I’ve always had a soft spot for the strangely alluring looks of rugged gadgets. From the Garmin Oregon, to the Sonim XP3, the thought of a device that doesn’t die the minute it encounters the most trivial of harsh conditions is somewhat comforting.
The OtterBox Defender brings some of this ruddigity to the iPhone 3G, adding a durable, solid plastic case with a rubber shell that protects from shocks and light spills but doesn’t afford the iPhone with full waterproofing or indestructability to the level of the Sonim XP3 or, indeed, any other truly rugged device.
The OtterBox Defender does, however, offer all-round protection your iPhone, right down to dust caps for the “silent” switch, headphone port and universal dock which also help to stop rain getting into these little nooks and killing your iPhone.
Right: heavily abused Sonim XP3 and iPhone OtterBox Defender
Unfortunately, to let your voice in, and sound out, the bottom of the OtterBox Defender has holes leading right to your speaker and microphone in the bottom of the iPhone. This is a shame, as it wont protect from a hearty dunking into a glass of water when your two year old devices to “wash” your phone. With a little more thought around this area, it would be possible to create a still-usable but much more water resistant iPhone case.
I decided to risk watermarks on the inside of the OtterBox screen protector and put it to the test by dunking the (empty!) case into a mug of water. It fills up quite rapidly when submerged, although I suspect the iPhone may help to seal a few air gaps and prevent this. Suffice to say, the OtterBox certainly excels at splash protection (providing you hold your iPhone upright) and may even save a briefly submerged iPhone. But if you dunk your phone for more than a second, it’s history.
Stylistically, I absolutely love the OtterBox. It just makes the iPhone look cool in that “look at my awesome ruggedized gadget” sense. I’m on the fence about the little window in the back which reveals the Apple logo and betrays the mystery that an OtterBox would otherwise lend to the iPhone. I’m all up for disguising my iPhone these days, as they’re ridiculously common. Being a leader in geekery and owning such a ubiquitous phone seems like a betrayal.
The OtterBox is definitely a worthwhile purchase if you’re a stickler for dropping your iPhone or subjecting it to accidental abuse as part of your day to day job or hobby. It’s a much better investment to pick up something that may well save your iPhone from destruction than simply not acting and waiting for it to smash to smithereens- ultimately fronting the hefty bill for a replacement when the Apple store arrest that “no, the screens in iPhones do not magically crack themselves”. Think of the OtterBox Defender as a one-off payment insurance policy for your fragile phone.