Otterbox phone cases have been widely renowned as premiere suits of armor for expensive and fragile smartphones, so I wanted to put that reputation through the TechnoBuffalo gauntlet. Otterbox offers three primary phone case models that vary in price, depending on the particular user application. I was sent the Commuter, Reflex and Defender series cases for the iPhone 4, though the company offers a myriad of armor for Android, BlackBerry and tablet devices as well. After spending a few weeks alternating cases every day, I can safely say that each case succeeded in adequately shielding my iPhone from the terrors of asphalt, horrors of gravel and evils of New York City sidewalks. Check out each model to see which one would fit you.
The Defender Series ($49.95)
The Otterbox Defender Series is the Sir Lancelot of armor when it comes to suiting up your phone. The case is constructed with a hi-impact polycarbonate endoskeleton with an impact-absorbing silicone compound, shown here in fiery red. Nearly every square millimeter of of the phone is protected, and the case even provides a built-in screen protector. All ports are concealed by silicone flaps, yet the design leaves a hole for the microphone on top and exposed areas for the speakers on the bottom of the phone.
While the Defender case is definitely one of the most rugged cases on the market and withstood every ounce of abuse I tossed its way, the tradeoff was added bulk. My iPhone 4 plumped out a bit, and the grippy silicone cover made it difficult to put the phone in and take it out of my pocket. However, Otterbox included a holster that clipped onto the belt and made me look like J. Geek Poindexter. But if you're serious about protecting your phone, and are used to the holster lifestyle, then do not look at another phone case, as the Defender is your best bet.
Reflex Series ($44.95)
The Reflex Series is newer to Otterbox, but I think it's the company's most stylish option. This case is constructed of durable plastic with rubberized "reflex zone" strips at critical impact areas. The case is actually split into two–a top half and bottom half. The theory behind this is that the bottom half can easily be removed to accommodate docking access.
While I appreciate the docking capability of the Reflex, and the case proved to be the most easily accessible out of the three, I found that the latch mechanism in back did not hold the two halves together quite securely. This in no way affected the case's performance when it was hurled to the ground, but sometimes the top half would slip off when I attempted to remove the phone from my pocket. Otterbox just needs to fortify the latch mechanism and this case will be a winner for those who want adequate protection and industrialized style merged into one compact case. A stick-on screen protector ships with this case as well.
Commuter Series ($34.95)
The Commuter Series is destined for the budget phone user or those who want the option of several color choices. Using the same polycarbonate plastic exoskeleton and silicone jacket as the Defender, the Commuter Series case leaves the volume rocker open, yet conceals the 3.5mm Audio jack and charging port. I liked the commuter for its compact architecture and impressive drop protection, and everything on the phone functioned perfectly.
As with any silicone case, unsheathing a phone from the pocket is akin to trying to Slip 'N Slide down a Super Glue Hill–it's quite an arduous task. But users who keep their phones in a backpack or purse will not have a problem. This case ships with a stick-on screen protector for scratch resistance.
Although the Reflex and Commuter cases were nifty and protected against all sorts of falls, I think Otterbox's bread and butter is its Defender case. No other case provides that much protection, so if you're a construction worker, wrestler or 28-ton flying dragon who just bought your first smartphone, throw it in a Defender case. All Otterbox cases are available for purchase on the company's website, otterbox.com.
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