OtterBox Reflex iPhone 4 Case Review

OtterBox is a great company that makes great products, make no mistake. They've grown considerably over the years, but always seem to maintain that friendly, next-door family owned business feel. They're also known for innovative cases for gadgets and mobile devices that are unique as well as super-strong, protective, and often water resistant or waterproof. Like an otter's fur, of course. And who doesn't love otters? You don't? THE HUMANITY!

Anyway... newest in their line of products for the coveted Apple iPhone (and other devices) is the "Reflex" series of cases. What are they? How do they work? Do they measure up to the excellence displayed by their other models? They were nice enough to send me a sample so I could find out.

Opening the OtterBox Reflex

As with every other OtterBox product I've seen, the Reflex case came packaged attractively in a distinctive yellow box. Simple and minimal packaging, but effective.

Once removed from the packaging, unlike most other cases you may have seen (ever) this one comes in two halves. Remove the sticker holding them together and you'll have what you see above. OtterBox is nice enough to also include a screen protector and screen wipe--no extra charge!

How does the OtterBox Reflex work?

Upon close inspection after box removal, you'll see that each half of the case isn't just a simple piece of plastic. Molded within is soft plastic, hugging the edges and wrapping around the corners. Apparently, this is supposed to act like the crumple zone in a car and absorb shocks from impact in the event you were to drop or otherwise abuse your phone in an unintended accident.

You can see this effect in action in the video above. I tried to duplicate that squoosh, and could not, so I've determined that the effect is exaggerated in the video--but you get the idea.

In addition to the shock-absorbing rubber, the case is designed to leave a cushion of air between it and the phone, giving additional protection.

How to Install the OtterBox Reflex Case

It definitely does not take a Ph.D to learn how to install this case. Simply slip the phone into the bottom half, then snap the top half on. The only thing to make sure of is that you are sliding it in on the right track. I found that it was quite a tight fit, and I'm guessing my back decal (as shown above in the photo) was to blame. However, it did eventually go on without any negative results. There was that moment of oh-man-am-I-going-to-ruin-my-screen panic when I had to kind of forcefully slide it on at first, though.

The final result is shown above. Easy as pie! But... is the case worth it?

OtterBox Reflex: The Good

There's a lot to like in the OtterBox Reflex case. It's an ingenious blend of lightness and strength, and clearly aims to target those who want the best protection for their gadget but don't like a lot of extra weight. It does add a bit of bulk, but much less than the Commuter or (especially) the Defender cases. It's also quite attractive in a masculine, technical sort of way, and there's a few color options that would really show off the black rubber inserts... I like the military green shade the best.

It must be said that the protection it offers against drops and shocks is excellent. While I wasn't willing to drop my phone from any great heights, I did drop it on hard counters several times, and witnessed similar behavior to what was found in the video. It simply bounces and leaves the phone intact.

Finally, a nice benefit of the case is that the bottom is super easy to remove, making it a snap to use your phone in any docks or integrated stereos you may own.

OtterBox Reflex: The Not As Good

I say "not as good" since there isn't anything wrong with this case per se--it's great, but there are things it doesn't do. Those things are by design, but might leave a bit to be desired for some.

For example, it's worth noting that the phone's orifices are exposed, e.g., the camera lens, the headphone jack, the dock connector. This means that dust is going to get all up in there, and this case isn't going to do anything about it. (In contrast, the Commuter case protects the headphone jack and dock connector.)

Cosmetically, the design is polarizing. Some might like the look of the rubber inserts--especially with a more creative color--but some will not. Do you like the fact that you can see the seam in the middle of the case every time you look at your phone, and feel it too? I didn't, but some might not mind. It hides the Apple logo on the back, which is again good for some and bad for others.

This is a minor nitpick, but after a while of using the case and removing it, there seemed to be quite a bit of dust accumulation inside the case and at the edges, which irked me a bit.

Now, we come to the price. The Reflex case, in the iPhone 4 flavor, is $44.95. That places it at only $5 less than the ultra-rugged, belt-clip included Defender case--and $10 more than the excellent Commuter model (which is my favorite OtterBox case at the moment.)

Is the OtterBox Reflex Case Right For Me?

The OtterBox Reflex case lives up to the OtterBox name--it's rugged, attractive, and extremely well-made. It provides excellent, top-notch protection for your phone against drops and other impact based damage.

The Reflex case is perfect for those who desire the highest protection-to-weight ratio--that is, the most protection for the least amount of weight possible. Where the Reflex case shines is in this area--it's super light yet super strong, and adds less bulk than OtterBox's other designs.

However, this does come at a price--in terms of a few design decisions, as well as a fairly hefty ding on your wallet.

Overall, as I've said many times before--you can (and should) try or buy an OtterBox case, if you desire to keep your phone protected as much as possible.

The Reflex case targets a new kind of customer--those who are looking for something stylish and protective without being too heavy or adding too much bulk to the phone. If you're that person, give the Reflex a try!

[Purchase a Reflex case at OtterBox's official site]


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