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Otterbox Defender for iPhone 5 review

OtterBox is one of the leading brands when it comes to reliable protection for iPhones and iPads, so it comes at no surprise that the OtterBox Defender for the iPhone 5 offers phenomenal, high-quality protection to your precious device. If you live a rugged lifestyle that frequently puts your iPhone 5 in danger, you're definitely going to want to give the OtterBox Defender a look.

OtterBox offers many different cases for the iPhone 5 (and other devices), but the Defender Series is the most robust of them all. OtterBox claims that the Defender protects your iPhone against drops, shocks, dust, and scratches with its three layers of protection and built-in screen protector.

Because of the complexity of this case, putting on the OtterBox Defender is a bit of a chore. I struggle most with opening the case since it has at least six different clasps to lock the case in place. But once you get through that, putting on the case is pretty easy.

Since the screen protector is built into the case, you'll want to make sure that the inside of it is dust and lint free. If it is, the fit is so perfect that you won't even notice that there's a screen protector. This is a lot coming from someone who's very anti-screen-protectors. I hate them and they way they feel, but the built-in protector in OtterBox Defender is completely invisible and feels like glass. I'm seriously impressed.

Although the OtterBox Defender for iPhone 5 is very protective, it does not protect against everything, namely water. It will definitely keep your phone protected from splashes or quick phone calls in the rain, but don't expect to be able to retrieve an undamaged iPhone that's been dropped in the lake... or toilet.

The areas of the iPhone 5 that are not protected by the OtterBox defender are the speaker, mic, and camera. The volume switch, lightning connector, and headphone jack all feature flaps of rubber that provide protection when not in use, yet give easy access when it's time to use them. It will appear that the Apple symbol on the back of the iPhone 5 also isn't protected, but it is; there is a cutout in the case, but it is covered with the same invisible material used for the screen protector.

One of the downsides of super protective cases is that they add a considerable amount of bulk and the OtterBox Defender is no exception. But if your iPhone 5 is at risk of experiencing long falls and drops, the extra bulk is a necessary trade-off. I'd much rather have a bulky phone that worked, than a thin one with a shattered screen. I can say from experience that the OtterBox will protect your phone against all sort of gadget-enemies including toddlers, toy boxes, and baby drool.

The good

  • 3 layers of protection
  • Flaps to cover all the ports
  • Only leaves mic, speaker, and camera unprotected (for good reason)
  • Lots of colors to choose from

The bad

  • Apple symbol cutout isn't perfectly centered
  • Extremely difficult to take off (tip: start at the bottom of the iPhone)
  • Adds a lot of bulk

The conclusion

If you're in the market for a super durable case for your new iPhone 5, the OtterBox Defender is an excellent choice. It may be a little more bulky than your average case, but for people with dirty, dangerous, or labor intensive jobs... or small children, the extra protection is priceless. The OtterBox Defender comes in eight different colors as well, so there's sure to be one that fits your style and personality.

Leanna Lofte

App and Photography Editor at iMore. Mother, wife, and math instructor. Follow her on Twitter @llofte and send her apps to consider for review at iosapps@imore.com

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There are 31 comments. Add yours.

Thudstaff says:

Overall, I like this case. I've had it for a few weeks now. My only complaint thus far is that there is now dust under the built-in screen protector which means taking it apart and cleaning it. This will likely become a semi-regular ritual.

Analog Spirit says:

With my old Otter Box Defender on my iPhone 4 I just popped off the built-in screen protector and used a Zagg Invisible Shield underneath. That way the screen stays protected, visibility is improved, and dust can't get under there and scratch the screen. And you won't have to disassemble the Otter Box and clean it out as often (tho I still recommend it).

tritan says:

Found the commuter for 26 and the defender for 34 on amazon.

Jklivin0727 says:

I never comment on these but I just happened to to catch this on twitter and I felt like I needed to comment. I got my iPhone 5 the day it came on. I decided to spend the 50 dollars in the AT&T store for the otter box. The guy working put my new iPhone from the box into the otter box. The phone was uncovered for all of 5 seconds. I had never touched the phone until this weekend. I had been holding out for the book book case. So Saturday went to my local apple store in the mall bought the book book then went to a kiosk to get a screen protector. The lady working took my phone out for the first time ever and my screen was covered in scratches as well as scratches along the antenna band!! I was pissed! Went straight to AT&T the tried to act like it wasn't there problem. Finally after a hour and a half they gave me a new phone (probably refurbished but scratch free) and refunded my money for the otter box. This case seemed great at first and I was pleased until taking it out for the first time. Buyer of this case beware. There is a reason apple doesn't sell these in their store

cardfan says:

Have to agree. Bought one for my sister. Pretty bulky but she wanted her phone protected. Put her iphone in and she calls me a week later complaining she can't take it apart. Turns out moisture or something gets on the phone's screen (underneath the cases screen protector) creating splotches on the screen.

So I take it out and it's got sticky stuff all over the phone as well. I clean the phone and it looks ok afterwards. And back to Best Buy that case went.

I'd highly not recommend it..

Analog Spirit says:

Wow, that's scary. That sounds like it was caused by dust getting inside the case and scratching the phone. That same thing happened to me with my Speck case I had over my old BlackBerry. I was pissed 'cos it defeated the whole purpose of the case. When I had my iPhone 4, it stayed in its Otter Box almost all its life and it never got any scratches from being inside the case; when I finally traded it in after 2 years, it still looked new. Maybe this new version of the Otter Box isn't as well-put-together and doesn't keep dust out as well as the older 4/4S version.

Johnny9K says:

Have they fixed the materials problem? I had not one, but THREE defenders for my 4S and on all of them the outer silicon stretched and warped. They also had trouble with dust and gunk get under the protective screen. Avoid this case.

Analog Spirit says:

That same thing happened with my Otter Box I had on my iPhone 4. The outer silicone rubber got warped and started tearing after a few months. It looked like crap but still did a great job of protecting my phone so I didn't really mind too much. But the most annoying thing about it was that even tho the inner hard plastic part was totally fine, Otter Box doesn't sell just that rubber part by itself, so I would've had to pay another $50 for a whole new Otter Box Defender, which is total BS and a rip-off if you ask me. They should at least sell the rubber part separately so it wouldn't be such a waste of money. That's the main reason why I don't recommend this case anymore.

Johnny9K says:

Otterbox does have a one year warranty. The silicon on mine stretched after only a few week so I returned it for a new one. The same thing happened again so I returned for another. It help up a couple months with the 3rd case before it began happening again. I gave up at this point and went with an Incipio case.

Beezzy says:

Go with the LifeProof case. No worries about dust, dirt, or water, plus its drop proof like the defender. Its not as bulky. It costs more but its worth it.

BeyondtheTech says:

Still waiting for an email notification saying the iPhone 5 version of the LifeProof case is ready... Feels like forever.

TX Mike says:

Best Buy has had them in store for at least the last 2 weeks.

Jason Harris says:

I have used Otterbox since I had a Treo. They do make the phone bulkyy, but I don't care as long as my phone is protected. I have never had an issue with mine, but my wife has gotten the pink one for the iPhone 3gS and it started breaking and tearing apart on one of the corners. Otterbox replaced it; no charge. Even the second one was acting up where the plug that covers where the charging cable goes and it doesn't close firmly in place.

My issue with the iPhone 5 case is that the Square reader can't be used with the phone because the case is in the way. If I want to use it, I have to take the case off my phone.

spqr05 says:

We had the same issues, trying to use any mobile credit card reader with an Otterbox case (Square, PayPal Here, Intuit, Verifone audio secure, and more). The way we resolved this was we found a 3.5mm audio extension cable by CellPay Accessories. We tried several others (cheaper versions) but the cable kept breaking (coming apart). These people saved our business headaches as taking off the Otterbox is unacceptable for our technicians at each sale. https://cellpayaccessories.com/affiliate/38/node/882

0pusX says:

I use my Defender with an extra screen protector (Verizon brand or SGP brand or even the one Bethany comes with the Commuter) that way no dust scratches the screen.

buellreaucracy says:

I had the commuter for a day and took it back. It was too bulky, so I know that I wouldn't like the defender. I'll stick with Seidio.

Tanmay007 says:

Using a case as bulky as this is a serious insult to the beautiful industrial design of the iPhone!

I've no idea why people even bother getting cases like this. Seems retarded to me! If you want to protect the screen get a screen protector and the chances of screen shatter are reduced drastically. Don't like the feel of plastic, get the SGP Glas.t!

Best of all rock nude or if thats not, possible get some minimal looking thin case.

Analog Spirit says:

Yeah, cases like this are admittedly not for everybody. But the added bulk is worth it if it saves your phone from damage. My Otter Box saved my iPhone 4 from getting destroyed on numerous occasions.

Johnny9K says:

I know several people who work construction and need a case like this or their phone won't survive the first day. I have 4 kids so I decided to play it safe and get this case :)

Jay Imerman says:

I was a huge fan of this case for the 3G/3GS. We own 3 of the 4/4S cases, and have had them replace all of them because after a couple months of normal use, the rubber stretches and won't fit snugly any more. Did they fix this with the 5 case? Too early to tell. The problem is the material they make it with, my feel is there are probably better cases out there.

beastcmg says:

It's the first thing I put on my wife's iPhone 5 she has a tendency to drop the phone. OtterBox works perfectly, The only problem she has with it is the cover that covers up the charging port It's difficult for her to get it open.

BeyondtheTech says:

Anyone ever try the Survivor case? I think it's from Griffin, but you can tell the quality difference right away. I always appreciated the firmer rubber material used in the Otterbox, and the Survivor feels so slim and flimsy. I do like the more rugged look of the Survivor, but not at the expense of the materials used.

That being said, the Otterbox covers all my iPhones and iPads except one, which is waiting for the LifeProof case for iPhone 5.

cc3d says:

funny when people buy these little jewels of a phone and put them in a monster case. Makes the phone look like you're carrying around a clock radio

Dlevymd says:

I love this case. The best thing about it is the holster, I click it in and out of the holster, attached to my belt, hundreds of times a day. I kind of wish it was waterproof like the Lifeproof case though.

Alphus says:

Tried at least 3 of these and all had the same problem - the iPhone shifted lenghtwise inside the case. This was most apparent when pressing the sleep button or inserting the headphone jack or charger. It appears the Otterbox inner shell has at least 1 mm. deadspace causing the phone to move around. I'm sure this could be addressed by inserting some form of padding, but I was not inclined to go through that trouble considering the price of the case. Sadly, I ended up saying farewell to Otterbox which served me well in the past. Switched to something different.

mumfoau says:

I saw this and the lightbulb went off. I made a shim from a small piece of paper and now I'm good until they send my replacement. That give was driving me batty!

BillyB4 says:

I thought about getting a Otterbox Defender but when a girl I work with showed me hers I decided against it. Too bulky (and unattractive for the iPhone5). I did some searching to see if I could find me a case that offered all the features and protection of the Defender (but in a much slimmer and attractive package). And found exactly what I was looking for - the Trident Cyclops Case for Apple iPhone 5. It gives all the protection of the Defender (including built in screen protector). Very thin, stylish, and feels great in the hand. Leanna, if you ever get the chance please check out this case. I think you will be truly impressed. Know I am.

Mitchell Wagner says:

I bought the otterbox thinking it would be a great case but I was sadly wrong. I accidentally dropped my phone, and witness the case popping off into three different pieces while my phone proceeded to bounce two my times without the case. I picked the phone up, BAM broken lcd. I proceed to put my phone and case back together and test a drop from the same height. Of coarse the case broke into 3 pieces leaving my phone unprotected.

I then called otterbox to ask what good is a case that doesn't stay together when dropped. He proceeded to ensure me that they would send me another case. GREAT I was relieved, now I can protected my broken phone properly with a "better working case". They said they would always replaced a broken product.

So moral of the story if your case too is defective and your phone breaks they will for sure at no cost replace your case but the phone is your fault because you used their product.

I would try lifeproof.com or mophie.com for better cases.

CHEERS!

flippadollars says:

Bought my Otterbox from Amazon. I'm so happy that I got such an awesome price that I want to share my promo code where I got 40% off: http://amzn.to/XDx2FV.

Mark Smith16 says:

Love the Otterbox Defender, just bought mine for only $15 at https://icaseoutlet.myshopify.com/

Shakeem O says:

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