I’m an outdoor kind of guy, and that means I run into water, dirt, dust, and mud — none of which go well with an iPhone. Enter the OtterBox Preserver Series line of waterproof cases for the iPhone 5/5s (as well as the Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5 for our Android buddies out there).
The Preserver Series case is rated at IP-X8, which means it’s fully submersible in water. OtterBox claims it can handle 6.6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. While we’re at it, the case is drop proof to 6.6 feet and dust proof, too. This means the Preserver case is sealed, which begs the question, how well does it actually work for phone calls and everyday use?
Surprisingly well. The external speaker doesn’t sound quite as crisp, but it’s still good. As for call quality, the ear speaker is behind what appears to be a superfine mesh, which reduces the volume to your ear but not terribly so. Callers on the receiving end don’t seem to notice any muffling.
Inside the OtterBox Preserver Case
The Preserver case features a built-in clear screen protector on the front half of the case. The back half includes a foam cushion, and the unit snaps together with a series of satisfying clicks. The top portion has a plastic rim, which seals against molded rubber on the bottom part of the case. The side volume buttons are covered in rubber and work great. The ring/silent switch? It’s difficult to use but will work if you push it hard and pay attention. The on/off button works great, but the home button will take a few hours to get used to–it requires a slightly harder and more intentional push. (It’s covered by a thin rubbery membrane, by the way.)
The bottom headphone jack, microphone, speaker, and lightning connector are all protected by two rubber doors that seal with gaskets and pull in and out for access to the ports. They appear to be very durable. If you’re a swimmer, you can’t use this case with headphones — but seriously, I haven’t seen a waterproof case yet that I would trust for continuous, long-term immersion in water.
OtterBox only warranties the case against defects — not the contents — but two competitors have warranty options that cover your iPhone, too: The Incipio Atlas (U.S. version only through app registration) and LifeProof Total Water Protection Program, which is a $10 add-on item available only when you purchase the LifeProof frē case directly from LifeProof or Verizon.
As for the OtterBox Preserver, I trust the case for short-term underwater use . . . but would I take it snorkeling for an hour? No way. It would probably hold up, but remember, OtterBox only says it’s good for 30 minutes down to 6.6 feet, so no diving. But boating? Taking photos and video of the beach while standing in the water? Low-angle shots around a river? Definitely worth the risk of the quick dip. (If you really want a camera for underwater photography, you might be better served to simply buy an inexpensive waterproof camera for the task.)
Meanwhile, the camera quality is good enough for my eyes — I did not notice any distortion or blurring that I could attribute to the case.
Overall Fit and Finish
OtterBox has a reputation for solid and dependable cases, and the company delivers here: The fit and finish is excellent. The only downside is that while the Preserver is much less bulky than the older generation Armor Series, it’s still a fairly thick case. Fortunately, it feels great in your hand and the plastic slides easily into pockets. Compared to the LifeProof frē for the iPhone 5, the OtterBox Preserver is about half of a pencil width thicker — a few millimeters.
The clear screen protector on the OtterBox case is thin but super flat. On rare occasions, I made some ineffective swipes that my touch screen didn’t seem to notice, but a little extra pressure alleviated the issue each time. I was actually pleased with the feel and surprised at the generally excellent sensitivity to light taps and swipes.
All-in-all, the OtterBox Preserver is a damn fine case. Despite the lack of warranty options for the contents of the case, I like the extra bulk (and protection) for outdoor adventures with my iPhone.
Check out the OtterBox Preserver Series on Amazon.com: