With every revision to the iPhone's exterior body design, you can always rely on OtterBox to have their case lineup available on launch. The Defender case Series for the iPhone 5 is the top tier of protection OtterBox provide. However it also offers the most bulk, due to all that protection.
Technically the Defender offers three layers of protection, the first being the plastic shell, then on top of that a silicone skin and the third layer is accomplished from the belt clip/holster. I rarely use the holster so I'm really only provided with two layers of protection. Having said that, many will find the holster useful as it can double as a stand and it's very strong in build.
The design is noticeably longer due to the iPhone 5 having a 0.5inch bigger screen. The thick outer silicone layer is smooth yet strong in texture and therefore feels comfortable in the hands. The plastic shell snaps into two parts, so you can drop your iPhone in. The bottom piece of the two parts where the rear of the iPhone rests against is padded to avoid scratches and scuffs. The shell also incorporates a fixed screen protector shield that delivers high clarity from the brilliant iPhone retina display. In comparison with the Defender Series for previous generations of the iPhone, it feels a lot lighter and thinner in use and the bulk isn't as dramatic this time around.
Applying the case took around half a minute and removing the iPhone from it is even quicker. These improved times in application compared with previous Defender cases, is due to the harder and easier to line up silicone.
On a side note signal strength from my usage is not affected by the case.
The whole iPhone is covered by the Defender with the exception of all microphones, rear and front camera and speakers, this is so dust and muck can't enter, but the functionality doesn't suffer much. Accessing the mute switch, audio jack and lightening connector port can be a little bit of an inconvenience due to hinged flaps sitting on top of them for protection. But rest assured this is the worst element of the functionality, buttons are all covered by in case ones that feel very responsive and pleasant when pressed upon. Also the rear and front cameras have nice big cutouts so the light can get into the lens and your photos and videos look their best. And not to forget the Apple logo is boldly cutout as always.
So what about the protection? I can confirm that it's up to normal Defender standards. Big drops from one story of a building onto concrete and the iPhone is un damaged. This translates into exceptional drop protection. I usually drop my iPhone in instances such as it falling out of my pocket onto the ground or knocking it off a table and a lot of other thinner cases are fine with dealing with such events but the OtterBox Defender is pretty much guaranteed to prevent harm coming to your beloved iPhone 5. Because your whole device covered.
To summarize the OtterBox Defender Series for the iPhone 5 is a superb case for those who want solid uncompromised protection and functionality.