Otterbox Armor torture test
MANILA, Philippines - In terms of industrial design, Apple’s iPhone has always been the gold standard. The current iteration features a seamless unibody design, diamond cut chamfered edges, an aluminum back, and a camera lens made of sapphire crystal. Some call it a work of art...and to a certain extent I agree. But works of art are best kept inside a museum, a showroom of sorts, protected, and not subject to the wear and tear of everyday life.
But that’s the calling of the iPhone and smartphones like it. As a triumph of industrial design I am of the belief that any type of case takes away from its intended aesthetic. But look where that got me - my first two iPhones ended up with shattered glass screens both from nasty drops.
I wised up and got cases for my succeeding iPhones - and they survived - but I’ve had to be extra cautious during recent adventures. Parasailing in Boracay, rock climbing in the outskirts of Singapore, a trek up the Mambukal nature park in Bacolod - each time my iPhone is wrapped in a ZipLock and tucked away safely in my backpack. But doing so defeats the purpose of owning a smartphone - you want to take photos, check in on Foursquare, take your phone with you into the water, record a video as you scale new heights, live tweet the whole experience.
That’s where rugged protective smartphone cases come in. Two leading brands in this space are LifeProof and Otterbox - both companies make waterproof, dust proof, drop proof, and shock proof cases for many popular smartphones and tablets (LifeProof makes cases for iPhones and iPads only).
The newest of these cases is the Otterbox Armor, announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in January 2013 and made available for the Philippine market last March - the Armor Series is supposedly the toughest line of Otterbox cases, one step above the popular Defender line - they’re calling it the toughest case they have ever built.
On paper it is rated for drops of up to 10 feet onto concrete, submersion in water of up to 6.6 feet for up to 30 minutes, and the ability to withstand up to 2 tons of pressure.
The problem with protective cases is that they can be a bit tricky to assemble. The reliability of your case hinged on how well you put all the pieces together. One faulty move could spell death for your smartphone as was the case of a friend who soaked his iPhone after improperly putting on his new case.
This isn’t the case with Otterbox Armor (pun unintended), assembly is very much straight forward and as a result feels like one of most secure protective case I have come across. The peace of mind knowing everything is locked in tight is priceless.
The case comes in two parts - the case itself and a back cover. The iPhone fits snugly into the case, you pop on the cover, and then lock it shut with corrosion-resistant metal latches that are built into the sides of the case. Otterbox says that because their cases are designed with confidence users should use them with confidence...as a user it's these metal latches that gave me the confidence to risk my iPhone and subject it to a torture test when presented with the opportunity. The way both pieces lock into place is the most secure I’ve ever felt using a protective case before.
All other ports are sealed tight with what Otterbox calls its patented o-ring technology. One seal covers up the iPhone’s headphone jack and another its lightning port. The speakers are actually left exposed but protected with a waterproof mesh that keeps the water out but still allows sound to pass through. It’s worth noting that audio quality is not as good with the case on - but that can be expected with all the protection going on.
The case is also easy to put on and take off - an important factor you should consider when shopping around for any smartphone case. Some cases are great but once you put them on - they’re almost impossible to remove. That isn’t an issue here.
What I am not a big fan of is the case’s screen protector. I have never liked the feel of the additional plastic films that go over the screen on any existing waterproof cases out there, the Otterbox Armor is no exception. Don’t get me wrong, its okay and works fine - but when typing you can feel that there’s something in between your fingers and the screen and it does take away slightly from ease of use. Swiping motions are fine and unaffected.
SIZE, WEIGHT & PROTECTION
Size-wise the Otterbox Armor is bulky, like most protective cases in its class - but more so. Overall it adds an additional 0.64 inches to the iPhone 5‘s height, 0.66 inches to its width and 0.40 inches to its depth. The case is almost as heavy as the iPhone itself, together they have a combined weight of 222.88g, that's about the weight of a Nokia Communicator circa 2007.
If you’re all about keeping your phone thin and light then move on, there are thinner cases available that provide protection from water, dust and drops - the one from Lifeproof for example has a much smaller form factor.
But what the LifeProof (or any other Otterbox case) can’t do that the Armor Series CAN, is ensure that your phone is also crush proof. Part of the reason the case is so big is that it is designed to withstand a crushing force of about two tons of pressure. In the real world this would probably mean your phone is protected in the event it is run over by a car in the event you accidentally drop it while getting off - trust me it happens.
A friend hooked me up with his Otterbox Armor for the iPhone 5 and despite the lack of any “if your iPhone breaks we’ll replace it guarantee” I decided to put the safety of my iPhone 5 on the line to verify their promises. The test included dropping an Otterbox Armor protected iPhone from a ladder 8ft up - twice, shaking it for about a minute in a sealed tub of water, and driving over it four times.
To see if it survived watch the video below. We kept the iPhone's camera on the whole time so you will also get the POV of the phone as it is being tortured.
So is this the case for you?
The torture test speaks for itself, the Otterbox Armor case for the iPhone 5 gets the job done. While some will argue that protection comes at the cost of bulk, reduced ease of use, and a sizable amount of cash - I’d say to each his own. More casual users might be better off with a simpler, cheaper case that will protect the phone from nicks and scratches and to a certain extent drops.
But to say that all that protection is unecessary is a faulty premise. There is still a market for cases that go the extra mile and deliver as much protection as the Otterbox Armor does. If you are into adventure or extreme sports, or are going on a vacation and will be exposing yourself and your smartphone to the elements then the Otterbox Armor is worth the investment.
Currently the Otterbox Amor Series is available only for the iPhone 4/4S, iPhone 5 and the Samsung Galaxy S3. Otterbox says it is currently evaluating other models. It is available in a range of colors, depending on the device and retails for P4,900. - Rappler.com