I've spent the last two weeks rocking the OtterBox Defender Series case, and it's been doing a fine job of keeping my Samsung Galaxy S6 secure, both out on the trails while camping (more on that here) and at home at my desk.
The Defender Series cases hinge on a three-layered design. At its core is a hard plastic shell. Built into that shell is a dedicated screen protector. Wrapped around the whole thing is an impact-resistant rubber skin. Major input jacks have flaps covering them, while power and volume keys are accessible with chunky pass-through buttons on the outer skin. My headphones and USB cables fit fine with the space provided, but your mileage may vary. Wireless charging still works hunky-dory through the case.
The home button stays open and uncovered, so any fingerprint ID features are still at the ready. The heart rate scanner around the rear is open too, with enough of a slant in the casing so putting your thumb against it isn't awkward. Equally open are the speakers, microphones, cameras, and the IR blaster for your TV. That said, you can only expect splash resistance rather than the full-blown waterproofing that you'll get with something like Lifeproof.
OtterBox has been around for a long time, so there's a fairly high bar for quality in place. One of the newer additions since the last time I tried one of their extra-beefy cases is a locking clip that allows the included holster to act as a stand for your phone. A quick rotation allows it to work at either a steep or shallow angle. The clip has a deep hook in it which allowed me to hang the case and phone in a few convenient places while camping.
In terms of sheer style, well, that's not something you're particularly worried about when you're in rough environs; you just want to make sure your phone can take a tumble. The design lines are largely inoffensive. Corners aren't aggressively squared off, so holding the phone is still very comfortable. It's certainly easier to grip than an S6 on its own. I went with the understated black color scheme, but the variety available from OtterBox is bewildering. You can pick and chose both hard plastic and rubber portions in as obnoxious colors as you like.
Now that I'm back in civilization, I don't mind keeping the case on at all. Sure, the phone is crazy bulky in comparison to a naked S6, but I fiund the phone on its own is a little on the slippery side, and the glass construction always makes me nervous about taking it out. The peace of mind of being able to toss your phone around without worry is not insignificant.
Now, a few of the downsides. Screen protectors are always a bit of a toss-up. With separate screen protectors that stick directly on the screen, you can regularly encounter distracting bubbles or debris. That's a non-issue with an integrated screen protector, like those on the Defender Series, though it does leave a minute gap where dust can get in. It'll happen no matter how much you clean the phone and case before installing it. It's a minor annoyance that comes with the territory.
Another niggle is that the flaps for headphones and USB are impossible to get open when your phone is mounted in the holster face-out. If you're taking in a longer video, or are setting it up bedside, situations where you need that access aren't uncommon. Speaking of the holster, the clip mechanism is very strong, to the point that I worry about it wearing a line through the rubber to the plastic clip over time. Part of the case design towards the front seems to anticipate this wear, but not so much from the back. In previous experiences, I've found the rubber layer tends to pick up oils over time, but I haven't had this one long enough to see if that's still the case.
Overall, it's easy to continue to recommend OtterBox. There are significantly cheaper cases out there, but you really do get what you pay for. OtterBox's years of experience in this field shows. The Defender Series continues to be tough, smartly designed, and good-looking.
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