OtterBox is a household name in the world of phone cases. Anyone looking to protect their phone as much as possible is almost certainly going to consider a case from OtterBox. Luckily for Z10 owners, they’ve made a Defender series case for the Z10. But can this case live up to its name, or has OtterBox dropped the ball with this one? I spent the last week with the Defender to find out.
When you first put this case onto the Z10, there should be no doubt it’s a proper OtterBox. The Defender packs three layers of protection – a polycarbonate shell covering the back of the phone, another shell going over the front that includes a screen protector, and thick layer of silicone that goes on top of this all. The silicone layer provides cover for all of the phone’s ports and buttons, but OtterBox has still made provisions to ensure that the cameras, speakers, and microphones remain unobstructed. All three layers do make for a very thick case, but this is to be expected when you’re dealing with this much protection.
The end result is certainly a very rugged case. Although I didn’t do any actual testing (I love my Z10 a little too much for that), it’s easy to tell that everything has been well-protected. There is plenty of clearance around the screen to ensure that dropping it face-first won’t end tragically, while the screen protector should deal with any risk of scratches. The rear camera, bottom speaker, and microphone all have a polycarbonate frame around their openings to ensure that they still receive the protection they need, while functioning as intended by BlackBerry. The noise-cancelling microphone at the top has a thick layer of silicone around it to serve a similar purpose. The result is quite possibly the ultimate in protection for your Z10.
OtterBox also ships the Defender with a holster. With the use of two mounting points at the top of the case, and a clip hugging the bottom of the phone, this provides a secure means of carrying the phone around for those who prefer not to keep it in their pocket. The belt clip at the rear has a full 360-degrees of rotation, so you can holster it in whatever orientation you please. The clip will also lock into an open position if you pull it back all the way, which allows the holster to double as a kickstand for watching videos, provided that the clip is in landscape orientation.
Although I’m sure it sounds excellent thus far, there are a number of key issues with the Defender. The most obvious is the amount of bezel space the case occupies. As a result, you have to adapt to a new way of using the remaining bezel space, which could take some time and will probably never feel perfect. The screen protector has some flaws as well. Since it doesn’t stick to the phone like most protectors, but rather hangs over the screen as a part of the protective shell, there is a gap between the screen and the protector. This decreases screen sensitivity a little bit, so you’ll have to get used to pressing down on the screen just a little harder. It also allows dust to gather underneath it, which can get a little annoying – the only way of cleaning it is to take all three layers of apart, carefully clean the protector from behind with a cloth, and piece it back together. Dust will also gather around the outer edges of the protector where it joins the shell, and although this doesn’t require taking the case apart, it is rather difficult to get at with a cleaning cloth.
The holster isn’t entirely perfect either. Like most BlackBerry holsters, it contains a magnet to enable sleep mode when the phone is holstered. There’s just one problem with this magnet – it doesn’t work. The case simply provides too much clearance between the screen and the holster, so the Z10 doesn’t sense the magnet. I confirmed that it wasn’t an issue with the phone or the magnet by taking the phone out of the case and running it over the magnet – it sensed it just fine, and enabled sleep mode.
All-in-all, the Defender for the Z10 stays true to the key OtterBox value of device protection. You’ll be hard-pressed to find a case that protects your Z10 any better than this. But OtterBox could have done better with quality control. The space between the screen protector and the screen itself could be narrowed down to help with sensitivity and dust issues, and the sleeper magnet in the holster seems as if it was a rushed afterthought. It would have been nice if they used a little less bezel space as well. But if you just want the best in device protection, regardless of any flaws, then the OtterBox Defender will suit you perfectly.