Review – Otterbox Defender For BlackBerry Classic

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I’ve had an Otterbox case for every BlackBerry I’ve ever owned, save the Storm II. I tend to like lots of different case options for my Berries as I use different cases depending on what I’m doing. Sometimes I will go naked, which I also enjoy as I love the styling of my BlackBerry devices. I’ve had an Otterbox for the Bold, Z10, Q10, Z30 and now the Classic, and sometimes will have more than one Otterbox case for a device. I became a big fan of Otterbox when I got a 9900 many years ago and began getting cases for it; as I recall, there was a light sensor on the back of the Bold, underneath the camera lens that was very inconspicuously positioned underneath the metal fret. I got a case early on and it actually covered up the light sensor so when you took pictures the flash would always actuate. It was from a recognizable brand, although I cannot remember which, and I thought it was pretty stupid that the company did not do their homework well. Maybe I was an early adopter of the Bold, I cannot remember, but in any event, I got an Otterbox shortly thereafter. I checked the back for the light sensor and noticed it had a little notch precisely where the sensor was, and I remember thinking Otterbox had their sh*t together. Since then, if you asked me about Otterbox, I would have said I respected them; that is until now.

Current Otterbox cases I own except for top left, which is Trident Kraken.
Other Otterbox cases I own except for top left, which is Trident Kraken.

If you’re a bottom line type of person, my conclusion is that the Otterbox Defender (Hereafter OBD) for the Classic, is a solid, albeit poorly executed case, particularly with regards to the holster. Thus I recommend you buy the case, as long as you can tolerate the couple hiccups I will describe, but I would also look at Seidio’s Convert, and possibly others, to see how they compare as you may be happier with them.

PROS: (No particular order)

Classic Defender next to Z30. Classic outer skin texture is superior.
Classic Defender next to Z30. Classic outer skin texture is superior.

Right amount of grip – The case has a nice feel to the exterior rubber cover that provides a good combination of grip and slipperiness. We all know how it is to pull your phone out of your pocket and have your pocket lining stick to a case with too much grip, or set the phone down and have dust and grit stick to the case. Otterbox has improved the exterior cover, since the Z30 anyway, making it just a bit less sticky than the Z30 case while still offering excellent grip.

Packaging and contents.
Packaging and contents.

Solidly built – The OBD is quite solidly built and feels as if it will withstand fairly severe impact just like all the other Defender series cases I have owned. Sea Otters will lie on their backs, floating in the water with a rock on their stomachs and will bang shellfish on the rock until they open so the Otter can get his meal. Possibly Otterbox took this as their brand name to imply their cases could withstand such a beating. I don’t know, but I have always been confident that my devices would be protected in their defender series cases; it is a good prophylactic for your precious. I should add that there are aspects of the Seidio Convert and Trident Kraken (The latter is currently unavailable for the Classic) that are superior in terms of sheer ruggedness, however, for the average active person, who is concerned with drops onto concrete or rocks, or getting banged up while working outdoors or during construction type work, the OBD is more than capable.

Case lip does not extend to the keyboard allowing for easy access to buttons on edges.
Case lip does not extend to the keyboard allowing for easy access to buttons on edges.

Clever design for PKB – The OBD features a nice design point that allows you to more easily access the keys on the edges of the PKB since it is cut lower to the face of the Classic. For example, when your thumb is pressing the “P” key, you can lay your thumb flat as you would if there was no case on the device. With the Seidio Convert for instance, the lip of the case runs completely around the device, possibly making typing with the keys on the edges of the PKB, a little less comfortable. I have an Incipio case for the Classic that has this lip and while I wouldn’t say typing is difficult, I do like this design feature of the OBD as it definitely is more comfortable. The drawback for this is if you drop the case face down, there is a chance of nicking the keyboard since there is no lip to separate the keyboard from the surface it falls on.

Back of holster covers entire face of device offering solid protection.
Back of holster covers entire face of device offering solid protection.

BlackBerry bullets are visible – Although this is totally a style issue, I do really enjoy proudly displaying the BlackBerry bullets on the back of the OBD, and am surprised other brands have not taken Otterbox’s lead on this. If you’re like me, you enjoy being the guy with a BlackBerry in whatever group you’re in and when you see another Berry in the wild, you approach those people to share your enthusiasm and see what kind of fan/user they are.

CONS: (In order of aggravation)

Classic Defender beneath Z30. Magnet missing on Classic holster.
Classic Defender beneath Z30. Magnet missing on Classic holster.

No sleep function on holster – If you’ve ever seen Chris Carter on ESPN, you’ll appreciate this….. C’MON MAN!?!? Really Otterbox? I know this is a small feature, but it’s actually a really cool one. If you’re going to wear a belt holster and put up with the social stigma you sometimes get (Many see this as slightly cooler than wearing a pocket protector), you might as well enjoy the full benefits! One of these is being able to put your Berry back in the holster and have it go to sleep, preserving the battery, and even better, pull it out of the holster and have it wake up and say “Yo! What up!? Let’s get ‘er done!” (Your phone actually doesn’t say that but that’s how it feels when it wakes up that way… LoL.) Anywho- this is just a stupid oversight as far as I can tell. There is no magnet visible on the holster as there is on the other OBD holsters I’ve had, and while the positioning of the magnet sensor on the Classic may be to blame, I expect more from Otterbox in this regard. I have tried many attempts at getting the Classic sleep feature to activate with the holster and it simply does not work, nor can I find anywhere on the holster where there would be a magnet save the normal place where the belt clip attaches to the holster, and as I indicated earlier, there is none visible as on my other OBD holsters. Apparently, the Classic sensor is not in the center of the screen as it is on the Z30, and you wouldn’t expect it to be since 35% of the face of the phone is PKB, rather, you would expect the sensor to be closer to the “toolbelt,” above the trackpad. However, it is supposedly to the right of the device screen, closer to the “end” key. In any event, this feature is missing and I cannot see this as anything but a failure of execution.

Holster stands similarly to Z30 despite the portrait screen orientation.
Holster stands similarly to Z30 despite the portrait screen orientation.

Holster has irrelevant (?) stand feature – I mean… really Otterbox. Gosh! It just seems silly to have a stand on a holster that positions the phone in landscape mode when the screen is permanently in portrait mode. When would this ever become useful? I don’t know, maybe I’m in a bad mood, but this just seems stupid. FYI, thus, there is no stand for the holster of the Classic. And BTW, I found I’ve used the stand on my Verizon OEM case for my Q10, so I would definitely find use for same with my Classic. Oh well, not a show-stopper, but again, poor execution. I have found a way to try and use the stand in Portrait mode, by opening the belt clip and flipping it upside down and then positioning the device in portrait mode. However, this does not yield a satisfying angle to view the screen; it is too flat to the table surface and does not sit upright enough.

If you spin the belt clip around and use it upside down you can sort of get an angle to view media.
If you spin the belt clip around and use it upside down you can sort of get an angle to view media.

Inner plastic pieces don’t fit properly – I picked this case up from Verizon and when I initially went to assemble it at the store, I noticed the two inner plastic pieces that snap together to form the inner case that the outer rubberish shell is fitted over, did not fit together properly. At the bottom, there was a gap where there shouldn’t be. I showed the sales associate and she asked someone else and they determined it was some type of manufacturing glitch, i.e., I got a bad case. They brought me a new one and that seemed to fit together just a bit better and after you put the rubberish shell over the inner case, the whole thing feels solid, so I walked out with it. I am not saying this is a great big deal, but it is true that the pieces do not snap together snugly like they do for my Z30 OBD and the others I’ve had. In fact, the one for my PlayBook snaps together so well, it’s almost impossible to separate! As I said earlier, the case is solid, so I would not let this deter you.

Visible gap between plastic pieces not seen anywhere else or on Z30 version.
Visible gap between plastic pieces not seen anywhere else or on Z30 version.

Device mates with holster in unidirectional fashion – You can only properly holster your device in one way, with the volume buttons facing towards the ground. This means, if you’re wearing the holster on your right side you must flip the phone around in your right hand so it is essentially upside down, before putting it in the holster. If you’re wearing the holster on your left side, you just drop your left hand down and holster the device. This latter way is how it works with the Z30. The Z30 OBD mates with the holster in any fashion (whether screen facing in or out – something this version for the Classic does also), whether the volume keys are facing up to the sky or down to the ground. I should note that the reason for this unidirectional design is due to the fact that the case is cut out to allow for full access to the PKB as I indicated earlier, which I see as a strength. That’s why this is last on my list of annoyances; it’s a trade-off that I would gladly make. However, I do wonder if the holster could have been designed differently somehow.

See the small piece to the left of the belt clip? It extends from the holster to the part of the case cut out for the keyboard.
See the small piece to the left of the belt clip? It extends from the holster to the part of the case cut out for the keyboard.

 

See the two pieces of the holster that match the pieces of the case? These are only on one end.
See the two pieces of the holster that match the pieces of the case? These are only on one end.

Bottom Line – All in all, I would recommend this case. It has a solid build quality, a sturdy holster that the phone fits securely into, has a great grippy feel, and allows for comfortable typing on the PKB. You can set the phone face down on a table without worrying about damaging the screen to allow the use of the “lift to wake,” and “flip to save power” features of BB10. When you do this, the BlackBerry bullets show through and the case has an overall pleasant, even professional look and feel, allowing you to use it in professional settings and set it on the table in meetings, confidently knowing it will make a good impression. As you may have determined, I do believe the case could be better and it feels as though Otterbox sort of threw this together at the last minute. The lack of sleep function on the holster or legitimate kickstand for media is annoying.

james pisano

RIM/BB fan since 2009. Wouldn't consider entrusting my career, life or privacy to another platform. Foremost, I am a student of life. Some likes: longboarding, nature, Baltimore Orioles, technology, driving, music, reading and Taoism. Politically independent.

  • shanerredflag

    Good read, Thanks James.

  • Blackjack

    Very thorough review! With one exception – you forgot to mention it is available in the UTB store… link above.(you’re welcome Brad)

    Well done, I know how much time a review like this takes.

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