I got my iPhone 5 today (through carrier sources) though it's yet to be activated and the first thing I did naturally was put the Otterbox Defender case on it. I had the Defender for my 3GS and it protected my phone all these years. Didn't have the iPhone 4/4S so I can't compare it to that. Quick impressions so far:
PROTECTION - Protection wise, the iPhone 5 Defender is at par with the 3GS. Industrial grade protection with complete coverage. Same concept and overall design, though the silicone feels slightly thicker and more solid in the 5. The silicone has a matte finish compared to the smooth finish in the 3GS, which hopefully should help avoid dust and lint - this was the only drawback with the 3GS case, it needed cleaning frequently.
BUTTONS/PORTS - Power and volume buttons are covered with silicone shaped like the buttons themselves. No problem pressing either of these buttons with the silicone. The headphone jack, charging port, and silent button have silicone plugs that can be pulled out to expose the jacks. (TIP - to open the plugs, insert nail and push the top silicone part higher to get behind the plug to pull it out. Hope this makes sense. The headphone plug is tiny and it can take some time getting used to opening it). The charging port plug, when opened, keeps snapping back into the case, which means it has to be held open with one hand to insert the charger. Insignificant issue, and I'm hoping that with use, this piece will loosen up a bit so that it stays open if needed. Opening at the back for the Apple logo is covered with a transparent plastic film. The front camera/speaker, the back camera/flash, and the two speakers at the bottom are left open and are the only exposed parts of the phone.
SCREEN COVERAGE - Clear plastic film on the screen integrated into the case, the touchscreen experience is as good with the film as it is without the case. The transparent film creates a tiny layer of air or moisture between itself and the screen, which can create watermarks on the screen. This was an issue with the 3GS as well. (TIP - I had read several forums for my 3GS that recommended applying baby powder before installing this case, but I personally didn't find that to be a lasting solution. Applying an Anti-Glare film to the phone's screen before installing the case was the best solution. I am still waiting for my Anti-Glare film to come in, but I installed a spare I had for my 3GS just to see if that solved the issue with the 5, and it did).
HOLSTER - The silicone is kept intact with two plastic tabs on the side. This really helps keep the silicone in shape and prevents it from stretching or loosening over time. These tabs also work as the locking mechanism for the holster. The case can be inserted facing in or out in the holster, a fine improvement by Otterbox. Most such holsters I have seen only allow face-in orientation (3GS allowed only face-in which I found annoying when going for a run). This holster has a fully rotating belt clip so that it can be attached vertically or horizontally on the belt. No chance of the case falling out, nice secure fit. The holster is much better and ergonomically designed than the 3GS version. It is easier to access the phone with this design.
Here are a few details that I would have liked to see improved/addressed:
- Front and back camera openings - the two openings are huge! The front camera/speaker/light sensor opening is one big opening. For the 3GS version (3GS only has speaker on the front, no camera) and from what I have seen for the 4S, the cases had a precision opening which provided better overall coverage. For the back, the opening is approximately 30-40% bigger than it should be for the camera and flash. It would have been nice to have more precise openings on both places for even better protection.
- Headphone jack plug - this perhaps has more to do with the placement of the headphone jack itself, but the case opening is really small and it's not very smooth to open the silicone plug. For the 3GS, the silicone plug went around the headphone jack to the back, which made opening it a breeze. They could have used the same design for the 5 as well. With the current design, it takes time opening the headphone plug. It's entirely possible it is just something that takes getting used to, or that the silicone will loosen over time making it easier to open.
- The iPhone 5 is a super sleek, light, and slick looking device. Putting the Defender case makes it bulky (more than doubles the thickness). Now this is a pro in that it offers super-protection which I cannot live without. The downside is that it takes away the aesthetic beauty of the iPhone.
I bought this in black when that was the only color available. Now it seems there are a lot more choices. Wish I had waited for the Glacier (just a personal preference)!
Other than these minor issues, I am overall very happy with this case and I hope to use it for several years to come, just I did with my 3GS Defender. Yes, it's slightly expensive, but it's also peace of mind.
The watermark issue seems to be persistent with this case and nothing seems to permanently help in this regard. The anti-glare film bridges the gap somewhat but only for a few days. The screen in the case lifts right back up after a few days and creates the watermark issue all over again making it difficult to use the screen. I am sending this back to get a different case. Yes, I want to protect my iPhone which is why I was willing to put up with the bulk of this case, but I can't give up functionality.