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Griffin Survivor case ‚ overkill or caution?

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SEAN BACHER suits his iPhone 4 in Griffin’s Survivor case. He’s not impressed with the aesthetics, but really happy with the way it protects his phone.

When you buy a new cellular phone or sign up for a new contract and get your shiny new mobile, one of the first accessories you will think of buying is a protector of sorts. There are dozens available, ranging from a few Rand to a few hundred Rand. Some of them add a sense of style to your phone, while some are downright ugly.

When I first opened the Griffin Survivor case for my iPhone 4, I was in two minds. It’s a clunky, ugly, black plastic and rubber case that strips the phone of all elegance, but at the same time protects it from almost anything the average phone will have to endure.

Is it overkill or just being extra cautious? This is what I asked myself once my iPhone was encased in the Griffin Survivor.

When I say encased, that’s exactly what I mean. The Griffin Survivor comprises two parts: a plastic shell complete with screen protector, which creates a rigid protective skeleton around the phone and a rubber skin that clips on around the skeleton, protecting it from everyday bumps and knocks.

1. Is it ready to use?

I fumbled with the case for a while. Getting the thing apart was really difficult as you first have to remove the rubber skin, which has numerous mounting points all around the plastic shell, and you have to get all these loose before you can remove the skin. I then battled getting the shell apart. This clicks together at quite a few points and you need to get all the fastening points apart before you can separate the top from the bottom. I also had to apply quite a bit of force.

Once open, things went a little smoother. As per the instructions, I cleaned my phone’s screen to make sure there was no dust or excess moisture, as well as the side of the protective screen that comes into contact with the phone ‚ you don’t want any dust that could cause scratches when the two screens come into contact, nor the irritating watermark that can appear on your screen.

Once done, clip the rigid plastic case around your phone, making sure it is clipped together at all points, and then stretch the rubber skin around the phone and secure it too. And no, you don’t any gym points for this exercise.

2. Is it easy to use?

The case is simply there to protect your phone. It does not come with any additional features such as battery charger or signal booster. So, in short, it’s use should be invisible.

I did, however, run into a few snags.

The camera, charging point, headphone input and silent button are all protected by flimsy rubber flaps that are merely cut out of the rubber skin. There are no hinges and, although it has not happened yet, I am sure these will eventually break off. Also, using the camera was a pain, as the flap to protect the camera kept sliding back in front of the lens, meaning I had to hold the flap back with my finger, making it difficult to take quick snapshots.

I also noticed that the shell and skin add an additional 5mm all around the phone. This may not seem like a lot, but the phone won’t fit into charging docks and the like when it is in the case. However, you can easily charge it via the standard USB cable that comes with the phone.

3. Does it operate as advertised?

The Griffin Survivor is designed to keep your phone safe from everyday knocks and drops. It is not designed to protect your phone under severe circumstances, although there are endless videos on YouTube showing people doing everything from dropping their phones to driving over them ‚ then putting their phone to their ear and being surprised to hear it is still working.

The case is much like a nudge bar or bumper on your car ‚ there to protect your car against accidental knocks. But you would not ram your car at full-speed into a wall just because you have a bumper.

I did drop my phone a few times ‚ accidentally of course ‚ and the phone bounced off the floor like a rubber ball. There was no physical damage to the phone at all and there were no scratches on the Survivor either.

I was a bit sceptical about sound quality and using the touch screen. However, even though your ear is around 5mm away from the speaker, and there are only three little holes for the sound to travel through, it was much like talking on the phone without the case.

The same goes for the touch screen. The Survivor adds its own plastic screen on top of your phones, but you would never think it was there, as the screen acted much like it would without the case.

One thing the marketing did promise was lack of watermarks, but these appeared no matter how well I cleaned the screens. The watermarks are rather annoying, especially when using the phone in the sun, as I had to hold the phone at a certain angle to see through the watermark.

4. Is it innovative?

Phone protectors have been around since, well, since cellphones have been around, so there is nothing innovative there. Companies like BodyGlove have similar cases.

5. Is it value for money?

The question here should be, how much do you value your phone? iPhones are expensive and, like many other cellphones, one drop could render them useless.

The Griffin Survivor retails for around R800, fairly expensive considering you can get a basic cover starting at R100 ‚ and a basic smartphone for the same money. However, if you want to give your iPhone the best possible chance in life, then I can recommend the Survivor.

In conclusion

The Griffin Survivor really does strip all aesthetics from the iPhone 4. But, when you remove your phone from the case a year down the line, you will be presented with an iPhone in exactly the same condition it was in when you first cocooned it in the case.

While doing some research on the Internet, I came across many different names for the Survivor. One was the Griffin Military case. Indeed, the case will protect the phone well from the dust, teargas, water and grease a typical soldier would experience in a war zone. But, contrary to popular belief, I doubt it would save you from a bullet. Perhaps that is something the MythBusters can put to the test?

* Follow Sean on Twitter on @seanbacher

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