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Otterbox iPhone 5 cases reviewed

 

Reviewed By

Mike Barrett Otterbox iPhone 5  protective cases
Review Date

16th January 2013

Manufacturer Otterbox

RRP

From £10.00 inc VAT

9

 

Smashed iPhone 5 screen (credit MacFixer.co.uk)Did you get a new iPhone for Christmas? If so then Otterbox can have it covered for you! The iPhone is a beautifully designed piece of technology, lovely shiny gorilla glass both front and back. And there lies the problem! the iPhone is essentially a small glass brick waiting to be dropped and have the glass shattered.

 

Now a lot of you will say that is not going to happen to me, I am careful. Well so am I and it did happen to me. I have also seen a young person who had her iPhone for 5 days get nudged whilst trying to take a picture and the phone dropped four feet to the ground and shattered the rear glass. Whilst specialist companies like www.MacFixer.co.uk can repair the rear glass for about £25 the front will set you back £85.

 

The easy way to overcome this is to protect the iPhone in a case. There are many cases on the market, most of which offer cheap cover, and very little protection. Over the years we have been impressed with the Otterbox line of products dating back to one of our earliest reviews on PocketGPSWorld.com for the Otterbox Armor. They have been continually updating the range of offerings and with each new device they very quickly produce new attractive but functional cases.

 

For the iPhone 5 they have a range of four different styles of case designed specifically for the iPhone: The Defender; The Commuter; The Reflex; and the Prefix. The Defender is the most rugged and the Prefix is the most accessible. Each of these is designed for a different usage model, and here designed is the operative word. These are not simple cases that enclose your iPhone, they are complex composite covers designed to absorb shocks and protect your device.

 

This review looks at the bottom of the range Prefix and the mid-range Commuter cases.

Otterbox iPhone 5 Screen Protectors

Both of these cases came with a screen protector. This is a clear self adhesive screen protector which is itself protected by two removable films. The concept of installation is to ensure that the iPhone screen is thoroughly cleaned before starting the process. Then removing the backing film, lining up the holes for the home button and speaker, then gently applying the screen protector, trying to avoid any air bubbles. There will probably be some air bubbles trapped under the screen protector, but these can bee teased out using the supplied squeegee. Once all the air bubbles have been removed you remove the top film.

 

This leaves the screen protector correctly installed. I have in the past had some difficulty in removing all the air bubbles, the main trick to achieving this is to ensure that the screen is free of dust and perfectly clean before installing the screen protector. After seeing it done properly I can now do it myself quite successfully, but this is the most difficult part of the installation process.

The screen protector is the same for all models in the range, and whilst it will add some protection from scratches it will not fully protect the front screen from breaking. However this is the fine line of balance between looks, functionality and protection.

The Otterbox iPhone 5 Prefix Series

Turning now to the cases themselves the Otterbox Prefix is the bottom of the range and is a single piece protection encasement primarily made of silicone. This is reinforced with an internal polycarbonate skeleton which provides strength and additional protection to the back and sides of the iPhone.

 

Otterbox iPhone 5 Prefix Series protective cases

 

On the left side of the case there is an opening providing access to the mute switch, and the volume buttons are activated via extended pads connecting to the buttons on the iPhone. Moving to the top there is a similar pad allowing use of the on-off button. At the back of the case there is a single cut-out allowing the use of the camera without having to remove the case.

 

This just leaves the bottom of the case which is open and allows the connection of both the mini-dock connector and the headset. This aperture extends from the right hand speaker to the headset socket. Although this is a long opening it provides perfect access for any connectors you may wish to use, in particular you can use the 30 pin to 7 pin adapter, which has the footprint of the old 30 pin iPhone connector.

 

To install the case you simply slip it on starting at the top and just press the phone as it slips into the case. To remove it just start at one of the bottom corners and peel it off. After putting the case on you should check the mute button as this will get activated as the silicon slides over it.

 

Otterbox iPhone 5 Prefix Series protective cases

 

In use you will find that the silicon case is a little grippy. This has both advantages and disadvantages. On the one hand you can put the iPhone down on a surface and it will stay there without moving around, here I am thinking of the car dashboard or a table on a train. On the other hand the silicon can stick to the material when placing it or removing it from your pocket. Not that that is really anything to be concerned about as I have never found it a problem.

The Otterbox iPhone 5 Commuter Series

Moving on now to the Commuter series, this is a mid range save and comes in 2 distinct parts giving multiple levels of protection for the iPhone. With this case the eternal section is polycarbonate whilst the inner sleeve is made of silicon. There is no reinforcement of the inner sleeve as the outer shell provides this function. In fact looking at the inner sleeve it is sculpted to interlock with the outer shell. The outer shell provides the impact protection whereas the inner sleeve cushions the iPhone from any knocks and bangs.

 

Otterbox iPhone 5 Commuter Series protective cases

 

The outer shell is made of a hard polycarbonate material and encases all four sides and the back. The left and right sides are partial 'wings' about 50% the length off the side allowing the iPhone to slot in and protecting the four corners with the softer silicone of the sleeve. These also allow access to the volume and mute controls on the left hand side. The volume buttons are operated through the silicone, and there is a cut-out for the mute switch.

 

The top of the case has a cut-out to allow the silicone on-off button to protrude through the harder outer shell. Looking at the back of the case there is once again the cut-out to allow the operation of the camera and flash. This time though there is also a circular opening allowing the apple logo on the rear of the iPhone to be seen. All around the back edge there is a slightly raised bevel.

The bottom of the case has openings across it to allow access to the iPhone's USB dock port and the headset as well as keeping the speakers free. The silicone sleeve has covers for the connector sockets to prevent the ingest of dust and other particular matter. This of course, though not in any way waterproof, helps to prevent moisture getting in the phone.

 

Installing the case is a matter of slipping on the inner sleeve and then inserting the sleeve into the bottom of the shell and squeezing it upwards until the on-off button pops through. Removing it is a little trickier, I normally get a grip of the shell at the top and right side then using two fingers press on the iPhone through the camera and Apple logo holes.

 

Otterbox iPhone 5 Commuter Series protective cases
Otterbox iPhone 5 Commuter Series protective cases

Otterbox iPhone 5 Commuter Series protective cases

Otterbox iPhone 5 Commuter Series protective cases

In use I find that the hard shell is more slippery than the Prefix case, but it does have the silicone exposed at the upper section of the sides giving it a nice sloppy, grippy feel (I know that doesn't make a lot of sense). The dust flaps at the bottom of the case can be a little awkward to open and insert the cable into having to open the flap, hold the phone and insert the cable at the same time. Flipping and holding the flap with a finger whilst the holding the phone in the same hand works fine most of the time. The main issue is if you try to use the case with the Apple adapter plug. The 30pin dock connector footprint of the adapter will not fit into the opening. But these are minor items and it really is difficult to fault the case.

Overall Opinions of the Otterbox iPhone 5 cases

The need for protection of your new iPhone is apparent if you see how many breakages occur to the screens. Trying to match the style of the naked iPhone whilst giving the device the protection it needs is a tricky proposition, but one that I feel is essential to all iPhone owners. I think Otterbox have done well to come up with the design for these cases. My personal preference is for the Prefix mainly because I like the feel of the silicone and that it fits my car mount slightly better than the Commuter.

 

With the Otterbox Prefix case retailing from £10 and the Otterbox Commuter from £16 (Amazon Marketplace) it is not a great deal of money compared to the price of the phone. These could save a costly trip to www.MacFixer.co.uk or other repair shops.

 


References

Manufacturers Web site http://OtterBox.com
Pocket GPS Contributor

Mike Barrett Disney-Villa-For-Rent.com

Resources www.MacFixer.co.uk
Forum Comments:

 

Comments
Posted by Rowan29a on Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:45 pm Reply with quote

Having owned a Commuter case for my trusty iPhone 3GS for many years I had little hesitation in buying an Otterbox case for my new iPhone 5. Sadly, in my experience, this was not as good a fit as the 3GS version. Yes it did the job but, no matter how many times of trying to get it to fit correctly, the silicon inner bulged out at the top and bottom when the outer was fitted giving the sleek iPhone 5 an hour-glass shape. Back it went to Amazon to be replaced with a Kavaj Dallas leather case. Much more tactile and gives the screen great protection without the need for a screen cover.


Mike -
TomTom 750 Live
iPhone 5 16GB, Kavaj "Dallas" case

 
Posted by MikeB on Thu Jan 17, 2013 2:52 pm Reply with quote

It sounds like you must have had a faulty case. There is no problem with the fit on my Commuter case, thought I do prefer the Prefix.

The leather cases are fine, but not really suitable when you want to put the phone into a mount in the car. Which, incidentally, was how I managed to break my screen in the first place. Taking the phone out of the case to put it in the car, then being rushed at the other end I put it in my top pocket then bent over... The rest is history!


Mike Barrett
Editor, PocketGPSWorld.com

 
Posted by kwaka on Fri Jan 18, 2013 5:59 pm Reply with quote

Yes agreed I have the Commuter case and its an excellent fit, very snug with no bulging.
Also I've tweaked my case with a dremel so that it accepts the adapter to use with old accessories.


 
Posted by TonyinSom on Sat Jan 19, 2013 12:40 pm Reply with quote

As I intended taking my Motorola Razr Maxx HD into tough locations I went for the Otterbox Defender. Impressive three layers of protection. BUT
A total waste of money! None of the case apertures lined up with my Razr Maxx HD making it unworkable when in the case.
A simple mistake?
Otterbox customer services went out of their way to be as difficult and circuitous as possible. The best reply I got was to return the case for a refund, excluding postage. The postage from and to USA cost more than the case. Pretty disgusted with Otterbox. So be warned.
[/img]https://plus.google.com/photos/109537513169339068339/albums/5835866568902726849?authkey=COHp9Zz4p4TcCA


 
Posted by Vortex on Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:39 pm Reply with quote

Can't comment on the Motorola version but I've had an Otterbox Defender case for my iPhone 4 since new. It's an excellent case which fits perfectly and all ports and buttons are in exactly the right place. The built-in screen protector means that you don't have to stick anything to the screen and doesn't affect the retina display at all (I'm very picky about screen protectors). My son-in-law dropped his iPhone with Defender case from some second floor scaffolding onto a tarmac road with no noticeable damage! It cost a bit more than the others but is definitely worth it for the extra protection. Highly recommended!


[Garmin Vista HCx/iPhone SE]

 
Posted by DennisN on Mon Jan 21, 2013 10:54 am Reply with quote

TonyinSom Wrote:
As I intended taking my Motorola Razr Maxx HD into tough locations I went for the Otterbox Defender. Impressive three layers of protection. BUT
A total waste of money! None of the case apertures lined up with my Razr Maxx making it unworkable when in the case.
A simple mistake.

May I suggest that the simple mistake is on your part? I mean to say, I don't think the fact that a case designed for the iPhone 5 doesn't fit some other brand and model phone contributes to a review of the iPhone case. Or am I missing some important point? Confused


Dennis

If it tastes good - it's fattening.

Two of them are obesiting!!

 
Posted by Ryyylan on Tue Mar 19, 2013 7:29 pm Reply with quote

Vortex Wrote:
Can't comment on the Motorola version but I've had an Otterbox Defender case for my iPhone 4 since new. It's an excellent case which fits perfectly and all ports and buttons are in exactly the right place. The built-in screen protector means that you don't have to stick anything to the screen and doesn't affect the retina display at all (I'm very picky about screen protectors). My son-in-law dropped his iPhone with Defender case from some second floor scaffolding onto a tarmac road with no noticeable damage! It cost a bit more than the others but is definitely worth it for the extra protection. Highly recommended!

I have heard a lot of good things about the otter box, and I am wondering if you have gone swimming with it. I do a lot of boating and I want to make sure that my case does not leak at all because it will be getting wet a lot. Have you noticed any issues with leaking? Also, I am looking to switch plans and would like to compare VoIP providers, so any info would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!


 
Posted by TonyHall on Sun Mar 24, 2013 12:34 am Reply with quote

The Otterbox Defender is not water resistant. It has covers for the open sockets and switches, but the speakers/microphone holes remain open to the elements and there is no sealing around earpiece and camera.

It's an excellent case and offers a good level of protection, just don't drop it water!

Otterbox recently announced a waterproof case called the "Armor" but costs around 70. I have no experience of this case. Search online for reviews etc.

Cheers,
Tony


 
Posted by M8TJT on Sun Mar 24, 2013 9:55 am Reply with quote

Surely if you block the earpiece and microphone it becomes deaf and dumb and you have to communicate with it using sign language or some other sort of gestures Very Happy


 
Posted by DennisN on Sun Mar 24, 2013 3:03 pm Reply with quote

M8TJT Wrote:
Surely if you block the earpiece and microphone it becomes deaf and dumb and you have to communicate with it using sign language or some other sort of gestures Very Happy
I sometimes think I'm doing that anyway, with Siri!!


Dennis

If it tastes good - it's fattening.

Two of them are obesiting!!

 
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