Review: OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone 4 - Macenstein

Review: OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone 4

otterbox defender case iphone 4

Given that I have somehow gotten by for this long without a case of any kind for my iPhone 4, it might seem a bit odd that the first case I tried out is one of the most famously protective cases in iPhone history – Otterbox’s Defender case for iPhone. Yet here I am, finally placing my sleek, glass-backed iPhone into not just a case, but a veritable fortress. So, how does it live up to the hype? Let’s see.

Well, to be honest, the Defender is not the first iPhone case I’ve tried, after all, I did get that sweet Apple bumper case. But after about 5 hours I decided that just simply touching it and knowing Apple originally tried to charge $30 for it made me angry, so I decided that no case was better than the bumper. Still, I was one of the 3 people that Steve Jobs says had antenna problems, and I needed a case of some sort to fix the issue.

otterbox defender case iphone 4


Otterbox has a long history of providing iPhone users with the most protection that money can buy, albeit at the price of bulk. The Defender series, while certainly not a feather case or acrylic skin, somehow doesn’t feel quite as bulky as I anticipated, and I feel provides an acceptable balance between protection and heft.

The case consists of three parts – an interior plastic endo-skeleton with a built-in screen protector, an exterior rubber sleeve with flaps that can be used to plug up various holes in the skin, such as the headphone jack, dock connector, and mute and volume buttons, and a clip on belt holster. When fully closed up, virtually all entryways dirt, dust or water might use to enter the iPhone are blocked, save for a hole on either side of the dock connector for the speakerphone, and the small pinhole-sized noise cancellation microphone at the top of the device near the headphone jack. Because of these two holes, the case is not billed as “waterproof”, but it should be able to keep your device safe in even the harshest environments and from pretty much any unexpected situation short of a toilet drop.

otterbox defender case iphone 4

One of the things I actually was most pleasantly surprised by is the way the built-in screen protector works. I have had nothing but unfavorable experiences with “stick-on” screen protectors, as they either trap air bubbles or become coated with disgusting gunk and ratty edges over time. Some even take away from the clearness of the iPhone’s display. The Defender’s built-in screen protector, however, is immune to these shortcomings, and provides the best looking, most responsive protector I have seen yet. Plus, it lacks that odd “oil slick” artifact you can sometimes find on screens like this. I’m not sure what they did to get around this, but it works great.

Personally I hate belt clips, but I tested it long enough to decide it holds the iPhone snugly, and allows for easy removal. So if you’re into holsters, you should be pleased.

otterbox defender case iphone 4


There’s not much here to complain about, given the inherent nature of a super-protective case like the Defender. The only real annoyance worth mentioning is port access. As Spiderman’s uncle Ben said, “with great protection comes lackluster access to the dock connector”. It should be noted that once your iPhone is inside the Defender, removing it can be somewhat time consuming, and many, if not most docks, will not be able to make a solid connection to the iPhone. So for powering up and such, you’ll be stuck using the iPhone charging cable. And speaking of that cable, since Apple made the move to the lower profile dock connector (shrinking that white part you hold when plugging and unplugging) it can be a little tricky to even remove that cable from the iPhone without pulling on the cable.

otterbox defender case iphone 4


When I first heard Apple had made the move to an all-glass front and back design for its iPhone 4, I assumed I would need something a bit more robust than a bumper case to protect it. Luckily I made it this far without dropping it, but simple logic tells me it’s only a matter of time before I forget the iPhone is on my lap as I get out of my car. Whether you’re simply an overcautious person or working on a dusty construction site or in Afghanistan looking for Bin Laden, odds are the Defender is going to give you as much protection as you are likely to find in a case, while still maintaining usability. Plus it looks pretty cool.

Price: $49.95
Pros: Just about the best protection you can get for the iPhone 4, great screen protection, relatively sleek design considering the preotection
Cons: Not fully waterproof or dust proof, great protection comes at the price of compatibility with most accessories and docks.

8 Responses to “Review: OtterBox Defender Case for iPhone 4”
  1. M4tt says:

    I have had an otterbox defender since the itouch came out and got one for the iphone 3gs the day it was available. i have dropped my iphone a few times from over 3 feet and my iphone still looks like new. The only Con i came up with besides the mentioned ability to plug into a docking station is the membranes around the speakers slightly muffle the sound volume. one pro is everyone that sees the case thinks it’s cool.

  2. photogirl says:

    I love my iPhone 4 Otterbox – I got a red one at Best Buy. They have exclusive red & blue (along with black)… not sure how long their exclusivity lasts.

  3. j450n says:

    Re; M4tt
    The iphone 3GS Defender case had “foam” over the speakers.
    The new iphone4 Defender case has nothing covering the speakers. Thus eliminating the muffled sound problem

  4. Arctic snowbot says:

    @matt it’s called an iPod touch, not an itouch. Do you call the iPhone 4 the iPhone 4G?

  5. MasterMacNikon says:

    Just got an iPhone4 and this Otterbox case from my local ATT store.

    I got this off of this review and I am pleased to report that everything that you have stated is true. To a point.

    Unfortunately, the “oil slick” effect is apparent with my installation. Maybe this is due to the fact that I also have a ZAGG shield installed as well. So I will learn to deal with this.

    Once I find a travel size of talc powder, I will see if that will help.

  6. Mark says:

    Can’t believe nobody has pointed out the fact that when you have your headphones in, the phone really has a hard time fitting in the clip case. I think it puts too much pressure on the headphone jack.

  7. Shatter says:

    After I saw my friend drop his phone while inside this case from my 5th floor balcony, leaving the phone and the case undamaged, I went out the very next day to purchase the case for my own new iPhone. While I don’t intend to send my phone on the same journey its nice to know that accidents can happen without loss of my phone. This case seems nearly indestructible.

  8. theresa says:

    I own an iPhone 4S and dropped it last night from the counter my screen shattered under the case I dont think that it should do that with an otter-box defender case! Any ideas of why it would do that or a plan of action I could take

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