Finding the right case for you iPhone can be a challenging and somewhat frustrating process. Not only do you have to contend with the sheer number of case types, but you also have to balance the needs of your particular listening and working environments. If you are like me you may have found that you actually need more than one type of case. While it would be nice to have the ultimate iPhone case that I could comfortably and easily use in any situation, I have yet to discover it.
Recently I purchased an Otterbox iPhone 3G Defender case for use with my iPhone 3GS. The main motivation behind this particular purchase was the ruggedness of the case. Next summer I am going to be riding a self-supported bike tour with a couple of friends in Pittsburgh, so I was in the market for a case that could handle the shocks, drops and dust that I would encounter both on the tour and while training for it (man, do I ever need to start the training).
My daily driver of a case to this point has been a red and black (Goooo Dawgs!) iFrogz Luxe. This is a very nice case that adds minimal bulk to the iPhone design while providing a basic level of protection from scuffs and bumps that can occur during average daily use.
While the iFrogz Luxe turned out to be great for a daily case, it became rapidly apparent that it was not going to withstand the rigors of an extended bike tour and training process. After determining this, I turned to the Otterbox. Otterbox is known for making very rugged cases, waterproof cases, and water proof equipment boxes.
Otterbox states that the iPhone 3G Defender is not intended for protection against water intrusion, due to it’s openings for the microphones and speakers of the iPhone 3G design. This being said a friend that also has one said that it will protect your phone from an occasional spill, like when someone knocks over a coke on the table at a meeting. I can personally attest to the drop and bump protection, having purposefully dropped my phone while incased onto a concrete sidewalk from a height of three feet. (Not recommended for the faint of heart!)
I really liked the additional grip that the case provides. Sometimes the slick plastic back of the iPhone 3G and 3GS can be a little hazardous. The buttons are fairly easy to operate even while incased in the poly-carbonate shell and silicon rubber cushioning. All of the ports with the exception of the speakers and microphone are firmly covered with silicon rubber flaps that interlock into the plastic shell when not in use. This is great, since the water sensors on the 3G and 3GS are located in the headphone jack and inside the dock connecter port. With the openings firmly covered and protected it is possible to fudge a little on reporting water damage when attempting to get a warranty or AppleCare replacement.
If you want to dock your phone while in the 3G Defender, however, you maybe out of luck depending on the dock connector design. Due to the nature of the case design, there is a fairly deep recession that has to be navigated in order to connect anything to the dock connector. A cable or two won’t be a problem, but if you use a device like the iHome or a car mount then you will most likely be out of luck, unless you buy something like the iStubz from CableJive.
Another problem you may run into has to do with the sheer extra bulk added by the case. I frequently use my iPhone while in my 2007 Toyota Tundra, both for music and for navigation. I mounted my iPhone on the console in place of the ashtray using a mount and device holder combination from ProClip. While the combination is a bit pricey, I like their product choices. Fortunately my device holder is adjustable enough to hold the 3G Defender case, but unfortunately the dock connector plug does not extend high enough to connect with the iPhone while in the case.
Beyond those two issues, which are fairly easy to overcome, I am still having trouble getting used to the confinement of the screen itself. The 3G Defender enclosure leaves all of the screen itself usable, but some functionality is tricky when using the onscreen keyboard and sliders. This will be especially noticeable by those of us that don’t trim our fingernails all the way to the quick. I know that many of my female friends, as well as some males, will find the edges of the case get in the way. The one application feature I am having the most trouble with is the address bar in mobile Safari. When using Safari and trying to get the browser to re-display the address bar, I find myself having to use the side of my finger tips instead of end of the finger.
I would judge that the 3G Defender is a great case for use in a physically demanding environment. I am not completely sold on its use in an average daily environment that doesn’t involve lots of physical abuse.
- shock protection
- dust protection
- better overall grip (especially for individuals with larger hands)
- dock connector recessed farther than desired
- added bulk may make accessories unusable without additional cabling
- some on-screen functionality can be impaired due to the side of the case surrounding the screen
Overall I would say this is an excellent case and well worth the price being charged for it. Paying $50 to protect your $400 investment is a no-brainer.