My Detailed Review of the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4

Discussion in 'iPhone Accessories' started by bob123456, Oct 26, 2010.

  1. bob123456 macrumors newbie

    Oct 26, 2010
    I hope this review helps many of you considering the Otterbox Defender case. I work in a heavy industrial environment and I absolutely need the highest level of protection for my iPhone 4. This is why I chose the rugged Otterbox defender without even blinking at its $50 price tag. I use the phone's applications for several tasks and it's an invaluable tool at work. While I am very happy in some aspects, I feel that for my application, the otterbox wasn't only insufficient, but counterproductive.

    Firstly, the reasons I buy a case are to prevent damage to the phone in case of shock, foreign particulate, water damage, and screen scratches so I will break it down as follows:

    Shock protection - Excellent 5/5 The Otterbox offers a level of protection I am extremely satisfied with against drops, hits, and even throws. The soft silicone rubber that surrounds a hard plastic shell takes the impact amazingly. So far I have tossed, dropped and sat on the phone with absolutely no problems.

    Foreign Particulate Very Poor 2/5 - While the silicone that surrounds the hard case performs well in most circumstances, the exposure to heat will drastically change the properties of the outer case. 100+ degree weather, and even keeping the phone close to the body will soften the silicone to a point where the edges come loose and expose the phone to sweat, water, dust and foreign particles. This can be mildly annoying in domestic situations when you have to constantly re-accommodate the silicone cover. However, in industrial applications, it can and in my case, prove to lead to a critical flaw. See below.

    Screen Protection Appalling 1/5 - The Otterbox defender comes with a hard plastic screen protector that will work well to protect your glass screen against key scratches or whatever objects you store your iPhone 4 with, in my case small hand tools, keys, razors, etc. The Critical flaw with this is that the screen protector is not attachable to the actual phone screen. It is in essence, just placed above, not on the screen. Therefore, IF dust, sand, metal flakes, or whatever undesirable particles you may happen to be around, find their way in between the screen protector and your phone screen, this will result in, at least in my case, the grinding and rubbing on the screen of these foreign particles by the screen protector. This ruined my beautiful retina display screen AND the screen protector. Both now have several scratches on them and seem to be irrepairable. I found it interesting and, quite honestly, disappointing, that the forward facing camera and flash have no plastic protection, while the self-facing one does (a small clear plastic cover, much like the screen protector). I do not know the reason for this, but it seems that if you are protecting one camera lens, why not protect the other.

    Water Splash Protection - Good 4/5 - I found the Otterbox to be a safe bet when it comes to protection against rain and spills. The screen protector provides a solid layer against rain drops and even light solvents such as alcohol and even degreaser. Otterbox is clear in saying that the Defender does not actually provide protection against submersion of any kind, which is understandable and not expected.

    Overall opinion: I still have the otterbox on my phone. However, I recommend the separate installation of a film to protect the screen against the screen protector. Many of you, as I do, will find it ironic that one needs protection against the screen protector, however, this is the truth in this case. The otterbox defender does the shock and impact protection very well, but critical design flaws inherent in the construction of this product require further steps in order to accomplish the level of protection that a user like me needs. I would say that if you are into outdoor activities such as hiking, bicycling, are in any way in a desert environment, or in any place where abrasive foreign particulate may be like my workplace, you will want more protection in the form of a screen film. If you are commuting with a lot of stuff in your pocket, the defender will do very well for you as it will guard your phone excellently against drops, hits, rain, keys, coins, etc.

    As a further point of consideration, Otterbox will stand behind their product and replace the case in the event of damage. However, in the event that your phone is in fact damaged,they will not replace your iPhone 4.

    I hope this review is helpful in deciding whether or not you purchase it depending on your intended use. Again, my situation is extreme. For me, it's too late to prevent damage, but I hope this advise helps you in the future.
  2. Diomar macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2011
    I recently discovered a scratch on what appeared to be my Defender screen. Closer inspection revealed the scratch to be on the inside of the screen AND on the surface of my iPhone4 screen. The scratch is ~1/4 in length and about the width of a human hair. I don't work in an industrial environment and I've coddled my phone since day-1. I'm very pissed that the device I selected to protect my phone is the dame device which contributed to the damage. It's possible a piece of grit migrated around the openings in the case and was trapped between the two screens. Very discouraging.
  3. ChinaAzzi macrumors regular

    Jan 16, 2011
    Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Brisbane
    There is one flaw that I see in the design and that is where they put the silicone. Silcone will absorb shock and should be between your iphone and the plastic shell not the other way around. It’s like having your car airbag on the outside of your car, it may protect your car but it’s not going to protect you. If you look at cases designed to protect delicate instruments they have a foam inside and a hard case on the outside. The screen protector problem is a given.
  4. djransom macrumors 68040


    May 14, 2008
    Great in-depth review. I ended up just removed the screen shield from my Otterbox. Between the rainbow effect and the way it made my screen look I grew tired of it.
  5. Lotus99 macrumors newbie

    May 9, 2011
    Hi, I've been wanting to do this too. Any tips you can give me so I don't mess up the case? Or DIY instructions? :D Thanks!
  6. Gom33 macrumors newbie

    Apr 27, 2010
    it just pops out. it stuck on by adhesive, so just push the screen protector towards the rear of the case
  7. Lotus99 macrumors newbie

    May 9, 2011
    That sounds easy! So I just use force basically? Will it help do you think to heat it up a bit first with a hair dryer to soften up the glue?
  8. psyduckiee macrumors regular

    Nov 11, 2008
    If you're really worried, I can sell you mine that has the screen shield already popped out and you don't have to do it to yours. PM me.
  9. Lotus99 macrumors newbie

    May 9, 2011
    Thx. I've got one I'm about to replace as the clips on it broke, so I'll practice on that n see.
  10. Frizodanizzo macrumors newbie

    May 8, 2012
    I had the same issue with the defender series.... The dust or dirt or whatever worked its way into t in between the screens somehow I ended up purchasing a protector before anything started to happen... I realized if this was going to happen the screen is going to be a wreck... I also didn't like how the otterbox screen would also take away from the clarity of the retina display. It seemed like it was semi matte on one side and would distort the image some make it grainy looking almost... I found one that didn't do that but ended up covering my ambient light sensor but it's screen was perfectly clear. I just use the commuter series now... Granted I don't have the extra protection but the extra also was doing damage vs this one where it's not creating more damage, but also doesn't cover as much of the phone. I also have access to the number button better as well with this one on.. It seemed as you would the defender the gunk from your hands would build up in the very corners where it's harder to clean then it would start to affect the performance of the number key i would have to hit it repeated times to work. Now my screen is more open its easier to use and gunk doesn't build as easily. I'd say the defender is good but also has so many draw backs as well when it comes to Cases. It'll keep your phone from breaking that's for sure but it'll also ugly it up in the process of protecting.


    One more note the commuter series seems to be the right way to make a case to the defender seems opposite like someone said shouldn't the silicone be on the inside and plastic outside... At least with the commuter series it's actually that way silicone inside plastic outside.
  11. eastercat macrumors 68040


    Mar 3, 2008
    I put on a screen protector along with the case. If I get a scratch on the protector, it's no big deal.

    You're right about otterbox's cs being good. The tab covering the silent switch was perilously close to falling off. I e-mailed otterbox for instructions to fix it. Amazingly enough, even though it's almost two years old, they're sending a replacement outer cover.
  12. GrannySmith123 macrumors member

    Nov 21, 2011
    I bought this case just for the fun of it. I don't work in any industrial environment where I need the protection but I just wanted to be able to toss my phone around without it breaking.

    The NUMBER ONE biggest problem I have with this case is the silicone. The top left corner always pops out I have gone through 3 replacements and none of them fix the problem.

    Also since it seems like you need a very tough case may I suggest the Griffin Survivor case for you? Its military spec too the camera is covered the speakers are covered and the earpiece is covered.

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