Say what you want about not allowing toddlers and young children to be exposed to gadgets, especially a smartphone, but one way or another these little rascals will find their way to your beloved phones. What’s worse, they might drop it, multiple times a day, everyday. When they’re not dropping it, they’ll throw it – true story.
We were recently given two casings from OtterBox for review (the OtterBox Defender Series and the OtterBox Armor Series for the iPhone 5/5S) that are aimed at giving your smartphone one of the best protections out there. But since my daily life does not revolve around any military-related jobs in high-risk environments, I gave it the next best thing – to my 2 year old toddler with my precious iPhone 5s intact.
Otterbox Armor and Defender Series next to an iPhone 5S
First up, as you can see, both the Otterbox Defender and Armor Series are very bulky. The Defender is just slightly smaller, measuring 135.12 x 69.9 x 16.8mm while the Armor measures 140.2 x 75.5 x 17.8mm; for comparison’s sake, the iPhone 5 only measures 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm.
Otterbox Defender Series
The Otterbox Defender series comes with several layers of protection – the front piece comes with a screen protector, a polycarbonate inner layer and a silicone outer layer for better grip and also to absorb impact when dropped. On the inside of the polycarbonate shell lies a nice piece of cushioning foam that prevents the device from getting scratched when installed. The silicone layer also comes with port covers to keep out dust and debris, and the Otterbox Defender also comes shipped with a belt-clip holster.
Installing the Defender Series on the iPhone 5 can be a handful but once you get used to it, you can do it easily. You will need to first remove the silicone piece by pulling out all the tabs and completely pulling it off the plastic piece. After that, you will need to carefully pry open the polycarbonate inner layer to put your phone in.
When installed properly, all the ports on the iPhone will be nicely covered up with the silicon layer. You can access the Lightning port, earphone jack and mute button easily by pulling the tabs out. The power, volume and home buttons are still relatively easy to press, though you might need to apply significantly more pressure on the home button – but that’s nothing too terrible.
The only exposed parts are the earpiece along with the sensor and front camera, the mic and speaker pieces located at the bottom, the camera and flash, and the Apple logo at the back so they don’t get in the way of the daily phone usage – talking on the phone, listening to your music, or using the camera flash.
That being said, the Defender casing does not provide any water protection so if you’re hoping that you can bring your iPhone for a dip, the Otterbox Defender Series is not for you. However, because of the smaller dimensions compared to the Armor Series, the Otterbox Defender series is a lot nicer to hold on to. While it’s still bulky, it doesn’t make you feel like you’re holding a piece of brick. The screen protector is however a pain in the rear-end to use. Because that transparent sheet has a small gap between the actual display of the iPhone inside, using the phone’s touchscreen is very problematic.
Tapping anything on the display feels impossible and scrolling is already a pain, so don’t even think about typing. I’m not sure if it’s the problem with the Defender series or just this particular case, but your touch input doesn’t get registered about 50% of the time and it’s just impossible to use a phone like that. See this GIF to see how difficult it is to use the touch screen after installing the OtterBox Defender.
OtterBox Armor Series
The Otterbox Armor series, touted as the “Toughest Case Ever Built”, is not only able to protect your precious smartphone from dust and water, it can also withstand 2 tons of pressure. If you’re wondering why on earth would a regular user need something so tough, well, if you have a kid, you’ll need one. If not to protect from all the shocks and bumps, then to protect from all the drool and possibly their mischievous attempts at bringing the phone to the bath tub behind your back.
Or you can have some fun and throw your phone around like this
Designed for heavy-duty users, the Otterbox Armor Series may be a lot chunkier than the Defender Series, but boasts a greater protection like the ability to withstand 6.6ft underwater for up to 30 minutes, a 10ft drop on to concrete and up to 2 tons of pressure and since it’s waterproof, it also provides zero entry of dust or debris. According to Otterbox, the Armor Series is “waterproof, drop proof, dust proof and crush proof”, and is made from high-end materials.
Don’t be fooled by the simple construction of the Armor casing, it may look simple with only two metal latches at the side, but to ensure proper protection, you will have to thoroughly inspect it before using it – it’s better to be safe than sorry. In the installation video provided by Otterbox, there are a lot of tedious steps involved and you cannot have a screen protector installed on your phone as that tiny difference in width might affect the performance of the casing.
The entire interior of the Armor casing is padded with soft silicone that holds the iPhone snugly in place and absorbs shock as well. There are also moulded bumpers on the inside and outside of the case to protect the device from drops. The speaker, mic and earpieces are covered with a mesh layer that lets nothing but sound to go through them. Unfortunately though, because the casing offers total protection, both the front and back cameras are covered with a sheet of transparent plastic, which requires you to clean them often, if you want to take great pictures that is.
Like the Defender Series, accessing the earphone jack and lightning ports is as easy as lifting the tabs but trying to mute or unmute your phone might take a lot of effort. Just make sure all the pieces are fitted back properly when you’re done. Another thing to note is if you wish to bring the Armor casing with your phone inside for a swim, make sure it’s installed properly and that the rubber piece on the back of the casing is installed. It is removable and if you have a toddler who likes to mess with your things, he might remove it without you noticing so make sure you have everything properly installed.
The Armor Series also has a built-in screen protector (a piece of transparent plastic sheet that lies over your display) but it is a lot easier to use compared to the Defender Series. I’m not sure how or why, but it is a lot more sensitive and is able to track your touch seamlessly.
I’m torn between the Defender and Armor. On the one hand, I like the Defender for its size. It’s bulky but still acceptable, and I don’t need such strong crush proof protection that the Armor provides, but the Defender Series does not offer water protection for my iPhone, something I would really love to have and would gladly exchange that holster for. The Armor is definitely too big and bulky for my liking and even though it provides amazing protection, I don’t think that the additional bulk and weight is worth it. But of course, at the end of the day, it all boils down to what type of user you are but if you want to be safe, the Armor Series casing would definitely be the best choice.
If I absolutely have to pick one, I would pick the Defender casing (although I might pull off the “screen protector”) because of two reasons. One, it’s smaller and two, if you order it via Otterbox’s website, you can even customize your own Defender casing. You have pretty limited choices but hey, it’s still better than a boring one-tone design right? Both the Otterbox Defender and Armor Series are designed for the iPhone 5 but because the iPhone 5s has an almost identical design, it works perfectly fine with the iPhone 5s as well, though you will not be able to use the Touch ID fingerprint sensor anymore since the home button will be covered up as well.
The RRP for the Otterbox is RM339 for the Armor and RM189 for the Defender (iPhone 5/5S) or RM219 for the camo-skinned version of the Defender. You may purchase the cases from OtterBox’s official online store for Malaysia at http://www.otterbox.asia.