Otterbox Armor for the iPhone 5 hands-on
The iPhone, especially the most recent one, is a beautiful but expensive piece of hardware. It’s one of the best smartphones out there but like most gadgets it’s not exactly designed to keep up with a rugged lifestyle. The solution? Otterbox’s Armor series.
The Otterbox Armor we have on hand is for the iPhone 5. Otterbox claims the Armor to be “the toughest case ever built.” It’s water proof, drop proof, dust proof, and crush proof. Let’s see if it lives up to its name.
Lets take a look at the features first:
- a built-in screen protector to protect the iPhone’s display from scratches and to aid waterproofing.
- a silicone bed to provide your iPhone a snug fit which in turn absorbs shock.
- a glass camera cover encased in hard plastic.
- a reinforced plastic back plate made from the same material used in industrial tools.
- rubber physical buttons.
- metal latches made from durable zinc alloy.
- silicone plugs to protect ports when not in use.
The Armor actually has two parts – the case and the back plate. These two parts are joined together by interlocking plastic parts and a pair of metal latches. The latches are the ones you need to undo before you can start using it. I’m telling you right now, they are difficult to pry (and lock) but it’s a good thing since they are responsible in keeping things tight.
Once opened, you can just place the iPhone inside and it’ll just snug in there thanks to the rubber ridges. Just slide in the back plate, make sure the interlocking parts are in place, then pull down the latches. Takes a bit of an effort but needs to be done.
Users who are fond and used to the iPhone’s slim and light profile might be taken aback as it really is chunky in the hands. It’s still easy to grip though (the Galaxy Note 3 is still taller and wider) but to make sure that you don’t drop it Otterbox included a wrist strap in the package. One needs to let go of the premium feel of the metal and glass as well in exchange for the ruggedness of industrial plastic and rubber. You shouldn’t feel bad though given the protection it’s providing for your phone.
In terms of usability, you can still use your iPhone normally. However, you’ll need to put a little more effort when using the volume buttons, power/lock, and the Silent toggle. Tactile feedback is lessened as well which is evident on the home button. This gives an impression that you’re not pushing hard enough.
As for the display, light touches might not always register since there’s a tiny gap between the built-in screen protector and the iPhone’s display. You might want to press that in a bit to make sure it registers. It will actually remind you of resistive type of touchscreen displays from years ago.
Now let’s test its ruggedness. The Armor claims that it can be submerged in 6.6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. For the initial water test we submerged the Armor in a bucket of water without the iPhone inside. We expect it to work as advertised but then we saw bubbles escaping from the camera part which is a sign of water leakage. As suspected, the Armor took in some water which is enough to cause damage to a phone.
When we took it apart we saw what caused the leak – a breach in the rubber film covering the mic which is located between the camera and LED flash covering (pictured above). It might be just a manufacturing defect but still a very expensive problem to have especially when found later on when you’re already dipping your phone in the water.
Next is the drop test. The Armor is supposed to survive a 10 foot drop on concrete. We placed the iPhone back in the case and dropped from waist, shoulder, and head levels (I stand 5’7″ by the way), and it survived. There are small scratches and dents on the case but it is intact, no rattling, and the iPhone unscathed.
For the crush test, the Armor survived a few dead drops from a large hardbound book. Otterbox claims that it can withstand 2 tons of pressure, but for now I’ll take their word for it.
As for the dust proofing, if the Armor can resist water, then it can certainly prevent dust from coming in. But judging from the our water test, it may not be 100% dust proof if you have that kind of defect.
With the kind of characteristics mentioned above, the Armor isn’t exactly an ideal case for everyday use but it is recommended to bring along if you’re going on a trip and a rugged adventure is on the itinerary. It’s also great to be used at home where there are toddlers who like to pick up stuff and toss them around. I have a 1-year old son so I don’t have to worry if he drops it or drools on it.
And to conclude, the Otterbox Armor lives up to its name as the leader in smartphone case protection. That is if it’s 100% free from manufacturing problems. I suggest you take it for a water test first after purchase before putting your phone in so you can have it replaced immediately if there’s a problem.
The Otterbox Armor for the iPhone 5 has an online price tag of $99.95 or around Php4,500 in today’s conversion. Really expensive compared to Php1k iPhone cases but should be a worthy investment.