Editor’s note
This is a second review in our newly introduced "Short Attention Span" reviews. This review deviates from our usual in-depth approach but offers you the same standard of testing.

OtterBox Commuter and Commuter TL
The iPhone is arguably one of the most iconic devices ever produced. Even if you do not like Apple [or the iPhone] you have to give them credit for the way they have marketed the device. Since this is one of the most common smart/entertainment phones on the market it has created a small microcosm of aftermarket accessories and products. One of the biggest if the iPhone case, here the number of manufacturers seem to be falling all over themselves to create? well the same identical product. But in this sea of monotony there are a few that stand out. One that we have talked about before is Otterbox; the maker of the Defender for iPhone [3G and 3G S]. They have a nice line of cases for the iPhone and many other PDAs and smart phones. Today we are taking a look at a pair of new offerings, the Otterbox Commuter and Commuter TL to see if they live up to the Otterbox name.

Packaging
The Commuter and Commuter TL come in easy to open thin [and clear] plastic case. These are designed to be lined up on self-pegs for easy display.

 

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Both allow for excellent product visibility, and offer more than enough information on the outside to let you know exactly what you are getting. Inside each package Otterbox has included the case, a screen protector and instructions on how to get everything together without making a mess.

 

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There is a down side though, after you are done with the packaging it is not reusable and ends up in the trash. If you are lucky though you can get this into a recycle center and not let it end up in a landfill somewhere.

The Commuter
The Basic Commuter is a fairly sturdy case. Granted it is nothing like the Defender, but it is also not as bulky as the Defender either. It is nice combination between protection and style. The Commuter is in reality little more than a gel "wrap" combined with a protective plastic shell that clips around the gel case.

 
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In order to offer a more complete product Otterbox also threw in a screen protector. This is pretty much a standard item and clings to the front of your iPhone through static. You do have some preparation before you attach this. You will need to make sure that the glass front is completely free of oils and dust. Otterbox has also included a cleaning cloth and a hard plastic card to help you get a nice smooth install.

When we installed ours we found that the protector is just a hair off in size. We found that we could not get a completely flat fit and no matter how many times we tried to put the included screen protector on it would end up bubbling up at one corner or the other. As such we recommend that you trim the corners at the bottom very slightly to avoid this issue.

Once this is installed you can wrap the gel around your iPhone and then clip on the plastic cover. The cover is actually pretty nice. It has a decent look to it and also performs an important function. The outer gel case keeps dirt, dust and lint out of the ports and openings in the phone. If you have owned an iPhone for a while you have probably had an issue with lint and dust getting in the headphone port and causing the sound to mute as the phone thinks something is plugged in.

Commuter TL
The Commuter TL is a little different; the plastic backing does not wrap around the phone but clips over the back from top to bottom. It is also translucent instead of black. This makes the TL a little more attractive [it was the one my wife wanted the most too]. Otherwise it is very similar to the Commuter and ships with the same items in the box. The commuter TL offers the same level of dust and dirt protection as the Commuter but not the same level of impact protection.

 
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Aesthetics
Both the Commuter and Commuter TL are nice looking enclosures for your iPhone 3G or 3G S. They do not fit the older iPhones at all [My daughter tried to no avail]. The Commuter itself is eye catching with a sturdy look to it; while I was using it I had quite a few questions on what it was and where to buy one. On the other end the Commuter TL has sleek look and is not as bulky as the commuter. As Otterbox has announced color packs [different colored gel cases] for the TL you have even more options to add color to your iPhone.

 
 
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Performance
As I am outside quite a bit I have to make sure I keep dust and moisture off of my iPhone. To this end both the Commuter and the Commuter TL did a great job of covering and protecting my iPhone. They are not as good as the Defender for iPhone but in the end I did not have to worry about dirt and dust in the ports. They also did a fair job against dropping and bumping the phone, again they are no match for the Defender but then again they are much less bulky and look? less industrial. Both cases also offer textured sides for better grip.

Value
At $34.99 for the Commuter and $29.95 for the Commuter TL both are excellent values and well worth it for the extra protection they give to your expensive iToy. You can grab these directly from Otterbox on their website.

Conclusion
Ever since I first started using Otterbox products I have been impressed with their quality and the effort they put into each product. The Commuter and Commuter TL are no exception. They offer good protection for your iPhone while not taking away from the looks of the device. There is one item that I wished Otterbox had included with the Commuter at least; that is a belt clip. I do not like to carry my phone in my pocket and found it annoying to have to do so while testing the Commuter [and TL]. Still I have to say that if you are looking for a case for your iPhone that can keep it clean and blemish free while in your pocket or purse then the Commuter and Commuter TL [if you want additional colors] could be the right choice for you.