When looking for tough and rugged iPhone cases one name comes to mind – OtterBox. Over the years they have built their reputation with well-constructed industrial strength electronic accessory cases. Recently they have released their first two iPhone 4 cases: the Defender and Commuter. Today we will look at the Defender model, which features both a hard shell case with a silicone outer covering.

If you need your iPhone 4 to be shielded from environmental hazards then the iPhone 4 Defender Series Case may be just what the doctor ordered. It covers 99% of the iPhone 4’s surface and includes a screen membrane. In addition OtterBox provides a holster to keep this rather large case from causing too big of a bulge in one’s pants.



The iPhone 4 Defender Series Case arrives in a yellow and black cardboard package that is very environmentally friendly as it is composed of lightweight recyclable cardboard. The back of the case is visualized through a clear plastic window in the front of the yellow box. On the back of the box is an image of the device and its features.

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Inside the package we find the iPhone 4 Defender Series Case along with a belt clip style holster and the installation instructions printed on the inside back section of the box.

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The iPhone 4 Defender Series Case is composed of two components – a silicone outer covering and the plastic inner shell. OtterBox offers the Defender in blue, red or black versions. In reality it’s the outer silicone cover that is colored as the inner shell just comes in black.

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The outer silicone skin is smooth on the sides with a textured surface on the back.

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This skin wraps around towards the front of the case providing a silicone cover over the bottom front screen including the home button. The sides cover the volume buttons with two raised silicon nubs in their stead; a flap that snaps down protecting the mute switch when not in use covers the switch. At the top of the Defender is another flap that covers the headphone jack with a small opening for the noise-cancelling microphone that is adjacent to it.

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The power button is covered with a silicone button similar to the volume button ones. On the bottom of the phone is another flap that covers the dock connector and openings for the speakers on each side.

On the back of the Defender is a clear circular window for the Apple logo along with two openings for the camera and flash. At the bottom of the back we see an embossed OtterBox logo.

OtterBox hooks the silicone shell onto three fixation points found on the inner shell; one on each of the sides and one on top. This inner shell is composed of polycarbonate. These fixations points are also clips which lock the shell onto the iPhone 4.

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The shell separates into two halves; the back which has a velvety pad to keep the back of the iPhone 4 from getting scratched. We also see the OtterBox logo found on the bottom of this section. The upper half of this shell houses the screen protector; this is the end you need to slide the iPhone 4 into to start the case assembly.

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Besides the Defender case OtterBox also includes a solidly constructed holster belt clip. It is designed with a 360 degree clip swivel meaning that the Defender housed iPhone 4 can rest comfortably in landscape or portrait positions on one’s hip. The clip allows the case to be docked in either face in or face out orientations.

Another neat feature on the belt clip is the inclusion of a little notch that allows the locks it at a 30 degree angle allowing it to act as a stand for the iPhone 4. Unfortunately the stand only works in portrait mode as the weight of the iPhone 4 pull the Defender forward when try to rest it in the clip as a landscape stand.

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Specifications:

iPhone 4 Defender Series Case

Your iPhone 4 has become a big part of your life. With FaceTime video, retina display, multitasking, HD video recording and more—you’ve got a lot to lose. You won’t find a tougher case than the OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone 4. Relax, we’ve got the iPhone 4 covered.

Enhanced Features:
-Coating on outside of touch screen membrane resists finger prints
-New material used for touch screen membrane eliminates static, bubbles and "oil slick" appearance
-Inner felt liner cushions your device
-Textured silicone exterior for improved grip
-Included holster holds device face in or face out (face in is recommended for highest level of protection)
-Completely re-designed holster for stronger hold on device
-Holster doubles as a stand for hands-free media viewing
-Case accommodates most 3rd party chargers

Environmental Protection:
Case provides added protection against bump, shock, drop and dust intrusion. Case is NOT protective against water.

Price: $49.95

Although installation is slightly more complicated than your average case it shouldn’t take more than a minute to install the iPhone 4 into the Defender case. Step one requires removing the external silicone skin, next open the three clips on the inner shell. Now slide the iPhone 4 into the front of the case then snap the back plate onto the front section.

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Finally reapply the silicone skin over the shell making sure to cover all the fixation points and close all the flaps over the phone’s buttons and controls.

The first thing you’ll notice about the iPhone 4 Defender Series Case is its size. Resting in the Defender the iPhone 4 is no longer the equivalent of a sleek sexy sports car but now more of a HumVee. This is not a bad thing but something to keep in mind if you prefer the aesthetic of the Apple phone over the protective capability of the Defender case.

Holding the iPhone 4 Defender Series Case with its smooth and rubbery sides is comfortable while the textured back helps maintain a good grip on the case. The elevated silicone for the power and volume buttons means you can interact with the iPhone 4 by touch. With the Defender Case the iPhone 4 is protected from moisture but not water immersion as there are still open areas on the case.

Despite the large form factor all of the iPhone 4′s buttons and controls are easily accessible. The Home button is slightly covered by the shell but does not affect the phone’s operation. One colleague did voice a concern regarding the iPhone 4 overheating in the well insulate Defender case; I personally did not experience any temperature issues.

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One issue I did experience was if you have a screen protector in place the Defender’s touch screen membrane tends to create a "bubble" or oil slick effect over it. I did not experience this when I tried my friends unshielded iPhone 4. So this is something you should be aware of if using a screen shield before hand.

Although OtterBox advertises the membrane as fingerprint resistant there was still noticeable fingerprint grease seen on the film.

Although I am not a fan of the rough and tumble aesthetic of the OtterBox it is the toughest, most durable iPhone 4 case that I have encountered to date. The Defender seems like it would protect the iPhone 4 from most falls; more so than most other cases on the market.

I wish I had this case during the summer when my beach trips involved my iPhone 4 residing in a Ziploc bag to protect it from sandy abrasions. This is one of the scenarios the Defender was created for; to protect the phone from harsher environments. So if you function in a harsh environment then the Defender is definitely the way to go.

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Conclusion:

OtterBox cases are designed to be tough and rugged and the iPhone 4 Defender Series Case definitely fits the mold. It will absorb punishment that the iPhone 4 was not designed to withstand. The built in screen membrane sets the Defender apart from most other iPhone 4 cases.

However with this type of protection some sacrifices need to be made and with the Defender you lose the iPhone 4’s aesthetic appearance for protection. So if you want to keep the sleek high tech look Apple intended then this may not be the right case for you.

Knowing my iPhone 4 case is safe from the occasional tumble and other environmental dangers makes the iPhone 4 Defender Series Case one worth owning. I know when my iPhone 4 is in danger of being exposed to external hazards it will be resting safely in this OtterBox case.

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Pros:
+Armor like protection
+Easy to apply
+Includes belt clip with kickstand
+Comfortable, secure silicone grip
+Two levels of protection

Cons:
-Bulky
-Can’t use kickstand in landscape mode

Grades:  
Overall score 9 10 thumb1 Review of Otterbox Defender Series Case for iPhone 4
Design score 9 10 thumb1 Review of Otterbox Defender Series Case for iPhone 4
Performance score 9 10 thumb1 Review of Otterbox Defender Series Case for iPhone 4

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