Otterbox BlackBerry Bold 9700 Defender Case – Review

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This is a joint review from Thomas and Dan. Dan’s comments are in black, and Thomas’ are in blue italics.

Dan – Thomas was kind enough to send me his Blackberry Bold 9700 a few weeks ago. I have an AT&T branded version of the phone. His phone, however, had one distinct advantage over mine — because it is on T-Mobile it has a truly inexpensive international calling and data plan available. So I brought it to Las Vegas with me for CES and then carried it with me to the wedding I attended in Cabo. Because the connecting flights the trip included for different airplanes, numerous packing and repacking and everything in between. Such a situation is prime for carelessly losing or harming one’s electronics — especially if you’re carrying a lot with you. Taking someone else’s phone is nerve-racking at best. There are too many possibilities for it to be damaged or lost and this was on my mind much of the time I was using his phone. I’m certainly glad that I brought it with me as it worked perfectly from Mexico but I do wish that I had had one of these Otterbox Defender cases with me during the trip. There’s no question that would have allowed me to be less concerned about damaging Thomas’ phone. Yes, once again Otterbox has released a case that offers the delicate electronics of today smart phones a remarkable degree of protection with little or any loss of functionality.

Thomas and I have both been using one of these cases for the past few days that were graciously provided by Otterbox for review. Here are our thoughts.

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From Otterbox–

The OtterBox Defender™ Series case for the BlackBerry® Bold™ 9700 smartphone provides the ideal solution for those looking for just the right amount of protection. With three layers of protection you can rest assured that your smartphone will be safe. All features, keys and ports are accessible through the case, providing you with a unique, interactive safeguard. Included with this case is a holster style ratcheting belt clip.


Foam sound-isolating ring over microphone

Sound is transmitted through case

Acoustic vent on headset speaker

Added bump, drop, and shock protection

Sleek, slim fit to BlackBerry device

Full use of camera, trackpad, and flash

Silicone plugs provide access to all ports

Includes holster style swivel belt clip

Dimensions (case only): 4.59″ x 2.77″ x 0.87″

Weight (case only): 1.39 oz.

Notes: Case NOT fully protected against water. Will provide some added protection against drop, bump and dust. NOT intended for protection against water intrusion.

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Dan – As is true with other cases in this series, this version of the Defender Series includes four different sections (five if you include the screen protector that ships with the unit). There is a two-piece inner shell that creates a hard case around the device, a soft but rugged selecting cover that fits over the hardshell and a holster with a heavy duty, ratcheting clip. This is not the case for people who love a minimalist style.

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In order to get the device in the case you first need to separate all the parts. The phone is then placed in the back piece of the hardshell. After that the front piece, which does not afford the keyboard or screen any protection but does protect the phone’s bezel ensures it stays securely in the case clips right in with ease.

Thomas – For someone who has never used an Otterbox case before, I found it a bit difficult to disassemble the pieces for the first time. Mainly I had an issue with separating the inner plastic pieces at the bottom tab where the two pieces connected. After the first time, though, it was easy enough. Some instructions would have been nice, but overall, it was fairly intuitive. The screen protector on the front is a little thin, so I worry about it when taking the case on and off of the device. I would have preferred to see the screen protector be a little thicker hard plastic or just be put directly on the device itself.

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Dan – At this point the phone is as well protected as any Blackberry case affords. It is not, however, attractive to look at or all that comfortable to hold. That’s when the next part of the case comes into play.

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Dan – It takes some fussing around with it in order to seek the silicon outer piece properly but so long as you take your time and don’t force the process it fits perfectly over the hardshell. The end result is a nice, soft feel that makes the phone comfortable to hold. In addition, the design is so precise that all of the important ports and sensors remain open and accessible.

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Dan – As is the case with the company’s other products a good deal of thought went into the design of this particular case. The end result means some of the more vulnerable ports such as the sync/charger micro USB port where the 3 1/2 mm headphone jack can be covered and protected when not in use. (Perfect if you are, say, spending a week on the beach in Cabo.)

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Dan – Finally, the case includes a holster that securely holds the phone in place. Whenever I use a holster I have three main concerns. I worry that the belt clip is too flimsy and will break if I move wrong when sitting down and any degree of pressure is put on. I worry that the clip itself will unintentionally pop off my belt and my phone go crashing or, worse yet, simply disappear. Finally, I worry that the phone will not be held securely in the holster and will fall out and be lost when I’m not aware. None of this is a concern with this particular case/holster. It is designed in such a way that the belt clip is heavy duty, stays on a belt securely, and the phone actually clicks into place in order to ensure that it won’t take any unintentional trips.

Thomas – As Dan mentions, the design is very well thought-out.  In particular, for BlackBerry users, I like the fact that the holster has a magnet in it, so it works like the official BlackBerry holsters. BlackBerry devices allow customized profile notifications for being in and out of a holster, and this is handled via the magnet in the holster and a sensor in the BlackBerry to automatically lock the keys on the keyboard, turn off the screen, an so on. Some third-party cases do not support this feature, so it was nice to see it in the Otterbox case.

The holster also keeps the phone with the screen facing in to protect it and the keyboard all the more. I much prefer this design to other cases that have the screen and keyboard facing out, as they are prone to bumps and scratches. In addition, the clip on the back of the holster is near the top of the holster. I greatly prefer this design because it means that the top of the case sits near the same line as the top of your belt. Other cases, including the official BlackBerry cases by RIM allow about a quarter of the device to be above the belt, including the top of the belt clip. This can pinch you if you have love handles or lean to the side that has your phone clipped on. The Otterbox case is VERY well designed from this perspective. More case manufacturers should focus so much on these small details.

It took me a little bit of practice to put the phone in the holster. I found that the easiest way was to hold it at a 45-degree angle when placing the bottom in the holster and then clipping it in. If I put it in any more vertically, I found myself getting caught on the side clips and not completely holstering the phone. But this only happened two or three times and then I was used to the method needed. Once in the holster, I was never worried about the phone coming out accidentally.

Dan – So what do I think of the case? I wish I had it last week. The degree of protection it affords to a relatively delicate piece of electronics is superb. Once again the company has been able to come up with a design that offers excellent protection without sacrificing huge amounts of functionality. In fact, I find that using the phone is quite easy with the case on and typing isn’t a problem in the least. To be honest, this isn’t the type of case I would use on a daily basis. It’s just too big. It is, however, the type of case that I will be using frequently in the coming months. I have two different trips coming up in the next four weeks and all of them include a flying, packing and everything else that goes with a brief business trip. This is the case that will be on the Blackberry Bold when they make those trips. You see, as careful as I try to be with my electronics, if my airport mishap in Las Vegas taught me anything, you can never be too careful. The price of this case is certainly reasonable for the amount of protection it affords.

Thomas – Overall, I think this case is superbly designed.  The feel of the rubberized outer case is excellent because it does not ever slip out of your hand, and even if you were to drop your BlackBerry, there is a lot of protection and impact resistance built into this case. The rubberized surface does attract some lint, but is easy enough to brush off with a finger. As Dan mentioned, I had no issues accessing any of the ports on my BlackBerry, and the camera, speaker, and microphone all worked fine (there was no muffled sound on calls), and there is no loss in signal strength with this case. Unlike Dan, I had a few issues with the front edge of the case. It may be how I’m used to typing, but some of the edge keys, including “A” and “Backspace”, for example, were a little harder to type on, as I would run into the edge of the case. I also had a few problems with the trackpad, though again, Otterbox designed the position above the trackpad with a lower profile so it would be easier to use the trackpad. So while this was well intentioned, I found myself rubbing the case instead of the trackpad on occasion. Bottom line – If you are a person who is error prone, hard on your devices, work in a job where you may be bumping your phone case, or just want the most protective case for your phone, look no further than the Otterbox.

The Otterbox BlackBerry Bold 9700 Defender Case has an MSRP of $49.94 and is available directly from Otterbox.

What we like — Excellent design, superb production, great fit and finish, feels like a case that will put up with a lot of abuse and allow the phone to remain protected. BlackBerry users will especially like the magnet which activates the in holster BlackBerry profile notification feature.

What needs improvement — Due to the amount of protection it affords the case is relatively bulky, the included screen protector helps keep the screen from being scratched but offers no additional protection to the most vulnerable part of the phone.

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About the Author

Dan Cohen
Having a father who was heavily involved in early laser and fiber-optical research, Dan grew up surrounded by technology and gadgets. Dan’s father brought home one of the very first video games when he was young and Dan remembers seeing a “pre-release” touchtone phone. (When he asked his father what the “#” and “*” buttons were his dad said, “Some day, far in the future, we’ll have some use for them.”) Technology seemed to be in Dan’s blood but at some point he took a different path and ended up in the clergy. His passion for technology and gadgets never left him. Dan is married to Raina Goldberg who is also an avid user of Apple products. They live in New Jersey with their golden doodle Nava.