When it comes to smartphone cases that can stand up to almost anything, OtterBox pretty much defined the market. Starting with the multi-layer Defender Series and then moving on to the more sleek Commuter Series, Colorado-based OtterBox has always made iPhone cases that can stand up to a lot of abuse. However, for some iPhone owners the rather bulky design of the previous cases left a lot to be desired.
OtterBox industrial designer Adam Wibby took his inspiration for the new Reflex Series (US$44.95) from the world of automobile design, where a "crush zone" is sacrificed to reduce the impact on the passengers within a vehicle. Taking this idea through design and testing, Wibby and the OtterBox team found that they could build very thin hardshell cases with a shock-absorbing "reflex zone" made of a more flexible silicone material.
As the design was fine-tuned, the team did a Finite Element Analysis to test the shock-absorbing properties. The analysis showed about a threefold reduction in the shock of a drop, and Wibby notes in the video accompanying this post that an iPhone in a Reflex case will actually bounce.
The Reflex case adds very little weight; my electronic postal scale showed that it weighed in at 0.9 oz (about 26 grams), which brings the total weight of iPhone 4 and Reflex case up to about 5.8 oz (about 164 grams).