Best case scenario to protect your phone

14 Jan
Lo res-Meeker tech column photo-Jan 14:13

The iPhone 5 is shown (centre) flanked by Otter Box Defender (left) and iGlaze protective cases. The Defender was far too bulky for our columnist’s tastes. (Geoff Meeker photo)

When I purchased my iPhone 5 late last year I did so in a hurry, during the 40-minute window while my son was at bagpipes lessons.

So when the clerk asked if I wanted a case to protect the phone, I said yes, asked which product was best and took it, without a moment’s thought.

That was a mistake.

Now don’t get me wrong – the Otter Box Defender ($60, is one of the best phone cases available. It just wasn’t right for me, though it took several days to figure that out.

The case snaps on in layers, beginning with a stretchy rubber skin that wraps tight around the body of the phone. Then you lock on the outer shell – a rigid exo-skeleton – in two pieces, including a front window screen protector that transfers your touch to the screen below.

Off the top, don’t get me started on these screen protectors. They work to a point, but the touch sensitivity of the phone’s screen is most certainly reduced. The question is, by how much? Is it 10, 20, 30 percent, or more?

The flexible inner skin serves as an insulating layer within the rigid outer shell. If you drop the phone from shoulder height onto hard concrete, the outer shell takes the hit while the inner blanket absorbs the shock. Based on this, and the durability of the iPhone itself, I think you could stand on a paved parking lot and throw the Otter-encased phone as far or as high as you like and it would survive the landing. Not that I advocate doing this.

So what’s the problem? Apple went to great lengths to slim down the iPhone 5 to just 7.6 mm. When assembled, the Otter Box is 16 mm thick – more than double the phone itself. It turns the svelte iPhone 5 into an ugly brick that feels heavy and cumbersome in the pocket. As well, the inputs are hidden under little trap doors which are only slightly annoying for the earphone and charge cord but highly vexing for the vibrate button (try opening that little trap door and reaching inside to switch off a call in the middle of a meeting – not fun).

A pox on the Otter Box! I put up with the Defender for several days before removing it and going bareback. What a relief! I had my slender iPhone back. And there was a noticeable difference in touch screen response.

Bottom line: I will not be throwing my phone across the parking lot. I will take great care not to drop it, even from waist height. Realistically, I don’t need the Otter Box – for me, it’s overkill. What I want is a case that guards the already durable aluminum body of the iPhone from occasional falls – with no screen protector, thank you.

I shopped around and found the iGlaze by Moshi ( It’s offers one layer of security in case of a fall, without noticeably changing the form factor of the phone itself. All the controls and inputs are easy to access. At $30, it’s also half the price of the Otter Box Defender. (Otter Box does manufacture slimmer cases, including one as thin as the iGlaze, but I didn’t see any at the stores I visited.)

Defender vs moshi

A side view of the iPhone 5 cases, separated by sheets of paper. The phone is on top, with the Moshi beneath it and the Defender on the bottom. (Geoff Meeker photo)

Bear in mind, you could have different needs than me. If you work outdoors in rough weather – a construction worker, for example – you’re going to need better protection for your smartphone. In certain cases, the Defender could be just the ticket.

It should be noted that the Defender is not waterproof. In fact, it will fill with water almost instantly if dropped in the drink and, in such a situation, you should remove it from the case immediately to dry off the phone.

Otter Box does offer a model – its top-of-the-line Armor series – that is guaranteed to remain waterproof for up to 30 minutes underwater. It’s as bulky as the Defender line but in this case, is a fair trade-off. A phone connection can be a lifeline, especially for wilderness campers, sea kayakers and others who live on the edge, and a waterproof case would be essential for such pursuits. The Armor is priced at $100 and is guaranteed drop proof and crush proof as well.

It’s also a wise investment if you are prone to dropping your phone in the toilet.

Geoff Meeker is a communications consultant with a soft spot for technology. He also writes a blog about the local media scene, which is hosted at


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