Sponsor Review: Otterbox iPhone 5 case

The designers of the Otterbox for iPhone 5 make a single all-encompassing assumption: that the owner has fingernails. In their absence, the box is extremely difficult to assemble. Once on, however, it’s a great way to protect your shiny iPhone 5, 5s or 5c.

Ottebox with belt clip. Bulky but protective.
Ottebox with belt clip. Bulky but protective.

First look

I’ve eyed-off the Otterbox each time I’ve seen it. The concept, for a butterfingers such as myself, seems sound: surround your expensive electronics in a padded case which will protect it from being dropped, bumped or otherwise abused, if unintentionally.

Upon removing the casing from the packaging, I became aware of a couple of things.

First, the unit isn’t waterproof. It doesn’t say waterproof on the packaging, but it is disappointing that something called an “otter” won’t protect my electronics from water. Maybe a different one does. Perhaps a better name could be coined other than “Protector”. Or perhaps I’m expecting too much?

But, it looks like it’ll do the job magnificently. The job, of course, is protecting my $800+ of electronics from untoward issues caused by gravity.

Putting it together

The instructions should include this sentence:

“Assembly will be severely difficult without fingernails”

Sure, it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue, and perhaps this could be rephrased somewhat, but it’s nonetheless true.

The Otterbox has a silicone outer covering around a hard plastic shell. You have to carefully peel the outer sleeve off the shell, then disassemble the shell in order to get your phone into it.

Getting the silicone sleeve off needs a lot of patience if you don’t have the aforementioned fingernails, and you have to be careful to unclip the two flaps, one over the volume control, the other over the headphone jack. These push extremely snugly into the plastic shell.

One of three very tight covers for bits of the case. Fingernails not included in box.
One of three very tight covers for bits of the case. Fingernails not included in box.

Once you’ve got that off, there’s the two clips on the hard shell to unclip. The plastic shell has a hard back with a small hole for the camera, and a circular one for the Apple logo, the latter of which is covered by a transparent cover. The front is all transparent cover, with gaps for the top speaker and infra-red detector and the home button. Both these transparencies protect the phone from damage from fingernails, keys and coins (and whatever else you might throw at it). However, they mean there’s nothing to get purchase upon when disassembling the case which means it’s a swear-worthy job.

Trying it out

Once it’s on, the phone is protected. It’s somewhat larger than the phone though, so if you bought your iPhone for purely aesthetic reasons, this might not be for you. As a way of protecting it from just about anything bar a hammer, it seems a winner.

I will note at this point, that I did no drop-testing of the unit, with or without my phone in it. Sorry, I’m just not in a financial position to afford a new one if the Otterbox failed.

Again though, fingernails are a must because of the silicone flaps over the mute button and headphone jack which are vexingly tight and awkward to open. If this were a waterproof unit, I’d see the logic of making these as tight as they are, however, in a unit that’s open at the bottom for speakers and top for back camera and earpiece speaker, it’s a bit questionable.

Points off for this then.

One other thing: this particular Otterbox comes with a belt clip assembly, which the Otterbox will clip into. The clip on the back rotates a good 360º which means you can have it at any angle you like.

Otterbox with belt clip assembly.
Otterbox with belt clip assembly.

The final thought

For the clumsy iPhone owner, this is really a good idea. The look you end-up with is certainly not svelte, more industrial. It looks very much like it’ll save your phone from accidental drops and other minor abuses, not to mention front-face wear-and-tear.

Just remember it won’t save your phone if you drop it into water. But then again, it doesn’t say it’ll do that anyway.


4/5 (points off for the unbearably tight silicone cover)

Where you can get it

The Otterbox can be purchased from the MobileZap website where they’ve got an Otterbox page for all related products.


I received this Otterbox free of charge for review purposes. All opinions in this review are mine alone.

Author: gotheek

Sometime writer, full time human.