OtterBox for iPhone Armor review

Patrick Nosker November 27, 2008 0

Me, with the OtterBox Armor and headphones in, about to get into the water

During my daily iPhone news browsing, I happened to notice a very interesting case for the iPhone.  Already being a fan of the Clear Armor case system, I thought there could be better– something that could turn the iPhone into a true utility device.  Something able to both climb to the top of Everest and suffer the depths of a bathtub.  This case, called the OtterBox Armor, was the answer to my mountain-climbing, tub diving question.  My initial impression was that this case looked like it could take a beating.  The seals are made of what appears to be a silicone rubber and are a couple of millimeters thick.  There are two hinges of decent heft that lock down the case to form an air-tight seal.  Because I didn't want a water-logged iPhone, I stuck it in the sink and noticed it didn't leak. 

Me, with the iPhone in the OtterBox Armor case, listening to music underwater

That meant I could go to test number two: the Pool!  Before I did this, I mowed the lawn with the phone in the case.  While mowing, my headphone cable got caught on a tree branch and pulled the phone out of my pocket and onto the ground.  The phone was unscathed thanks to the excellent case.

I wanted to test the headphones' out-of-water quality.  I have never taken so long to get my headphones on but these took forever to seal.  I cut one of the rubber sheath layers off to get them to fit better, but that helped only a very small amount.  It took around 5 minutes per ear to get them to seal air-tight.  The quality of music was ok.  Slightly better than the OEM earphones that Apple gives you, but much worse than my standard Etymotic ER-6i headphones that I normally use with my iPhone.  That's understandable though, since these can go underwater.

My excellent assistants- Mercedes and Avery underwater

Off to the pool I went with my two helpers, Mercedes and Avery.  First, I tested using the iPhone underwater.  While it never leaked, the touchscreen did not work under the water, probably due to the capacitance touch-screen that the iPhone has.  I found that to be a fairly big annoyance, but I can't see that as being OtterBox's fault.  After pulling the phone out of the water, I started playing some music.

My lovely assistant Mercedes and I underwater

The headphone started leaking, but I got them to re-seal underwater somehow.  The quality of sound was significantly worse underwater, but I could still listen which was a pretty amazing feat.  Another interesting point to note was that I lost all signal underwater.  Water only supports very low frequency RF so that made sense.  Plus, who would want to text underwater anyway?

The case allows you to take a picture, but only if the screen is out of the water so you can press the button.  Underwater pictures are blurry, however, so it's not really worth it to get this case as an "underwater-camera replacement" type of device.

Picture of Mercedes taken with the iPhone underwater

Overall, the case is very sturdy.  It certainly puts the iPhone on another level of durability.  Similar to the Panasonic ToughBook, it can take a beating.  The headphones allow you to do something that most people on earth probably will never do- listen to music underwater.  This is useful for swimming laps and the like, but OtterBox advises to use it at less than 10 feet underwater, as with the headphones.

Overall, this is a good combination if you spend a lot of time in a pool, in the ocean, or in any body of water.  Even if you're an outdoorsman, it would be quite useful.  As an every day case however, it's not quite as useful because of these drawbacks:

-You can't talk on it like a normal phone-you have to use a headset (iPhone earphones or similar or Bluetooth), or speakerphone in order to talk.
-The power on/off switch is incredibly hard to press.  I needed to use my nail to get it far enough to wake up
-It's quite bulky

If you have a good use for this case, it's perfect.  It does what it says, and it does it well.  Don't get it if you want to protect your phone from a small drop or another similar event.  A better option would be something similar to the OtterBox Defender if you don't plan on going underwater.

Case – 8.5/10
Headphones – 7/10

[OtterBox Armor] – $69.95
[Waterproof Headphones] – $24.95

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