We’ve used Otterboxes here for years on our work iPhones and HTC smartphones and for those of you that don’t know, the Otterbox is a plastic case that typically comes in 3 forms for each smartphone one is designed for. The idea is that the case snaps on top of the PDA forming a permanent shell around the phone and the theory is that the case makes the phone more Rugged. In fact there is a nice new “Rugged” icon on the newer Otterbox boxes and as you know, anything that states its rugged here gets the once over by us!
To be clear on Ruggedness!
No case, with a couple of exceptions, make any PDA, whether semi-rugged PDA or smartphone “rugged.” Please remember that IP ratings for dust and water are not improved at all and no case on the market has a MIL drop spec as you really have to design the PDA from the bottom up to attain this properly. We can’t stress this enough as we see semi-rugged PDA’s like the Motorola ES400 confusing customers every day where they think its fully rugged with or without a case on it! Having said that “Durability” is also about what you can do as a user to pro-actively protect your PDA and a good case can help with the life and condition of your little semi rugged PDA significantly.
We’ll take a look at the most popular case we sell for the ES400 and compare it to the new Otterbox to see if it lives up to its name!
Design & Features
As you can see from the photo’s the leather flip case of the ES400 is designed to be versatile and add to the functionality of the device. It can worn in various ways with an optional clip and rings for attaching extra straps or handles and it has stylus and pen holders. In fact we can also bespoke these cases for you with logos, or add or change the design for your specific use.
The Otterbox takes a different approach and attempts to make the semi-rugged ES400 more durable without affecting the form factor other than obviously increasing the bulk slightly. It does come with a plastic hard case holder with a clip so it can be attached to the belt.
The Otterbox comes with a plastic keyboard cover designed to give your keyboard a bit of water protection but it makes the keyboard, which is already hard to use, unusable in my view. We already got feedback from one customer that its ridiculous to even think you can use the device with this fixed to it. You don’t have to fit it but it does make the case slightly loose on the device if not, nothing a bit of tissue paper can;t sort!
The Otterbox comes with the same standard plastic holder with built-in clip as you get with all Otterboxes. it’s designed the clip the ES400 face in so you have to take the device out of the holder before using it. Annoyingly the rubber silicone skin just kept coming off every time we took the device out of the holder. You can;t use it screen out like other cases, the clip just forces the rubber too much activates the mode button on the ES400.
The Leather case comes with a clip for belt use or can be specified with a belt strap or nothing. The holder is the case in this instance.
Extended battery capability
A big winner for the flip case is that it uses expandable sides so that you can accommodate either the std or extended battery versions of the ES400 in the same case. You can change your device without changing your case. The Otterbox does accommodate both versions of the ES400 but with 2 distinct cases. We Asked if you could buy the case back and silicone separately and the answer was no.
The Flip case also has the flip cover so with most issues from drops coming for cracked screens and damaged keys, it’s arguably going to give more protection. The Otterbox has a recessed screen We fitted one of our impact screens to it and this would help with knocks.
The flip case does have gaps in its casing though so drop the ES400 on its corner and its going to scratch or crack more easily.
It’s very hard to say here which one will offer better protection and it will depend on your users and scenario. I feel the flip case would help more users from experience.
As an avid user of Otterboxes for years I am going to say this….They have got worse in quality and design in my view over the years. They have also come down in price too but the cases used to use better plastics, it is a bit creaky and squeaky on the ES400 and the worst issue is the way the rubber case attaches to the device. It keeps falling away meaning you literally have to squeeze the case back into its rim every time you take it out of your pocket. I know, I have spent the last 12 months having to do this every time I use my iPhone!! The ES400 case is no different and as I’m writing this the case actually popped out of the rim just sitting on the desk next to me!!
The flip case is well made and it will last for years if looked after well. It’s never going to be as solid as a piece of plastic and silicone but on our abrasion tests it actually came out the winner. The silicon wore better at low friction but the leather outlasted it to destruction. Probably why motorbikers still wear leather or synthetic suits and not silicone ones!!
You can’t cradle either device easily in the manufacturer vehicle cradles, but the flip case can be opened at the bottom to allow for the device to be desktop cradled more easily. It’s not ideal though. The Otterbox case is difficult to remove and not designed for removal so you’re stuck using direct cables for charging and syncing.
Device condition test
We can’t test the life of the ES400 in the Otterbox because it’s a new product but we have used Otterboxes on our work iPhones and HTC’s for years and years. I have an image of one of our iPhone 3G’s (now development) phones which was actually my phone for 14 months and as you can see it’s pristine. I can;t say the same for our iPhone 4G’s though as they use a different case design which is clearly not as good quality as the older yellow and black cases. They don;t fit quite so well so they have scratched the phone slightly and the rubber split within 6 months. The ES400 case looks chunkier in design so we would expect this to wear better.
We put the leather flip cases onto our loan kit and they actually also keep the ES400 looking shiny and new. The corners of the device have seen some scratching but that’s it. So both cases score level on this part.
Ease of Use
Like I said above this could easily be down to what you are doing, so a shoulder strapped flip case could be the winner for some. However taking the cases on face value, the flip is clearly a bit more awkward to use, whereas the Otterbox is ready 100% of the time, other than having to put that silicone skin back into its rim! On newer leather flip cases the flip sometimes needs some coercing to stay back whilst in use.
It’s really a case of what you need out of your solution. If you want to keep your device clean and nice and want to keep the form factor without adding bulk or fuss then the Otterbox wins. If you want to bespoke a design or have nicer options for carrying and using the case then the flip is the clear winner.
As far as ruggedness goes, in our opinion, there’s nothing in it with both offering good and bad points. I would be interested to see how the synthetic version of the flip fares though as this is lighter and more durable.
The Otterbox has serious design flaws though in my opinion and the silicone skin will drive you crazy as it pops out all the time and loosens over time. The flip case will wear better and last longer in our opinion.
Price-wise there’s nothing in it, both case should be about £25-30 depending on the retailer.
The Rugged and Mobile blog.