X-Doria Defense Shield and Defense Gear iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus cases review

{ 19 comments }

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Good protection for your smartphone can be difficult to find, depending on your criteria. Some folks go more for style, some for protection and some for a combination or for other factors. The bumper style has been popular for few years now, and X-Doria now produces two “bumper” style cases that offer both style and protection. The Defense Gear is a more traditional bumper design, while the Defense Shield adds to it with back protection. How did they fare when I tried them out? Were they as protective as they were stylish? Let’s check them out. Gadget on!

Background

I’m a big believer in smartphone cases.  If you invest the money in a smartphone and take it everywhere with you, you want to protect it and show your personal style while doing so.  “Bumper”-type  cases have grown in popularity, but I’d been reluctant to try one because they afforded no protection to the back of my iPhone.  I’d seen a few hybridized cases the past few years that combined the bumper with some rear protection, but their styles really weren’t all that appealing to me.  Then Julie passed along the opportunity to evaluate two new bumper-type cases from X-Doria, the Defense Shield and Defense Gear.  I really liked their look and protections, so was excited to try them out.  Originally I had expected to receive only the Defense Shield for iPhone 6 Plus, but X-Doria sent the Defense Gear for iPhone 6 as well.

Options

Defense Shield

  • Available in versions for both iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
  • Silver, Gold or Red bumper colors (Gold reviewed here)

Defense Gear

  • Available in versions for both iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus
  • Silver, Gold or Red bumper colors (Red reviewed here)

Specs

Defense Shield

  • Machined and anodized aluminum exterior frame (AKA the “bumper”) provides
  • Soft rubber interior lining
  • Clear polycarbonate back shell
  • Military-level drop protection tested to 6.6 feet (2 meters) on concrete
  • Easy to install, no tools or screws required

Defense Gear

  • Machined and anodized aluminum exterior frame provides
  • Soft rubber interior lining
  • Military-level drop protection tested to 6.6 feet (2 meters) on concrete
  • Easy to install, no tools or screws required

Packaging
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The Defense Gear and Defense Shield arrived in packaging that consisted of cardstock boxes that depicted the interior contents on the front of the box.  One nice touch is that the images represent the actual product inside, down to the correct color scheme.x-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_02

The rear of the packages shows additional images of the products inside and also listed features.

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Both packages are a flip-open type which reveal the contents.  I always appreciate when packaging provides the potential buyer the ability to actually see the product inside.

Defense Shield Features

The Defense Shield sample that I received was sized for my iPhone 6 Plus.
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Inside the Defense Shield was a cardboard insert that simulated an iPhone 6 Plus inside the Defense Shield.x-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_04

The opposite side of the cardboard insert has a 4-step set of instructions that explained how to install the case onto the iPhone.

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I always appreciate simplicity and recyclability in packaging materials, and this insert certainly fit the bill.  Plus, the instructions were clear and concise.
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The Defense Shield consists of two components, the combined rubber inner lining/polycarbonate back (left in above photo) and the aluminum exterior frame (right in above photo).x-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_08

The frame is machined from solid aluminum and anodized with a metallic, satin finish.  I specifically requested the gold-colored frame with black rubber edge and back because I am an alumnus of Purdue  University and our colors are Old Gold and Black (That’s right—Boiler Up!), and this color scheme paired with my iPhone 6 Plus in space gray and black did not disappoint.  Focusing on the frame, the bottom has three cutouts to access the iPhone’s bottom features: headphone jack, Lightning connector and microphone/speaker.

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The left side of the frame includes a cutout for the mute switch and below it a “rocker”-style button over the iPhone’s volume up/down buttons.  The volume button is made from the same aluminum material and as the frame itself and there is some subtle texturing on the volume button as visual and tactile indicators.

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The right side of the frame has a button for the iPhone’s sleep/wake button.

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The bottom of the black rubber inner layer has cutouts that match the ones in the aluminum frame.x-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_14

The left side of the rubber layer has a cutout for the mute switch and a pair of nubs for the iPhone’s volume up/down buttons.  These nubs transfer the force of pressing on the outer frame’s metallic buttons to the iPhone’s actual buttons, while protecting them from scratches.

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The right side of the rubber layer has a single nub for the iPhone’s sleep/wake button.

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The rubber layer is actually molded to the polycarbonate back layer, giving a solid attachment.  The back includes a generous cutout for the rear camera and flash.

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Above is a photo of my iPhone 6 Plus with the rubber/back layer installed.  The rubber is compliant enough that it is quite easy to simply stretch it a bit to place the iPhone inside.

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Above, a photo of the fully-installed Defense Shield.  The gold aluminum outer frame was a bit difficult to install around the black rubber layer.  I had to work the rubber down into the corners and edges with my fingernail, but it didn’t take long and once finished, it was a good, snug fit, and all felt and looked very solid and secure.

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The combination of the aluminum outer frame and rubber inner layer adds to the overall thickness of the iPhone by several millimeters.  This causes the iPhone’s bottom ports to set a bit deep down into the case.x-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_18

However, the iPhone’s stock cables fit through the Defense Shield’s bottom port cutout with no issues.  Above, a photo of the Apple iPhone cable and Lightning cable plugged into the iPhone.  Note that 3rd party cables may not fit as well, or at all.

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One of the few real gripes I have about the Defense Shield is that the mute switch sits down in the case so deep that it is difficult get a fingernail down in there to use it.  I sometimes switch my mute button on and off several times per day, so this is really quite a pain.

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The buttons on the Defense Shield match the surrounding frame and have a very solid, “clicky,” tactile feel.  X-Doria did a great job with these.

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The iPhone 6 Plus inside the Defense Shield looks pretty sharp.  Just take a look at this this combo of black face on the phone with black rubber and gold frame.

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The back of the Defense Shield allows the ability to view the iPhone’s back.  I think of this as a vanity window, but the polycarbonate does provide good protection.

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I like that the Defense Shield’s back includes a sort of gasket around the iPhone’s rear-facing camera, but I find the size of the cutout to be far too generous.  I prefer cases with back protection to have a smaller cutout, cropped closer to the camera’s lens and flash, as an added measure of protection.  Also please excuse the shmutz around my iPhone’s lens–this is a by-product of both carrying it in my pocket and the fact that the lens bezel protrudes way too far from the back of the iPhone (Seriously, Apple?).

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Again, I do think this combo of colors looks very sharp together, with the black rubber framing the iPhone’s face almost seamlessly.

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In addition, the Defense Shield adds very little to the thickness of the iPhone considering the level of protection that it adds.

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Plus, I can show off my iPhone’s Space Grey backside.  I picked it out and, so I’d like to see it every once in a while.

Defense Gear

The Defense Shield sample that I received was sized for an iPhone 6, and my daughter happily volunteered hers to evaluate the case.

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Like the Defense Shield, the Defense Gear included an insert with easy-to-follow installation instructions.

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In some ways, the Defense Gear is like the bumper-only version of the Defense Shield.  But other ways, it stands alone. The Defense Gear is a single item which consists of an aluminum frame exterior and, like the Defense Shield, a rubber inner layer. However, the Defense Gear’s rubber layer is molded directly to the inside of the aluminum frame. In addition, the Defense Gear has a hinged bottom the secures with a small latch.  More on this below.

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The Defense Gear includes features that allow access to the iPhone’s controls.  On the left side is a cutout for the mute switch.  The Defense Gear’s volume up/down buttons are bit different than with the Defense Shield, because they are actually part of the rubber layer and protrude up through the aluminum frame (as opposed to the Defense Shield’s buttons, which are actually separate aluminum pieces like the frame).

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Above, a photo of the Defense Gear’s sleep-wake button, which is a “soft” button like the volume up/down buttons on the opposite side.

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Next, let’s look at installation.  The method for installing the iPhone into the Defense Gear is quite different from the Defense Shield. Where the Defense Shield sort of “pops” over and around the phone, the Defense Gear’s lower portion is actually a hinged separated piece.

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The hinge is actually a small “link” that connections both components.  Additionally, in the photo above, you can see that the interior of the rubber layer actually has a textured surface like the Defense Shield.

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Opposite the hinge link is a small latch that closes to secure bottom of the Defense Gear closed.  The latch has a small “hook” that grabs hold of a feature opposite it.

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Like the Defense Shield, the Defense Gear includes cutouts to access the iPhone’s headphone jack, Lightning Connector and speaker/microphone.  In addition, the outside corners of the Defense Gear include rubber pads that protrude up through the aluminum frame from the rubber layer.  The pads have the same textured pattern as the inside of the rubber layer and provide an addition few millimeters of protection in what is likely the highest-risk area for potential drop impact damage to your iPhone.

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The first step in installing the Defense Shield onto the iPhone 6 involves releasing the latch, then swinging opening the bottom portion of the case.  The iPhone is then slid into the rubber layer.

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The next step is to swing the bottom portion closed, then secure it by closing the latch. I had to a apply a bit of pressure to compress the rubber layer and to fully close the case before snapping the latch closed, but this gave the entire construct a very solid, protective feel around the iPhone.

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And like the Defense Shield, the Defense Gear is sharp-looking case, and even sharper when the iPhone is actually inserted into it.  My daughter and I felt that this particular color scheme and the shapes and contours of the Defense Gear reminded us of Iron Man’s armor, but would look even more so if she’d had an iPhone in the gold color scheme.  Metallic red and gold together?  Tony Stark, eat your heart out.

x-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_41One aspect that you not have noticed is that I hadn’t quite correctly aligned the bottom potion of the case before latching it closed.  I hadn’t even noticed this myself initially, but I had already taken the photos above and wanted to include them in the review. I did go back later and unlatch it, realign it slightly, then re-close it and all was good (see below photos).
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The Defense Gear adds only a few millimeters to the svelte iPhone 6’s thickness, but it does add several millimeters to the footprint of the iPhone, owing to the combined interior rubber layer and the aluminum frame.

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The contoured cutouts on bottom, top and sides of the Defense Gear give it a very technical look (again with the Iron Man armor similarities).

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Above, a closeup of the latch mechanism.

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Above, the hinge linkage mechanism.

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Like the Defense Shield, my only real gripe with the Defense Gear is that the iPhone’s mute switch sits down fairly deep which makes it difficult to operate.

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Above, the iPhone’s stock headphone cable and Lightning cable are seen to fit quite easily through the Defense Gear.  Everything was aligned perfectly.

Comparison & Conclusionx-doria_defensegear-defenseshield_48

As mentioned above, the Defense Gear (left) and Defense Shield (right) are similar in design, but do have some differences.  One is the method of installation (hinge with latch for the Defense Gear vs. two-part “pop on” for the Defense Shield).  Another is the protective corner pads present on the Defense Gear.
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But the main difference is that the Defense Shield’s rubber layer includes an integrated polycarbonate “window” panel to protect the back of your iPhone.  Because of this, I would consider the Defense Gear to be more of a “bumper”-type design and the Defense Shield to be closer to a true “case”-type design.

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Both the Defense Gear and Defense Sheld are pleasing in aesthetics (I really like the black and gold Defense Shield with my black and space grey iPhone), and their matte aluminum finishes help to reduce the visibility of fingerprints and scuffs.  But the more important feature is protection, and with the combined soft, shock-absorbing rubber inner layer and hard outer aluminum layer, both cases provide what I would expect to be a high level of edge- or side-impact protection to your iPhone. Also, the Defense Shield adds the polycarbonate back for additional protection.

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Updates 04/11/16

My daughter used the Defense Shield on her iPhone 6 for a while, but found she wanted more protection than just a bumper, so she switched back to a more traditional case. I continue to use the Defense Gear on my iPhone 6 Plus off and on and although I really like the style and feel, the recessed mute switch makes it challenging to use.

Source: The product samples for this review were provided by X-Doria. For more information, please visit their site at http://x-doria.com.

 

Product Information

Price:Defense Gear $39.99, Defense Shield $49.99
Manufacturer:X-Doria
Requirements:
  • iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus
Pros:
  • Dual-layer protection (rubber inner layer + hard aluminum frame)
  • Styling, design, construction and materials are very good
  • Only adds a bit to the iPhone's thickness
Cons:
  • iPhone's mute switch difficult to access
  • Adds several millimeters to iPhone's footprint size
Posted in: Cases and Covers, iOS, Reviews
{ 19 comments… add one }
  • AB6DO June 5, 2015, 12:19 pm

    Did you do any signal strength testing for interferance from the wrap around aluminum frame?

    • Andy Jacobs June 12, 2015, 8:46 pm

      I didn’t notice an appreciable degradation in signal strength. Perhaps an intermittent drop of a bar but not much more.

  • Ryan Chapman June 5, 2015, 1:22 pm

    AB6DO asked the question I was going to ask. All aluminum frames I used with the iPhone 5/5S caused signal degradation. At least one bar lost and in some cases going from LTE to 3G. Can you test and see if that is the case?

    • Andy Jacobs June 12, 2015, 8:49 pm

      See my response above to AB6DO. I didn’t really notice much appreciable degradation in signal strength. I think perhaps the loss of a bar occasionally, but not really much more. I didn’t really notice any loss of data speed either.

  • Joan June 5, 2015, 4:00 pm

    Thank you. The detailed photos are really helpful and I agree – your black and gold combo is slick!

    • Andy Jacobs June 12, 2015, 8:51 pm

      Thanks for the kinds words, Joan! I like the black and gold combo so much that I’ve put this case into my regular rotation.

  • Frank August 13, 2015, 11:14 am

    I love this case from what I have seen in reviews and images, however my concern is 3rd party devices(headphones and chargers). Are you aware of any 3rd party items that actually work with this case? I tend to buy 6-9 foot chargers and I also want to make sure I can charge it in my car. I looked through a ton of reviews and no one has mentioned any yet…

    Thank you.

    • Andy Jacobs August 17, 2015, 10:21 pm

      While the stock Apple headphones and charging cables are obviously compatible (as seen above), compatibility of 3rd party devices would depend entirely on which device(s) you may want to use with these cases. The cutouts in the metal frame for headphones and charging cable are a bit snug, so this could be a limiting factor.

  • Frank August 13, 2015, 1:37 pm

    One more question…

    Does it slide when sitting on tables or counters? The back has those two rubber sides that come in and look to prevent it from sliding.

    Thanks again.

    • Andy Jacobs August 17, 2015, 10:17 pm

      You have a good eye. Those features prevent the cases from sliding across a surface when laying face up.

  • Eric November 5, 2015, 9:19 pm

    Not sure if it’s the Defence case yet but I’ve experienced Bluetooth issues with my Apple Watch. Signal strength seems weaker. Didn’t have this issue with my old iPhone 6 & it’s cover!?

    • Andy Jacobs November 23, 2015, 8:18 am

      I cannot comment on this particular combination of hardware–I don’t own an Apple Watch (yet).

  • Naga November 22, 2015, 8:28 pm

    I have noticed a signal reception has degraded while using this case. The phone works responds faster without the case on it.

    • Andy Jacobs November 23, 2015, 8:19 am

      Naga, please see my comments above on this. I have not noticed an appreciable signal degradation with while using this case; however, each user’s situation may vary.

  • Andy January 6, 2016, 3:34 am

    Does the latch on the Gear seem solid? Do you have any fear about it breaking? My plan is to use a dBrand skin with the Gear. Do you think that would be a problem?

    • Andy Jacobs January 6, 2016, 9:14 pm

      Since you asked specifically, the latch on the Gear does seem a bit flimsy. Once it’s latched, it seems like it will stay securely latched. I think what you are proposing sounds feasible, but I can’t say for sure, since I’m not familiar with the dBrand skins. I suppose if the skin was the right thickness then it should work out, but again I can’t say for sure.

  • Larry Chulock May 5, 2016, 3:59 pm

    Dear Andy, having recently purchased and successfully installed the “Defense Shield” around my iPhone 6s several days ago, I subsequently enjoyed reading your article covering both the “Shield” and “Gear” appearing in the 6-5-15 online edition of “the gadgeteer”. Like you I picked out a space-gray colored phone though I opted for the silver-colored frame and black rubber edge, and together they too make an attractive colored combo. I have not noticed any change or problems with the phone’s reception since installation, and I would agree with what you wrote about the installation of the aluminum outer frame around the black rubber layer proving to be “a bit difficult”. I too had to use my fingernails to work the rubber down along the sides in spots, but once the installation was complete I have since found the Shield to be a very good-looking protective case with which I have been very pleased. I was prompted to write to you when I read that you chose the gold-colored frame and black-colored rubber layer because you were an alumnus of Purdue University. Being an alumnus of one of Purdue’s rivals, the University of Illinois, I would have opted for a navy blue-colored rubber edge and an orange-colored aluminum frame had x-Doria made and offered same. Clearly the orange and blue would have made for a much more attractive combo than the gold and black. By the way, though it’s been nearly 39 years since my graduation from the U of Illinois I couldn’t help but wonder whether Purdue has since become an accredited institution…

  • Brett October 17, 2016, 7:36 pm

    Ive never commented on any sites before but feel i must now. My new iPhone 6 with defence shield was left on the bonnet of my wifes car- next day she drove to work and i realised it was missing and where i had left it i retraced the route my wife took to work. I found my phone about 2kms along the motorway. It had hit the bitumen at 110kph and the case was slightly bent with gouges on corner in the aluminium where it had hit the road. I took the cover off and the iPhone was in new undamaged condition and still worked. I bent the case back into shape and put it back on the phone and other than the gouges looks as good as ever. Best product-saved me replacing my phone-10 out of 10 can’t recommend it enough.

  • Matt November 11, 2016, 12:16 pm

    Though the case may be nice and protective, there’s two flaws that kind of defeat the purpose of the protection. If you have slightly larger hands/fingers than the average person, you’re not going to be able to quickly use the mute switch on the side of your phone. Due to the thickness of the case, it’s like reaching in a hole to use the mute switch. It can be very frustrating. The other issue is the phone jack, which is also the same. Not wide enough for most aftermarket headphone jack. And if you’re thinking of taking off the cover to use those 2 features, again, it defeat the whole purpose of it and not to mention taking it on and off is so simple. It’s made to stay on. I wouldn’t recommend this product.

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