The Defender is an amazingly well designed case that, for $50, is able to withstand almost any situation you may run into. While I might not use it on a daily basis due to the added bulk, I would highly recommend it to anyone who considers themselves rugged or exceptionally clumsy.