Jul 23 2008
Otter Box Defender for iPod touch and iPhone
I was on a plane traveling to Cairo Egypt recently (on assignment for MacMerc, of course) and I noticed the man next to be using his iPhone. Said iPhone was encased in the most durable-looking enclosure I’d ever seen. He explained to me that he was heading out on a field assignment as a consultant, and would spend the next three months in a tiny African country. He wasn’t sure how he was going to like camping out for three months, or what kind of coverage AT&T would supply but he was sure his iPhone would be protected in its black case. That case was an Otter Box.
Otter Box is legendary for its rugged cases. In the world of iPhones and iPod touches, it has two levels of case. The Armor cases, including the one mentioned above, are waterproof (to a meter deep) and virtually mummify your iPhone or iPod touch. The Defender series is a compromise that offers more functional, lighter form factor but is still shock-resistant and protects from dust and scratches.
Even thought the defender is the little brother, it meets (if not exceeds) the needs of most users. The case includes three major components: a sturdy plastic endoskeleton that snaps on your phone or pod that protects it from drops. Incorporated in the endoskeleton is a clear film membrane that allows visual and touch access to your screen. This final component is a soft-grip silicone skin that covers most of the polycarbonate skeleton and controls access to ports while covering them when they are not in use.
Between the three layers, you have a completely covered iPod touch (pictured) or iPhone. The hard skeleton holds it all in place. The screen allows almost perfect access to your touch screen. The silicone outer skin does a remarkable job of keeping your headphone jack and sync port accessible with small flaps that pop open for access and nicely seal the covering when replaced.
Otter Box cases are serious about what they do, and they sometimes look like it too (unfortunately). The Defender series is a little more subtle, and is stylish enough not to require an explanation. This case is small enough for everyday use, but provides a level of protection that should match challenges of field use outside the office, outdoor recreation and even exotic world travel. This case is the iPhone’s ‘work clothes’.
The Defender made me feel like I could take my touch absolutely anywhere. It probably doubles the thickness of the touch, but it is still very pocketable. The access for syncing, charging and listening was perfect. The film is crystal clear, and doesn’t inhibit the display at all. My one complaint, though, is the access to the touch screen.
There is a little space between the screen and the protective film that you can feel when touching the screen. The ‘play’ isn’t really a problem except when you want to touch something near the edge of the screen. There is a quarter inch area around the edge of the screen that you can’t really touch with the case on. It isn’t much of a problem until you are in applications with buttons along the bottom. You can still get them, but you have to push harder on the very edge of the screen.
The case also takes some time to get on, because of the two-piece construction. If you’re used to other silicone cases, this won’t be anything new. I was pleased to find that my wifi signal strength was not noticeably impacted while using the case. I can’t speak for EDGE or 3G, since I tested on a touch.
The Otter Box Defender is the only case I’ve used that is worth using on the iPhone or iPod touch. I say that because the glass-and-metal construction of the iPhone is tough enough to survive most indoor casual use. However, when you’re going to expose your device to real elements, it is worth investing in the Defender to keep yourself protected. And the Defender is the best protection I’ve seen that still allows your iPhone or touch to retain its original shape.
If you are willing to put up with some slight frustration with the screen edge, you will be pleased with the look and protection of this industrial-strength case.