iPhone 4S: Trident Kraken Case is a Fortress

| In-Depth Review

The Trident Kraken is the kind of case you buy if you have an active, outdoor lifestyle and need ultimate iPhone protection. It’s literally built like a fortress and includes a built-in display protector.

In terms of the iPhone cases we’ve already reviewed, this case is most similar to the OtterBox Defender. It has an inner layer of silicone, and then a two-piece polycarbonate clamshell wraps around the phone. Apertures are either covered with flaps or have silicone buttons over them.

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Here’s the formal list of features:

  • A two-in-one case. The inner, soft silicone casing can be used stand-alone. Or you can apply the outer polycarbonate shell for more rugged surroundings.
  • Removable metal kickstand
  • Built-in screen protector
  • Additional plastic protector for iPhone’s back
  • Holster/Belt Clip, 360 degree rotation with solid click stops
  • Aperture for Apple logo (but no plastic cover).
  • Silicone Plugs: Power port and audio jacks are covered with silicone, keeping out dirt and debris.

Using the Case

The very first thing I noticed is that the case doesn’t come apart all that easily or in an obvious fashion. Or without bending a fingernail. The instructions for taking the case apart are buried inside the case, so I had to guess about how to pry it apart. A small leaflet with a guide would be nice, and Trident would have to figure out how to include it in the packaging without obscuring the case. It turns out that you want to start by prying the case part along the edge that has the three (interior) hexagonal structures. From there it’s fairly easy, but this case is very tight fitting.

Kraken-2

L-R: Outer shells, inner silicone, headphone jack extension, belt clip, protector kit

Previously, I published the criteria for an outstanding iPhone case in the Otterbox link above. This case meets almost all those standards except for the video documentation — which would have been helpful. Also, the aperture for the Apple logo isn’t protected with clear plastic. I’ll have some more things to say below about meeting the criteria.

Packaging and Instructions

The package looks like a blister pack, the kind you need bolt cutters to open. But it’s not, and, in fact, it’s rather easy to open. Look closely, and you’ll find a plastic tab at the top of the back of the case, upper left. It’s sealed with a sticky piece of plastic. Once you pry that off, the clamshells come apart without destroying the package. It’s really quite clever, and the package, as a result, allows you to see the entire case in the store. Plus, there’s a small circular opening in the plastic so that you can touch and get a feel for the texture of the case’s surface.

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The instructions are in a small pamphlet, 5 x 2 panels. But only five of the panels have useful information. It shows how to assemble the case and how to remove the kickstand by sliding it sideways first.

The assembly of the case is a bit difficult. Sliding the iPhone into the silicone, which is red in my sample, is easy, but clamping the outer shell on is such a tight fit that the inner silicone gets pinched. You’ll have to fuss a bit to force the silicone to squinch in uniformly. A small jeweler’s screwdriver might help. Finally, it snaps together firmly. This case is not one that comes on and off in mere seconds.

Using the case

Like the OtterBox Defender, all the ports are covered by flaps to keep debris out. However, as I mentioned, the aperture for the Apple logo has no clear plastic cover. Because the case is so thick, access to the headphone jack requires an extension plug. That’s not good, and it’s just something to lose, according to Murphy’s Laws.

Another problem I had was that the plug that covers the headphone jack has a weak connection/hinge. I accidentally pulled it right off when I pulled the extension jack out. This is the first case I’ve reviewed that has had a mechanical failure of that kind.

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Kickstand

I think the kickstand is really superfluous in a case designed for rugged environments. The Trident product description cites potential users as police officers, firemen, campers, military personnel and construction workers. I just can’t see them using a kickstand to watch a a video, but maybe in the firehouse. That’s just an opinion. The practical side is that when the kickstand is removed, the case doesn’t look as good. It’s just a symptom of over-engineering.

This is one of the best cases I’ve seen when it comes to iPhone protection. It’s virtually a Ft. Knox. Previously, I wrote in a comment to the OtterBox Defender review: “Similarly, how you drop an iPhone and how it lands dictates the physics of the impact. No case can guarantee 100 percent protection. You pick the case that looks like it will afford the protection you think you’ll need in your circumstances. The purpose of the review is to give you information to make that self-determination.” So I’ll say here, this Kraken case appears to be very good at intrinsic protection. It even includes a plastic protector sheet for the back of the iPhone.

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All put together, showing bumper corners

What I Liked

I liked the two-tone color scheme. My sample was red (silicone) and black (polycarbonate). I liked how the inner silicone is exposed on the four corners in order to absorb shock at the potential weak points in the case. I liked the fact that the case can be used with just the inner silicone wrap. I liked the opening for the Apple logo. The polycarbonate is hard, but flexes well. During my initial attempts to pry it apart, I was afraid I’d crack it, but I need not have worried.

What I Didn’t Like

I didn’t like the belt holster clip as much as the OtterBox Defender. It’s just a small assembly that clips on to the face of the iPhone. The belt holster of the Defender is much more elaborate, nicer, and affords more protection if the whole thing is dropped. Like the Defender, the belt clip on the Kraken has a distinct U-shape at the edge to ensure that it cannot slide off the belt if you bend over.

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Belt clip, side view, pried open to show U-shape on end

The opening for the mute switch was not quite perfect for the 4S. I didn’t like the kickstand, and I didn’t like the fact that the case doesn’t look so great with it either installed or removed. I didn’t like that the headphone jack cover flap stretched and broke off. Or that you need an extension to get to the jack itself. Finally, I didn’t like the tight fit design, the difficulty of getting the case apart, and how the outer shell squeezes the inner silicone so severely. On the other hand, this is all part of the ruggedness of the case. Finally, unlike the OtterBox Defender, it only comes in one two-tone color scheme.

While the case generally meets the criteria I published for an Outstanding case, small failures in implementation and engineering prevent full marks.

Case Closed

The Kraken is a great case, and in handling it, I believe it will afford excellent protection for your iPhone 4 or 4S. However, there are some nits that take away from an Outstanding rating. My opinion is that the case is a bit over-engineered in the tight fittings, fingernail breaking disassembly, the decision to add a kickstand, and the headphone jack extension. But it’s under-engineered when it somes to the sturdiness of the headphone jack flap and the lack of covering for the Apple Logo. If I were forced to make a purchase decision, I’d go with the OtterBox Defender — which has the same suggested retail price but seems better designed.

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For a synopsis of all the iPhone 4/4S cases we’ve recently reviewed, see: “iPhone 4S: Summary of Case Reviews.”

Product: Kraken case for iPhone 4/4S

Company: Trident

List Price: US$49.99

Pros:

Solid, two layer protection, usable with just the inner case, built-in screen protector, protector for the iPhone’s back, secure belt clip, aperture for Apple logo, metal kickstand.

Cons:

Requires headphone jack extension, no clear protector for Apple logo, difficult to pry apart and remove, kickstand destroys aesthetics whether on or off, only one color scheme.

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Comments

Lee Dronick

Looks to be mil-spec rugged.

trussrigger

I had and Otterbox Defender…hated the bulk.
Looking at this Kraken, also not a fan of the visible bulk.
What I really _don’t_ like about either the Kraken or Defender, NOT WATERPROOF! You can not drop them in a pool, or sink, or puddle.

If you want Mil-Spec, which includes waterproof to 6.6 ft and shock proof to a 6.6 ft drop look at Lifeproof. http://www.lifeproof.com/

My favorite part is that it only adds about .3” in width, just over .5” in length, but a minuscule .15” in depth….ie: it easily fits in any of the pockets I like to carry my phone in…and no grabby silicon.

Best case I’ve had. Don’t regret the $80…would like it to come with a belt clip, but was not a deal breaker.

John Martellaro

BTW, we did look at Lifeproof.  You’ll find it in the Summary of Case Reviews article I linked to at the end of the review above.

wab95

You?ll find it in the Summary of Case Reviews article I linked to at the end of the review above.

Another case you might consider reviewing is the Ballistic Case. I considered (and am considering again - as they’ve offered me a discount) this at the same time I looked at the Lifeproof.

To be honest, I liked both, as well as the Otterbox Defender, which I purchased. I take trussrigger’s point that the Defender is not waterproof. I thought about how often I have been waist-deep in water (it happens), and thought it rare enough that I wasn’t persuaded to dole out 2X the dough on the Lifeproof, not to mention the screw-in headphone jack and separate belt clip purchase, and the limited number of colours.

Looking at some upcoming forays on my calendar, I still may come back to either the Ballistic or the Lifeproof, if emersion looks likely.

Ray

Nice case, but I would recommend the Pong Research iPhone case over this. The amount of wireless energy a cell phone user is exposed to depends on the technology of the phone, the distance between the phone’s antenna and the user, the extent and type of use, and the user’s distance from cell phone towers. That’s why I did research and found a case that can reduce radiation exposure. I found cases from Pong Research, I read that this technology reduces exposure to radiation while optimizing the mobile reception. I was skeptical about it, anyway, I decided to try it, because Pong is the only technology proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce the exposure to mobile device radiation by up to 95% below the FCC limit without compromising the device’s ability to communicate.

Ray

Nice case, but I would recommend the Pong Research iPhone case over this. I read that cell phones emit wireless energy a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation, which can be absorbed by the tissue closest to where the phone is held. That’s why I did research and found a case that can reduce radiation exposure. In the end though, I found a couple of reviews of Pong Research ‘s cases, that convinced me to give it a try. This case is built with an antenna in between layers of the back cover, which reduce exposure to radiation. Because Pong is the only technology proven in FCC-certified laboratories to reduce the exposure to mobile device radiation by up to 95% below the FCC limit without compromising the device’s ability to communicate.

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