Back in May, OtterBox bought LifeProof, a case maker whose sole purpose is waterproof tough cases. It would have been perfectly understandable if we never saw another waterproof case out of OtterBox again after their previous Armor series. The LifeProof Fre I reviewed was close to perfect and the Nuud makes it even better. It was very surprising when OtterBox announced its second generation of waterproof cases: the Preserver series. I had to take a look.
The previous generation Armor series used a couple hinges to keep the halves together. This version snaps together, much like a LifeProof. In fact, it looks a lot like the Fre in construction, only a bit bulkier at 1.6cm thick compared to 1.25 for the LifeProof. You feel the weight a tiny little bit, but to be honest, I didn’t have problems accessing the screen in the larger Preserver series. The extra bulk is surprisingly a non-issue for me and I have medium sized hands. The cutout on both sides is a bit deeper, so that might protect your phone a bit more. There is also a cushion in the rear half to help lessen shock impact. This case turns your iPhone 5 into a tank, in theory at least.
The usability is going to be a little hit or miss. The integrated screen protector lets in a bit less air than the LifeProof. Other than the plastic texture, it was much more like using the phone case less than the Fre. It wasn’t a struggle to activate control center at the bottom or notification center at the top where air pockets tend to gather. The side and top buttons work perfectly, but the side switch and the home button are a different story. I can’t get the slider switch to work at all (I’ll take the case off and try again to get it slotted right) and the home button is far too stiff. I would either have to press hard or it wouldn’t register presses at all. The home button cover is a major usability weakness on this case. The lightning and 3.5mm jacks are easily accessible through watertight covers on the back. They work far better than the hinge cover for lightning and screw cover the the headphone jack on Lifeproof’s cases.
For the fashion conscious consumer, it comes in four colors: a white/grey mixed called glacier (which is what I got), carbon black, primrose which is a pink/ grey mixture, and a really weird mix called Pistachio which features neon green accents, a dark grey front, and a white back. I don’t get the last one, but there have to be people who would buy it. This series is also coming soon for the iPhone 5S and 5C and Samsung GS4 at the same price point and more or less the same colors although there are a couple differences. The version for the 5S is the first protection case to support the touch ID sensor.
I’ve tested several waterproof cases. Some of which you know about since you’ve seen the review. There were others you didn’t hear about which leaked like a sieve. Ironically the less complex a case is, the more waterproof it tends to be. The complex cases with lots of hinges and thick plastic were the ones that tended to leak. Snapping the case together is easy, though follow the instructions exactly by getting the button slotted first, then the top and finish up on the sides. I did it wrong the first time and it leaked a bit. Don’t worry though, I have an exact size and weight dummy unit for this. No iPhone was harmed in the making of this review. To give a bit of a spoiler, I don’t think any iPhone will be harmed in this case.
Once snapped together correctly, the preserver is IP-68 rated for dust and water up to 2m (6.6ft). It just so happened that I have quite the water torture machine for cases in my place. Some may call it a washing machine. Before you laugh, remember its got a couple feet of water in it, and it throws things around. Also, I had a comforter that needed a wash. This time the inside came out bone dry as it should. I wouldn’t think twice before taking my phone anywhere near water in this case.
The second part of this case is the protection against drops. As with water, it’s rated to 2m/6.6ft. I loaded it up with my dummy iPhone and dropped at various angles from between 6 & 7 feet onto concrete. Both inside and outside the rating level. While the phone itself stayed nice and safe, the case seal varied a bit impact to impact. On certain impacts, the back of the case would tend to pop off to various degrees. The good news is that this should be dissipating the energy from the drop. The bad news, I wouldn’t exactly be dropping it in the rain onto the sidewalk. I don’t know if its an intentional effect, but in this case, it favors impact protection over water protection. Quite frankly, you’ll be seeing a concrete sidewalk more than you see water.
The Preserver is a good waterproof case. It will do waterproof flawlessly and it will keep your phone safe from drops. Just not necessarily both at the same time. It’s easy to snap together and it’s very ergonomic despite having some bulk to it. The ports on the bottom are easy to get to and the built-in screen protector is almost flawless. On the flip side, the selector switch on the side and the home button are not as easy to operate as they should be. Overall this is a good case with a few flaws.
The Preserver series for iPhone 5 retails for $89.99 and is available in four colors.
- Good protection against both water immersion and drops
- Headphone and Lightning ports easy to get to
- Integrated screen protector does not inhibit use of screen at all
- Very ergonomic despite large size
- Back will separate after drops above 6′. This will compromise waterproof performance (might save your phone from the drop though).
- Mute selector switch and home button aren’t as easy to use as they should be.