The Otter Box iPhone 3GS Defender case is, IMHO, a pretty nice iPhone 3GS case: an inner polycarbonate hard-shell case and an outer rubberized-silicone skin that renders your iPhone into a ruggedized, weather-resistant (although admittedly not weather- and certainly not water-proof) package; it has a practical belt clip that doubles as an acceptable table-top stand; and the slim fitting, rubberized-silicone skin makes the bare-naked, super-sleek and super-slippery iPhone 3GS just a taste larger and a whole hell of a lot easier to hang onto in daily use.

What's not to love?

In a word, the tacky, cheap plastic "clear membrane" that Otter Box uses to cover the iPhone's oleophobic (adj : lacking affinity for oils) screen.

Let's face it here, folks: the iPhone screen was designed to be touched.

A cottage industry has developed marketing various sorts of screen covers and protectors, but Otter Box's approach just simply sucks: the plastic "clear membrane" is impossible to clean, and in fact it seems designed to deliberately highlight the smears and fingerprints that are simply a reality of iPhone use.

You really have to wonder what Otter Box's intention was: they make no bones about the Defender case being sealed or waterproof, so it must have just been that they felt they just had to do something to cover the iPhone screen -- but the result is horrible.

(I suggested to Otter Box (and got no reply) that they ought to drop the tacky plastic screen cover and just gasket the opening: they already use gaskets in some of their truly water-proof products).

But where does that leave me, right now, having spent $50.00 on an otherwise acceptable case? What to do? What to do...

Well, get rid of the fricken' thing.

So that's just what I did.

1473 Otter Box iPhone 3GS Defender case mod

Here's all the tools I used: a pencil and a ruler to measure the size of the cunning cardboard support pad; shears to cut the cardboard; double-sided tape to assemble the cardboard support pad; a sharp matte knife to cut the cheap OEM plastic screen; fine (circa 220) sandpaper to sand the resulting edges to silky smoothness.

Also shown is the cut out OEM plastic screen...

The Otter Box iPhone 3GS Defender case mod step-by-step:

  1. I measured and cut out a four-layer cardboard pad to support the front half of the Otter Box Defender "polycarbonate skeleton" while scoring and cutting the plastic screen cover. The fifth piece of carboard held the two tabs at the top of the polycarbonate shell half up off the counter. I went to this trouble because I didn't know up front how hard the plastic screen cover was. Turned out it was really soft plastic, which sure made me wonder how durable it would have been...
  2. With my front case half well-supported and with a very sharp matte knife, I scored the plastic screen cover all the way around, working in both directions out from each of the four corners. I didn't try to cut all the way through the plastic on the first pass, although as it turned out I probably could have...
  3. I made a second pass with my matte knife and cut all the way through the plastic screen cover, again working outward in both directions from each corner to get a nice tight corner cut without any burrs...
  4. With the opening cut through and the offending tacky plastic screen cover gone, I sanded lightly with some fine (220) sandpaper until any suggestion of roughness or nicks were removed. I sanded at a 45 degree angle back into the inside of the case to round out the back edge that fits against the iPhone screen.
  5. Dust thoroughly, clean off your iPhone with a soft cloth, and reassemble the Otter Box Defender.


1474 Otter Box iPhone 3GS Defender case mod

All done! With the iPhone's oleophobic screen fully exposed, ready to be touched and stroked and caressed, as Apple® intended!

Otter Box iPhone 3GS Defender
case mod

Photography copyright (c) 2009, 2010 and onward John Sage/FinchHaven -

Photo album generated by album_frames_aws-s3 from Daves Marginal Hacks on Fri Aug 14 10:16:23 2009