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OtterBox uniVerse Case System Review
      #49511 - 06/22/16 03:23 PM

Is modularity the next big thing? Companies like LG, who recently released the LG G5 with "Friends," would probably like us to think so. On the other hand, modularity also has a pretty good chance of being the next big failed gimmick. Either way, modularity has come to your iPhone 6/6S and iPhone 6 Plus/6S Plus, thanks to a clever case from OtterBox. Is it worth it? Time will tell.

Across the uniVerse
The Otterbox uniVerse is slim and light case, available for the entire iPhone 6/6S line. Made from synthetic rubber and polycarbonate plastic, the uniVerse is comfortable to hold and provides protection from moderate drops and bumps. Available in both black and white versions, it provides cutouts for the camera, the bottom edge of the phone, and the silence switch, and it gives access to the volume and power buttons through pressable covers. If all you wanted was just a conventional case, you could just buy the uniVerse by itself, and you wouldn't be disappointed. But that's probably not why you're here.

What makes the uniVerse different is the "Accent Plate," small rectangle at the bottom center of the case. Remove the plate, and you can slide in - you guessed it - a module! The modules are swappable, but you can only use one at a time. Our review unit came with two modules:

PolarPro PowerPack
Thanks to PolarPro, you can use the uniVerse as a battery case by plugging in their PowerPack, a flat slab that adds 2100 mAh of extra battery life (100% of a charge for the iPhone 6, or 75% for the 6 Plus). On the iPhone 6 Plus, the battery pack is not as large as the back of the phone, giving you a "back bump" sort of like Apple's own charging case for the iPhone 6. However, it still sits flat on a table and is still comfortable to hold.

The PowerPack plugs into the Lightning connector and charges from a microUSB cable that plugs in on the side, and it also allows wired syncing over USB without removing the case. It also includes charge status lights like those found on most other battery cases. Happily, the PowerPack doesn't go near your headphone jack, so you won't need a headphone extender to use headphones while it is connected. (Of course, there's no guarantee that future iPhones will even have a headphone jack, but that's another subject.)

In our tests, the PowerPack stayed firmly attached to the uniVerse case and was comfortable and convenient. It adds several hours of battery life, and this is something we would use on an everyday basis. (Suggested retail price: $49.99)

Nite Ize Steelie Vent Mount Kit
This one's not complicated, but it is clever. One piece of the kit is a spherical magnet, which is attached to a clip so you can clamp it onto a vent in your car. The other piece is a magnetic circle, which attaches (via included adhesive) to a plate, which slides into the Accent Plate on the uniVerse. Once everything is put into place, you now have a magnet in your car where you can stick your phone for easy storage.

I have to admit that the use of the uniVerse module system seems a little bit gratuitous here - after all, couldn't you just use the adhesive to attach the magnetic circle directly to a regular case? Still, if you use your iPhone frequently while driving, the Steelie Vent Mount Kit will come in handy. (Suggested retail price: $39.99)

Other Modules
Although we did not review them, there are already several additional modules available for the uniVerse, including the PolarPro Stance stand ($29.99), the PolarPro BeatPulsar Speaker ($59.99), the Seek Imaging Thermal Camera ($249-$299), the PolarPro Trippler Tripod ($49.99), and the Square Contactless + Chip Reader Module ($49.99). If any of these products would integrate well with your workflow, the uniVerse may be worth a look.

The modular system has great potential for the future. For example, OtterBox could release a new version when the iPhone 7 is released, and then you might be able to transfer all your accessories directly to your new phone. However, potential is exactly that: While there is a possibility that buying uniVerse modules could be a great investment in the future, there is also a potential that the technology won't stick around, so you might just end up wasting a lot of money.

It's not easy to review a product whose success depends on variables in the future. Thus, in keeping with the trend of modularity, I now present the world's first ever Modular Review! So please choose one of the following conclusions to plug in:

Conclusion Module 1
The OtterBox uniVerse is a sleek and slim case, and it is off to a good start. Hopefully, OtterBox will make uniVerse cases for future iPhone models, allowing you to keep all your existing modules without having to buy them again. There is also lots of potential for more modules - for example, wireless charging or health devices could be added in the future. This is the beginning of something big.

Conclusion Module 2
The OtterBox uniVerse is not even available for the iPhone SE yet, and there is no guarantee there will be any new uniVerse models in the future. If the case doesn't catch on, accessory makers are not likely to produce new modules, and then the uniVerse is not much different from just buying a regular battery case or camera case, except that you have to buy two pieces instead of one. Buying a uniVerse now could be risky.

I like this case. I want to "plug in" module 1, and I hope that this idea catches on and sticks around. Since there is no way to know what the future will bring, only time will tell whether it is worth moving into OtterBox's uniVerse.

What's Hot: Comfortable and well designed case; big potential for future success.
What's Not: Also significant potential for future failure.
Price: $59.95
Company: OtterBox

Reviewed by Jacob Spindel, June 2016



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