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Review: OtterBox Commuter & Commuter TL iPhone Cases

After almost losing my iPhone to pouring rain at a football game, I decided it was time to look for a case that provided full coverage. 'Full' meaning all of the open holes to the case are covered. The OtterBox Commuter and Commuter TL series accomplish this very well.

The Commuter TL:

This case is the thickest of the two, offering a 3 layer system.  First you attach the typical screen film, then slide on the silicone skin around your device, and finally attach the outer polycarbonate shield that goes the top, rear, and bottom of the case. 

 The quality of the screen film was better than most that you typically receive with iPhone cases. However, even after following all of the instructions, I still wasn't able to completely remove the bubbles from the screen. I tried and tried, but to no avail. This is pretty typical of these films and not a big issue when the screen is on. However, when the screen is off, it makes the iPhone look less than beautiful. On the plus side, these particular films actually stayed on, as opposed to the last ones I tested by another vendor.

Applying the polycarbonate shell was a little tricky, as the area where the dock connector is kept sliding when I was getting that final piece attached. After playing with it for a couple of minutes it was fine.  My initial impression of the section at the bottom of the phone had me concerned, as it seemed very slim and fragile and I thought it would break. So far so good though, and I've taken the phone in and out of the case at least half a dozen times. Once you get it in there, it seems to stay put, even after pulling in and out of my pocket hundreds of times. I was impressed.



My favorite part of both cases is that the OtterBox's silicone is molded to fit right into the dock and earphone connector. That is exactly what I was looking for after attending the football game in the pouring rain. I couldn't resist snapping some pictures, but I was very afraid that water was going to get into the headphone jack. This feature will protect against  hazards like that. The Commuter TL unit also fully covers the rear as the polycarbonate portion leaves a transparent window to show your Apple logo off and to allow you to announce to everyone you have an iPhone. Make no mistake about it. 

There were only a few cons to this case. This isn't the case for someone that pulls there phone out of the case to make it fit into a dock, GPS holder, or other peripheral device. It's too much of a hassle to get it back in. This is a case you will put it in once and not take it back out until it's time to change the film. 

Secondly, as with any silicone based case, it picks up lint and hair and anything else you have in your pocket. Thankfully the polycarbonate shell covers almost the entire back, so there is not that much of it to deal with. Other than those two little things, I love this case.


The Commuter:

The slimmest of the two, and also the more expensive, this case tested just as well as the Commuter TL.  It offers similar features of the Commuter TL; screen film, silicone case, and polycarbonate shell.  The Commuter differs by offering a more streamlined design and selection of 7 colors to choose from. Side by side, the silicone skin feels slightly thinner than the Commuter TL skin. The polycarbonate shell is larger and encompasses the top, bottom, rear, and half of each side, leaving the silicone exposed in the necessary places to allow for volume control. 

Assembling the case is also similar. You have to fidget with it to get the silicone to sit properly in place around the bottom of the screen, but once you have it in there, it works great.  Since it has a slender profile and there is more polycarbonate, it feels much slimmer and lighter weight than the Commuter TL case. That nice slim feel in the hand makes it easy to use the iPhone comfortably.  

As does it's sister case, it offers full coverage for the earphone and dock connectors. However, for some reason I can't figure out, there is no polycarbonate covering the hole where the Apple logo is. Perhaps it's not economical in the design to cover the hole, but I tend to hold OtterBox (who is known for coverage and safety) to a higher standard. Seems like a huge oversight to me.

Once again, this is not a case for someone who needs to pull their phone in and out of a case to connect up to a peripheral, dock, car mount, etc.  


The Commuter and Commuter TL each offer some unique features. I feel more protected in the Commuter TL case, but I like the thinner feel of the Commuter case.  Both of them were dropped multiple times during testing over the last couple of weeks and both iPhones are still working fine. Suffice it to say, they can withstand drops. 

Either one will serve you well for protecting your valuable device. Both are a fine choice and if you are looking for a selection of colors, the Commuter TL is the only one of the two that offers 7 color choices.  

Highly Recommended!

OtterBox Commuter TL - $29.95 USD 


OtterBox Commuter - $34.95 USD