I’m amazed how many people I see not using a case on their smartphones. The cost of a new phone (off contract) these days can be as high as $600+. Both of my boys are in high school and have iPhones. I’ve invested in rugged cases for both of them just for the insurance of not having to replace them prematurely due to damage. Most of the higher-end phones today are made with cutting-edge materials like aircraft-grade aluminum, and Corning® Gorilla® Glass 2, so why bother with an expensive case? A few reasons leap to mind – one in particular being resale value. Selling your old phone on ebay, trading it in, and other options can help offset the cost of a new phone. New smartphones, even on contract, can cost $100-300, so every extra dollar can help. Spending $50-100 on a rugged case can help keep your phone looking like new.
With hundreds of models to choose from, what should you look for in a case? Some people buy a case for looks, others for screen protection, or simple damage prevention (bumps and scratches). Water, snow, sand, or dirt can ruin a phone in no time. Personally, I need something that can handle bumps, splashes, and drops. The most important factor for me is a case that can be used daily without compromise. I use my phone for email, texting, web browsing, and more and anything that makes that more difficult is an issue. Size is also a big factor. OtterBox, a leader in case protection, has made some of the best cases, but they were usually bulky. A rugged phone that needs to be kept in a belt holster is a non-starter for me. There are a lot of options out there today for a rugged case and I want something slim, light and durable. LifeProof has made some of the more compelling rugged cases in the past year and were their primary competitor in this market (I reviewed the LiefProof iPhone 4 case last summer).
Last year, OtterBox made the smart move to acquire LifeProof and now owns two of the best case brands in the market. I’ve owned a number of OtterBox cases in the past. For a quick size comparison, you can see my old iPhone 3G OtterBox case (Yellow), the LifeProof iPhone 4 case I reviewed last summer, the OtterBox Preserver and the final case is a Mophie Juice Pack which has a battery. The OtterBox Preserver is slightly larger than the LifeProof case due to the increased length of the iPhone 5 over the iPhone 4. Overall is it probably one of the slimmest, lightest cases OtterBox has made. I couldn’t locate actual physical specs on their site.
Before we dive in (pardon the pun), the OtterBox Preserver is the phone case for the person that needs serious water protection, able to be submerged up to 6.6 ft for up to 30 minutes. The case has a back plate with a foam piece on the inside that your iPhone rests against. The top piece snaps into place to finish the water-tight, dust proof assembly. OtterBox includes an adjustable lanyard which can be handy if you take the Preserver into the water. I used the case every day work phone (office) for a few weeks, and the phone performed as expected. No noticeable difference in audio or camera quality. The buttons work well with the exception of the silent switch which can be a little difficult to use. I’ve only used one ruggedized case that had a good solution for that, the LunaTik Taktik Extreme.
Since this was a work phone I didn’t perform a dunk test like I did with the LifeProof case last year. OtterBox has some videos (see below) showing the case in water. I’m confident that if you follow the instructions, the case will perform as advertised. Once the ice thaws here in Chicago, I might take it out to the river with the canoe and see how it does. I did drop the case a number of times, and it had no damage although the case does mar easily. I don’t have any issue with that since I bought the case to protect my phone so it is there to take the abuse.
One of my main complaints with older OtterBox products (and LifeProof cases) is the access to the headphone jack and charging jacks. With the Preserver this isn’t an issue since the iPhone 5 moved the headphone jack to the bottom of the phone and the charging connector is much smaller. LifeProof still requires their audio adapter cable which I find to be a real issue if you listen to music as much as I do. The plugs on the bottom of the case are a little stiff, but that is required if you want a water tight seal. In a few of my pictures you can see a glare on the screen. I don’t really notice anything when looking at the phone directly. The camera seems to have exaggerated that. The screen protector did fit better than on the LifeProof as the LifeProof protector had a very slight gap between the protector and the iPhone screen which my son noticed immediately.
The advertised cost of the Preserver for the iPhone 5 is listed at $89.95 on www.otterbox.com which is a few bucks cheaper than their Armor Series case ($99-109). The Preserver comes in 4 colors, Pistachio, Carbon, Primrose and Glacier. I’m always curious how things will shake out when a company buys their top competitor. LifeProof came out with their LifeProof frē for iPhone 5 which is their thinnest, lightest and strongest, all-protective case yet. The kicker is that you can get it for $79.99 and on their site right now they have a $20 off code so the final price is $59.99. The OtterBox is a solid case choice, and if you’ve had good luck with them in the past, I don’t think you can go wrong but if you want to save a few bucks, you might want to take a look at the LifeProof frē. [ct_alert type=”info” title=”EDIT”] 3/7/14 OtterBox has a special right now on their Armor Series for $49-54 on sale. Another great case. [/ct_alert] Features:
- Waterproof: fully submersible up to 6.6 ft. (2 m) for 30 minutes (IP-X8)
- Drop proof: protects device from drops up to 6.6 ft. (2 m)
- Dust proof: blocks entry of dust and debris particles (IP-6X)
- Uninhibited use of all device features and functions through the case
- Includes an adjustable lanyard for convenient carrying and tethering
- Solid polycarbonate shell: deflects impact away from the device
- Overmolded synthetic rubber: absorbs impact and provides good grip
- Internal foam: cushions device and holds it in place inside the case
- The Preserver Series case for iPhone 5 provides added protection against water, drops, bumps, dust and shock.