OtterBox's Defender Series For iPhone 6/6 Plus offers extensive protection at the cost of extra bulk.
OtterBox is a driving force in the mobile protection market, and their Defender Series line has been leading the charge in iPhone cases over the past couple of years. With the current generation iPhone models sporting a significantly larger screen, the need for a protective case is more evident than ever as the larger surface area makes it more likely to become damaged if accidentally dropped.
I reached out to OtterBox for a review sample to see if this year's model continues to offer the superior protection that many have grown to love over the years. The provided review sample was for the 6 Plus although this review will still be relevant for any prospective iPhone 6 users as the two case models are virtually identical besides a difference in dimensions.
The Defender Series for iPhone 6 Plus l is priced at $69.90 via OtterBox's online store, and you are given the choice of color combination. Like most OtterBox and LifeProof products, there are a lot of Chinese counterfeits in existence so be cautious when purchasing from third party sellers like Amazon, eBay, or NewEgg. A good deal is sometimes too good to be true that's why I always buy my OtterBox or LifeProof products directly from the manufacturer's website to be sure that I get the same quality that I'd expect from a genuine case.
Design & Build Quality
OtterBox's Defender Series has long stuck with a three-piece design in order to achieve 360-degree protection. Compared to previous generations, not much has changed with the 6 Plus version besides a larger design that caters to the bigger device.
The two internal pieces snap together around your phone and the synthetic rubber slipcover sliders over to increase shock absorption. When comparing this case to the Defender Series for the iPhone 5/5s, it seems that OtterBox has been able to slim down the rubberized portion a bit by adding slightly rounded edges.
The result makes it less “boxy” and more appealing to the eye than previous generations and shaves off a bit of the bulk and weight factor. With a footprint as large as the iPhone 6 Plus in the combination with a rugged case like OtterBox's Defender Series, it will always make for a bulky combination.
A non-adhesive screen protector is integrated into the front plastic internal component, and the rear plastic piece offers a circular cutout that shows off the Apple logo. Esthetically, the Defender Series isn't all that pretty yet those in the market for a rugged case will almost always compromise with a case's functionality over its appeal.
When the OtterBox Defender Series is equipped to an iPhone 6 Plus, there are several characteristics that make the case valuable to the consumer. Starting with the full 360-degree protection and shock-proof functionality, your phone becomes significantly less vulnerable to accidental damage. The fear of unintentional drops, bangs, or scratches that are bound to happen to everyone over time are no longer necessary as the Defender Series keeps you well protected within these circumstances.
TouchID sensors have made their way to both the iPhone 6 Plus and 6 models so OtterBox designed the Defender Series with support for this innovative fingerprint sensor technology without sacrificing any protection elements. This is the same for every other button, switch, or port found the iPhone 6 Plus as many are covered, but accessible via pull out rubber tabs and these alternatively help keep out harmful dirt and dust from entering your device. I can foresee a potential issue with bulky third-party lightning cables or docking stations as the opening that provides access to the lightning port is rather snug.
On the rear, there is a cutout so that the lens assembly, microphone, and flash are undisturbed. This design element keeps the case from having any noticeable effect on photo or video capabilities, but the rubber slipcover will still protect the protruding lens when placed on a flat surface.
Following the tradition of OtterBox's Defender Series cases, a belt holster is included in the product packaging. While it is totally optional, the holster is more useful than ever due to the added bulkiness of the iPhone 6 Plus which can be troublesome in small pants' pockets. Just like in the past, the holster's belt clip can be latched in place for use as a kickstand for watching movies or browsing the web hands-free.
I've used many Defender Series cases in the past for earlier iPhone generations, so I am very familiar with their form and function. However, after a few days of utilizing this case, I came up with a few opinions about its real-world use. With a significantly larger device like the iPhone 6 Plus, the added bulk of the Defender Series case become a real pain in some situations. While the rubber slipcover is far more grippy than the slippery, bare chassis of the iPhone 6 Plus, the increased size makes its harder to hold and utilize with one hand.
Another issue in regards to the increased size is the ability to fit it into your pants' pockets comfortably. I have yet to find a pair of clothing of which it doesn't fit in my pocket however, the added bulk is much more noticeable when in a pair of nice fitting slacks thus drawing attention to my pockets.
While you can easily solve this by using the included belt clip, I've never been one to rock this type of accessory and would only consider using it should I be wearing a suit coat or other piece of clothing that can readily cover it while in public.
Unlike some rugged cases that I've tested, the OtterBox for iPhone 6 Plus does not have any adverse effect on call quality. I have not experienced any call degradation or dropped calls as a result of using this case so any worries in this regard are unwarranted.
While the protection benefits are well appreciated, I still do have complaints. In the previous generations that I have tested from OtterBox, the screen protector has always been flush making for a comfortable typing experience. On this new iPhone 6 Plus version, the screen is not flush and suffers from a noticeable gap when utilizing the touchscreen.
The results in a less than ideal experience especially when typing although I started to get used to it after a few days. Even after I've become accustomed to the slight gap between the touchscreen and the integrated screen protector, I still find myself missing keys when typing texts or emails because the key didn't register correctly due to the gap.
While I'd like to have thought that maybe I just got a defective case (I'm basing this review solely off the provided sample) yet it appears this is a widespread issue with this model based on further research into other consumers' reviews:
As you can tell by the picture below, the TouchID sensor is coated with a flexible material that oddly enough resembles the look and feel of a durable saran wrap. While it keeps the TouchID fully functional and somewhat, it is an eyesore due the way it lays on the sensor thus resulting in a “bubbly” look.
OtterBox took the same successful design structure from their previous generations of Defender Series cases and updated it to cater to Apple's newest iPhone models. While it does an excellent job of protecting these precious devices from the accidental damage, I can't help but to be thoroughly disappointed by the integrated screen protector who lack of a flush fitting makes typing to be a frustrating experience. After taking into consideration downfall as well as the extra bulk that is added to the natively slim iPhone 6 Plus, I wonder whether I'd ever need this much protection and at what expense?
Based on my 30-day experience with this product, I wouldn't use it as my daily driver in the future as the flaws do not outweigh the protection benefits in my opinion. If you are someone who requires an overly rugged case and doesn't mind sacrificing a more comfortable touchscreen experience then this case will likely be a suitable fit. For the average consumer, I'd recommend staying away from this product (at least until the screen protector issue is universally fixed) and instead consider OtterBox's Symmetry Series or the ultra-affordable Spigen Slim Armor Series cases.