Review – Otterbox Armor Series for iPhone 4/4s

OtterBox Armor Series Waterproof Case for iPhone 4-4s front back
 

Long Time Coming
It was a long time coming (including a cancelled launch for this iPhone 4/4s model in June 2012), but 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 Otterbox.com, and Amazon.  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.

Details
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 for the 4/4s is only available in the Neon/Grey color scheme. Strangely, the 5 is also available in Blue/White, and Orange/Grey colors. We will see if those are released later on for this 4/4s model.

As for size, compared to other cases, the OtterBox for iPhone 4/4s is a beast:

  • Weight: 4.23oz / 120g
  • Dimensions: 5.14 x 2.94 x 0.82 in / 130.6 x 74.7 x 20.8mm
  • Depth rating: IP-68, 6.6 ft for 30 minutes
  • Drop Test: 10 ft

The iPhone 4/4s Armor is about 10g heavier than the iPhone 5 version and a little larger in thickness to make up for the size difference of the phones. It is certainly larger than the iPhone 4/4s case from LifeProof, which weighs only 28g and has dimensions of 129 x 66 x 10.7mm.  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, and this is rated to withstand 2 tons of pressure. Similar waterproofing and drop test specs as LifeProof.

Video Review
Here is a video that shows the functionality and build of the Armor 4/4s:





Analysis
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 Series for iPhone 4-4s metal closure-clasp

The side opposite the latches, 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 on the Armor for iPhone 5, this opened during huge falls.  Note that these were much larger falls than guaranteed by the product and shouldn’t be a problem.

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 overmolded lanyards that peal apart to reveal ports to the phone’s controls. These are protected by small black o-rings that keep out water.

OtterBox Armor Series for iPhone 4-4s seal for charging port

One advantage is that, compared to LifeProof, there are no small pieces to lose.  The downside of this is that it is impossible to listen to music in a waterproof setting, or with right angle headphones jacks, whereas LifeProof offers an adapter for this.

The Armor series has 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.

Overall
The Armor Series was a long time in the making but is an excellent product. While delayed, they have done it right and are giving LifeProof a run for their money with potentially a more solid, protected product.

OtterBox Armor Series for iPhone 4-4s inside ringer switch and volume