Otterbox Armor Series Case for iPhone 5 in Review – A multitalented case for your iPhone

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Otterbox is no stranger to iPhone cases that provide serious amounts of protection, and the Defender case was proof of that. Now with the recent release of the Armor Series case – one Otterbox calls the “toughest case ever built” – your iPhone 5 is finally safe from the ill-effects of water damage. Besides being waterproof, the Armor case boasts protection against dust, 10 foot drops and can even withstand two tons of crushing force.

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Armor Design and Specs

These impressive feats are all accomplished thanks to a completely redesigned case that ensures no components of the phone are left exposed to the elements, with a body that’s made primarily out of high-strength reinforced plastic that can take a hell of a beating.

Unlike the Defender, which has an inner and outer shell that can be cumbersome to put on/remove, the Armor is much more convenient to install with its two-piece design. The front half of the case acts as a holder for the iPhone, while the rear shell sandwiches it from the rear. Giving it a waterproof seal are the metal latches that securely lock the two halves together. And you don’t have to worry about your phone wiggling around once closed; the inside is lined with protective silicone that ensures a snug fit and absorbs shock from potential impact. Raised rubber buttons on the outside allow the use of the home, sleep and volume buttons, and a built-in screen protector is there to prevent damage to the iPhone’s glass screen.

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To help keep water and dust from entering the lightning port and headphone jack, the Armor case makes use of flaps that essentially plug the respective openings shut. They are moderately easy to pry open with a fingernail, though the seal is still tight enough to keep water out. If you’re wondering how sound from the speakers can still be heard properly through the case, a non-permeable membrane is used on the flap and case to allow sound to travel through, all the while keeping dust and water at bay. Surprisingly, I found the volume just as loud with the Armor on, which is great as I often like to catch up with my TV shows on my iPhone. Meanwhile, the rear camera is also protected by a glass covering that is resistant to scratches. Just think of the Armor case as a biosuit: once it snaps on, nothing gets in.

Using the Armor Case

The first thing that comes to mind when holding the Armor is that it’s one solid and hefty case. This right here is the Hummer H3 of all iPhone cases. Dimensions wise, it’s every bit bigger then the Defender, though not by a significan amount (140.2 mm x 75.5 mm x 17.8 mm vs 135.12 mm x 69.9 mm x 16.18 mm). Depite its added bulk, I’m still able to comfortably put it in my front pocket without getting weird stares from the ladies (at least none that I was aware of). One comment I do get nearly every time I take out the Armor is, “what case is that!?”. I don’t recall ever owning a mobile case that elicited as much attention.

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True to Otterbox’s word, the Armor is extremely tough. I’m a complete klutz when it comes to holding onto my devices and have already dropped it (by accident) several times in the past 2 months — once on my asphalt driveway and the rest on other hard surfaces. Save for some minor scuffing on the case’s corner, that’s about the only damage taken. My iPhone 5′s remained unharmed and not a scratch resulted from the drops.

The built-in screen protector is responsive (making it easy to type or play games) and I’d say it’s even a touch more clear than that of the Defender. Save for the slight reflection it gives off under certain lighting conditions, you’d hardly notice it’s even there. That said, I did find a slight trampolining effect when tapping on the screen. This normally happens when the built-in screen protector isn’t sitting 100% flush against the phone’s own display. As such, you can feel a slight depression when typing, and there’s a “popping” sound when contact is made.

Update: I was able to test out another Otterbox Armor case and the screen protector on this is significantly better, with no noticeable trampolining or the aforementioned tapping sound.

Voice quality wise when speaking on the phone, I have yet to have anyone complain, so that’s a good sign. As for the camera, while photos come out sharp and clean, I’ve found that after a period use, lint and dust start to build up on the camera port holes on the outside (particularly when you leave the iPhone in your pants’ pocket), which in turn causes images to appear more washed out and even cloudy. The remedy is to occasionally clean up these areas with a piece of cloth; once done, the images looks fine once again.

It should also be mentioned that the belt clip that comes included with the Defender has been replaced by a tough handstrap. Personally I much prefer this accessory anyway as I never did use the belt clip.

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Waterproof iPhone case

To test whether the Armor case actually keeps water out, I intially inserted a piece of paper into the case (instead of my iPhone naturally), closed it up and dunked it into a basin full of water about 5 inches deep and had it held down for a good 30 mintues (as recommended by Otterbox in video below). Having dried off the case completely, I opened it up to find the inside and piece of paper completely dry. It’s waterproof alright! Now that I was more confident of it’s water repelling abilities, I placed my iPhone in the case and dropped it in the basin for a quick swim. Alas, my iPhone 5 stayed nice and dry. According to Otterbox, the Armor case can take submersions of 30 minutes in up to 6.6 feet of water. Not diving deep, but certainly enough for those times when you carelessly drop it into shallow water – like a toilet or bath.

On a recent 3 day layover in Tel Aviv and extended vacation in Thailand, I was more than happy to have my Armor case with me. Despite the added size, I appreciated its ruggedness and waterproof feature on my travels. And the visit to the hotel pool was great knowing that I didn’t have to worry about carrying my iPhone too close to the pool.

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Final Thoughts

The Otterbox Armor case for the iPhone 5 does what it was intended and does it well. Few other iPhone cases on the market can make the claim that it’s crush/dust/drop/and water proof all rolled into one. Naturally, it was created for those who seek maximum protection for their iDevice, though the extra bulk and retail price tag of $99 could be too much for the casual user. However, if you’re looking for a case that can take a heck of a beating AND won’t damage your phone when dropped into water, the Armor should be right up there at the top of your list.

Note: The Otterbox Armor comes in three colors: Neon Green, Arctic Blue and Electric Orange. And as of writing, Amazon is currently selling the Armor cases for $73.

Grab It Rating - 4/5

What’s to Like:

  • Solidly contructed
  • Waterproof!
  • Keeps dust out
  • Metal hatch system makes it very easy to install/remove phone
  • Sound still loud through case
  • Quality of phone calls still good
  • Built to ensure physical abuse

What’s Not to Like:

  • Adds significant bulk to slim profile of iPhone 5
  • Headphone flap at bottom can put pressure on end of earphone cord
  • Quality of photos affected by dirty lens port hole
  • $99 price tag, though it can be had for less

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