20
Sep
Defender vs Commuter
Last Updated: October 13th, 2011

I am a fan of cases. In fact, right when I buy a phone, I always order a case to go with it. When I got my Evo 4G from Sprint last year, I went through a couple of different cases before settling with one for any reasonable amount of time. While I ended up using a Bodyglove case for quite a while, my mind was almost immediately changed when a friend of mine gave me an Otterbox Commuter case. I was in love. Never before had I seen a case this sturdy and light. Actually, I'm still using the case - no cracks or damage to be found.

About a month ago, my wife got a new Photon 4G, so we pinged our contacts at Otterbox to see what they had in store for this phone. Otterbox usually offers more than one model of case per phone, and the Photon was no exception.  For this phone, Otterbox brought us the Defender and Commuter models.

Otterbox Defender

Positives

  • Ultimate protection for your device
  • Comes with built-in screen protector
  • Special belt clip holster that holds the phone very well

Negatives

  • Very heavy
  • Hard to remove
  • Too big and bulky

wm_Case Disassembled

wm_Defender Case wm_Defender Case 2

wm_Defender Case 3 wm_Defender vs Evo 4G Commuter

First off, this thing is huge. Quality is definitely there, but I believe that this case may only be attractive to construction workers. My wife had it for a couple of days, but couldn't keep using it as was just too big. Typically, Otterbox offers a rubber casing that covers the phone before you put it inside the hard plastic casing, but it's quite the opposite with the Defender. You have a hard plastic case first, and a rubber covering that keeps the whole thing together.

One really nice feature of the Defender is the built-in screen protector, as it saves the hassle of having to install any sort of on-device protection. When testing the functionality with the screen protector, it still was as smooth as using the screen directly. Although I loved  the included screen protector, it would be nice to be able to replace it in case of scratches. The case also came with a belt-clip holster that holds the phone very well, but further adds on to the overall size and weight of the unit.

At a price of $49.95, the Otterbox Defender offers the maximum protection that money can buy in a rough-and-touch chassis. If you are looking for elegance and beauty, this is probably not the case for you. However, if you are prone to tossing your phone off of moving vehicles, dropping it out of 4th story windows, or are just plain rough on your gear, this may be the case for you.

Where to buy

Otterbox - $49.95

Amazon - currently on sale for $21.39

Otterbox Commuter

Positives

  • Great size to protection ratio
  • Feels comfortable to hold

Negatives

  • Lacking a built-in screen protector

wm_Commuter Case

wm_Commuter Case 2 wm_Commuter Kickstand

After trying out the Defender case, my wife was ready to give the Commuter a go. Having witnessed how much I love the one for my Evo 4G, she had high hopes for this case right from the start -- sure enough, it did not disappoint. Like most of the other Commuter class cases, the phone is first covered in a rubber casing before going inside the hard outer shell. The case doesn't add a lot of extra weight to the phone, but definitely is durable enough to withstand most drops and impacts. The Commuter also offers easy access to all of the Photon's buttons, including power, volume rocker, and camera by way of raised silicon pseudo-buttons aligned in the appropriate spots.

Unlike the Defender case, the Commuter doesn't have a built in screen protector, so you'll have to find another solution if you want to keep the screen free of dings and scratches.

For an MSRP of $34.95, the Otterbox Commuter definitely offers a good balance of protection and size. It's well made and seems quite durable for everyday use, and with the addition of a screen protector, should keep your device in pristine condition until your next upgrade.

Where to buy

Otterbox - $34.95

Amazon - currently on sale for $22.60

Conclusion

The Defender case adds quite a bit of thickness to an otherwise elegant device (0.81 inches, to be exact), but if you're known for destroying phones, it may be the best choice for you. The Commuter is the more everyday-appropriate of the two, only raising the overall thickness of the device to s reasonable 0.61 inches.

While both cases are great for different types of use scenarios, the Commuter remains the most practical for day-to-day use. Either way, if you're looking for a solid case to protect your beloved Photon, you can't go wrong regardless of which one you decide to get.

Jakub Glodek
Jakub is a Customer Advocate at Zendesk. When he is not assisting customers, he is busy toying with Android devices and accesories. Follow him on Twitter: @jglodek
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  • http://www.facebook.com/kennadevere Kenna DeVere

    My 17 yr old had me under the impression that if any damage happened to an Otterbox encased phone that Otterbox would replace the phone. From what I have been able to find they only replace the Otterbox itself, not the phone. Can you clear this up for us please?