Review: OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone

Many iPhone cases on the market offer fairly simple protection that serve more for an iPhone owner's peace of mind than offering extreme protection. The OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone ($49.95), however, is one of the few cases that carefully map and design their product to ensure superb protection.

How does the Otterbox perform? Is it as secure and successful as the case suggests? Or is it just another case in the iPhone pipeline? Could it all be just a gimmick?

Read on for the rest of the review!


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From a quick glance, the Otterbox Defender doesn’t look much different than any other case. Upon closer inspection however, you begin to notice the well-thought design and construction. Though it adds a considerable amount of thickness to the iPhone, it feels great and solid in hand.

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The Otterbox Defender comes in four separate pieces: a front and back hard shell, a silicone sleeve, and a belt clip. The Otterbox Defender includes a protective plastic cover for the screen and an exposed plastic to show the Apple logo—I mean you still have to know it’s an iPhone right?

The camera is also protected by a thin sheet of plastic and the headphone jack and docking port are protected via rubber caps. The speakers and microphone have a very thin sheet of protection on it. The volume, lock, and home controls are also protected by rubber buttons with the silent/ringer switch is completely inaccessible.

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Overall, the design of the Otterbox Defender is extremely sturdy and solid. The choice to use a combination of a plastic hard shell with a silicone rubber skin is great because it combines the protection of a hard shell with the overall feel of rubber.


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With such an intricate design for a case, it is obviously going to take time to apply and remove the Otterbox Defender to the iPhone. There are a lot of clips that need to be snapped together and rubber that needs to fit in specific holes, but after you get through that process, make no doubt about it, your iPhone feels as protected as can be. The silicone rubber skin is of great quality and feels great in hand.

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All the buttons—volume, lock, home—are equally as responsive with the rubber covering them. Amazingly, the plastic screen that protects the actual iPhone touch screen does not inhibit the sensitivity. I was very impressed by how responsive the iPhone’s touch screen was under that layer of plastic. The only problem with the plastic screen is that if pressed with any amount of force, it would occasionally create unsightly air bubbles. There didn’t seem to be anyway around it.

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The included belt clip is made from the same tough plastic as the hard shell and it locks the iPhone into it quite well. In fact, I often times had trouble pulling the iPhone out of the clip—the fit was that secure. The belt clip is able to rotate 360 degrees and the iPhone can be placed either be open faced or face backwards. My problem with the belt clip is that the home button is not easily accessible and it is too tough to remove for easy access.

I have very few complaints about the Otterbox Defender for iPhone because it offers as close to complete protection and coverage of every part of the iPhone. Plus, it gives off a secure and solid look and also feels wonderful. If you’re looking for protection or live an outdoor lifestyle, this case is truly one of the best available and the price can easily be rationalized to be ‘worth it’.

Final Thoughts

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I’m very impressed with the Otterbox Defender for the iPhone because of its thoughtful design and excellent execution. I loved the feel of the case because it not only felt sturdy and solid but it also added grip to an obviously slick iPhone. It definitely feels like OtterBox didn’t cut any corners with this case.

Unfortunately, it does come with a fairly high price. But compared with other cases priced near the Defender, the Defender offers an infinite amount more protection. Though it does add considerable amount of thickness, if you’re looking for a case that protects your iPhone from the elements—thickness should be expected.

Also, it cannot be fully submerged under water, a definite shortcoming considering its target market. However, with all things considered, the Otterbox Defender for iPhone is great implementation of protection without compromise. Almost all the iPhone’s features are present with an unparalleled level of protection. I would consider this a buy for anyone who’s lifestyle is rugged, planning an outdoor trip, or is looking for the ultimate protection for their iPhone.


  • Protects Your iPhone in Every Imaginable Way
  • Feels Great in Hand
  • All Buttons, Most Features Easily Accessible
  • Solid Build Quality


  • Adds Considerable Thickness
  • Occasionally Leaves Air Bubbles Behind Plastic Screen Cover
  • Pricey
  • Belt Clip is a Tight Fit and Gives No Access to Home Button


  • hideous.
  • I have just fond this page, looks good I like that there is a lot of info coming daily.
    BUT - I stumble on 3 reviews and all of them they got 4.5, 4.7 or 5/5. Our you getting money for saying that or is all cases that good? Maybe I have missed something, but I do not trust your rating.
  • I have used this on my gen 1 iphone and love it, cant count the number of times it has saved my phone. the new one for 3g iphone even lets you access the silent switch... the one down fall to the 1st gen case. WELL WORTH THE 50 Bucks when you add in the free lifetime replacement warranty!
  • I've owned mine for about four months now, and it definitely lives up to expectations. While it does make the phone larger (mainly in depth), it's worth the tradeoff if you've ever dropped your phone or left it on top of your car as you've driven off. I'm still not sure why the silence switch was not given access, and I always have air bubbles, but the touch screen cover is amazingly still responsive. I would highly recommend it even with the price as it will save you from having to buy another phone.
  • yea.nice case, but thats not a 3g IPHONE in that case
  • I recently purchased the 3g and use an otterbox defender for it. My pros would be the great protection and it feels good in hand. Also if you lay the phone face down it dosen't rest directly on the screen due to the frame of the case.
    The cons for me would be that the phone seems to attract lots of lint and fuzz. I always have that oil stain air bubble thing going on the screen. The clip is nice but you can't get the phone out one handed and it you put it in screen out its to loose. The last thing is sometimes its hard to access the far ends of the keyboard due to the frame of the case.
  • I work in construction industry. I recently purchased iphone 3g and of course the case search was on . . . to save others alot of work, this works great for me . . . the OtterBox Defender Case inside of a "Nitize Sport Case Tone - size wide" Case. Also the Otterbox Defender screen membrane is prone to show a waterlike mark under the screen membrane - the cure for that is go to the apple store and buy a "Seek Mobility anti-glare film set" and put it on the iphone 3g screen and the problem is gone . . . the iphone is now decently protected from just about everything that I expose it to!
  • I bought this along with my iPhone 3G, and although it adds a bit of bulk-after dropping 300 on the phone, this is a worthwhile investment for peace of mind. I also bought the otterbox armband for the defender, and i love that also-my only complaints for both of these items: I am not able to dock my iPhone into any dockable accessories (like the JBL stereo) without taking out the iPhone itself. As for the armband, my arms are a little bigger then was intended for the armband, a little larger would make for a more comfortable fit.
  • I would highly recommend the case, however I just had to replace my second belt clip. After sharing my concern that OtterBox should spend as much time to design the belt clip, which easily breaks, as they do the protective case, I was told that they are redesigning the belt clip. So in 3 months when this replacement breaks I will be buying a better replacement.
  • I love the case it protects the I phone very well just has an Eco on every call replaced the phone and sim still same problem removed case and now I don't have a problem
  • I have recently purchased the defender case for my Palm Centro and I really like the case itself but it seems to have some sort of feed back problem. Anyone I talk to has an echo on there end when the case is on and when I take it off it dosen't echo. Anyone else experiencing this?
  • The only thing I did not like about this case the clear screen skin that is made onto it. It will scratch easily so I modified my case. I removed the clear skin and applied an Invisi-Shield to the face of my iPhone. The Invisi-Shield does not scratch. You would have to cut into it with something sharp to mark it. Anway the case snapped onto it just fine and the edge of the front piece that frames your screen, press down onto the Invisi-Shield creating a seal.
    I love this case so much I have two pink ones on the way for my wife and little girl. Theirs will receive the same modification.
    Another note.. I tried using this case with the full body Invisi-Shield, which would have been ideal for me, but its just a hair shy of letting the top clip of case engage.
    Even though I had to modify this to get the result I wanted, I still give it a 5 out of 5.
  • The OtterBox protects very well, but is a bit bulky. The big issue is the belt clip. The phone does not always easily slip into the belt clip and properly lock in place. this causes the phone to fall out easily and often and even when locked in, it falls out often, getting in and out of the car. I actually lost my phone last night, but a nice person found it and got it back to me. I didn't even know the phone slipped out of the clip! For a carry feature, this is no good. I rate it 1 star. For protection, 4 stars.
  • Just installed two cases on my wife and my 3G S’s.
    Had a terrible ECHO problem; people on the other end heard their voice echo in their ear non-iPhone telephone. Solution was to remove the little foam/mesh disks from the two mic/spkr ports at the bottom of the Otterbox shell and from the earpiece port on top. Cleared up nicely. No Dremel tool surgery required like I feared.
    On ugly - carry one of these delicate glass-fronted $400 gizmos around for two weeks afraid of having to replace it and then put it inside one of these flak jackets. You’ll breathe easier. It’s still thinner than the flip phone I used to carry and the silicone skin anchors it in my pocket a bit without making it hard to get out. Every button and screen function works fine and the charge/sync plug connects same as it did pre-case. The only thing a little hard to get to is the ring/silent switch, but still accessible. I’ll gladly pay that little price. And hey - I like the slightly MilSpec look of it too; especially my black/yellow version.
  • I have the 3GS with Defender case, as well, and I am having problems with the holster not holding the phone in. I have dropped it a few times now, and although there is no physical damage to the phone, the phone falling out is not a confidence builder in this clip.
    $50 for a case that the phone will fall out of is unacceptable. Otterbox needs to address this, and offer free replacement to the new design, should the buyer need this.
  • Hey I love it just early upgraded from 3G to 3Gs 32G so I had to shell out close to $600 and I am
    outside all the time,so will gladly take a little ugly over $600 down the toilet.I work on the beach and this case is an absolute must have.
  • Anybody that is having the oil slick or air bubble issue with the Otterbox on there Iphone just go to the Apple store buy the anti glare film set they will install it there free and there you go. You will never have that problem again.. I have had it on 2 Iphones in Otterboxs.. Works like a charm and the screen looks crystal clear. Dont use stupid baby powder or other crap.. Otterbox is a great case for anyone that does not baby there phone and uses it for work.
  • Very good case...
    -Pros great if you know you drop it...
    -Con falls when you do not know it and you did not hear it fall...
  • Echo is caused by 3g network
  • It stays in the clip great if you make sure the home button is down and the screen is facing in
  • Same problem -- the belt clip does not hold the phone securely enough, and the phone can (and does) easily fall out. This is a very serious problem, and I need to figure out a fix.
  • Nice rugged look to the case...However cannot seem to get away from the "bubbles" appearing on my screen
  • with the otterbox defender installed, it will not dock on the home or Bose soundock series II. Is there an adapter cable that is on the market to be able to use these items and leave it in the otterbox? What is it called?
  • They solved the silent ringer problem by adding a port for it. The problem with the plastic screen sticking to the phone and creating air bubbles is solved by a anti glare screen protector. Apply it to the phone and no bubbles will form even if you press the screen hard.
  • Had the otter box on my blackberry for a year and a half. It still looked brand new when i got my 3gs. My coworker had his bberry for the same length of time and his phone looked like hammered dog $h!t. His screen was cracked, and the phone was all scratched up. As far as the phone falling out of the clip, make sure the dust cover for the charging port is securely closed or the phone won't fit securely in the clip.
  • not very appealing visually
    kind of bulky
    but man does it serve its purpose
    my iphone just felt down a flight of concrete stairs and not even my otterbox has a scratch.
    definitely worth the investment
    just get the privacy or anti-glare cover to remove bubbles
    if your clumsy like me you wont regret it
    and if your not, at least it gives you peace of mind
    buy it!
  • Just a note: the phone should be placed screen against holder and not screen facing out. Took me a day to figure it out. lol If the phone is placed in the holder correctly, it will not fall off.
    Love the case, hate the air bubble issue. Has anyone figure out a way to get rid of these?
  • For those if you with the air bubbles under your screen.. Baby powder will scratch the glass, if you rub your fingers on te screen leaving your natural oils before applying the otterbox you will not have that problem. The only issue I am having is docking my iPhone in the case.. I have heard buying an extenders but not all brands work. Dies anyone know what brand will?
  • Just bought it today and love it!!! It had started raining really hard and as I was leaving my car the phone fell off my belt and dropped in the grass but I didnt realize that I dropped it until 10 minutes later. I went back and found it. The otter box had kept it extremely dry!! Any other iPhone case would have made my iphone toast. This is an amazing case!!
  • Tired of your iphone falling out of it’s OtterBox Defender belt clip? I even lost my iphone completely, but once I attached the Lifeline not only have I not lost it, the phone hasen’t hit the ground! This thing is the greatest! The Lifeline gives you a gentle tug if you go to get out of the car and your iphone is in between the seat. All I have to do is pull on the Lifeline and out pops my phone. Alot of times I need my two hands and to be on the phone aswell, with this Lifeline I’m able to hang the iphone over my sholder and talk on speaker hands free. It also gives me a sence of security since if someone were to try to grab it and run it would pop out of their hand when the line ran out. If you like to keep the iphone on your lap this great invention keeps the iphone from falling on the floor of the car while you drive. I got mine on ebay for ten bucks! search iphone lifeline on ebay.
  • I purchased the Defender for my iphone 3G 3 weeks ago and noticed that my wifi signal would not stay strong. I finally put 2 and 2 together and removed the phone from the case.
    Wifi signal works just fine ever since.
    This case is not meant for any kind of wifi usage.
    I do not recommend it if you use your wifi at all.
  • I bought my first Iphone last weekend, and like most people, I don't want anything to happen to this little gem of a communication device. After searching for cases online, I came across the otterbox defender at "the shack," and let me tell ya, well worth the 50 bucks and change I paid for it. Not only do I not have to worry if this phone falls off my desk, but it also protects the screen from scratching, and protects the Iphone if I happen to be caught outside in the rain or something. Granted, its not 100% waterproof, but it does keep it a heckuva lot dryer than anything else I have seen. My wife paid 20 bucks for a different case, and it is already falling apart...the otterbox is definitely worth the investment to protect yet another investment. Thanks to those who gave advice on how to fix the "bubble" issue with the screen protector, I will definitely be heading to an apple store this weekend to get the anti-glare cover put on so the issue stops. However, does this effect the sensitivity of the screen?
  • I have been using the defender series now for about six months.
    Great case, it seems like my phone hits the ground at least once a week. this case offers great protection, and unlike other here i don't have any troubles with bubbles on the screen.
    the problem i do have however is i keep breaking the belt clip, it seems to be the weak link. i have broken two in the past six weeks. with the first one i e-mailed otter box customer service with no response, so i just bought another one off of amizon (under 20.00 with shipping). so i just broke the second one the day before thanksgiving, i have e-mailed customer service, still waiting for a reply.
    I hope they respond this time, or i won't buy another of thier products no matter how good they are. if they would just use anodized alumnium for the clip it would be the very best case on the market.
  • I recently (2.5.11) tried to order one of these cases online after spending sometime with a friend that used one. I thought it was great! After submitting my order an error screen came up. After calling the help line I was told there "was a glitch in their system" and I could just re-order over the phone. Well, the money had already come out of my account. The manager then got on the phone and was very rude and un accomodating. They offered NO SOLUTION to my problem. After calling my bank I was able to have the money put back into my account. Beware of this "glitch"! The 1st customer service rep I spoke to admitted that this had been happening to online customers. It was in fact an issue with Otterbox website, and not my bank. Overall, the customer service reps were not familiar with their website and continued to be so defensive that they could not help me.
  • I have been having the water mark problem since i got the case, I tried everything I found to get ride of it... I heard a suggestion tonuse baby powder it work for a while then the marks came back... I went to my local AT&T store and asked them what I could do. Lucky for me one of the reps has had the same problem he told me to but a anti glare screen.... He put it on my phone and put the case on no more watermarks or air bubbles and it looks good. The touch screen has no problems and works great which was one of my worries about have the double screen protector.
  • I'm in the process of returning my Defender series for the iPhone 4. There is no hole for the earphone jack! However, there is a hole for the noise reduction function, but you have to remove the flap to insert the earphones. When I called to see if I had received a defective product, I was told that was a "design feature" to prevent dust from getting into the phone, and that "most people don't use the headphones." Since you have to lift off the rubber flap, doesn't that expose the phone to even more dust from entering? Plain old bad design. I'm also told it will take 4 - 6 weeks to receive a refund. Otters - you have to do WAY better than this. You've lost me as a customer.
  • I have ha several IPhones and otters for the past few of them, latest the 4. I've been overall super-happy with it compared to any of the other cases I had for a short time only to be problematic or not much more than cosmetic and easily bored with. The otter is more expensive than I want to pay for a case, but cost ms less over time due to long term use. I've never had more than a slight bubble under plastic issue w/the my previous ones, but the 4 had a poor rubber fit. Eventually the rubber broke, but I was really impressed with their replacement warranty. No proof of purchase for 1 year full replacement. I didn't ask about a refund, because I love the otters and never considered that. I didn't thi k much about warranty when purchasing it and was going to smackdown another $50, but was glad I called them. The customer service is great, but always busy-I recommend using the call back feature where you enter your number and they call within half hour. Anyway, they also said they would give me a new color, which they didn't have to do-so just passing along a positive comment overall about how happy I am with otters. The best thing is the protection, even in the rubber damaged state, my phones have had no issues once I began using these. Pre-Otters I had lots of issues with the phone being damaged or having strange functionality problems, which has not occurred since. I'm sure it's not all related to this protective case, but every drop or bang or toss adds up. Last thing-I do not care for the belt clip, it's very bulky, especially for a girl, but I don't have issue with that since I don't use them much overall. A good guy friend of mine loves that
  • love the otter..but damn those lil air bubbles/watermarks...whatever you wanna call em
  • BJ is giving away free stuff? Please give Tunch an extra treat tonight. If The One' finds out we got something free, and He got nothing, we are all doomed!