cellular telephone

Otterboxes for the iPhone and Galaxy S3

Tuesday, January 8, 2013 

There are two things I always do with a new digital device, get a good screen protector and a good case. (And the biggest memory card that will fit).

The screen protector is pretty easy: I’ve used both Zagg and Armor Suit and prefer the Armor Suit, but not by much. Both work really well and I have an Armor Suit on my Motorola Razr V9x (still the best basic cell phone I’ve ever owned) that has lived in my pocket for many, many years without a scratch visible on the outer screen.

For cases I lived with an (almost iconic) yellow Defender case for my Blackberry Bold 9000 for about 5 years.  It was awesome, indestructible, and fit the belt holder perfectly.  Alas, it was no match for a random late night cab ride and early flight out of Dubai–can’t defend against that, can ya? Well, it lasted about 5 years, so no complaints. I contacted Otterbox to see if I could get a replacement silicone bit and they checked and only had 2 belt holsters left in stock from the entire product line.  They mailed me those for free. Thanks Otterbox! (One did come in handy eventually.)

I got an iPod from United and, of course, got an Otterbox for it; one of the Commuter series.  With a polycarbonate outer shell protecting the critical corners, and that backed underneath by a few mm of soft silicone, the iPod is extremely well protected.  This is a well-engineered protection model, far better than just a layer of silicone.

A corner drop tends to generate very high localized pressure where the corner tries to merge with the hard surface it is being dropped on. Having the polycarbonate outer shell distributes that pressure load over the silicone underneath it resulting in a broad, gentile distribution of the impact load and minimizing the risk of localized overpressure which would crack plastic or glass.

Conversely, simple silicone sleeves without the polycarbonate layer, while adding critical padding and being fairly effective in most cases, can’t distribute the impact load nearly so effectively.  This should not matter too much for a surface-to-surface drop where the impact force is distributed over the whole back or even an edge of the phone, but in a corner drop the silicone can be effectively mushed out of the way as the hard surface attempts touch delicate plastic or glass in a tragic romance.

This outer shell is what distinguishes the Commuter series from Otter’s lower-cost silicone-only Impact series cases, as well as the host of cheap silicone sleeves on the market.

otterbox_iPhone-vs-Galaxy_S_3.jpg

I replaced the Blackberry with a Samsung Galaxy S3 and got a Commuter case for it.  The case is very nice, not too big, but Otterbox did something very, very wrong.  They rotated the polycarbonate tabs 45 degrees, covering the edges and not the corners.  Why Otter, why? The case is still quite nice and it is the nicest looking and most comfortable I’ve found, but this is an odd engineering mistake.  They talk about the “layers of protection” as a key selling point for their more expensive Commuter and Defender series, yet leave the most fragile corners protected by only a single layer.  As protection goes, it is no better than the Impact since the corners are all that really matters.

The polycarbonate shell does serve to anchor the access flaps closed, which is an improvement over the iPod case, but this could easily have been achieved with a few well-placed polycarbonate fingers reaching around the case without making it difficult to assemble (too many fingers wrapping around the device make it impossible to snap the device into the polycarbonate shell).

Further, the textured silicone edges on the iPod case are actually really nice to hold, far more comfortable and slip-resistant than the polycarbonate edges of the S3 case (and make the iPod less likely to drop than the S3 as well).  As an additional bonus, the iPod version exposes some textured silicone on the back surface making the case somewhat non-slip, while the S3 case is all polycarbonate on the back. Without some non-slip silicone on the back, the likelihood that the enclosed device will slip off a sloped surface and onto a hard floor or into a toilet or sink is much greater. While the case makes a disaster far less likely for the former eventuality, it is not waterproof.

While the Android OS just crushes iOS, and the availability of Android-specific tools and applications, particularly for security and encryption, makes it the best choice for a mobile device right now (though security, at least, is even less of a concern with a Blackberry – that’s the one thing Rim still has going for it – that and efficient use of data), Otterbox really could have done a better job with the case.   Hopefully the S4 case will get it right.


 

Update

It has been almost 2 years and I’ve been carrying the Otterbox-protected S3 more or less continuously since in a relatively active and somewhat unforgiving environment, not that anyone’s pocket or purse would fail to meet that definition.  A few issues emerged:

  • The rubber flap covering the USB port, which you need to access at least twice a day for charging, tore off very early on;
  • I change SIMS a few times a month and the case doesn’t really like being taken on and off and eventually cracked in two places, but it still holds together;
  • The unprotected silicone covering the corners began to deteriorate fairly quickly, as I predicted, and one corner has disintegrated completely, leaving that most fragile of impact points unprotected.

Failed corner of the otterbox case

I’d probably buy another – two years is a pretty good life (but not as good as the 5 my blackberry gave me.  I still miss that phone).  I wish Otterbox would focus on protecting the corners, not the edges. The iPod case, far less heavily used but equally traveled shows no wear on the corners at all and provides the same protection it did two years ago.  It is a better design.

Posted at 12:36:41 GMT-0700

Category: cell phonesNeutralphotoreviewstechnology

Is it time to leave FaceBook

Tuesday, August 16, 2011 

So somebody added me to a FaceBook group – I haven’t yet looked into how, but facebook lets me opt out later (rather than opt in) which means I’m getting dozens of messages a day and I’ll have to get around to unsubscribing when I can.

Wow…. this is amazing. Somebody you don’t like? Subscribe them to high volume facebook groups. Their inboxes will fill with random crap. That’s awesome – other people can put you in a group and you have to opt out. That’s even better than G+ leaking “circle” names; fortunately, I read about that one before populating my “annoying morons I follow only because I have to for business reasons” circle. Now where are those “Fans of Pedobear” and “10% For Al Queda” groups? Lets see how long it takes to get all the FaceBook employees on the no fly list.

Seems like Facebook is responding badly to the perceived pressure from G+ (isn’t that dead yet?). I have no idea how long the groups opt out has been in place, but one of my favorite recent moves is the mobile snarf function whereby your facebook mobile app scrapes your mobile phone directory to populate everyone’s mobile phone numbers in their database and then default suggest that direct messages be sent to mobile devices. If nothing else convinced people that facebook messaging is a horrible substitute for email, this should.

This is a great example of why putting information in the “cloud” means ceding all control to entities who’s motivations may not align with yours. Facebook has decided that their best interests are served by snarfing mobile numbers, running up phone bills, and stuffing inboxes and there’s nothing you can do but write a whiny letter. They have your data on their hardware, so they own it.

Posted at 14:46:01 GMT-0700

Category: technologyvanity sites

Ford Taurus X Rental

Wednesday, May 21, 2008 

Rental car review

ford taurus x.jpg
This week i got a new Ford Taurus X, an interesting rental car. It’s an SUV type vehicle, oversized and overaccesorized, but a surprisingly pleasant vehicle that’s fairly easy to drive and comfortable.
Now the theory is that such a car would be good for off-road use or something since it has four wheel drive, but that’s really not happening. Better to think of it as a minivan with a nose and some extra weight in the drive train. Desipite the foolishness of SUVs in general, and especially given gas prices, the car had some neat features.
  • I used the backup sensor in a parking lot – a good thing as the car is long and has poor visibility out the back.
  • It has an outside temperature indicator which I like.
  • The seat moves all the way back when you take the key out, and then back to where it was for us old people.
  • The tailgate opens and closes itself, which is kind of absurd and overkill but fun in a gadgety way.
  • The engine is fairly powerful (Canadian rentals seem to be more powerful than US rentals – my .ca Grand Am would spin it’s wheels embarrassingly easily, whereas my .ca.us Grand Am in LA was kind of anemic).
  • It’s quiet and comfortable.
  • The rear seats fold into the floor of the car – just like a mini-van.
  • The stereo had an analog input and a 6 CD MP3 changer
  • It has Microsoft Sync – more on that below.

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Posted at 23:00:30 GMT-0700

Category: photorental carsreviews

Some good news in the world

Friday, April 4, 2008 

UAL 747

First, UAL has done two things that are quite good:

  • The ORD RCC’s former smoking room is now the “quiet room” with big barred out cell phone logos. It is quiet, and very pleasant.
  • T-Mobile is FREE at the RCC. FREE! Finally. I’ve been hassling UAL through 1kvoice etc. and the RCC comment cards since about 2001 – long before they even had T-Mobile – to provide free 802.11 to their members. Other clubs do. They got into this big provisioning contract with T-Mobile (or something) and years of comments went no where. It has been about 5 years, maybe the contract is up, but for whatever reason finally there is free WiFi at the RCC. Yay!

TrueCrypt

Truecrypt 5.1a supports sleep mode! YAY! 5.0 did not, it would crash entering sleep mode. It’s a cool thing, but crashing isn’t. I like the idea that if my laptop is stolen, my info is very likely secure, but not so much so that I can live without sleep mode, even risking a freezy RAM-cicle recovery. I sleep it getting on and off planes all the time and now I can. I’m very happy with this release.

Posted at 17:47:43 GMT-0700

Category: planestechnologytravel

DEMO 08 Palm Desert

Friday, February 1, 2008 

Capsule summaries of the companies presenting at DEMO 08 in Palm Desert. 76 reviews continue past the break (click to expand):

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Posted at 16:55:51 GMT-0700

Category: reviewstechnology