Tong Zhang
(Senior Editor)
12/01/17 06:54 PM
iPhone Case Review: OtterBox Defender Screenless Edition for iPhone X Review

My first OtterBox Defender case was for my iPhone 3GS. Back then, iPhones weren't quite so fragile as they are today, but they still rarely survived a drop unscathed, and they were ridiculously susceptible to water damage. So I happily tripled the weight and thickness of my precious new device, snapped it into its nerdy belt clip, and away I went. The increased protection gave me great peace of mind, particularly because the Defender's belt clip back then would routinely release my phone with little more provocation than harsh language (it survived every drop, however!). Another unfortunate feature of previous Defender iterations was the use of silicone for the outer skin. Sure it was soft and easy to hold onto, but it tended to gather lint, and stretch with daily use resulting in a decidedly fuzzy and flaccid-looking Defender a few months in. Lastly, I regularly rankled at the plastic screen cover. It came between me and my games/movies, was prone to scratches, and generally made my device MUCH more difficult to use. At my breaking point, I grabbed an X-Acto knife and heartlessly cut it off of my brand new case. I did the same thing with all future Defender cases, happily sacrificing moisture protection for increased usability. Why am I rehashing all of this? Because OtterBox has, over the years, overcome every single one of these issues to produce what is among the very best (possibly THE best) rugged iPhone case available today. The outer skin is now synthetic rubber and the holster is very secure. The last issue to be fixed, the much-maligned (by me) screen protector, hung on the longest because it wasn't so much a design flaw as it was a design decision. But now, with Apple's latest and greatest iPhone, there is simply no way to reach the edges of that near bezel-free display with a screen protector built into the case. The truth is, however, that plastic is easily scratched by nearly everything in your pocket, while Gorilla Glass is not. In fact, short of exposing it to sand (which contains quartz), your iPhone screen is pretty darn safe from scratches. Still, if you want true peace of mind AND usability, hardened glass screen protectors are quite inexpensive online (less than $10), and they're so good that even I use one now. Could OtterBox have included one in the case? Sure, if they were willing to raise their prices, however, not everybody uses one so maintaining their price point and leaving the choice up to the consumer seems like the best option here.

Installation, like previous versions, involves removing the soft outer skin and taking apart the hard plastic frame. Once you're up and running you will have approximately tripled the width of your device, made it somewhat wider and taller, and rendered it safe from most drops and mishaps. How rugged is it? I honestly have no idea. As with all of their tough cases, the product page contains a link to "learn more" about their certified drop+ protection tests. However, when I follow the link down the rabbit hole, all I find is a list of 24 tests including such things as camera, NFC, and thermal shock, as well as makeup and hand lotion resistance. The last one on the list is drop test, for which there is no further description. Now, I love that OtterBox is testing all of these things. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that very few manufacturers go to this trouble. I do, however, think that detailing how these drop tests were conducted would give us all some idea of the level of protection that is provided. Further, The Defender is the absolute bulkiest daily use case on the market. This may be worth it if it also brings with it extra protection, but we just don't know if this is true. Lastly, I tested the Defender with my wireless charger, and it worked flawlessly.

While the functionality of a phone case is of paramount importance, OtterBox has never been one to ignore style, and they haven't done so here either. The Defender is available in Black, Marathoner (grey/blue), Stormy Peaks (indigo/grey), Purple Nebula (purple/pink), Big Sur (teal/white) and Coral Dot (fuchsia with coral dots/coral).

For years, OtterBox Defender has been protecting our iPhones from death and destruction, and this is the best version yet. Great choice of materials, no plastic screen protector, included belt-clip, solid drop protection, stylish color choices, and a great price bring this one to the top of the heap of the crowded rugged case market.

Editor's Ratings (1-5): 4
What's Hot: Super tough. No plastic screen cover for me to remove with an X-Acto Knife. Comes with belt clip/viewing stand. All ports/switches covered. Reasonably priced. Compatible with wireless charging.
What's Not: No built-in screen cover (for those that are into them). Very bulky for a case with no drop-test rating.
Price: $49.95
Website: OtterBox

Reviewed by: Tom Slayton


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