Special purpose cases, such as battery cases or photography cases, can be marvelously convenient when they are carrying out the task they are specifically designed to do. However, their special purpose features may render them less than perfect as a general use case: they may be too bulky or have odd protrusions. Plus, a battery case can only function as battery case…it typically cannot morph into a photography case at will. The OtterBox UniVERSE case system aims to change all of that. With a nicely protective base layer case modeled after their successful Symmetry case, the UniVERSE case features a rail mount system which allows UniVERSE modules to be swapped out as needed. OtterBox has partnered with a number of other accessory companies to create a line of UniVERSE accessories with a broad range of functionality. Currently available modules include custom versions of olloclip’s 4-in1 Lens and SanDisk’s iXpand Flash Drive, as well as a mountable version of Square’s Apple Pay and chip card reader, various battery cases, tripods and much more. This is a very versatile system, and it should theoretically allow modules to be used across phone generations and phone models, as long as a UniVERSE case exists for a particular phone. This can be seen in action already, as iPhone 6s modules will fit on iPhone 6s Plus UniVERSE cases and vice versa.
OtterBox kindly sent me out a black iPhone 6s Plus UniVERSE case and two modules to review: the PolarPro Stash Wallet and the Nite Ize Steelie Vent Mount. The UniVERSE case bears a strong resemblance to OtterBox’s Symmetry case: it has the same matte polycarbonate exterior and grippy artificial rubber interior. As with the Symmetry, the rubber extends to cover half the sides of the case, giving it a good grip in the hand. All the buttons are rubber covered, and are nicely clicky. The UniVERSE differs from the Symmetry in that it has a completely open bottom, rather than individual port openings. It also has a slightly larger camera opening, and is a very slightly larger case overall. The open bottom seems slightly alarming at first, in terms of protection, but upon closer examination, it looks like the rubber on either side extends far enough to provide a decent amount of protection in the event of a fall. This case, like all of OtterBox’s cases that I have encountered, meets the qualifications of the OtterBox Certified Drop+ Protection Program, so it must be at least reasonably protective. Overall, like the Symmetry, the UniVERSE case is a very nice case with a good moderate grip. In my opinion, it is a great base case for this system because it is such a solid everyday case.
Swapping out UniVERSE modules is easy: simply slide off the rail slide cover and then slide on whatever module you would like to use. As I said, OtterBox sent me out two: a magnetic vent mount and a card slot wallet attachment. The magnetic vent mount, the Steelie by Nite Ize, uses the rail slide mechanism to slide on a metal attachment point for the Steelie’s magnet to connect to. The magnetic ball mount is then clipped onto one of the vents in your car and you should be good to go. In theory it works great, but when I actually tried it out in my car, I had somewhat unimpressive results. My 6s Plus tended to slowly droop downwards when attached to the Steelie and did not have a terribly secure feeling, My gut feeling is that this might work fine with the iPhone 6/6s, however. The iPhone 6s Plus is just a very large, heavy phone and may be too much for the Steelie to handle.
The second module that I tried was the Stash Wallet by PolarPro. A very straightforward product, this is simply a module with a couple of card slots that you slide onto your UniVERSE case. I found it required a bit of force to get fully clipped into place, but once attached, it worked fine. It has two card slots and can hold a total of three cards. It doesn’t add much thickness to the phone case and works as expected. The wallet itself is made of some sort of vinyl or faux leather material, but it did the job. Longevity is unknown, however.
Overall, I think that the UniVERSE system is very promising and could potentially save money and cut down on waste by letting people use accessories across phone models and phone generations. I love the fact that I can have a case that performs a specialty function…but that then reverts back into an ordinary case for everyday use or maybe even morphs into something else. All this doesn’t come cheap, however. The UniVERSE case itself costs $59.95 for the iPhone 6/s Plus (and $49.95 for the iPhone 6/s version), and each module you add is available for an additional cost. The two modules I was sent to review: the Steelie Vent Mount and the PolarPro Stash Wallet cost $39.95 and $19.95 respectively. These products are all available directly from OtterBox as well as from other retailers:
Finally, if you’d like more details, here is a link to my YouTube review:
Read more on Tech-Reviewer.com…