Otterbox Defender iPhone Case [Review]

Oct 12, 200919907Views59Comments

iPhone Defender case

This review covers the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 3G and 3GS. iPhone 4 owners, see the product listing for the Otterbox Defender iPhone 4.

Otterbox recently sent me their iPhone Defender case for review, and let me say right off the bat that this case is solid. The iPhone Defender case protects your iPhone with two layers: a strong plastic case and a rubber enclosure that holds it together.

The Defender also features:

  1. a plastic screen that shields your iPhone’s glass
  2. rubber flaps that cover iPhone’s buttons, openings and switches
  3. iPhone Defender case rubber

  4. foam rings that cushion the iPhone’s speaker and microphone without muffling them.

If you want to insure your investment, the Otterbox Defender case is the ultimate protection for your iPhone.

If, on the other hand, you just want to prevent keys and coins from damaging the delicate plastic on the back of your iPhone, and you’re confident that you won’t ever crack the glass and ruin your phone, a mistake that could cost you up to $250, then just buy a protective skin.

Yes, the Defender case is great for peace of mind. But it does have some downsides.

This is what I’ve noticed after nearly a month of using the iPhone Defender case.

The downsides

  1. The Defender is not the most sleek or glamorous case on the block. A couple of people have even told me I “look like a construction worker” with it. Actually, the Defender is the perfect case for construction workers, because it protects your iPhone from both shock and debris. But I don’t see the Otterbox Defender being featured on Gray’s Anatomy or The Hills any time soon, if you catch my drift.
  2. The bulk makes it impossible to use the Defender case with my iPhone Xtand or the factory iPhone dock.
  3. The screen protector is prone to air bubbles when you press on it.

    iPhone Defender case bubbles

    I contacted the friendly folks at Otterbox and they suggested a couple of fixes:

    1. “We have found that applying the adhesive screen from the Impact Series helps eliminate the air bubbles.” – Otterbox

      I didn’t get an Impact Series adhesive screen because I think this case should work on its own, without having to buy an additional product, but I did have another plastic film screen that I tested with the Defender, and it did not ameliorate the air bubbles.

    2. “We also suggest using the natural oils from your skin. Take the phone out of the case. You’ll want your hands to be clean, but not just washed. You want to take the palm of your hand (or you can also use your cheek) and press it lightly on the front panel of the OtterBox (the part that would touch the phone screen). It might seem like there will be finger prints that would show on the screen of the phone, but they do not. The natural oils of your skin should help with the oil/bubble look on your screen.” – Otterbox

      Surprisingly, the oils from my palm prevented bubbles to a large extent. The solution isn’t perfect, since it still produces some air pockets, but the bubbles were reduced by 95 percent.

  4. The inner plastic case is tough to open without long nails. But hey, at least you know your case isn’t going to pop open if you drop it, considering the strength of the plastic clips and the rubber that keeps the plastic intact. Hint: Try using a dime or other small coin to pry the case open.
  5. The exposed plastic on the back of the case causes the iPhone to vibrate louder. This is a downside for me, since it can be a nuisance in class or during meetings, but it could be an upside for you if you think the iPhone’s vibration is too weak.

The verdict

If damaging your iPhone is a concern for you, and you’re not too worried about glamour, then the Otterbox Defender case for iPhone is a great investment. Maybe you work, play or exercise outdoors. The Defender lets you go wild without worrying about your iPhone.

The truth is, though, that sometimes I just want to set my iPhone free and use it as Apple intended. The bulk is not always practical or pleasing to the eye.

Nevertheless, whenever a friend would comment on my bulky iPhone case, I would drop my iPhone on the ground. “They call it the Defender for a reason.”

Have you used the Otterbox Defender?

Do you use the iPhone Defender or some other iPhone case? Or is a bare naked iPhone worth the risk to you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.


Buy on Amazon: Otterbox Defender iPhone Case
Shop: Buy Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4
Manufacturer: Otterbox


  1. I have the Iphone 4s just got a replacement otter box realtree series case due to the other one wore out and the plug areas had basically come off. So within 2 weeks of the new one I dropped phone and the back of the glass is shattered where camera is and apple emblem. I haven’t taken the case off afraid the glass will start falling out. But this case useless since dropped from basically my side to the ground. My phone is not a year old yet and I have apple care so I guess will have to see about replacement.

  2. I have owned 3 iphones and all have had the protection of the OtterBox, I would not trust myself or anyone else with my phone without the protection. I also keep mine wrapped in a plastic type armour that is like a clear film and everytime I go to resell my phones I take off everything and they look like brand new and I have also dropped mine many times from varying distances. It must have been the way that it the ground.

  3. Garbage…The defender series is absolute garbage. I bought a brand new “Otterbox” for $55 after tax at the local Best Buy. The very first time i drop it, from a seated position no less, the back or the phone cracks. Up until i had this piece of trash on my phone, i had dropped it once or twice from higher heights, only to pick it up and find that there was not a single crack. As we have all realized, the iPhone4 is somewhat expensive and thought this would be a sound investment considering my warranty had just expired. I am not only livid by the fact that it did not protect the iPhone, just as it is advertised to do, but this lividity is only exacerbated I have a small hunch that it may have actually CAUSED the cracking. Maybe this is me being somewhat paranoid, but one must admit that this seems somewhat wrong, to spend as much as I did on something expecting it to only do WHAT IS ASKED of it, to have it fail the very first time. Keep in mind this came after well over a year of not ONE crack on the entire phone. I’m incredibly disappointed and, frankly, infuriated. This is incredibly wrong. i have every intention of returning my Otterbox for my money back, and even more intention of emailing and calling Otterbox to let them know they have permanently lost a customer. While I know a large company doesn’t care about one customer, I vow to talk everyone i know out of buying an Otterbox when the time comes for them to buy a phone case. They’re really pushing polished turds if you ask me.

    1. I hope you make headway with Otterbox. BUT I DO DISAGREE WITH YOU. You had some bad luck obviously, but the defender case has most likely save my glass from breaking I am sure on many occasions although I can’t prove it. I even lost the clip and wrote Otterbox and they graciously replaced it for me gratis. If you had both parts of the case, the rubber part on top and the plastic part underneath it must have been a pretty bad fluke that the back of your case broke unless you dropped it really hard or like a diamond ring you dropped it in just the right place. Not all accidents can be accounted for. Let us know if Otterbox does something for you… I am pretty sure I paid a lot less for my case. I think I got it on Amazon. I had waited a little while until the color a wanted was released. I had two previous phones not in an otterbox – one slipped out of my pocket a week after I got it and the glassed cracked immediately. Cost me $199 to replace the glass. Second time it slipped off a book I was carrying it on onto a would floor. Different phone also new. Glass cracked and I had it repaired at a local store for $80.00. It was okay for awhile, but the glass loosened up after awhile but I was able to trade the phone in for the next model. Since then I have used Otterbox and as I said I try not to drop it, but it just happens. The other day it fell out onto my driveway.. still didn’t crack.. maybe it’s just luck but I am not going to take that chance.


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