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I hate phone cases. When I bought my Nexus One back in March of 2010, the first thing I did with my very first smartphone was head over to Amazon and start searching for a cool and convenient way to protect it. So I bought some leather ordeal with a flip cover and all sorts of gimmickry, and I hated it. I used it for 2 days, and since then, it has occupied my box of unwanted electronics and related accessories. It was probably one of the worst $25 I ever spent. I swore off cases from that day forward.

Enter OtterBox. OtterBox makes all sorts of cases for all sorts of smartphones, ranging from thick but light and durable rubber skins to extreme shockproof full enclosures.

Somewhere between those two extremes lies the OtterBox Commuter series, which I wouldn't hesitate to call "rugged." But I also wouldn't classify it in the same league as other, more extreme rugged cases. Heck, if you want a rugged case, OtterBox makes one called the Defender that'll set you back $50, and it includes a real screen protector, as opposed to an adhesive sheet. If you work in heavy construction or in a particularly dirty or harsh environment, the Defender might be up your alley.

But, if you're like the rest of us and just happen to drop things occasionally, the Commuter is a far more logical choice, as it's a lot less bulky.

Full Disclosure: OtterBox wanted me try one of the Commuter Series cases so much that they sent me one for my DROID BIONIC - via FedEx, no less.

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  • What is it? The OtterBox Commuter for the DROID BIONIC is a rugged, 2-piece plastic enclosure to protect your phone from dust, shock (falls), and scratches.
  • What comes in the box? 3 things:
    • Hard plastic exterior enclosure
    • Rubber interior skin
    • Press-on adhesive screen protector (I didn't even use it)
  • How much does it cost? $35.
  • Do I want it? If you feel like your BIONIC needs extra protection, then yes, you want it. This thing is pretty great.

The Good

  • You will feel as though your phone is encased in a high-tech piece of Kevlar (there's not actually any Kevlar involved) body armor.
  • 2 layers (one rubber, one hard plastic) and raised edges around the display ensure that shock absorption actually happens and reduces the transmission of those forces to your glass screen, significantly lessening the chance it will crack in the event of a fall.
  • Rubber edges placed strategically = grippiness.
  • Most people probably won't even notice your phone has a case - the Commuter is quite discreet.
  • It's easy to take on and off.
  • The Commuter fits like a glove, there's no shoddy manufacturing going on here - this thing is meant for the BIONIC, all button covers map on perfectly.
  • It doesn't add all that much weight or bulk compared to its bigger brother, and it doesn't make the phone (for me) any harder to use, as it doesn't block or intrude on the notification bar area.

The Not So Good

  • Increases thickness by about 2mm.
  • Increases width and height slightly, making it harder to hold for those with small hands.
  • Is a veritable dust magnet on the rubber areas (just look at my pictures - and that's after cleaning it)
  • The power button becomes a little difficult to press.
  • Adhesive screen protectors are annoying - I didn't even try applying the one OtterBox included. But hey, it's there.
  • It's $35. Pricey.

Case reviews shouldn't be all that long. Accordingly, I'm going to make a few quick points about the Commuter, and then leave you to the pretty pictures portion of the review.

The Commuter is the best phone case I've ever used, hands down. Forget leather folio cases that fit poorly, forget annoying rubber skins that tear, and forget rage-inducing water-soak adhesives that turn your phone into the technological equivalent of an old person's couch covered in plastic wrap.

If you want to protect your phone from the elements (aside from water), the Commuter can do it. I'd feel totally comfortable dropping my phone from waist-level height (or higher) with the Commuter on. There's really not much of a reason to use anything else, unless you just want to protect your phone from scratches so you can resell it a month from now. But the Commuter will manage that, too.

I'm of the opinion that if you need a case, then skimping and buying some $5 rubber piece o' crap is a waste of money, particularly when it fails to protect you from much of anything but cosmetic scratches or, gasp, fingerprints! Do you drop your phone often enough to buy phone insurance? Do you work in a dusty or rugged environment? Then OtterBox is the way to go, and I feel pretty confident in saying that.

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David Ruddock
David's phone is whatever is currently sitting on his desk. He is an avid writer, and enjoys playing devil's advocate in editorials, and reviewing the latest phones and gadgets. He also doesn't usually write such boring sentences.

  • Sean

    thanks for the review. I've always wondered about Otterbox cases, but have never ventured into getting one.
    I've also disliked the 2 piece case, to me it adds another layer of difficulty getting the phone out so I can place it on my car mount.
    I just wish they would have a case that can protect the phone yet be able to fit in a car mount, then my world would be golden.

    • razer baird

      The vzw car and home mounts work with almost any case .....you should check into it

      • Core

        not true in the case of the DX, i'd be very surprised if the bionic with this case fit in the car dock.

  • James L

    I have this case for my dx, it sleek and sexy.
    Not as thick as I expected, which was a good thing.

  • http://cestaimee.com Aimée

    The dust on the rubber would drive me insane. No thanks!

  • BrownHornet72

    One HUGE downside to Otterbox cases are all the rubber flaps and covers over the micro usb and 2.5mm jack. Eventually, over a short period of time pulling back those covers tears and stretches them (yes it happens Ive owned them for 4 decvices, iPod, BB Storm, DX, Bionic). Some plugs are also hindered by the plastic shell over the 2.5mm jack and wont fit unless you take it off. Seidio cases are designed way better although they dont cover the jacks and inputs but thats fine by me. They're also even more sleeker, easier to remove and DONT collect dust. Otterboxes are great, but need design changes. IMO, just keep these points in mind before you drop that cash on one.

  • jon

    I have this case for my bionic after having nose case fir my og droid and i am very happy with it.

  • Tim

    you forgot to mention one of the most important things about a case for an LTE device: will it fit over the extended battery case and door? from the pics it looks like a no.

  • http://kindlefireleathercover.com Brad — Kindle Fire Leather Cover

    Great post I really like this case for the android. It almost looks as if it's a cover batman would use. It looks about the same design as his suit lol. This case really seems like it would do the job and keep your phone lasting long enough to get whatever new phone is out at that time. Again great article!


  • Glory

    I recommend this case. I'm a welder, so in that environment having an expensive phone necessitates a good case. I'm moving metal and dealing with cables and a small hoist a lot, and sparks and molten metal are flying through the air. I had a Droid X2 for a year, and used the defender series with it. It was - to put it mildly - bulky. Since it was so large and the exterior was rubber, I couldn't fit it in my pocket without the rubber grabbing on to the fabric of my pockets. And carrying it on my belt it would catch on stuff and get ripped off (which is... bad). I think half the time the case protected the phone from the case.

    I recently upgraded to the Bionic, and I wanted a case. So I ordered this one, and I'm very happy with it. Fits in my pocket (under the protection of my leathers), and since it has a hard exterior, it slides in and out easily. Not nearly as bulky as the defender series. My phone is safe, and I'm comfortable.