Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

Summary: The OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone 4 is a must-have for your rugged and not so rugged lifestyle

I have written in the past about other OtterBox offerings, but this time around, I think I found one case that beats the rest: the iPhone 4 Defender Series. If you're not familiar with OtterBox, they make cases for pretty much any device. What sets them apart, though, is that they also make cases that make it nearly impossible to harm your gadget. When I was writing for, I covered the Impact Series case, which allowed my wife's iPhone to go on a 55 MPH joy ride, unscathed. After that experience, I upgraded her to the Defender Series for her phone, to make sure that nothing would ever happen to her iPhone. Fast forward to the introduction of the iPhone 4. I wanted to upgrade her from the iPhone 3G since she takes a lot of pictures of the kids. Also, with the iPhone 4, she could now shoot 720p HD video from the same device. Before clicking the order button, though, I had to think about which case would be best, given her history of death defying rides with gadgets. Unfortunately, the OtterBox Defender was not yet shipping, and Apple's own bumper (now free) didn't look like it was going to offer protection--little did I know that it would someday save my own iPhone 4. So, I ordered the iPhone 4 without a case and then iPhone 4 delivery day arrives. The iPhone 4 then sits for almost two weeks while I wait for the OtterBox Defender case to arrive--how's that for brand devotion? Finally, it shows up and I get to setting it up on her iPhone 4. Setup Putting the OtterBox Defender case onto the phone is pretty straight forward. It has a few different parts, but for the most part, you put the iPhone 4 in, snap the case parts together, put some nice silicon around the case, and you're done. See the video below for a demonstration. Look and Feel Unlike its predecessor, the OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone 4 is slim and pretty decent looking. While it's not going to win any beauty pageants, it's functional and definitely gets job number one accomplished. The best selling feature, though, is that it not only protects the body of the iPhone 4, but also its glass screen. It does this by including a piece of plastic or "touch screen membrane" that fits perfectly on top of the iPhone--no need for any additional screen protectors. Thankfully, the iPhone 4 has a great Retina Display, so even though there's plastic on top of it, the screen still looks great. Also, if you don't mind looking geeky, the case comes with a holster that has been re-designed to hold the device even stronger than its predecessor. Since this was for my wife, the holster stayed in the box.
Caught in the wild So far I've only found a couple of negatives with the case. The first one is that it makes it almost impossible for me to use my favorite accessory cradles. For example, we keep a Griffin charger dock on our kitchen counter, and since we both use iPhones, it was common to just slap in the iPhone. With the case, though, my wife now has to connect directly to the iPhone sync cable for charging. The other issue is with the silicon. There have been times when it has come undone from the top part of the case. This could be due to it being a sample, so I'm not sure if this happens to other users. Also, it doesn't happen often, so it's a small price to pay for protection. Otherwise, the iPhone 4 Defender case is the best way to protect your iPhone 4. What it lacks in looks (it's actually not that bad looking), it makes up for in utility. If you are concerned about your iPhone 4 getting damaged, or happen to have a job or hobby that involves you using your iPhone in rugged situations, this is a must purchase for only $49.95.

Topics: Hardware, iPhone, Mobility, Smartphones

Joel Evans

About Joel Evans

With more than 15 years of mobile, Internet and wireless experience, Joel specializes in taking existing brands and technologies into the mobile and wireless space. Joel is currently the VP of Strategy Integration for Mobiquity, an enterprise-class mobile solutions provider.

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.


Log in or register to join the discussion
  • RE: Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

    I love the Otterbox defender cases - I have my iPhone 3G and my Blackberry Curve in them and they have definitely paid for themselves... Of course one could find a better price on eBay for the cases - I bought both of mine for the price of one directly from Otterbox. The only gripe I have with them is that I tend to go through are the holsters for the iPhone 3G version - the belt clip is weak. Fortunately the replacements aren't too pricey but still they should last for more than 5-6 months.

    I didn't see much difference between the Otterbox defender I have and the one for the iPhone 4 other than the shape and the holster.
  • RE: Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

    It's a great case except the gasket covering the USB cable consistently opens and places you phone at risk for moisture damage. This needs to be addressed by otter box before I could strongly recommend the case again
  • RE: Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

    Otterbox Did very well with the Defender 3Gs case and so I purchased the Iphone 4 case.<br>Fresh out of the box this is an OK piece of Kit, which looks rather good. However after limited use the silicon outer cover starts to "undo" from the abs case, causing no end of re-adjusting. When you ope any of the port flaps silicon case will also start to move about. OK this shouldn't be the ned of the world but it does allow dust and dirt into the case to set with the phone. The outer cover and port gaurds were far superior on the previous model. This one does more or less what you'd expect, but is definitely not the best case on the market. Having shelled out $90 for it and been consistently blanked by otterbox themselves I wont be running out to by anything else. A firm 3 out out 10 from me. Look elsewhere if you work in the real world.
  • RE: Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

    I love the ottorbox cases for my iPhone. I bought one at for a reasonable price. It really does a good job at protecting your phone from the elements.
  • RE: Review: Ruggedize your iPhone 4 with the OtterBox Defender Series

    I merely asked the guy at AT&T to apply the screen protector for me, thus eliminating the bubbles. One glaring problem with the Otterbox was that, being in High School, I constantly have to use the vibrate feature of the iPhone. The Otterbox comes with a flap that opens and closes to reveal the vibrate switch. I have to switch between the two features constantly, daily, and my "invincible" Otterbox is now very close to tearing in that one segment. I get very nervous when opening the vibrate flap, because the silicone, although resilient, is very easy to tear.
  • OtterBox Very Good, but Griffin Survivor Excellent Too

    I recently replaced the Speck one-piece case I bought for my iPhone 3GS a year ago last April. (By the way, that one, inside a soft belt-clip case, survived being run over by an 800-pound motorcycle.) The OtterBox selection in stores is almost all iPhone 4 and 4s now, so I took a chance on a $15-cheaper Griffin Survivor case with belt clip. It's fabulous. I have the same issue as user thanubop with the silicone flaps for the camera lens and vibrate switch, but it's very sturdy silicone. The phone will probably be obsolete before I wear out the case. Also, the belt clip doubles as a stand for those of you who actually watch things on your phones, and it is very very sturdy and secure, holding the protected face of the phone away from your belt and body in a spring-like way. Good stuff.
  • Warning! Otterbox damaged phones!

    Otterbox damaged phones!
    the damage shown in the photos was determined from the case Otterbox!
    And the Company not respond!
    Livio Natali
  • otterbox cases

    Best prices on Amazon for otterbox cases :
    Gadget Israel