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March 22, 2011

iPhone 4 Otterbox Defender Extreme Displeasure versus iPhone 3G

Filed under: ColdFusion — Nat Papovich @ 1:52 pm

I have used the Otterbox Defender case for iPhone 3G for the past two and a half years. I love it and heartily recommend it to folks who need a very protective case. There might be a more protective case for the iPhone 3G, but I don’t need it. Whenever I open up the case and take out the phone (once every couple months) it’s as clean as can be expected. The phone has withstood being left outside overnight in the rain (twice, face down), dropped in the toilet (don’t ask), and of course countless drops from a variety of heights. When it regularly hits the ground, I never, ever think twice about it. The phone goes with me in my rock climbing bag and is used at the crag which is a dirty, rocky, unforgiving place as well as my mountain biking bag which is less dirty but more prone to hitting the ground (or a tree). I’m adept at using my tongue on the touch screen since as you probably know, iPhones screens don’t respond to gloved fingers. But they don’t work too well with a lot of moisture on the screen so I try not to slobber too much.

The most important feature of the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 3G case (for me) is the dust and dirt protection. When I’m not sitting at the computer, I’m typically doing dirty things – remodeling my 105 year old house, gardening, woodworking projects, the aforementioned climbing and biking, generally being outside. The phone is usually in my pocket which almost always has a layer of dirt in the bottom of the pocket. This month, I handed-down the iPhone and case to my almost seven year old daughter and she promises to keep up the abuse of the case and phone. She has been abusing it alongside me ever since I bought it so knows what the case is capable of protecting against (basically everything).

I loved the old Otterbox Defender case so much that I’ve actually purchased three of them over the years. I’m so hard on cases that I wear them out. But I’ve been happy to pay for a new Otterbox case about every year.

All this Otterbox love changed for the worse (worst?) when I got my new iPhone 4 (Verizon) and bought the new Otterbox Defender for Verizon iPhone 4 case for it during checkout from the Verizon store online. I was so convinced of the miraculous powers of the Otterbox case that I bought it sight-unseen without reading any reviews. I should have. In short, it sucks.

The rubber outer is not tight, even out of the box. Pulling the phone out of my pocket requires me to reseat the rubber every time. The tabs that cover the power port, mute switch and headphone jack do not seal well and come open at every opportunity, as if they were spring-mounted. Mysteriously, Otterbox chose to leave some actual holes in the case so dirt slips right in. In the Otterbox Defender for iPhone 3G case, the top/face and bottom speaker and microphone ports were covered with cloth-like material so dust couldn’t get in but sound still permeates. Now they’re right open to the air and thus the dirt, along with the top “ambient noise microphone”. On my iPhone 4, the little silver speaker and microphone grills on the bottom are chock full of dust. The same deficiencies exist with the front and back cameras and proximity sensor. There is exactly zero protection over them.

To be fair, the camera on the old Otterbox Defender for iPhone 3G case made crappy pictures with a plastic-y haze to them because, well, it was covered by hazy plastic. But that’s a price I was happy to pay. And the hard plastic guard around the proximity sensor collected dirt so my iPhone 3G generally didn’t do automatic brightness adjustment.

The new case is so different than the old one that I don’t feel they’re comparable. Today I opened up the case to investigate the results of a roll-around in the dirt that occurred while re-plumbing a friend’s house on Sunday. The phone is more covered in dirt and the ports more full of crap than in the two and a half years I had the old case. (We were in the crawlspace when I heard my phone ringing. I couldn’t find it in my pockets so assumed it was directly above us in the bathroom, but my friend found it completely buried in fluffy dirt. It was an “oops” moment, but not uncommon for me.)

There are a ton of isolated Otterbox Defender reviews for each version of the iPhone along with comparisons of similar cases but there aren’t enough Otterbox fans complaining loudly enough about the massive downgrade from the Defender case for 3G to 4. If you like the Otterbox Defender case for iPhone 3G, do yourself a favor and do not buy the same case for iPhone 4. If you want an iPhone 4 case as truly protective as the 3G case, you need something better. (Griffin Survivor? LifeProof?) If you felt like the Defender for 3G was a little too much protection, then get something slimmer and cheaper.

I wish it weren’t true, but the Defender for iPhone 4 fits no category of case protection and should fully satisfy no one.

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  1. I agree completely! I cannot stand this case on my ip4 either. Still in search for the perfect case!!!!!

    Comment by ip4 user — April 27, 2011 @ 3:12 pm

  2. I just got this error message showing up yesterday:

    It occurred because I got some stuff in the dock connector port and it mucked up the pins. And this is with the Otterbox crap case on!

    Comment by Nat Papovich — April 29, 2011 @ 1:56 pm

  3. I so completely agree. I was in with the 3G otterbox from the min I bought it and like u. For years ive truly put it tothe test and time and time again it as preformed above what I imagined but this new I phone 4 case is horrible. The silicone part really needs some redevelopment. This seems like a product that is in this development stage. A recall would defiantly be a good idea for the company that hit a home run with the 3G but a horrible foul ball on this I4 case

    Comment by Jamaroe best — June 10, 2011 @ 6:24 pm

  4. I recently got the Griffin Survivor case to replace the Otterbox. It’s better, keeps crap out of the ports. But it is unnecessarily large and bulky beyond what the Otterbox 3G case was. If only I could cram my iPhone 4 in to the 3G case!

    Comment by Nat Papovich — June 10, 2011 @ 9:58 pm

  5. My otterbox iPhone 4 case has all the defects you describe. It’s ridiculous. If the company wants to retain credibility it should recall the cases and provide new ones that are better designed. It’s that bad.

    Comment by Rgb — June 18, 2011 @ 6:56 pm

  6. I agree!!! I loved the otterbox for my iPhone 3.
    I recommended the case to every one. I boight the iPhone 4 and hot the new box and I hate it! I actually almost downgraded my phone just to have the phone in that case back.
    I bought a second case for
    iPhone 4 thinking it was defective, and the second one fits the same. The rubber does not fit. Can’t take out of purse or it slips off

    Why isn’t there a recall??

    Comment by Angela Keiper — June 30, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

  7. I’m having a problem with the case too, but for different reasons- I can barely hear the other person on the line when I’m calling someone! The case must hold it too far out or something because I can hear very well with the case off. Extremely disappointed in this case. :(

    Comment by Jessica — July 10, 2011 @ 12:52 am

  8. I bought mine off of eBay and too be honest I hated the case

    Comment by Alycia — July 18, 2011 @ 2:15 pm

  9. I totally agree! Both my sister and I are having issues with the rubber slipping and constantly having to put it back on where the USB port goes.

    Comment by Janet — August 28, 2011 @ 9:10 pm

  10. I went by the numerous recommendations to get this case, and am disappointed big time. Yes, the rubber has to be constantly reseated and the belt clip is a joke. When properly seated, and clipped, it will still fall off as mine did in the parking lot of Lowes. I hate this case. I went back to my griffin Survivor, which has it’s problems too, but better than the otterbox defender for iphone 4. The griffin survivor covering for the rear camera is a bother to try to hold it open to take pics. So, I will be cutting it off. I love the total coverage and protection the survivor gives, but wish the camera covering would stay open to take pics. I do not recommend the otterbox defender for the iphone 4.

    Comment by Pat — August 28, 2011 @ 10:00 pm

  11. Thanks everyone for stopping by to agree with me. The only people who like this case are those who have never had a previous generation Otterbox and haven’t spent much time with this case.

    After trying the Griffin Survivor for a few months, I gave up on it, but now have the ULTIMATE CASE. Lifeproof – check it out:

    I’ll do a five-way photo comparison in a little while between the Lifeproof, Griffin Survivor, Otterbox Defender 3G and 4, as well as naked and with my wife’s slim (and semi-useless) InCase slip.

    Comment by Nat Papovich — August 28, 2011 @ 10:55 pm

  12. I absolutely agree with this thread. I loved the Defender 3GS Otter box, and despised the 4 version because it didn’t fit tight and kept falling off. I’m trying to find a case that protects as well but isn’t frustrating.

    Comment by Casey — October 15, 2011 @ 11:35 pm

  13. Casey, I have an update from my initial purchase of the Lifeproof case. It is truly remarkable. It is slim, highly protective, keeps crud out of the phone, looks good, sounds good. Only complaint is that Voice Control activates when it’s in my pocket and I crouch down (which happens a lot it seems) so I had to disable voice dialing so as not to pocket dial people. But this issue happened with all my cases to date so it’s not a fault of the Lifeproof case. It’s expensive, but check it out!

    Comment by Nat Papovich — October 17, 2011 @ 4:16 pm

  14. I wish I had seen this review before I had ordered an otterbox for my new 4s off of eBay. I also bought this case solely based on my experience with the performance of the otterbox on my 3GS. That thing could take a good beating. This one however does not seem anywhere near as rugged and to top it off the rubber doesn’t seat well on the plastic. Overall rating: bad. I’ll have to look into the lifeproof case and hope that I’ll be able to sell this to someone that is only looking for the brand name and not a quality product.

    Comment by Matt — October 24, 2011 @ 1:37 pm

  15. The new Otterbox defender for ( in my case iphone 4s 64gb) is useless. Its simply not fit for purpose,and like other users i had the old one for a 3gs and in was great. Otterbox needs to carry out an urgent product re-call or risk severe customer dis-satisfaction

    Comment by steve — December 5, 2011 @ 12:24 pm

  16. I had the same issue and same complaints I notified otterbox and they sent me an iPhone 4s revised case better but in the long run same problems , they have not made a good case since the revised 3GS case they had an issue with echos during calls but none like this iPhone 4 & 4s case poor quality

    Comment by Scott — March 6, 2012 @ 5:09 am

  17. I agree! The USB flap on mine does a decent job, but the bottom rubber part bubbles up over the home button instead of laying flat in the grooves. I work at a vacuum shop so obviously there’s a lot of dust, dirt, etc in the repair room and there’s always dust in the bottom of the case where it won’t stay in place. Also, the openings on the camera have a lot of dust around the edges. I’ve only had the phone and case for about a month now. I was really impressed with the case my husband had for his old iPhone 3 and assumed the quality would be comparable if not better on the new style iPhone 4. I assumed wrongly on that. The life proof is more protection than I really need, but will probably upgrade to that anyway since too much is better than none when it comes to my new phone. Has anyone had this problem? If yes, we’re you able to fix it or was it covered under warranty for a replacement that does the job? I’m on AT&T if that makes a difference.

    Comment by Katy — August 1, 2012 @ 2:52 am

  18. Hi. I agree with you guys. Unfortunately I too had my share of harassment with the Otterbox case for my i-phone4, whereas my friend who has the i-phone 3G never had to go through any of the terrible experiences. Hopefully the makers of this products have found out some solution for it.

    Comment by Sophie Taylor — August 5, 2012 @ 11:57 pm

  19. Well here is yet another gripe about Otterbox. I purchased a Otterbox for my iphone4 it lasted about 3 months until the belt clip snapped off and the phoned dropped to the ground. The whole inner black casing smashed on impact from a waist height of maybe three feet. i called Otterbox support and they made the claim from the photographs of destroyed product that it was a knock-off and sent me a completely new case. Terrific I thought, at least here’s a company willing to stand behind their warranty. I had the product on and figured that the knock-off was the reason for the defect. Sadly I was wrong, just a short time later while on holiday in Jamaica on a cruise, didn’t the same thing happen. The belt clip snapped at the exact same location on the belt clip. This time the result was not a cracked case but a lost Iphone4 as it fell hit the deck and over it went into the ocean. The phone along with all it’s contents are lost to me and the response i got from Otterbox staff was that their warranty doesn’t cover the phone just the case. To add insult to injury they said ” how do we know this really happened”? . I advised them that I could provide photographs of the phone in my possession and written testimonials of witness who saw the incident as it happened. Alas a response of “no, we’re not responsible” was all I got. Sad, very sad, they are dodging the cost of replacing the phone that was destroyed because their product was defective. Replacing the box is one thing, but at the retail price I paid I think their profit margin permits this quite easily, but to wave off a phone that would have survived a lot longer had the product not been defective, and in my estimation the cause for the loss is unacceptable to me. My wife uses a Spyder case which i bought for her iphone 3g two years ago and she is way harder on it than I ever was on my Iphone4 when it comes to dropping it. Not once has she had a problem with her Spyder case. I should mention that while speaking with Otterbox they advised me they had made some revisions to the case for the Iphone4 this year 2013. Anyone with a 4g case should contact them, they are aware of problems with the case and should be obliged to replace it. I guess my question is, who’s responsible for the loss of the phone? Me for trusting that the Otterbox was a good reliable product , or is Otterbox responsible for the loss as they are selling a defective product? Any good lawyers out there that would like to speak on this?

    Comment by John Dunn — February 22, 2013 @ 11:06 am

  20. I love the otterbox Defender for my iphone4s, just got one a couple of weeks ago for only$15 at and it’s been very protective

    Comment by mark — June 23, 2013 @ 10:55 am

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