The new Otterbox Armor ($99.95) iPhone cases are arriving in stores Friday and with them a level of protection unprecedented in the world of rugged cases.
The Otterbox Armor series consists of possibly the toughest heavy-duty cases on the market. And of all the companies introducing waterproof cases this year, Otterbox is the only one I know of with offerings for the iPhone 4/4s series, capitalizing on the huge demand for the older iPhones.
Since Apple’s recent release of the ultra-portable iPad mini, (and its rumored forthcoming 5-inch iPhone), I can only hope Otterbox continues to expand its Armor lineup — as it has with its Defender line — to include versions for new iDevices.
I found the Otterbox Armor to be impressive on several fronts:
Durability — One of the Armor's greatest accomplishments is its extreme protection from shock, drop, and compression. Otterbox tested the Armor against an unheard of 10-foot drop to concrete, and get this, it’s even proven to withstand 2 tons of crushing force. In other words, assuming no sharp projectiles make contact with the touchscreen, you could drive a huge truck over your Armor-encased iPhone multiple times without incurring any damage!
Waterproof Features— The term waterproof is broadly defined and based on specific IP (Ingress Protection) ratings, which cover a wide range of more or less protective cases. Some cases classified as waterproof are in actuality only “splash-proof.” Others may be waterproof up to 30-feet, but only serve as occasional-use cases.
Personally, when I speak of a full-time use waterproof case, I’m referring to a case that can safely be submerged under at least 6 feet of water for 30 minutes, while also allowing full access to all buttons, controls and ports. In other words, a case you never have to take off. Otterbox Armor meets and exceeds my requirements for a full-time use, heavy duty, waterproof case. It also exceeds the infamous Military standard rating so often claimed by various iPhone case manufacturers. That's pretty impressive!
Functionality— The ports of the Armor are easy to open and easy to close securely. Both the bottom speaker and charging port as well as the top microphone and headphone jack are covered with super sturdy plastic flaps that close snugly with O-Ring seals. I really appreciated the fact that you are able to use your earphones without any special adapter. The way the flaps open allows enough access to connect most straight-tipped earphone plugs without any problems. The material is so strong there is virtually no chance it will tear or rip, even with repeated use. To get this tank of a case on and off is a simple matter of latching or unlatching a pair of corrosion-proof metal latches. It's one of the easiest waterproof cases to take on and off I've come across so far.
I do, however, have a couple minor points of contention with the Otterbox Armor:
Touchscreen Vulnerability — The only weak point of the design, which is currently the Achilles Heel of all rugged cases, is its touchscreen. Until the built-in touchscreen protection becomes stronger, it will continue to be the weak point of even the toughest design. One fall screen-first onto a jutting rock, and that could be all she wrote. The typical screen protection for rugged cases is still just a thin plastic sheet; it serves as a seal to keep debris out but doesn't offer much assurance against being dropped screen-first. Until case makers incorporate gorilla glass or something similar in their design, the touchscreen interface will continue to be the weakest link. That said, the Armor’s screen protection is what you would expect in a non-adhesive, plastic touchscreen guard, and no different from the hugely popular Otterbox Defender.
Sound —My wife and I have been testing out the Armor for about a week now, and we have both observed that the case produces a muffled sound quality for both the speaker and listener. While this comes as little surprise to me, having observed the same trend occurring with other bulkier iPhone cases, it is a point worth considering. I wouldn't call it a deal breaker by any stretch of the imagination, as any decent pair of earphones will instantly remedy the situation, but it is something to keep in mind when deciding on which case to purchase.
Weight— While the protection may be unrivaled, the weight too is also unrivaled. This is one of the heaviest, bulkiest full-time use iPhone cases I have reviewed. It almost doubles the thickness and the weight of the iPhone. This is bound to be a turn off to some folks. Granted, if you think you might need a protective case that can withstand massive, crushing forces then the Armor trumps all other cases, but I suspect the added weight and mass may discourage some prospective buyers. It would be one thing if the case had some kind of ultra-rugged screen protection, like a Gorilla Glass screen, but since the screen is only shielded with a thin sheet of plastic, the rest of the integrity of this case hinges on the protectiveness of the screen cover, which is average.
Considering its impressive protective stats, the team at Otterbox have done a good job at keeping the bulk and weight to a minimum. I know I have personally beat the heck out of mine already, adventuring in the red rocks of Sedona, and it has performed most admirably!
While overkill for some, many adventurers will undoubtedly love this case and put it to good use. I can't wait to see some of the pictures and videos the Armor will allow folks to capture while out adventuring. Be sure to check out the video above to see the abuse this awesome case can withstand.
The Bottom Line:
The most rugged full-time use case currently on the market.
Unparalleled impact protection.
Convenient wrist-strap attachment point.
Weight and mass.
Overall, I would give the Otterbox Armor a solid 4 out of 5 star rating.
Otterbox Armor isn't for everyone, but for those looking for the toughest, full-time use case money can buy. Otterbox definitely sits at the head of the class.