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Review: Otterbox Defender & Commuter Cases for iPhone 4

Otterbox cases are synonymous with protection. Ask anybody in the know what case to get to protect their expensive phone and it's likely they will reply with "Otterbox". They sent me their Commuter and Defender cases for the iPhone 4, and I've had a few weeks to use them both.

Otterbox iPhone 4 Commuter

The Commuter is the smaller of the two cases. It's made to offer protection, yet do it in a case that is slender as possible, yet still offering the protection that Otterbox is famous for. 

It offers three layers of protection: screen protector, silicone shell, and a hard polycarbonate outer shell.  

Some people prefer not to use a screen protector, and I am one of them. Although, I am quickly becoming a convert, as I've recently found two scratches on the front glass of my iPhone 4. I quickly went searching for the screen protector that came in the Otterbox case and applied it. Pretty simple, clean the screen with the enclosed soft cloth, line up the protector, peel and stick, and smooth out any bubbles.  

Typically, I am not a fan of silicone shells by themselves. They are difficult to get in and out of jeans, and usually they are lint magnets. I spend more time cleaning off the phone than using it. The good news with the Otterbox is the polycarbonate hard shell that goes over the silicone shell, which eliminates almost all of the problems. It offers a solid feel and gives the phone the extra distance needed from the iPhone 4's antenna, so you won't suffer from the weakened signal when you 'hold it wrong'.  

The Commuter goes a long way to keep your iPhone 4 protected. The headphone and dock connectors are fully covered and you have to pull them out of the ports to use them. This is an important feature since two places Apple looks for water damage is inside the headphone jack and the dock connector. When either of these gets wet, it turns red/pink, and that is the first thing Apple looks at when you take it into the Apple Store for repair-- water damage isn't covered. 

The thing that I love the most quickly became the thing that irritated me the most. Opening the dock connector port was extremely difficult.  Just to charge or sync my phone you need access to it,  and routinely it would take me numerous tries. It wasn't just me either. I had a few people try this and it was the same result all the way around. Perhaps as your do this more and more they will become easier, but during my testing period, this wasn't the case.

The Otterbox Commuter adds a bit of heft (dim 4.73 in x 2.50 in x 0.55in) , which is a small price to pay for this amount of protection. The size isn't too noticeable after you start using it. However, when you pull the iPhone out of the case and hold it in your hand, you quickly notice the difference. I like a sleek case, and this didn't deter me at all. If you have a propensity for dropping your phone, you will quickly come to appreciate having that extra layer of protection.


Otterbox has thrown another touchdown for the the Commuter series. We loved this case even more than the one for the previous gen of iPhones. It feels more solid and has an overall good feel in the hand, while offering the best protection for a case in it's style. Highly recommended.

Product: Otterbox iPhone 4 Commuter

Price: $34.95 USD

Colors: Black


Otterbox iPhone 4 Defender

This case if big. Big on protection, big on size, and well… it's just BIG. If you are looking for a sleek petite case, move on, this isn't what you are looking for. Do you work for a construction company or out in the elements? This might be your best investment to go along with the iPhone.

This case is like a big onion - it's full of layers. 

To put your phone in the case, it's a multi-step process. First you take the inside shell apart and slip your phone into it. The rear of the shell has a felt lining, so no worries about scratching the glass on the rear of your iPhone.  The front of the shell features a built-in membrane screen protector. With this in place, no need for an extra screen stick-on protector. Snap the front and back together and then you have your inner layer of protection. This inner layer shell is almost on par with the size of the whole Commuter case!

Next take your hard shell and slip it into the textured silicone exterior. It takes a minute to get the tabs fitted just right so they are coving the ports correctly. There are port covers for the headphone jack, dock, and ringer switch. This particular case didn't suffer from the same problem where I had difficulty opening the dock port for access.  In fact, it was almost the opposite. When I closed it up, I had to play around to get it to fit just right. Not a huge deal, but it's something to be aware of since you are relying on it for the best protection out there. 

This assembly alone makes your iPhone 4 go from sleek to feeling like you are carrying around phone from the late 1990's.  To bring all of this home, stick it in it's accompanying holster. This holster is rough, rugged, and BIG. Stick the phone inside of it and nobody will even think you are carrying an iPhone. The holster can do a face-in or face-out direction, which will give you a little flexibility. It also doubles as a stand if you want to watch a movie on your desk. However, as a stand, it's one fixed angle, and I didn't find it to be conducive for watching anything over a few minutes.

The Defender line is known for being the biggest and the baddest (bad in a good way) for protection. It doesn't fall short with the latest iteration of this case. With that said, this case is not for everyone. Otterbox likes to say it is, but trust me on this one, it's not. If you want the best protection with a trade off of the biggest case/holster combo out there, this is your baby. 


It's big. Very big. Big on protection and size. Not for the person that wants a sleek membrane like case. Definitely for the rough and rugged type that needs protection from a rough environment. Recommended for people that need this much protection and don't mind making your iPhone 4 large.

Product: Otterbox iPhone 4 Defender

Price: $49.95

Colors: Black, Red, Ziron Blue