Cases - some people love them, others hate them. Regardless of how you feel about them, there is one truth: they're useful and help keep your device in top condition. A quick look through eBay or Craigslist will prove the value of keeping your gear in a case - when trying to sell a device most users put "has been in a case since day one" or something similar (whether it's true or not). That assures the buyer that they are getting a near-mint condition piece of kit.

When it comes to top-notch device protection, one name often comes to mind: Otterbox. They make some of the toughest, longest lasting, and most protective cases that we've ever seen. Today we're going to take a look at two cases designed for the Galaxy Nexus: the Commuter and Defender series.

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Price: $35.99 ($25 at Amazon)

Where to Buy: Otterbox, Amazon

In the Box: Case, Screen protector

The Bottom Line: This is the most practical solution for the average user. It provides enough protection to keep your device in good condition under most circumstances while still leaving access to all of the necessary functions. While it does add a bit of bulk to the device (don't all cases?) it's worth the trade-off for the added peace of mind.

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Note: Ignore the metal ring around the lens, this is not part of the case - it's for add-on camera lenses.

The Good

  • Two layers of protection - The Commuter is a two-part case: a soft silicone under-layer for shock absorption and a hard  polycarbonate outer shell.
  • Provides a full-protection solution - Between the two-part case and the included screen protector, your device is protected from end-to-end, front-to-back.
  • Port coverage - The silicon layer has small flaps that cover all of the I/O ports like the microUSB port and headphone jack, keeping them both free of debris.
  • Great fit - You can rest assured that your Galaxy Nexus will be as snug as a bug in a rug whilst in this case. It's a perfect fit.
  • Smart design - When you drop your phone, where does it normally land? On the corners. With this in mind, the polycarbonate shell cuts away from the corners of the device, leaving the rubbery silicone to take, and absorb, the hit. That's just smart.

The Bad

  • The back is slick - Oddly enough, the back of the case is quick slick, which could lead to more drops. Fortunately, if you do drop it, it's in a case.
  • Power and Volume buttons are slightly hard to press - When pressing the power/volume keys, you don't actually feel the button move. You know you pressed it, but the case doesn't give enough to provide a tangible reaction. It takes some getting used to, but after a while, it's not so bad.
  • It's difficult to put on - The silicone layer goes on very easily, but the hard shell is a bit difficult to manage at first. It gets easier as time goes on, I promise.
  • The silicone is slightly tacky - This one is pretty minor, but it's a con nonetheless. The silicone has a certain stickiness to it, so it's somewhat difficult to take out of your pocket (and lint sticks to it).
  • It adds some bulk - Let's face it - any case with substance is going to add some bulk, and it takes away from the beauty and elegance of the device itself. It's the price we pay for protection.


Like stated above, this is definitely the most practical solution for the average Joe. It's just rugged enough to protect your device during day-to-day activities, provides full device protection when you use the included screen protector, and even protects the phone's ports from dirt and grime.

Despite its few downsides, this is a great case. If, however, you tend to be a little more rough on devices (like my dad, for example - he completely destroyed three phones with cases in one year), then you should probably read on and check out the Defender.


Price: $49.95 (currently $33 at Amazon)

Where to Buy: Otterbox, Amazon

In the Box: Two-part case, belt clip holster

The Bottom Line: If you're known for killing devices in an instant and need supercharged protection for your GN, this is the case for you. It provides thorough protection of the device, has a built-in screen protector, and feels great in-hand.

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Note: Ignore the metal ring around the lens, this is not part of the case - it's for add-on camera lenses.

The Good

  • Two layers of protection - The Defender uses the same components of the Commuter, but it flips them. Instead of having a soft under-layer and hard shell, you have a hard polycarbonate inner-layer wrapped in a soft, shock-absorbing silicone. And it feels fantastic.
  • Port coverage - Like the commuter, it has silicon flaps to protect the ports. I think this case may provide easier access to said ports than the Commuter, as well.
  • Belt-clip holster - First off, I'm not one to wear my phone on my side, but since this case adds quite a bit of bulk to the device (more on that later), it's pretty uncomfortable in your pocket. Thus, Otterbox includes a holster with it. It's well made, tough-as-nails, and provides the perfect fit for the case.
  • It feels great - I've already mentioned this twice, but it definitely needs to be highlighted as it's probably my favorite feature of this case. The silicone outer shell is soft and smooth, yet it doesn't feel slippery at all. The power and volume buttons are quite tangible through the shell - it's simply a pleasure to use.
  • Built-in screen protector - This one is actually a double-edged sword. On one hand, you don't have to bother trying to apply an on-device screen protector or make sure it's on just right and free of bubbles - the whole tedious process is just eliminated. Just snap it on and you're GN is protected from scratches and other potential damages. On the other hand, it's diminishes the screen quality. More on that below.

The Bad

  • It's pretty dang big - I mentioned the added bulk earlier, and that's definitely the biggest drawback of this case. While it may not look that much thicker than the Commuter in pictures, you can definitely feel it in-hand. Every millimeter makes a bigger difference than you may realize.
  • Built-in screen protector - The downside of the screen protector is that it reduces how beautiful the GN's screen is. Whites don't look quite right, colors don't pop like they do when the device is out of the case. The worst part is that the screen protector can't be removed - it's built-in to the case and not going anywhere.
  • The silicone is slightly tacky - Like the Commuter, the silicone tends to stick inside your pocket (if you choose not to use the holster).

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Honestly, it's hard to find things "wrong" with the Defender case. It's well made, feels great, and provides outstanding coverage. Its main downside is a big one (pun intended): the size. That much protection comes at a cost, and in this case it's the cost of device form factor. If you need the extra protection, though, this case is definitely the way to go.


So, which case should you buy? That really depends. Both are very good solutions, but I feel like most people would get all the protection that they need from the Commuter, as long as you can deal with the negative aspects that I mentioned above. If not, the Defender is also a solid choice, and the must-have case for those who are prone to sporadically destroying devices. At the end of the day, it's all each person's individual needs.

For what it's worth, the Commuter stays on my GN about 90% of the time.


Otterbox Commuter for the Galaxy Nexus: Otterbox, Amazon

Otterbox Defender  for the Galaxy Nexus: Otterbox, Amazon

Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • adaam93

    Does the stock extended battery fit inside the Commuter?

    • Cameron Summerson

      If it requires a new battery cover because it it's larger than the stock battery, then no, neither of these cases will work.

      • pmr

        The Defender works with the extended battery just fine.

    • Keyan X

      There's a trick to make it fit perfectly and that's by taking the battery door off. The otterbox cases are not designed to fit with extended batteries, but that do somewhat with a little force. Also with the protection the cases give you'll never feel unsafe by not have your battery door on.

      • Simon4of4

        I have the extended battery, with the extended battery cover, and my commuter fits fine.

    • Austin G

      I have the Commuter with the extended battery and it fits great!

  • Joshu

    It's actually pretty easy to remove the screen protector on the Defender. I just pushed mine out nice and clean and used some Goo Gone to remove the sticky stuff left over.

    • Cameron Summerson

      Right. But it's not designed to be removed.

  • GergS

    No way do I sully the beauty of this device like that.

    • Mike

      When you drop your phone and cracks the screen like this: http://bit.ly/yGz9gh you will wish you would have used a case.

  • Mike

    I know it fit's in the Defender so I don't see why it wouldn't.

  • http://www.youtube.com/kimirPORTALS kimir

    what is the function of the little camera cover thing? I know it's not part of the case, but I am still interested.

    • Cameron Summerson

      It's for additional lenses. Review coming later this week. ;)

  • Deltaechoe

    These cases come with quite a caveat, be careful when using your phone too much with them on because boy do they ever act as a thermal layer keeping all the heat that your phone is generating inside. These cases (the defender one at least) have a rather high potential to cause your phone to overheat. I know this from experience as I had a defender case, but when I used my phone too much the internal temps would climb to dangerous levels, without the big case, that doesn't happen.

    • Cameron Summerson

      What phone? I haven't experienced anything of the sort with my GN.

      • Deltaechoe

        I watched my temps climb on the gn with this case, at least when playing games. You could feel the heat radiating from the screen

      • StopDropandRoll

        My iphone is in the Defender. It can't be left in the sun (dashboard, picnic table, etc.), or it'll go into "overheat mode" and temporarily lock me out. This never happens under any other conditions... Still, as a chronic phone-dropper, I think it's worth the sacrifice.

  • B Jordan

    How can they make one for Galaxy Nexus but not for the Nexus S (they said they tried, but then recalled it, saying it wasn't working with the curved glass)...

    • Tarukai788

      They may have gotten it down pat at this point and hopefully will put another one out.

  • http://www.ramimassoud.com Rami Massoud

    Are these cases for the Verizon LTE Galaxy Nexus or the GSM variety?

    I've heard that most cases will fit both, but the fit of a GSM case on the LTE version can be snug and screw up the button alignment.

    • Cameron Summerson

      They should fit both, but I tested them on the LTE Nexus and had no issues at all.

  • Laurence

    Does this work with the international version of the GNex, or is it only for the Verizon version? The reviews I've read say they have slightly different dimensions.

    • Jon

      Yes, Commuter works great and fits great on my International GNex.. Only thing I HATE ABOUT IT IS THE D*** SCREEN PROTECTOR DOESN'T COVER THE WHOLE SCREEN!!! WTF?!?! Otterbox dropped the ball on that!!!

  • Enrico

    One thing I dislike about the Defender (which I own)...is that with the screen protector, you lose touch sensitivity towards the outer regions.

    Its quite difficult for me to pull down the notification bar - it takes a few tries and the corners like the bottom right have have virtually no "contact". If you use AOKP rom and set the menu button to be there, it makes it quite a difficult task to access menu.

    Thats the only thing I wanted to add ontop of your existing review/comments.

    • Lpd0084

      The main problem I have is with the back button on the nav bar. Sometimes I have to press over and over before it finally hits.

    • jn58

      Just remove the built in screen protector than. It comes out with a little pressure.

  • http://www.twitter.com/APLandry APLandry

    Heck Yes. Now, the interesting bit is this. Even for my own phone, I own both a Commuter and a Defender. Going into a run, or some more aggro area? Use the Defender. Daily use and business? Commuter. Simple as that.

    Sidenote: While it may pop your warranty, I remove the built-in protector from the Defender. Pretty nice, but think before you remove.

  • Blackie

    I got the Defender when I picked up my phone. You are right on about the protection. A hard case surrounded by a cushy rubber outside. I think it would survive the two story egg drop.

    It does make the phone a ridiculously huge cartoon size. The clip on the holster is not hinged. It uses the bendy plastic of the holster and friction to hold the phone, which doesn’t work well with the rubber outside. Combined with the size it sometimes takes two hands to get the phone in and out of the holster.

    I returned the Defender and bought a SEIDIO case and holster. The rubberized case and spring hinge on the holster are perfect. I got the dock also, but really haven’t used it yet.

    There was only one option when I bought my case in Dec. Your article made me check their site today. They have added colors and more cases options. Oh well, it’s only $$$$.

    Thanks for the site, I’m here every day.

    • Richard

      I'm probably going the same route. I've used Seido cases for a while but picked up the Defender when I got my GN and with the case it's frigging HUGE. Been carrying it without the case for the last couple of days now.

    • Jedi-Ninja

      I Use Holster As A Stand To ProP When Using Netflix

  • http://www.betterbargainz.com Chris

    The Defender series is definately bulky but also the most durable thing you can get. If you are rough on your phones go with the defender.

  • matse

    Droped it once, otterbox defended phone with its life, cause now it's completely cracked. Besides that, it's probably a fine piece of work:S

    • Jedi-Ninja

      One Year Warrantee

  • Alex

    I have the defender and I hated the size, until one day I dropped it from a balcony and my phone survived without a scratch. Now I don't care about the size because the size is there for a reason.

  • Tin City

    Bought my Otterbox from Amazon. I'm so happy that I got such an awesome price that I want to share my promo code where I got 40% off: http://amzn.to/XDx2FV.

  • dressler

    The screen protector sucks. It came with 2 and I wasted both trying to put them on. Full of bubbles and the edges wouldn't stay down.

  • i__have_no_name

    I have an Otterbox Defender and I've dropped my phone so many times I lost count and it never had any damage. The same exact model phone without a case slid off my desk onto a wood floor and broke the camera. Long story short, it's worth it.

  • JN68

    You actually can remove the built in screen protector. I just popped mine out of the shell and use my regular screen protectors.

  • Austin

    Tips for applying the commuter screen protector
    1. Wipe down your screen extra good, take your time even if it takes 10 minutes- it will come out clear one thing i dont like is that it don't cover the whole screen but it gets the job done.
    2. Pull the 1 tab and without touching the adhesive it will kind of fall in place(one good thing w/ out many cutouts)
    3.pull the 2 tab
    4. if there's bubbles try to work them out if you cannot take a piece of tape stick it to a corner and pull it up PART WAY.