Review: OtterBox Defender Series Case for iPhone 5/5s
The Defender Series is OtterBox's flagship case, with versions available for practically every iOS device. This now includes the iPhone 5/5s ($50-$60) and the iPhone 5c ($50-$60). While both are very similar to the company's prior iPhone 5 edition, the 5s version is almost identical; there's really only one small change to speak of. OtterBox offers these cases in a wide variety of mix-and-match colors, allowing you to choose the shades of the inner plastic and outer rubber pieces. Going with an all-black option saves you $10. Because of the similarities to the iPhone 5 case, this piece is based heavily on our original review.
Defender Series Case for iPhone 5/5s is composed of a snap-together plastic case, rubber lining, and a belt holster, which was not included with our review unit. Once the device is encased in the plastic portion, with its padded back, the outer layer wraps around quite easily and stays securely in place. It’s not going to come off unless you want it to, and even then, you’ll really have to pull at it. We found pulling at the Lightning port protector to be the best method to get it started.
With the rubber skin in place, the plastic layer is only left exposed in a few places, mostly where the two meet and form openings exposing the ports, screen, and such. The only portions of the phone that aren’t covered are the iSight camera on the back, the light sensor, earpiece, and FaceTime camera on the front, the speaker and microphone at the bottom, and the Home button. Although OtterBox again chose to show off the Apple logo on this case, the company at least covered it with a sheet of clear plastic so that it can’t be damaged. We still don’t like the aesthetics of the rear circle, and have hoped to see OtterBox remove it for years, but it doesn’t torpedo the otherwise good case design.
Defender’s covered Sleep/Wake and volume buttons maintain a nice tactility, and the covered ports are rather easily accessible, although they can take some tugging. We also liked the screen protector, as it’s totally clear and almost unnoticeable. There’s no air gap, so other than the plastic texture, it feels as if you’re touching the screen. This leaves room for access to the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s. At the top, though, the protection is the same as before. Defender is a bit of a brick, but it feels like it could take a beating. Just bear in mind that it’s not waterproof, a feature OtterBox built its name upon.
Although there are necessary differences in the shape of the case, the iPhone 5c version of Defender highly resembles the protector for 5/5s. It uses the same dual-layer construction, has the same openings, port protectors, and the like. The curves perfectly match those of the iPhone 5c’s rubber body, and fit nicely in the hand. Small details, such as the shape of the rear camera opening, or the slight misalignment of the Apple-logo hole, don’t change how you use the phone or the case. There is one small addition: a lanyard connector has been added to the right bottom of the case. Otherwise, there’s just a single major difference between Defender for iPhone 5/5s and iPhone 5c. Instead of plastic covering the upper bezel, this one relies solely on a screen protector over the entire display, with a trapezoidal cutout for the FaceTime camera and earpiece. We’re not sure why this decision was made, but it does just slightly detract from overall protectiveness.
OtterBox seems to have settled into a groove with its Defender Series Cases. At this point, they’re about as good as they can get. Still expensive by case standards, they offer an extremely high level of protection for those who need it, or at least think they do. The bulk is there, for sure, but the design is strong enough that for many it’s forgivable. We would’ve preferred if OtterBox had figured out a way to still incorporate bezel protection while leaving the Home button exposed. While we can understand the necessity for making this change on the iPhone 5/5s version of the case, it strikes us as unnecessary for the iPhone 5c, resulting in a slightly lower strong general recommendation for the iPhone 5c version, compared to the high recommendation for Defender Series Case for iPhone 5/5s.