OtterBox has been around for a while, and from humble beginnings in a US garage, the brand now makes a range of cases to keep your expensive smartphone safe from harm. What started as a waterproof case quickly expanded to a range of tough cases offering various levels of protection, from slimline commuter cases offering a bit of protection against knocks, through to the defender series which will – as the name implies – defend against an awful lot.
It’s that Defender series (well, Defender Pro) that I’ve tried out on my Samsung Galaxy S20 for the last few weeks, and while it does add a little size, it paid for itself within minutes of it arriving.
You see, I fitted the polycarbonate/rubber case to the phone and tried to fit it into the belt clip/holster while I went to get something from the car. Unfortunately, I misjudged; I hadn’t quite put the phone into the holster properly, and it fell out straight onto the concrete footpath.
Thanks to the Defender Pro, the phone bounced harmlessly a few times and landed face down. Because of the raised edges at the top and bottom, though, the screen was (and remains) intact, and besides a small scuff mark on the corner of the Defender Pro case, there’s no sign that I dropped it from three feet onto concrete.
Without the case, I’m certain I’d have smashed the screen.
The Defender Pro isn’t like the OtterBox Defenders you might remember; there’s no thick plastic screen protector built into the case and that’s a good thing. Not only did it make touch response much worse, but in the modern era of phones that are frequently waterproof anyway, it’s just not all that necessary. If you’re taking your phone properly submersed (e.g. swimming near a coral reef) you need a properly waterproof enclosure, but for daily life, that extra level of waterproofing protection in the older Defender models just isn’t really needed anymore.
You still get a twin-shell design with a polycarbonate inner shell, a synthetic rubber cover and – if you want to use it – a polycarbonate holster as well. This gives you great drop protection, as well as port covers that keep out dust, pocket lint and more from getting into your USB C charging port.
The holster allows you to carry the phone screen in or screen out, so you can protect the screen while carrying from banging into walls, doors, trees, control panels or whatever you happen to be working near. It’s pretty secure too – once you clip it in properly, mind – so you needn’t worry about it working its way loose too easily.
The holster also doubles as a nifty kick-stand for when you might need to consume some media on your smartphone. Watching a feature length movie on a Samsung Galaxy S20 mightn’t be your cup of tea (it’s definitely not mine) but a handy feature to have if you need to view something on your screen without holding the phone.
That kick-stand feature can make getting the holster onto your belt a little challenging, though; when locked into ‘kickstand mode’, the clip takes a bit of pressure to release and make it grab onto your belt. It’s a little difficult to describe, but it takes a little bit of practice to reliably get it to clip onto your belt each and every time.
Curiously, OtterBox now includes an anti-microbial agent in the case exterior. The company says that this can protect the case against common bacteria, but it doesn’t protect the screen or holster… so while it’s an interesting feature, it ultimately (probably) won’t be terribly effective in reducing your exposure to any bacteria that may be around.
For that, we recommend a more simple solution – clean your phone.
How far can you drop your phone in an OtterBox Defender Pro? Well, the company doesn’t claim drop heights anymore, but having dropped it from waist height (about 3 foot) with no issues, I’d suggest it can withstand similar heights without much trouble. I wouldn’t want to drop it onto an uneven surface, especially face down – manage to drop your phone face down onto a pebble or a stone, and there’s a good chance you’ll scratch, chip or smash your phone display.
As always, a rugged case is no substitute for being careful, and if you’re carrying around a $1500 smartphone, being careful is kind of important. However, if you’re a little clumsy or careless, the OtterBox Defender Pro might be the difference between a scuffed case, and a smashed screen.
It was for me.
OtterBox Defender Pro retails for $99.95, and you can get it from their website, and a number of bricks and mortar stores like JB HiFi.