Review: OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone 3G
As we're now dealing with a huge influx of hundreds of cases and other accessories, we've opted to issue abbreviated reviews of a number of late case arrivals for the iPhone 3G -- ones that are substantially similar to cases we've previously reviewed. This review looks at OtterBox's new Defender Series case for the iPhone 3G ($50), the sequel to the same-named product for the original iPhone.
For those unfamiliar with the concept behind Defender, OtterBox—creator of fully water-submersible iPod cases—has recently come up with a family of ruggedized, substantially element-resistant rubber and plastic cases that enable you to use devices safely under virtually any condition short of submersion in water. In other words, dirt, mud, splashes, dust, and most accidental drops won’t hurt your iPhone, but toss it in a pool and you’re in trouble. The iPhone 3G version of Defender is almost exactly the same as the one in our linked prior review; with only the slightest exceptions, such as coloration—black is the first available color, with three others planned for the future—this Defender looks and feels just like the last one.
You still get a special hard plastic frame to hold the iPhone 3G snugly inside, while a rubber outer covering plugs most of the case’s holes against sand, dirt, or liquid intrusion, leaving reinforced but not fully watertight spaces for the phone’s speakers and microphone. Clear plastic screen and camera protectors are integrated to let you use all of the device’s touchscreen and photo functionality, without worrying about exposure; we had no problem using the iPhone 3G’s controls while it was inside.
Apart from three changes, the iPhone and iPhone 3G cases look and work just the same: the Otter logo on the back of the case is now in the rubber rather than the plastic frame, the opening for the iPhone 3G’s sensors has been repositioned, and the ringer switch is now accessible under a rubber flap, just like the Dock Connector and Headphone ports. The case is compatible with oversized headphone plugs and Apple-sized cables, but not Universal Docks or large bottom-connecting cables.
As before, a hard plastic belt clip is included to let you holster the Defender-encased iPhone 3G on a belt; the rear clip ratchets. This version of the clip is improved, doubling as a video stand and newly shaped to provide easy Home button access. Otter appears to fixed almost every small issue in the prior, excellent case in this version.
The only issue we experienced was speakerphone-related. Callers told us that we sounded a bit distorted, though still generally audible, when the iPhone 3G was in the case. Use of the headphones eliminates the microphone issue, but it shouldn’t be a concern in the first place; that said, hearing the iPhone 3G’s speaker through the case was not a problem.
Overall, the new Defender Series case remains an outstanding anti-drop, anti-element protective option for the iPhone 3G, generally improving on its predecessor while expanding modestly on the prior functionality. You’ll have to decide whether it’s worth the $50 asking price, which is high by plastic and rubber shell standards, but given the quality of engineering here, we’d recommend Defender with vigor to any user who needs a ruggedized iPhone 3G case.
Updated Nov. 25, 2009: In 2009, OtterBox released updated colors for Defender, shown above.