The Otterbox Symmetry is a welcome addition to an extensive inventory of highly protective phone cases. If you’re like me, the name “Otterbox” likely evokes an image of a sturdy, somewhat clunky, but ultimately reliable case for your electronic device. Something more at home in a kayak or velcroed to the dash of a Land Rover Defender than your pocket or purse. This model has turned my perception of the company and their product offerings on its head.
Design and ergonomics
While I can’t say that I’m an expert, I am a great admirer of good design. If you read my review of the Morakniv Kansbol knife, I talked about the idea of balance in design. I love things that are of high build quality, intuitively functional, and aesthetically well laid out. If I have the privilege of option, I will always choose something that marries these qualifications with as much balance as possible. You can usually tell just by looking at something if it passes the bar. Whether it’s a chair, a car, or a camera, good design just looks right.
And it definitely feels right. Actually using the thing, if it is right, reinforces its rightness. The way that a high-performance car hugs the apex of a corner. Or the way that the perfect chair defies gravity and goofy human anatomy in a way that makes you forget that you are sitting on anything at all. Most phones these days are designed to have some level of aesthetic appeal to them. They have clear, colorful, sharp screens, and pressure-sensitive controls. Also high-quality sound, slim bodies, and cameras that have all but eliminated the digital point-and-click camera market.
With phone cases, I’ve always been torn between using something that will not impede or detract from the design of the phone (but not do a terribly good job of protecting the phone should something happen). Or just sucking it up and putting it in something bulletproof but clunky. The Symmetry is a wonderful compromise of these demands.
Otterbox claims that the Symmetry “…protects your device while you express your personality.” It is evidently the slimmest Otterbox case to date, while maintaining their Certified Drop+ Protection, so it “…stays true to your phone’s sleek design – and we stay true to our promise of protection.”
Otterbox was nice enough to provide a case for me to test, and let me pick which case to try. I opted for one of the Clear Graphics cases, which are all clear plastic with some kind of design on the back. I’m not in a position to go try dropping my phone off a building or running it over with a car or whacking it with a hammer to test a case. So I did the next best thing. I put the case on my wife’s phone for a few months.
For context, my wife is notoriously rough on her phone. It tends to live in her purse, which may sound fine, but my wife works in theatre. So the contents of her purse often include things like wrenches, metal water bottles, giant rings of keys, etc. My wife is also a bit of a klutz. She drops her phone often. Just the other day, she dropped the phone flat on its face on a concrete floor with a loud *SMACK*, and the surrounding bystanders letting out a collectively cringing, “Ooooo…” It was fine.
The lip that comes up around the front of the phone is strong enough to protect the screen from direct impact, and elastic enough to absorb it. I believe that the fitment of the case probably goes a long way toward its ability to protect a phone. It’s quite snug, but not overly difficult to apply/remove. This makes it better able to transmit energy and absorb it, much like how a tightly bubble-wrapped item is unable to bounce around inside a package.
Unlike the cheap plastic case on my phone, the snug fit also prevents dust and lint from getting in between the case and the phone. This is a major annoyance for me, both because it’s gross, and because it damages the body of the phone. One of the things my wife has been most impressed with is the quality of the design on the back. Unlike similar graphics on cheaper cases which tend to chip, fade, or just scratch off, the geometric overlay on the back has been remarkably resilient. Again, it reinforces the build quality of the case for me.
The Otterbox Symmetry runs between $39.95 and $54.95 on their website, depending on your phone and which particular design you choose.
This price point is also nice, as it comes in a smidge lower than the chunkier cases in their product line like the Defender or Pursuit series. But not too much more than that “budget” case that you got because you needed something but didn’t want to spend too much. So go get an Otterbox Symmetry, instead. Because if you can get significantly higher quality for not that much more money, that’s a good investment. And a pretty good phone case.
Thanks to Otterbox for providing their case for this long-term review.