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OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender Case Review

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The OtterBox iPhone 5 case turns the easy to scratch iPhone 5 into a smartphone capable of holding up to drops and abuse.

The OtterBox Defender iPhone 5 case adds bulk to the slim iPhone 5 design, but for users takin the iPhone into construction sites, on duty as a police officer, or for camping or extreme sports, it’s the most protective iPhone 5 case available today.

OtterBox offers several iPhone 5 cases, the Defender is the toughest of the OtterBox iPhone 5 cases with two layers of protection and a built-in screen protector.

Read: Best iPhone 5 Cases

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The OtterBox Defender iPhone 5 case offers multiple layers of protection.



The outer silicon layer absorbs shock, while the in we hard plastic layer provides protection from drops. OtterBox claims the outer layer is stronger, so it will hold its shape over time.

Once in the case, the iPhone 5 becomes part of a larger protective case. The great build quality delivers a solid feel, as if the iPhone 5 becomes part of the case.

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The outer portion of the OtterBox iPhone 5 case is grip-able and includes a cutout for the Apple logo.

The rubber cover provides very good grip, allowing me to hold the iPhone 5 with one hand and still reach all corners of the screen. Some cases that add bulk to the iPhone 5, without adding grip, make it difficult to hang on to the phone while reaching the opposite corner.

The built-in screen protector keeps dust, dirt and debris from marring or scratching the iPhone 5′s display. This screen protector is attached to the case, so users don’t need to attempt a tricky install process. The screen protector left no bubbles, and it did not affect using the iPhone 5′s display.

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This iPhone 5 case includes a built-in screen protector.

The front of the includes a raised lip, to protect the phone if it is dropped without the optional holster in place, but the edges are slanted to provide access to the edges of the display. While typing in portrait or landscape, the space bar and other keys are easy to hit with the case on.

The OtterBox Defender iPhone 5 case is not waterproof, but there are port covers to keep dust and moisture out of the iPhone 5 connections. The mute switch is covered in a port cover as well.

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OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender case with port covers open.

OtterBox leaves a large opening for the iPhone 5’s cameras and for the new array of microphones. This allows construction workers, Police officers and other in the field workers to document and share conditions without pulling off a camera cover. The new microphone array allows Siri to function better in noisy environments, so users in the field can use Siri while keeping the iPhone 5 protected.

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The OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender case leaves openings for the camera, speakers and mics.

Even though the iPhone 5 is a slim 7.6mm, the resulting package is not thin. The iPhone 5 in the OtterBox Defender is twice as thick as the phone without a case, and the holster adds extra thickness. Because of the bulk, not everyone will want to use the OtterBox Defender as a daily iPhone 5 case, but users that plan to take the iPhone into harsh conditions know the added bulk is a small sacrifice for protection.

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The OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender Series includes a holster.

The included holster clips the iPhone 5 to a belt or pocket and offers added protection for the screen. The holster accepts the iPhone 5 in any direction, so there’s no fumbling with inserting the iPhone in the right direction. When placed on a table, the holster acts as a kickstand, propping the iPhone up in landscape mode for watching a video or making a FaceTime call.

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The OtterBox iPhone 5 Defender holster doubles as a kickstand.

Users looking for OtterBox protection in a slimmer package should check out the other OtterBox iPhone 5 cases, including the Commuter, Reflex and Prefix series.

The OtterBox Defender for iPhone 5 retails for $49.99 and is available at Verizon, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Amazon and direct from OtterBox. The case comes in a variety of colors from the black case reviewed to brighter pinks, purples, blues and greens. OtterBox also offers RealTree Camo iPhone 5 cases in pink and orange for $59.95.

OtterBox offers a one year warranty on cases. This doesn’t cover the iPhone inside, but if the OtterBox case or screen protector is damaged while protecting the iPhone, OtterBox will replace the case.

Josh Smith is Editor of GottaBeMobile and Notebooks.com. He's always looking for ways to help you get the most of your gear and loves to talk about tech on radio and TV. Josh uses an iOS and Android devices as well as Mac and Windows Computers. Josh Smith on Google+ Email: [email protected]

10 Comments

  1. Lee Turner

    10/01/2012 at 10:33 am

    Easy to scratch? Maybe the back aluminum, but I haven’t had much of an issue with scratching since the iPhone 4 came out the glass on the back cracked after it took a pretty hard slam, but no scratches on the front screen. I’ve had my iphone 4 since launch and its still scratch free in my pocket. So if your talking about everyday wear and tear pocket scratches not much to worry about.

    Love the otterbox though always buy the defenders for when I’m out and about and remove it when I don’t want a big brick bulging and visible in my pocket. Like I alluded to earlier I slammed my 4 pretty hard(multiple times actually) after going awhile without an otterbox, learned my lesson.

  2. tammy

    10/01/2012 at 9:24 pm

    OtteBox are popular model, but they are heavy and spoils the look of iPhone 5. I will go for slim cases like in this list http://etopmost.com/6-slim-iphone-5-cases-and-covers

  3. Andrew

    10/08/2012 at 2:16 pm

    Honestly I bought my iPhone 5 for what’s inside it. I think the otterbox is great for people that work in trades. If u work in an office setting I see no need to get something as bulky as the otterbox defender case. But if ur out and about working and the field and luging stuff around all day then the otterbox defender series is a smart buy.

  4. smpe corp

    11/09/2012 at 10:54 am

    How come there is NOTHING mentioned about too many complains of the issues:

    - screen protector is not light, which causes issues like watermarks
    **** “I’ve always used an otterbox defender for my iphone, but this time around there’s a damn halo effect/watermark in the center region that is very displeasing to the eyes”

    - (this is a big one) Length of the case is greater then the iPhone 5, which causes the phone to slide inside the case. Here are some quotations:
    **** “Compared to previous models, this model allows phone to move lengthwise is the case allowing either foreign materials and/or the polycarbonate/plastic screen protector to SCRATCH the glass”

    **** “Bottom line – The internal dimensions of the case are too long. The iPhone shifts and slides “up and down” inside the case.

    I was going to get this case for my iPhone 5 after reading review on this site.. yet after exploring customer’s reviews, I am not so sure anymore..

    • Laurence

      12/01/2012 at 10:02 pm

      I’m typing this message through an otterbox defender cover on my iPhone 5 and it is absolutely, positively tight as, no movement inside the case at all. I want a case that is going to stand up to the punishment my job and recreation dishes out to it and I couldn’t give a rats about a halo.

  5. regine

    01/18/2013 at 3:24 am

    Is it ok to have 2 screen protectors on iphone5?

    I have one installed on it and one from the defender case…

    I really don’t wanna remove the built in screen protector but I don’t want to have a problem with having two as well…

    Right now I have bubbles on it from the defender..

    What is the best thing to do?
    Can I leave them both on with no harm?
    Or take one off… TIA

  6. Jeff

    04/10/2013 at 4:16 pm

    Nice case, but I prefer the Pong Research iPhone case . The World Health Organization has declared that cell phone radiation may be linked to brain cancer. Ten studies connect cell phone radiation to diminished sperm count and sperm damage. Others raise health concerns such as altered brain metabolism, sleep disturbance and behavioral changes in children. That’s why I investigated ways to cell phone radiation protection . I read about Pong Research cases, Pong technology is custom-designed for each mobile device and works to redirect radiation away from your head and body. I hesitated about it, anyway, I bought a case Pong because is the only technology proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce the exposure to mobile device radiation by up to 95% below the FCC limit without compromising the device’s ability to communicate.

  7. Bob

    07/03/2013 at 1:20 pm

    The holster clips that keep the Defender in place wears out the rubber case cover. I warranteed it once and I need to take it back again. I hope they will warranty it again. The clip in system is poorly designed. The Defender for my iPhone 3GS is still good after nearly 3 years. This one is falling apart in less than 6 months.

  8. Shakeem O'connor

    09/15/2013 at 8:54 am

    http://www.shaksonlinewholesaleandretail.com/collections/all
    I sell Otterbox for cheap on my website don’t pay those high retail prices you see online or in stores. Help me out all proceeds go toward my college funds thx in advance.
    Helping me + great deals= a good feeling

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