Review – Otterbox Armor for iPhone 5

OtterBox Armor iPhone 5


Long Time Coming
After some serious time in development (including a cancelled iPhone 4/4s launch in June 2012), OtterBox has unveiled their waterproof series of cases, called the Armor Series.  Unveiled at CES 2013, the line of cases is now shipping at AT&T stores and, exclusively.  With a long history of highly protective cases, this is OtterBox’s first attempt at a completely waterproof case.  Overall, it is a great effort.

OtterBox has released models for the iPhone 5, iPhone 4/4s, and Samsung Galaxy S III. The price point is an industry high $99 and the case is available in three color schemes: Neon/Grey, Blue/White, and Orange/Grey. Compared to other cases, this thing is large and in charge:

  • Weight: 3.91oz / 110.88g
  • Dimensions: 5.51 x 2.97 x 0.70in / 140.2 x 75.5 x 17.8mm
  • Depth rating: IP-68, 6.6 ft for 30 minutes
  • Drop Test: 10 ft

Compared this to the iPhone 5 case from LifeProof, which weighs 29.8g with dimensions of 137.5 x 67.1 x 12.2mm.  OtterBox has never shied away from making large, solid cases, and the main difference is in the thickness of the case.  However, this can add to the protective ability of the case. Similar waterproofing and drop test as LifeProof, although OtterBox Armor can withstand 2 tons of pressure.

Video Review
The first few minutes of this video review cover the case impeccably:

The Armor Series has an interesting closure mechanism.  Overall, it is easier and seems more secure than LifeProof’s force fit closure. As seen in the video, one side has two very strong closures that compress the black o-ring of the case, creating a seal. I really like how strong these are:

OtterBox Armor closure system

The other side, while innovative, is a little more problematic.  It consists of block like groove that back of the case fits into, creating a non-moving hinge.  After fitting together on this side, the case is then sealed and tightened by closing the two clasps.  In theory, this works fine, creating a strong seal. However, in the torture test, this was a weakness from from huge falls.  Note that these were larger falls than guaranteed by the product.

OtterBox has done a really nice job with the colored overmold.  The inside of the case is super soft and protective, and the outer edge has another layer of soft protection.  The bottom area is really nice, with two rubber lanyard that peal apart cleanly to reveal ports to the phone’s controls.  These are protected by small black o-rings that keep out water.

OtterBox Armor iPhone overmold

Compared to LifeProof audio system, there are no small pieces to lose or screw in.  At the same time, with the Armor Series it is impossible to listen to music in a waterproof setting, or with right angle headphones jacks. LifeProof offers an adapter for this.

The Armor series has good controls for all power, home, volume and mute buttons, and transparent screens for all sensors and cameras. There is even a port for the microphone on the back near the camera.

The Armor Series was a long time in the making but is an excellent product. They have engineered this thing well and have made an excellent product. They are giving LifeProof a run for their money with potentially a more solid, protected case.  

OtterBox Armor back view