Summary: UPDATED. The newly re-designed iPhone Defender case from OtterBox is less bulky, but it is still as protective as before?Editor's note: This article has been updated from the previous version to reflect corrected copy and a new video.
This weekend, I was lucky enough to be one of the few that was able to secure a iPhone 5s and needed a new case to put on it. But as with any new device coming out of Cupertino, the issue of adequate protection versus how much aesthetics one is willing to compromise comes into play.
I've always been a big fan of OtterBox's Defender Series cases, regardless of which OEM device I happen to be using. In my opinion they are the gold standard of device protection, with their polycarbonate clamshell, permanent screen protector and rubber anti-shock covering.
Their products have saved me headache and heartache on multiple occasions when I've had a "whoops" moment due to an accidental slip or drop. Even with accidental damage coverage such as AppleCare+ or Asurion plans offered at carriers such as Verizon, device repair and replacement can take days and the process is aggravating as well as potentially costly due to the temporary interruption of business that occurs between replacement of the device.
Additionally, such plans, particularly AppleCare+, still involve a per-incident repair cost. So having a protective case is still a very good idea.
The new Defender Series, as well as the Commuter Series, completely re-designed for the iPhone 5s and 5c are both good cases, but I have some concerns (albeit relatively small) that the products are no longer as protective as the were previously.
Plans, such as AppleCare+, still involve a per-incident repair cost. Having a protective case is therefore still a very good idea.
In both the the Defender and the Commuter OtterBox has forgone the ugly, bulky design of previous products (a design choice which I felt was necessary to preserve its protective qualities) in favor of a thinner, more aesthetically pleasing design that more closely matches the actual industrial design characteristics of the iPhone.
The new Defender and the Commuter has the same polycarbonate clamshell and rubber coating, but the thickness of the polycarbonate and the rubber appears to have been reduced in certain impact-prone areas, and in order to accomodate the new fingerprint sensor on the iPhone 5s, a cut-out has been made in the permanent screen protector.
While the Commuter has always been the less protective option between the two products, the Defender case for the 5s now has far less bezel protection on the home button area than in the previous design for the iPhone 5. In fact the home button area has no bezel at all. If you're not looking carefully, the Commuter can be easily confused with the Defender in the new 5s and 5c designs, a mistake I actually made in an earlier version of this review.
Truthfully, if you are going to put a big plastic black case on your iPhone, you might as well go with the Defender to get the extra protection. I'm not seeing a huge aesthetic difference between the two products in this iteration.
The evaluation sample(s) of the Defender that was sent to me in the standard black on black color, which sells for $49.95. Other more aesthetically pleasing color combinations can also be ordered directly form OtterBox for approximately $59.95.
As with previous Defender products the new 5s version also comes with an optional holster clip which can be used to completely cover the screen face when being carried. I find this adds a nice added layer of security when the phone is in my pocket or it is being tucked in a peice of carry on luggage and the potential for being bounced around along with other objects that can potentially scratch or damage the screen is high.
While I happen to like the new OtterBox Defender and Commuter for the 5s and 5c and applaud the company's initiative to make their products less bulky for the majority of consumers that want to preserve the aesthetic properties of their iPhone as much as possible, I'd still like to see them release a an Armor Series for the 5s and 5c for those of us that want that extra piece of mind.
Are you planning to pick up the new OtterBox for you new iPhone? Talk Back and Let Me Know.