My Review of the OtterBox Defender Case for the BlackBerry Storm 9500 and 9530
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I was waiting from the very day I purchased my new Storm (Nov 15th at 6am) for Otter to release this case. As a Service Technician, I can be very hard on my phones and really wanted the best protection possible. I ordered Ghost Armor before I had my Storm. Loved it, but wanted more protection. By the way, none of the transparent guards will work and still fit in this case.
I am very impressed with the build quality of this product from the moment I opened the package. I am also impressed with Otter as a company and the entire purchase experience. I spent many years in retail, including being a Regional Manager, so am familiar with what good customer service is. The communication from them was excellent, shipping was very fast, and the etire purchase was painless and pleasurable.
I won't go too far into the general aspects of the OtterBox Defender Cases, as if you are looking at purchasing one, you already know about three layers of protection (transparent dust cover, high impact hard case and silicone sleeve,) and the excellent holster they come with. What I will get into are the specifics of the Defender for the Blackberry Storm .
First is the transparent cover and dust protection. This component is glued into place in the front section of the two piece hard case. Both speaker ports (earpiece and speakerphone) have paper filters over them. This setup does a decent job of keeping dust from the device, however, after a couple of weeks of use, I still find dust getting between the transparency and the screen occasionally. Here is also where I will make my first small and not so small complaints about this case.
The transparency also covers the hard buttons, which are at a different depth (they stick out a little) than the screen. Sometimes while texting or navigation the screen, when you click near the buttons, the transparency has to be pushed down also. This will sometimes push down on one of the hard buttons (I've only had this happen with the Menu and Back buttons, not Call or End) while you are trying to do something else. This is one of my two most major complaints about this case. It has caused me numerous times to lose everything I have typed. One possible solution I have not tried yet is to put a screen protector on the screen but under the transparency to more closely match the level of the hard buttons.
The filters themselves don't really cause any issues, however, the speakerphone port in particular, is far too small and has noticeably reduced it's volume level. It also causes distortion at higher volume levels due to the back pressure on the speaker of too small a port. I may fix this myself with a dremel tool.
The hard case is very sturdy, and the way it snaps together is tight and solid. It fits the body of the Storm excellently with no slop or movement of the device in it. Thickness and protection of delicate areas is assured. I have only two complaints with the design of the hard case itself.
My first complaint is a minor one, which is more bothersome for others than myself most of the time.
The microphone port on the bottom, seen above, has moved sound directionality away from the speakers mouth and has lent to several complaints from people I am calling that they have a difficult time hearing me. I have found, if you tip the top of the phone away from your ear slightly, it has the effect of pointing the port more toward your mouth and lessening this problem, but also makes it harder to hear your callers.
My other complaint is a major one. It is difficult to photograph, but I have done as well as I can in the next photo.
There is a bevel of the hard case around the screen. This nicely covers the edge of the screen where light bleeds through normally, and slants down to the screen from the thickness of the hard case. This bevel however interferes with your finger when trying to type near the edges of the screen. It has caused many instances of being unable to accurately hit the spacebar, completely unable to hit Close or Exit in the lower corner of the menu while in landscape mode, and spending an unnecessary amount of time trying to get the screen to read my finger on the Sym, 0, left Shift, and Num keys in landscape. This is particularly problematic in certain Apps such as YouTube, as it only opens in landscape. In other Apps you can of course rotate to portrait to click Close, but then occasionally will fight the transparency, pressing a button for you when you do this. (Appleberry Theme by Hastings, great theme, big props)
Otter could help this issue by rounding the bevel, instead of a 45 degree angle, allowing more room for your finger to touch the lower areas of the screen.
My only other issue with the design of the hard case involves the headphone jack area. There are curved, raised areas flanking the port itself, which help guide the plug, protect the area and hold the silicone dust cover closed in place over the port. While my Shure Headphone jack fits between them, another headphone plug I have is a little too large in diameter to fit between them, and will not snap down in fully, rendering the audio useless for the device connected to the other end of that plug. So if you plan on purchasing this case, you may find not all headphones will work. Check the size of the jack carefully. I would have not even noticed if the last few leaked OS's hadn't removed the audio streaming to A2DP Bluetooth devices while playing video. Please bring this back RIM!!!!
On to the silicone sleeve. Zero complaints. It is very comfortable in the hand, is attached to the hard case very well, is thick enough that I have NO concerns about tearing it, and it's texture is great for keeping a hold of your Storm even with wet hands. The sleeve has raised areas for all of the buttons, completely covering them and protecting them from dust or impact.
The Lock and Mute buttons are completely functional through the case, also having the raised sections seen above. They press through two cutouts in the hard case, as seen in the pic below.
The right side of the sleeve is seen below with Convenience Key and Volume easy to feel and operate.
The left side of the sleeve is similar, with the Charge Sync Port opening, and Left Side Convenience Key. As seen below, the cover for the Micro USB port is very thick, and I don't think there will be any tearing issues with repeated opening and use. It tucks firmly under the raised areas of the hard case above and below it, and there is no fear of it being bumped open, or becoming loose over time.
The back of the case of course has an opening, covered by a transparency, for the camera and flash, the aforementioned annoyingly small speakerphone port, and the ridged area which the holster uses to keep the Storm firmly in place.
The holster is standard Otter fare, meaning, well made, with ratcheting belt clip, and magnet to put your Berry in sleep mode. The Storm fits securely in the holster, and even crawling through attics and crawl spaces I have never felt like it would become dislodged.
The back side of the holster completely covers the screen of the Storm, again letting you know it is well protected in or out.
I think my summary of the OtterBox Defender case for the Storm is as follows. This is a great case. Comfortable, well executed, and as durable and protective as any case can be without being bulky or feeling cumbersome. You will not find a better case in terms of protection, features, or build quality even close to the price of the OtterBox in my opinion.
However, Otter it seems did this by porting their great product to a device which is wholy different from other BlackBerrys. There are some things specific to the Storm which I think should definitely be addressed, and I don't think would be too difficult to impliment in a Defender 2.0, or maybe just a 1.1.
Please Otter, a small list of issues....
- Open up the speakerphone port to let the volume out. The Storm has one of the best speakerphones around, let it breathe.
- Round off that bevel so I can type properly again and close all my programs.
- Do something to allow the hard buttons some headroom, so that when I click the screen close to them, they aren't pressed also.
- Angle the microphone port on the bottom a little toward the speakers mouth.
Do those few things, I would happily part with another $49.95 to purchase it. It's that good.
Hope my observations help any of you on the fence about whether or not to purchase this case. If you want the best protection you can buy at a reasonable price in a comfortable and attractive case, I say what are you waiting for? If the issues I've come across are too much to deal with, I say, drop Otter an email and let them know you would like to see these things addressed and you would be happy to purchase one. I'll be right in line with you to buy it.