Apps & Accessories: OtterBox Defender (iPhone 4S)

Welcome to Apps & Accessories, the weekly column in which we explore applications ā€“ mobile or otherwise ā€“ and mobile accessories. This week, Iā€™m looking at OtterBox’ Defender case for iPhone 4S.

OtterBox claims that the Defender series is “the toughest iPhone case out there,” promising to “protect your iPhone from drops, bumps, dust, scratches and more.”

So how does the OtterBox work? Find out after the break.

Toughest case out there

The Defender is actually a two-part case, with some assembly required. The inside case is made from eavy-duty “Hi-impact polycarbonate” (read: tough plastic), and it seats the phone well. Attached to this layer is plastic screen protector.

The second part is “impact absorbing silicone,” which covers up most of the polycarbonate, and includes foldable flaps to cover or uncover the headphone jack, charging port, and silent switch.

The case, assembled, leaves the front and rear cameras, bottom and top microphones, and earpiece exposed. There’s also a screen-protected window in the back to show off your shiny Apple logo. The Defender also comes with a belt clip/holster.

The OtterBox Defender features two layers - polycarbonate and silicone - for the ultimate smartphone protection

The Pros

OtterBox wasn’t lying about the ruggedness of the Defender series cases: the case fits extremely snugly over the iPhone 4S, like a jacket or a hug. A hug made from polycarbonate and silicone.

Overall, the case is hefty and feels really protective overall. I don’t feel (as) bad about dropping my iPhone while it’s nestled in the Defender, especially with the plastic and silicone layers serving double duty.

In fact, I’ve only had my 4S for a little over a month now, and I have to admit it’s already taken a spill onto concrete from about four feet. The OtterBox proved reliable and my phone remains unscathed.

OtterBox also offers a warranty on their cases: if you somehow manage to break the Defender, they’ll ship you another one.

The Alrights

Compared to the OtterBox Defender for iPhone 4, there hasn’t been much improvement. But really, there didn’t need to be. The window in the back for the camera and flash has been extended slightly. Other than that, the cases are essentially alike.

I was a little skeptical about the case’s integrated screen protector. OtterBox calls it a “membrane.” It’s essentially just a thin, clear piece of plastic.

When I first put the case on, I couldn’t tell that there was a screen protector on it – looks or feel. A month later, I’m starting to feel the extra layer between my finger and the screen, but it’s certainly not enough to discredit the entire case.

The Cons

My main issue with the Defender is also it’s best aspect: the bulkiness.

Although two layers of cases help keep your iPhone incredibly safe from drops and scratches, they add a considerable amount of weight and bulkiness to the phone. In fact, it’s one of the biggest, albeit safest cases I’ve ever seen for the device. The bulk and grippy silicon layer also means you may have difficulty yanking your phone out of your pocket.

Like with most cases, in the end, it’s up to the user to determine which is more important: showing off the iPhone’s intrinsically sleek and beautiful design, or keeping that beautiful device protected but flawless.

The tightness of the Defender also adds to its protection, but I had a bit of trouble getting the silicone part on over the plastic. In fact, I’ve owned the case for about a month and still haven’t been able to get that last darned corner on just right. Perhaps with practice, it gets easier, but first-time owners could face some difficulties snapping the phone into the Defender.


The Defender from OtterBox is the single most protective smartphone case I’ve ever seen. You can strut around in confidence with your phone knowing that nothing will be breaking, scratching, or otherwise marring your device in any way.

However, the dual-layer case may be a bit bulky for some who want to show off their device. Or slip it into a pair of skinny jeans.

Either way, the OtterBox Defender is hands down the way to go for the best protection.

The OtterBox Defender for iPhone (and other products) is available here.

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