I’m mainly writing this for @davegreenbaum, on behalf of my boyfriend, who posted on his Facebook wall that he liked the Otterbox Commuter better than the Defender (Dave’s repy: “Blog please?”) for the iPhone 4. All of us had Defenders for our 3G iPhones and were loyal customers. Anyway, the boyfriend doesn’t have a blog, but I mostly agree with his reasoning, so here it is. The Defender is giant and not sturdy enough to justify its size. Although the 3G Defender was also giant, it was also waterproof and sleek. The iPhone 4 Defender is neither waterproof nor sleek. In fact, the rubbery exterior gets stuck on everything and picks up lint. It doesn’t feel nearly as sturdy as the 3G Defender, and in fact I’d go so far as to say it feels a bit creaky. I still felt nervous carrying my phone in it, whereas with the 3G version I felt pretty confident. The new belt clip, a major selling point for me, is so big that it’s just unusable unless you’re a sumo wrestler. Otherwise people will think you’re wearing an Evo (BURN!).
The iPhone 4 Defender has annoying button covers, which seem even more annoying given that it’s not water resistant like the 3G one. If you’re going to make a giant case with everything covered, make it work right, right? They are flat with a small lip that is supposed to keep the flap closed and protect your phone. Mostly they fall open and make you want to rip them off out of annoyance.
The iPhone 4 Commuter, MUCH slimmer than the Defender, seems to offer darn near as much protection, and it feels sturdier to me. If I squeeze the Defender I can feel the plastic give, but not so with the Commuter. It’s not a total enclosure, and if the Defender had the water resistance of the 3G version I would consider that more, but since it doesn’t, the open face of the Commuter is no big thing. It comes with a screen protector that appeared to suck so I put a Zagg Invisible Shield case-friendly screen cover on it instead, thus making the setup cost about the same as a Defender.
Regarding the lint issue, the Commuter has a hard plastic part that goes over the rubbery part, so most of it is plastic and therefore not prone to getting linty or sticking in pockets or purses. It’s overall MUCH less unwieldy, given that it cannot be, uh, more wieldy?
As for buttons and flaps, the Commuter does not cover the mute switch (see “annoying button covers,” above). The volume rockers have easily findable raised rubber over them, and the flap over the sync port at the bottom stays put. You actually have to be marginally dedicated to unfasten it, and I like that better than constantly having to shut the one on the Defender. It’s got a kind of plug-in flap for the headphone jack that annoys the boyfriend, but I like it. I’ve cleaned goo out of a lot of headphone jacks so I like having it plugged up.
For the 3G I still think the Defender is the bomb, but if you have an iPhone 4 you might as well go with the Commuter unless you’re a giant person who doesn’t mind carrying a huge case on your hip that doesn’t really provide that much more protection. But if you disagree with me and/or want to try a Defender for yourself, I’m selling mine. Leave a comment or send me an e-mail if you’re interested.