Oh OtterBox. How I love thee. The company has come a far way in the mobile protection business since I first reviewed their tank-like case for the BlackBerry 8700 back in 2007. Over the years, OtterBox has maintained their focus on building cases for people who beat the heck out of their phones (and kids who are naturally gifted at destroying things).
As a Built for BlackBerry partner, OtterBox was able to have their OtterBox Defender Case for the BlackBerry Z10 ready for launch. The Defender Series is an extremly popular line for OtterBox and among the CrackBerry community there has been a ton of interest and concern over this case for the Z10. Everybody knows the Defender is the case to have for extreme protection. The big question with the BlackBerry Z10 OtterBox was around the ability to comfortably use the Z10 in the case, given that BlackBerry 10's touchscreen gestures require a lot of swiping along the edges of the display and the sizeable case covers much of the Z10's bezel.
Be sure to watch the video below, which should alleviate any concerns users may be having with this case. With the Z10 inserted into the Defender case, I've been finding it OK to navigate the BlackBerry 10 OS. The gestures are accessible around the edges of the display on all four sides. That said, depending on your natural motions, you may have to make some adjustments to your natural movements as you start using the Defender case with the Z10. Swiping up from the bottom to return to the homescreen or perform a Peek into the Hub, I've found I had to adjust my thumb position a little, using more of the tip of my thumb vs. the flat of my thumb to start the gesture motion (the bezel is accessible, but there's not a lot excess space below the display to leisurely start the gesture).
Swiping down from the top of display there is plenty of space to gesture, and swiping along the left and right edges has been ok too, even though the bezel tolerance there is type. Typing on the Z10 is OK too - things get a little tight on the far left and right sides of the keyboard to the edge of the casing, but I've found it managable. The touch screen is perfectly responsive under the case's plastic screen protector, which helps protect against scratches and spills. A cut out remains in the screen cover so that the display sensors work properly.
I've always found every OtterBox I've ever owned takes a little getting used to. Compared to "normal" cases, it's big and bulky and slightly awkward. But it's also awesome. That's the trade off. I haven't spent too much time on the OtterBox for the Z10 as I type this yet, but in the time I have it appears to be another OtterBox case that I could easily adapt to and that I'm sure other OtterBox users -- who demand the most out of their case -- will love. And to be honest, as big as the Defender case is, it's actually not **that big**. It's much more slim than that first case for the 8700 I reviewed. :)
We tested out the Z10's NFC functionality with the OtterBox Defender protecting it, and found connections on the NFC front all worked flawlessly despite the extra thickness of the case. NFC users should be good to go!
The rest of the Z10 Defender case lives up to OtterBox's usual standards. The case has excellent fit and finish, with tight tolerances everywhere. The external case's rubber is nice and grippy. The closure that allow access to the Micro USB and Micro HDMI ports fit snug, as does the one for the headset jack. Power and volume buttons are still easy to use. OtterBox was smart to leave a cut out at the bottom of the phone to allow sound to escape the sound port.
Removing the Z10 from the Defender case is a bit of a chore, so when it comes to needing extra power should the Z10's battery go low later in the day, I'd strongly suggest picking up a BlackBerry Z10 Battery Bundle, which allows you to recharge your Z10 without having to toss in the spare. Tossing in a spare battery won't be as easy compared to other cases.
The OtterBox Defender case for the BlackBerry Z10 has an MSRP of $59.99, but you can find it for less at ShopCrackBerry.com. As I write this it's available to Canadians in our Canada store, and will also be available in our main US/International store soon (sign up for Z10 accessory alerts here). Be sure to check out the video and additional photos below.
As for a tortue test to see just how tough the Defender case for the Z10 is, I'm sorry, but I just can't bring myself to do it... yet. There's simply too many people in the world still wanting to get their hands on a Z10 for me to risk destroying one. It would be rude. Once the Z10 is fully out there in the world we'll risk sacrificing one to test just how strong the case is.