Otterbox Defender iPhone Case [Review]

iPhone Defender case

This review covers the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 3G and 3GS. iPhone 4 owners, see the product listing for the Otterbox Defender iPhone 4.

Otterbox recently sent me their iPhone Defender case for review, and let me say right off the bat that this case is solid. The iPhone Defender case protects your iPhone with two layers: a strong plastic case and a rubber enclosure that holds it together.

The Defender also features:

  1. a plastic screen that shields your iPhone’s glass
  2. rubber flaps that cover iPhone’s buttons, openings and switches
  3. iPhone Defender case rubber

  4. foam rings that cushion the iPhone’s speaker and microphone without muffling them.

If you want to insure your investment, the Otterbox Defender case is the ultimate protection for your iPhone.

If, on the other hand, you just want to prevent keys and coins from damaging the delicate plastic on the back of your iPhone, and you’re confident that you won’t ever crack the glass and ruin your phone, a mistake that could cost you up to $250, then just buy a protective skin.

Yes, the Defender case is great for peace of mind. But it does have some downsides.

This is what I’ve noticed after nearly a month of using the iPhone Defender case.

The downsides

  1. The Defender is not the most sleek or glamorous case on the block. A couple of people have even told me I “look like a construction worker” with it. Actually, the Defender is the perfect case for construction workers, because it protects your iPhone from both shock and debris. But I don’t see the Otterbox Defender being featured on Gray’s Anatomy or The Hills any time soon, if you catch my drift.
  2. The bulk makes it impossible to use the Defender case with my iPhone Xtand or the factory iPhone dock.
  3. The screen protector is prone to air bubbles when you press on it.

    iPhone Defender case bubbles

    I contacted the friendly folks at Otterbox and they suggested a couple of fixes:

    1. “We have found that applying the adhesive screen from the Impact Series helps eliminate the air bubbles.” – Otterbox

      I didn’t get an Impact Series adhesive screen because I think this case should work on its own, without having to buy an additional product, but I did have another plastic film screen that I tested with the Defender, and it did not ameliorate the air bubbles.

    2. “We also suggest using the natural oils from your skin. Take the phone out of the case. You’ll want your hands to be clean, but not just washed. You want to take the palm of your hand (or you can also use your cheek) and press it lightly on the front panel of the OtterBox (the part that would touch the phone screen). It might seem like there will be finger prints that would show on the screen of the phone, but they do not. The natural oils of your skin should help with the oil/bubble look on your screen.” – Otterbox

      Surprisingly, the oils from my palm prevented bubbles to a large extent. The solution isn’t perfect, since it still produces some air pockets, but the bubbles were reduced by 95 percent.

  4. The inner plastic case is tough to open without long nails. But hey, at least you know your case isn’t going to pop open if you drop it, considering the strength of the plastic clips and the rubber that keeps the plastic intact. Hint: Try using a dime or other small coin to pry the case open.
  5. The exposed plastic on the back of the case causes the iPhone to vibrate louder. This is a downside for me, since it can be a nuisance in class or during meetings, but it could be an upside for you if you think the iPhone’s vibration is too weak.

The verdict

If damaging your iPhone is a concern for you, and you’re not too worried about glamour, then the Otterbox Defender case for iPhone is a great investment. Maybe you work, play or exercise outdoors. The Defender lets you go wild without worrying about your iPhone.

The truth is, though, that sometimes I just want to set my iPhone free and use it as Apple intended. The bulk is not always practical or pleasing to the eye.

Nevertheless, whenever a friend would comment on my bulky iPhone case, I would drop my iPhone on the ground. “They call it the Defender for a reason.”

Have you used the Otterbox Defender?

Do you use the iPhone Defender or some other iPhone case? Or is a bare naked iPhone worth the risk to you? I’d love to hear what you think in the comments.


Buy on Amazon: Otterbox Defender iPhone Case
Shop: Buy Otterbox Defender for iPhone 4
Manufacturer: Otterbox

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I have the Iphone 4s just got a replacement otter box realtree series case due to the other one wore out and the plug areas had basically come off. So within 2 weeks of the new one I dropped phone and the back of the glass is shattered where camera is and apple emblem. I haven’t taken the case off afraid the glass will start falling out. But this case useless since dropped from basically my side to the ground. My phone is not a year old yet and I have apple care so I guess will have to see… Read more »

David harris

I have the otter box and I love it


I have owned 3 iphones and all have had the protection of the OtterBox, I would not trust myself or anyone else with my phone without the protection. I also keep mine wrapped in a plastic type armour that is like a clear film and everytime I go to resell my phones I take off everything and they look like brand new and I have also dropped mine many times from varying distances. It must have been the way that it the ground.


Garbage…The defender series is absolute garbage. I bought a brand new “Otterbox” for $55 after tax at the local Best Buy. The very first time i drop it, from a seated position no less, the back or the phone cracks. Up until i had this piece of trash on my phone, i had dropped it once or twice from higher heights, only to pick it up and find that there was not a single crack. As we have all realized, the iPhone4 is somewhat expensive and thought this would be a sound investment considering my warranty had just expired. I… Read more »

Ellen L.

I hope you make headway with Otterbox. BUT I DO DISAGREE WITH YOU. You had some bad luck obviously, but the defender case has most likely save my glass from breaking I am sure on many occasions although I can’t prove it. I even lost the clip and wrote Otterbox and they graciously replaced it for me gratis. If you had both parts of the case, the rubber part on top and the plastic part underneath it must have been a pretty bad fluke that the back of your case broke unless you dropped it really hard or like a… Read more »




I have the otterbox but I can not get the bubbles out of my screen and I can not stand it

Ellen L.

I too have bubbles on my otter box screen. Not bubbles exactly but a whole area of air that shows up. It is only on the top screen that comes with the Otterbox, but it only is visible when there is a lot of light shining on the phone or when the phone is off and it is black. The screen protector on my phone (under the otter box screen) directly is great. I got it At Radio Shack when I got my last iPhone (the one I have now 4G) about 3 years ago. It was a screen that… Read more »


My husband and I both have the iPhone 3gs. We bought the otterbox for both. we love it. The bubbles were there. I was cleaning the inside of the box trying to get rid of the bubbles, my husband came in and we had to leave so I just put it back together.I did not wipe the screen off. There were no bubbles. It had to be from the oils on my skin. Best case ever.


I bought a brand new IPhone 3g and a otterbox with the clip to protect it last week. After 2 days, I just hit lightly the clip and it went off my hip and the Iphone felt down. Now I have a broken screen. I was not very impress about the solidity of the clip and I have to fix the Iphone.

Not very happy


Thanks for contacting the company to get the suggestion of getting air bubbles reduced. They’ve been driving me nuts since I bought the box but it’s much better now!

Thanks again!


Ok, 15 months after my review on this for a 3gs, now have had the otterbox defender on my iPhone 4 since i upgraded a month and a half ago, and i love it! Redesigned holster has a very positive hold on case, and did not have to put powder, oil, or another screen protector to avoid bubbles. The redesign for the iPhone4 also means previous problems for synch cables has been pretty much totally eliminated. Same great protection, and improvements on previous problems, well done Otterbox! And please realize people, i’m glad you got your case for $30, but… Read more »

Luciana Grace

I like the otterbox for the peace of mind, you never know when you are going to drop it, but I do wish that they made an extender/cradle for my Sony alarm dock clock radio, so that I did not have to keep removing all the armour every time I want to charge and listen to music, other than that I have been very happy with the case


Hi Luciana,

They do make dock extenders so you would not have to remove your case everytime you want to dock your iphone. I have seen 2 varieties: 1 type just sits directly on your dock & raises it up an inch or so. It plugs onto the dock port directly & then has an apple connector on top for you iphone. The other type is like an extension cord that you plug onto your dock with the apple connectors on both ends. Hope this helps. I have seen them on Amazon & Ebay.


I found an easy fix for the bubbles. Take a tiny pinch of cornstarch and dust it onto your screen being careful not to get any into the speaker. With a microfiber cloth take off the excess starch. The cornstarch is ultrafine so it won’t scratch. Then put your Otterbox on…absolutely no bubbles. I love my Otterbox I have two and swap out parts to mix the colors.


I think it’s a great product, yes the air bubble is a pain in the butt, but the remedy of rubbing your fingers over the phones face really helped, there are hardly any bubbles on the screen, but all in all this case will protect my phone from all kinds of punishment, whether it’s getting caught in the mosh at that Iron Maiden show, too much rough housing at that party where someone spills their beer on my phone or when I am on that extended 6 day trek in the back country, i can be sure my phone will… Read more »


I didn’t pay anywhere near $80. Got mine for $30.80 at Amazon.


I mentioned I like my defender for the g4 that I just received. I was waiting for one in Red, because it is easier to find my phone if it sticks out. I lose things very quickly when I put them down.


I love my otter box…I have a 2 year old and 7 year old and I do not worry at all while either is using the phone!