In a somewhat surprising move considering its 2013 purchase of LifeProof, OtterBox has released a case that’s competitive with Frē and other similar cases, albeit at a $10 premium. Preserver Series Case ($90) is available in separate versions for the iPhone 5 and 5s, with an iPhone 5c version said to be on the way. The case uses classic OtterBox aesthetics to transform the handset into a waterproof, drop-proof device, halfway between the Armor and Defender cases. Of course, that means you can expect full button and port protection, plus permanent film over the screen.
Much like Frē, Preserver Series Case is mostly made of plastic, although it’s augmented by a soft foam insert along the back plate. Once the iPhone is inserted into the front tray, the back snaps on at six different points. The case offers Sleep/Wake and volume button protection, plus a cover over the side switch; this last control becomes much harder to use, while the others maintain a good level of tactility.
Waterproof membranes allow audio in and out from the respective mics and speakers. One thick rubber latch on the bottom exposes the headphone port and mic, while the other reveals the Lightning port, but leaves the speaker covered. In audio tests, our caller said in-case audio sounded at least as good if not better than an unprotected iPhone thanks to slightly sharper treble. The iPhone’s ear speaker, however, was somewhat tinny and muffled. Overall, Preserver feels very sturdy, and although we didn’t throw it down a flight of stairs, it should be able to take a beating.
Built-in screen protectors can often pose an issue. Many times, especially when placed against the Retina display of more recent devices, they can cause a prismatic effect, a rainbow distortion that’s particularly visible over white areas. The other problem has to do with inhibited responsiveness. Thankfully, OtterBox overcame both these issues. Not only is the film totally clear, but any normal touch, even light ones, will register on the screen.
There are two main differences between the iPhone 5 and 5s versions of the case. The first has to do with the Home Button. On the edition for the older handset, plastic covers the entirety of the bezel, with a rubber protector over the button. The other has a shorter segment of plastic, stopping about three quarters of the way up. It leaves the Home Button exposed through a thin sheet of clear plastic, protecting it while offering full Touch ID functionality. We found it to work reliably, with multiple fingers. The other difference is the flash opening; the 5s’s is taller, to support the dual-flash array.
While there’s a lot to like about Preserver Series Case, there’s nothing to make it more appealing than the lower-priced Frē, or elevate it over the warranty-toting Atlas/Atlas ID from Incipio, our current favorites in the field. So while it’s a very good option, the price is a limiting factor, and earns OtterBox’s case a general recommendation. If you can find this one for a lower price than the others, or simply prefer the aesthetics, consider picking it up.
Company and Price
Model: Preserver Series Case
Compatible: iPhone 5/5s/5c