Otterbox, Most Rugged iPhone Case? – Gear Review

otterbox iphone case with ballistic plastic
What’s the best way to protect your iPhone?

There are 2 breakable/non-replacable things I take everywhere but only one can be protected with platics; it’s my iPhone.

There are thousands of cases to choose from when you’re looking to protect your phone but all sources point to one name for serious protection…. Otterbox. Like Pelican Cases (which we swear by!) Otterbox has it’s roots in marine environment, saving the precious cargo of sailors, surfers and scallywags by encasing electronics in Max Headroom era boxes of questionable design and functionality but bulletproof construction. Unlike Pelican, Otterbox engineer’s cases specifically designed to protect individual items, like the iPhone.

We started our quest for the ultimate iPhone case with a trip to REI for a hands on look at the offerings and our eyes where immediately to the iPad Defender, Otter’s top-of-the-line defense for the iPad. It was large, built strong and packaged in eco friendly cardboard. Nice!.. but I don’t own an iPad… so I needed something smaller and found it in the iPhone 4.0 defender.

The iPhone defender is serious protection offering ballistics grade plastic, rubber grips and plug covers that oozed quality. The defender wasn’t just strong it had small extra – well thought out – features that immediately impressed us. The screen, for example, was protected by a sheet of latex that stretched across the body of the case hermetically sealing the phone in fingerprint proof goodness. This was the kind of case you could hose off with a pressure washer (if needed).

But, looking beyond the Magnum XL screen cover, the defender had problems that I couldn’t get past. First, while the headphone and iDock connectors have plugs to keep water out, the speakers and microphone jacks remain unprotected. The second problem was the rubber coating of the case, it was the kind that sticks to the inside of pockets. For some this is a minor concern but we were looking for the ultimate case.

The last problem with the iPhone defender was it’s sheer size. This thing is a brick of considerable girth, uncomfortable to hold in your hand and impossible to hold in your pants pocket. And otterbox’s solution to carrying around this brick? Well it’s even worse… a belt clip.

But all was not lost because hanging next to the defender was the Otterbox Commuter. This case was missing the latex screen protector but had 90% of the features found on the defender without any of the bulk. Plus the commuter sports the ballistics plastics on the outside of the case with the sticky rubber inside hugging the phone. This combination gives you the shock protection of rubber but allows the case to float effortlessly into your pocket.

The Commuter does have a few cons though. It has plugs for the microphone jack and iDock connector but, like the Defender, no protection for the speakers or microphone. It also has some bulk to it meaning that, while you could get it into your jeans pocket without much trouble, I’m not sure that you would want to.

The bottom line is the Defender and Commuter are both excellent cases. If you are out heading to fish Alaska or like testing out the FRB in gales, by all means, opt for the added protection of the defender. You won’t be disappointed. But if your looking for a case that will provide great protection on the water without requiring a belt clip (like this guy), the Commuter is your best bet.

The Defender and Commuter are available for around $50 (each) at REI but can be purchased for under $20 at Amazon.com.