iPhone 4S: OtterBox Commuter Case’s Dual Layers Rock

| In-Depth Review

OtterBox has a reputation for making iPhone cases that are able to withstand severe conditions. This dual-layer, silicone plus polycarbonate case carries on the tradition. A self-adhesive screen protector is included.

The Commuter Series of cases from OtterBox are designed for people on the move. The case, while not very bulky, adds a considerable amount of protection thanks to its dual layer design: there’s an inner, soft silicone wrap-around layer that’s held in place by an outer polycarbonate shell.

The result is good protection from scratches, bumps and shocks, according to OtterBox. Yet, it looks great.

Otterbox Commuter 1

 

Otterbox Commuter 2

Front and back views

Using This Case

I like this design because some cases that are simply a gel wrap feel a bit loose in some places. However, in this design, the case’s inner silicone section protects from shock, but the outer hard polycarbonate gives the whole phone a feeling of solidity. The polycarbonate is not too smooth, so it provides a fairly good grip.

There are other things I liked:

  • There are soft flaps over the 3.5 mm headphone jack on the top and the 30-pin port on the bottom. This keeps debris out of those ports when not in use. A hole in the top flap makes sure the microphone isn’t obstructed.
  • The volume and power buttons are covered with silicone buttons that have just a bit of thickness. That way, when you press, there’s a solid feel. Covering the buttons protects them instead of just leaving an opening. However, the mute button does have an opening because it slides, so a cover there would be bad ergonomics. This is smart.
  • There’s a nicely done opening for the Apple logo on the back — for those people who want to give the Apple logo some exposure.
  • A single protective screen is included for the display. Included are: instructions, a cleaning cloth, and a plastic card to drive out the unavoidable bubbles. I can never sem to apply these screens without a remaining bubble or two, so I tend not to use them. But I like the fact that one is included, and I may give this one another try.

Packaging and Instructions

As with many cases like this, the packaging is a stiff paper box with a clear plastic face to show the product. However, this box is very well done; there is no skimping. The case will protect the contents well. The box also appears amendable to opening without too much damage so the case can be touched and evaluated by a retail store customer.

Otterbox Commuter 3

The Package

Inside the box are the instructions for installing the case. That’s nice, but the case is so easy to apply and so intuitive that if you didn’t have the instructions, you probably wouldn’t go wrong.

Otterbox Commuter 4

L-R: Outer polycarbonate, inner silicone, and screen protector kit

It’s a Wrap

Apple’s iPhones are solid and dense. They have a good feel of heft in your hand. With this OtterBox Commuter case, the feeling is even more enhanced. There’s a pleasant feeling of stiffness and heft combined with a sense that the inner silicone will absorb reasonable shocks. While the outer polycarbonate isn’t tiled or serrated like the Speck PixelSkin, which I will also review, it does have a good feel in the hand. However, some users may prefer the softer, gooey feel of some gel cases.

I also liked the workmanship, fit and finish. The pieces fit together well, and the polycarbonate feels well crafted, with an even texture and no manufacturing blemishes, deformities or shortcuts.

With this case, my iPhone 4S no longer fits in my DLO belt holster, but that’s okay. I might switch to putting the iPhone in my pocket now, knowing that I have some really solid protection.

I highly recommend this case for people who, as the name suggests, are on the move, constantly pulling out their iPhone on the train, bus, restaurants, workplace, laboratory and so on. The dual-layer design adds that extra level of confidence for heavy use environments, yet, in black, it’s low ley and even beautiful. While the price may seem high, I judge that it’s justified by the beauty, quality and level of protection.

This case works equally well for the iPhone 4 thanks to the size of the mute button opening.

Product: Commuter Series for 4/4S

Company: OtterBox

List Price: US$34.95

Pros:

Two layers of protection, screen protector, well made & great craftsmanship, intelligent handling of iPhone buttons and openings.

Cons:

None noted.

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