OtterBox was one of the first iPhone case manufacturers to come out with a product -- the Defender Series -- that could handle some really rough treatment. Now OtterBox is taking the lead in iPhone protection with the new OtterBox Armor Series, which is available for the iPhone 5 and iPhone 4/4S (US$99.95).
The new case series not only builds on the crush and drop protection provided by the Defender Series, but also adds waterproofing. The Armor Series is designed to withstand being in up to 6.6 feet of water for 30 minutes, handling drops from 10 feet, and being crushed by a 2 ton weight. That's perfect for those situations where you drop your iPhone 5 from where you're riding on top of a rhinoceros and she proceeds to step on it and hold it underwater for a half hour...
We don't believe it's designed to protect your precious from the impact of a meteorite, but for just about everything else, the Armor Series is going to help. Here's a closeup look at the Armor Series case for iPhone 5.
As you'd expect from an iPhone case with these credentials, the Armor Series isn't exactly svelte. It weighs in at 4.1 ounces, has a thickness of about .75", a width of about 2.9", and a height of about 5.5". Compare that with a naked iPhone 5, which is only .3" thick and has dimensions of 2.31" x 4.87" and a weight of 3.95 ounces.
But if you want protection, you've got it. Everything is sealed into the case, which comes in black and gray with a shock-absorbent lining of neon green, arctic blue, or electric orange. The arctic blue model has a white bezel surrounding the phone display, perfect for framing a white iPhone 5.
On the right side of the case are two zinc alloy metal latches that hold the case halves together securely. To install the iPhone 5 into the case, you flip those latches open and take the back of the case off. Pop the iPhone in, slap the back on, re-do the latches and you're ready to abuse the case ... but not your iPhone.
OtterBox recommends testing the Armor Series case in water for at least 30 minutes prior to placing an iPhone into the case. They also -- like all manufacturers who make similar cases -- suggest that you "use caution when subjecting your device to extreme situations and rough treatment" and warn that "Users subject their devices to extreme circumstances at their own risk."
Switches and the home button on the iPhone 5 are covered with flexible pass-through equivalents, and the headphone port is covered by a thick plug. Speakers are covered with an impermeable membrane, while speakers are covered with a mesh that lets sound out but no water or dust in.
The Armor Series doesn't have a belt holster -- yet -- nor does it come in a larger variety of colors -- yet. OtterBox is probably testing the waters before committing to accessories and new colors. There is a wrist strap to make carrying the case a bit easier, although it's probably just easier to stuff it into one of the pockets on your pants.
OK, so I didn't have a chance to drive my Honda CRV (a little less than 2 tons) onto my iPhone 5 in the test Armor Series case. Nor did I really feel like subjecting my personal phone to a 10-foot drop. I did, however, check the watertightness of the case.
As advertised, it was easily able to withstand being held about six inches underwater for 30 minutes with no problems. However, when I left it in that same six inches of water for three hours, there was a slight leakage resulting in water coming into the case. Moral of the story? Don't try to exceed the advertised specifications.
Since the Armor Series has been subjected to testing to US military standards, I have no doubt that it will be able to handle the other tests as well.
It's definitely a chunky case, but the Armor Series really provides a feeling of security that surpasses any other MIL-STD case I've tested for the iPhone 5.
With the introduction of the Armor Series for the iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5, OtterBox has again taken the lead in the rugged case category.
Waterproof, dust proof, shockproof, and crush proof
Easy to install and remove
Colors for plugs and back padding are bright and upbeat
More expensive than LifeProof's $79.99 frē case, which offers similar protection
Who is it for?
Anyone who needs rugged protection for their iPhone 4/4S or iPhone 5.