Saturday, September 20, 2014

'Otterbox: Defender' series for iPhone 6

I’ve always been the “s” upgrade guy. Way back since the 3Gs I’ve always done the “upgrade every two years” thing. Because of that I’ve always had the luck to have an entire year for Otterbox to perfect their iPhone Defender cases. Any imperfections they found in the initial launch of the iPhone 3G, iPhone 4, iPhone 5 cases would be worked out by the time the iPhone 3Gs, iPhone 4s, and iPhone 5s cases came out. I enjoyed that little bit of (if not unscientific or rational) breathing room.

This year was the first year I upgraded early, so I was curious to see if Otterbox would make a perfect case with the launch of a new iPhone model. Unfortunately they haven’t. They have made an “OK” case, but it has one major flaw that they need to fix fast and numerous tiny flaws that I’ll just have tolerate.  

The fingerprint sensor is the major flaw.

On the 5s case there is a cutout to place your finger so there was nothing between your skin and the sensor. And the technology worked perfectly. With the iPhone 6 case there is a thin plastic shield over it and it doesn’t work AT ALL. How in the world did this even pass testing!? I’ve been sitting here while I write this review testing it over and over again thinking it might be my finger (haha). No. The plastic over the sensor is a MAJOR hinderance to the use of this phone. And seeing how heavily Apple Pay is being touted as well as the opening of the touch sensor to third party developers, that is reason enough to not buy this case. 

Now I did notice that when I took the case off, the plastic covering that is over the fingerprint sensor almost looked like it was placed there as an afterthought. It would seem to me that if this design was planned, it would be a part of the entire plastic face covering and not a separate piece altogether. That lead me to assume that this was a PR move. One of the major complaints of the 5s Defender case was that the cutout for the fingerprint sensor let in dust. I guess enough people complained and OB decided to “fix” it. I wish they wouldn’t have. They only made it worse. What I’m going to try and do, if I’m brave enough, is to try and pry that small piece of plastic off. I’ll let you know in an update if and when I do this. 

Another problem with this case are the buttons that cover the power and volume are very hard to press. Very. You have to exert extra pressure just to get them to work. This being a new case I can understand the stiffness of it being new. But having purchased over 15-20 OB cases over the years I don’t think that is the only reason. One thing that you should know is that as I write this review I have my iPhone 6 next to me testing and testing just to make sure that I’m being fair. I am. Those buttons are really bad. 

The touch screen isn’t as responsive as previous models either. New people switching to Otterbox probably won’t notice. But when OB has been your case of choice for years, you noticed the difference. It’s not as bad as the Lifeproof screen protector, but it is worse than the 4s and 5s screen protector. I just checked their website and found this statement about the fingerprint sensor:

Protective membrane cradles the Touch ID to block dust and debris and enhance device functionality. 

So it IS supposed to be there. I’ll leave it up to you but I took mine off.

The plus side is that the protection on the Otterbox case hasn’t suffered. The plastic shell is sturdy as you would expect and the outer rubber/silicone (I can’t tell which) feel good in your hands. I was super careful with my iPhone before I got this case and now I feel so much better because I do trust the Otterbox brand. Which is why I didn’t hesitate to buy this case. Unfortunately now that I have, I wish I could return it and look for something better. At the beginning of this review I mentioned that I was skeptical if OB could make a decent case for a new model out the door. 

I have to say that the answer is no. 

The best part about this case is the storied protection it provides. The problems arise in the applications that are married with it. The EXPERIENCE of using this iPhone 6 case takes away from the PROTECTION of this iPhone 6 case. The good news is, these problems can be easily fixed. The bad news is, I wish it hadn't cost me almost $60 to find this out. 

For the first time in a long time, if not ever, I can not recommend this Otterbox case. Maybe after they’ve had some time to fix these problems, yes. But not now. 

Side notes:

This is a nice looking case, but unlike the 4s or 5s, it doesn’t mirror the look of the phone it covers. 
The hole over the fingerprint sensor isn’t centered. 
Otterbox brought back the raised area around the fingerprint sensor to give it more protection when/if you drop it. To me, it doesn’t interfere with the workings of the sensor nor does it feel weird or intrusive.

*UPDATE* - OK, I couldn’t stand that piece covering the fingerprint sensor so I took it off. Took me all of ten minutes to do so. You know what it was? Thick tape. What the heck Otterbox? Was this supposed to be on there? I looked back through my box and there was no instruction on whether we should take that off or leave it on. Interesting. Now that that thick tape is gone the fingerprint sensor works perfectly.