Review: Otterbox Defender case for iPhone

I have a problem with iPhone cases (the problem being that I have too many). Some people buy shoes, some people buy netbooks (sideways glance at my husband), some people buy stamps or coins or miniature porcelain dachshunds...I buy iPhone cases. Why? Because I'm CONVINCED that somewhere out there the perfect one exists. I am embarrassed to round them all up and count them, but I'm sure I have at least a dozen. I have holsters, clips, skins, hard cases, wave cases, leather name it, I've got it. I've even got a Mophie Juice Air, which I was convinced would be perfect, but which I don't like at all. Yet somehow no case exists that seems to do exactly what I want. Maybe it's a new mental illness: OCICD (obsessive-compulsive iPhone case disease). Evidently I have unique needs in a phone case. I like to walk around sometimes with my phone drooping off my pants pockets so I can listen to podcasts while I cook/walk the dog/do laundry, and this is an issue if the phone has a protective case around it because then it usually doesn't fit into a holster or clip. If it does, the clip is flimsy and makes me worried about moving while it's hooked to me---not too useful. I'm also picky about the WAY the case hooks to my pocket. I don't wear belts, and that seems to make many clips useless because the clip just slides around and pops out of the pocket.

Furthermore, some cases don't have a hole for the camera lens. Why this is a good idea to case manufacturers, I don't know. For a while my favorite case was a clip-on Griffin case. My husband drilled a hole in it so I could use the camera without having to take it out of the case. Then the clip broke and pissed me off so it went by the wayside, but the point remains that people like to take pictures with their iPhones. WE WANT HOLES.

I have been using the Otterbox Defender case for a few weeks now and am pretty sure now that it's about the best I'm going to find. I saw an ER doc using one and was immediately titillated because when you work in an ER you do worry about protecting an expensive smartphone. I carry mine around because I have a lot of software on it that I use at the bedside, but still you never know when you'll suddenly be splashed with puke or blood. He took the case apart and let me mess with it, and it looked too complicated at first. Since I switch cases a lot it seems I should have ones that are easy to swap, and this definitely is not. Then I saw one on the iPhone of a Mac professional, and after deliberating for another few weeks I ordered one ($32 at Amazon, including the holster? Couldn't pass it up). I wish I hadn't gotten the Mophie because it's definitely not getting used. This case is here to stay, and not just because it's a pain to get off the phone.


  • The phone is well protected. VERY well protected. I wouldn't want to drop it in the toilet, but barring that you'd have to be dedicated to casually injure the phone. It's got a hard case that snaps all the way around, with a screen protector, and then a skin that slips on top of that.
  • The case is light and has a low profile for the protection it gives.
  • The holster is actually useful, and the phone snaps in and out easily but stays securely in there when you want it to.
  • Everything is accessible from inside the case.


  • It does bulk up the phone. The naked iPhone is a thing of beauty, and the Otterboxed iPhone is a thing of bulky neoprene.
  • The skin seems engineered to deliberately attract lint. You can use it as a lint roller on your clothes, probably.
  • It is a major pain to remove and replace the case.
  • The screen protector can cause problems with visibility (but see fix, below).

Looks like I'm 50/50 here, but for me the pros are weighted more heavily. I worry a lot less about my phone, and I lurrrrrrve the snap in/snap out holster. I can't rhapsodize enough about this. Screen protector fix: The screen protector irritated me at first. When I snapped it on, it had air bubbles all over the place that didn't keep me from seeing anything but annoyed me, particularly with photo editing. I read to wipe my palm over the screen before applying the case because the oils in my skin would solve this issue, but it just made the air bubbles have rainbow edges. The ER doc who originally showed me this case solved my problem: you put a tiny bit of baby powder in there and rub it around before you put the case on. Crazy but true: works like a charm.

Summary: If you don't need to dock your phone and don't need to swap cases frequently, and if you don't mind the loss of the hip-slick-and-cool naked iPhone, this case is definitely worth a serious try. If you regularly use your phone in situations where it's likely to get damaged, as I do, it's probably even worth a MORE serious try.