Accessory Review: the Griffin Survivor Case for iPhone 4

Whenever  a new iPhone user inevitably asked, “what case will offer the best protection for my iPhone?” the default answer had been Otterbox. They make a fantastic product that can hold up to much abuse. And for users prone to dropping their phones, leaving them on top of their cars when they pull out of the parking lot, or working in harsh environments, the Otterbox was the primary choice – until now. Griffin Technology has released their “ridiculously over-engineered” Survivor case. Made of military grade materials, and tested for such harsh conditions as vibrations, shock/drop, wind/rain and sand/dust, the Survivor case is body armor for your phone. But the protection wouldn’t be worth it if the case compromised functionality. Fortunately, because of its thoughtful design, the Survivor does not impede performance, but enhances it. And it works with both the AT&T or Verizon models.

Read on for my full review.

The Packaging

Normally, the packaging is easy to dismissively toss. The Survivor packaging caught my attention on two levels. Firstly, the outer box effectively promotes the military-grade concept the case touts. From the seal stating the case meets or exceeds US/UK Military standards (US Mil-STD-810F/UK Def Stan 00-35, whatever that means) to the clever cut-out on the side resembling military cargo labeling, the packaging is singular. Additionally, the inner packaging is made of layered, precision-cut corregated cardboard for those wishing to recycle the box.


The Build

The case is made of four pieces: the two-piece inner shell, the outer silicon skin and the holster clip. The inner shell is made of shatter-resistant polycarbonate with integrated screen shield to resist blown wind and sand. The silicon skin provides shock and drop protection. The holster clip both rotates and acts as a stand. The design of the case is reminiscent of paneled body armor, and a bit bulky, but the bulk has its functions. Installation is easy as you drop the phone into the shell and snap it close. The silicon slips over the shell and the holster snaps into place.



The combination of a polcarbonate inner shell and thick outer silicon have proven to be a winning combination. The materials used are made up to US and UK military specs and have been tested for the following environmental factors:

  • Independently tested and certified to meet conditions outlined in US Department of Defense MIL-STD-810 and UK Department of Defense Def-Stan 00-35
  • Integral Display shield deflects Wind/Rain (Test: Up to 200 mm/hr for 1 hour)
  • Rigid internal frame protects from Shock/Drop (Test: Drop on flat concrete surface from 6′/1.8 m) Note: the claim on the box was only 4 feet.
  • Sealed ports block Blown Sand/Dust (up to 18 m/sec for 1 hour)
  • Silicone cladding blocks vibration (18 hrs at 20-2000 Hz)
  • I did bang and drop the phone in the case, but did not expose my cell to such extremes. To see the Survivor case in action, you can view the video that demonstrates the serious punishment this case can take, including parking lot bowling, throwing it at (and lodging it into) a wall, skipping it over icy and snowy surfaces, common drops and having a powerful car peel out of a parking lot upon it. The case did not survive this last bit, nor did the glass on the phone, but the phone itself was still operational.

    The volume and power buttons are completely encased, with precision-cut flaps for the camera, mute switch and dock connector. In fact the flaps are so tightly closed, it can take a bit of prying to open them, partcularly the camera cover. The holster is an improvement over the Otterbox’s 3GS design. It doesn’t merely hold the phone by tight fit, or tension, but rather has a tab release. I’ve had the 3GS phone fall out of the Otterbox holster with a minor jolt. I banged the phone against several hard surfaces and it did not budge in from the Survivor holster. The holster has an indentation for the home button cover and the phone is meant to be worn facing inwards, but can be worn facing outwards.



    All the protection would be pointless if the case hindered the phone’s capabilities. There are a few minor issues, but overall the phone functions well in the case. While there was a bit of bubbling of the protective screen against an InvisibleShield, there was no visible contact issues with the Survivor case and a bare glass iPhone screen. This is a definite improvement over the Otterbox’s 3GS shield, although the Otterbox case for the iPhone 4 is reported to have eliminated this problem.

    The surface of the silicon on the Survivor case is finely textured, resulting in a softer, easier to grip, yet less “grabby” surface. It slides in and out of pockets fairly well. It is not slick by any means, but the texture reduces the friction. The silicon exterior also has strategic grip indentations, making it comfortable to hold. The holster is large enough to hang on one’s belt, but small enough to be held in the palm of one’s hand and use the phone. Popping the phone out of the holster is easily done with one hand by simply pressing the large tab with one’s finger or thumb. However, when the phone is still in the holster, tapping in landscape mode can be painful, as the tab digs into one’s finger. The holster does come in handy as a stand. Press the tab to hyperextend the clip and it snaps into the stand position.


    The opening for the dock connector is wider, making the use of thicker, third-party charging cables usable even with the case on. (The phone cannot be in the holster for charging.) Likewise, the openings under the flaps for the mute switch and headphones was ample for large fingers or headphone insertion. The home, volume and power buttons functioned normally through the thick silicon. Typing near the edges of the screen can be tricky. I routinely pushed the “m” or “n” keys when meaning to type a space.


    However, the flap for the camera is a problem. The user has to hold the flap open for picture-taking. Snapping a shot or video requires two hands. This could be a potential issue if you take a lot of pictures.


    The Griffin Survivor case retails for $49.99 USD. The Otterbox Defender case for the iPhone 4 retails for $49.95 USD. It is a great value for such protection, and for those who take their phones into environments such as constructon sites, it may prove extremely valuable. The case is available in black, grey, pink and white.


    The Griffin Survivor case offers great protection with little detriment to the functionality of the phone. The body armor for the iPhone would provide peace of mind for most casual users and even for those in the harshest environments. It is easy to install and use. The phone’s openings are accessible and can accomodate larger fingers and cables. It does hinder typing a bit, especially with the holster on, and using the camera requires two hands. The holster acts as a stand. The price is equal to comparable products. It is a formidable competitor to the Otterbox line.

    Note: it is also available for the iPod Touch 4G, which retails for $39.99 USD.

    Thank you to Griffin Technology for providing the review sample.

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