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TUAW Review & Giveaway: OtterBox Commuter / Commuter TL iPhone cases

After the debacle earlier this year when I lost my iPhone 3G, I decided to not only protect the new phone -- my lost 3G had been "naked" -- but make sure that whatever I used to protect it had a bit of heft.

My choice of case was the locally-grown (Fort Collins, CO) OtterBox Defender, which fit the bill perfectly. It has what OtterBox refers to as a 3-layer design, including a thick screen protector, a hard shell that encloses the iPhone, and a rubberized exterior jacket that cushions shocks and keeps ports covered. While it has been an awesome case in terms of protection, it's pretty chunky and I've often wished I had something a bit skinnier.

OtterBox came to the rescue last week with a new line of protective cases called the Commuter. There are two models -- the Commuter (US$34.95) and Commuter TL (US$29.95). Like the Defender, these cases work with both the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Read on to hear more about the OtterBox Commuter cases, and a chance to win either a Commuter or Commuter TL case from TUAW and OtterBox.
OtterBox Commuter
The first of the two new cases is the OtterBox Commuter. While it still has the three protective layers that I came to know and love with the Defender case, it's much less bulky. The Defender case weighed in at 1.9 ounces and had outer dimensions of 4.87" x 2.77" x .8", while the Commuter weighs only .75 ounces and is skinnier at 4.71" x 2.61" x .62".

The layers have been switched around from the Defender series. Both have the same self-sticking plastic cover for the screen, but the silicon rubber layer is now next to the iPhone and cradled by the polycarbonate shell.

The Defender case follows Henry Ford's dictum about the original Ford Model T -- "You can get any color you want as long as it's black." The Commuter is also made of sturdy black polycarbonate, but you'll soon be able to accessorize by replacing the black plastic with OtterBox's optional Commuter Color Packs (US$29.95). Each of these packs provides three replacement plastic shells that snap on to the interior silicon. One has muted, professional tones -- gray, burgundy, and navy blue -- while the other has bright white, yellow, and green shells.

I must admit that I like the idea of having a set of shells that I can swap out, not because I'm a fashionista, but because if I scratch one of the shells I'd like to be able to replace one without having to purchase a whole new case.

OtterBox Commuter TL
I'm betting that the TL in the name of this case stands for translucent, since the polycarbonate portion of the case is see-through. The TL is going to be the most colorful of the Otterbox cases for iPhone, since it will shortly be available in six colors in addition to the basic black. In this case, the colorful portion isn't the plastic shell; instead, it's the silicon sleeve that goes inside the plastic shell.

You'll be able to get the silicon sleeves in your choice of blue, green, yellow, white, pink, and red. If you're interested in the TL but don't want black, you can sign up to receive an email when the colors become available.

The Commuter TL shaves just .01 ounce off the weight of the Commuter, and is slightly larger at 4.73" x 2.63" x .66". The photo below shows the Commuter, Commuter TL, and Defender (from top to bottom) thicknesses:

Trying 'em on for size
To give the cases a try, I slipped both of them onto my iPhone 3GS (one at a time, of course) without the plastic screen protector. I didn't want to mess up the protector surface for the giveaway, in case you're wondering why. The photo below shows the Commuter, Commuter TL, and the Defender from left to right:
The Commuter TL (center, above) has slightly less hard-case protection than the Commuter (left, above), featuring the silicon rubber covering on the sides. This is great for people who find themselves losing a grip on hard plastic cases, and the silicon has a nice set of dimples to improve the grip even more. The TL has the trademark "window" for the iPhone's Apple logo, as well as the silicon plugs to protect the various ports from dust or splashes.

I personally liked the Commuter model slightly more, as the hard polycarbonate extends around the sides of the case a bit more, offering even more protection. I also like the muted colors of one of the two upcoming color packs, as they'll provide a bit of class to the ultra-protection OtterBox provides without being too splashy.

I'll admit that I'm an OtterBox bigot -- I know from experience that their products provide excellent protection. Both of the Commuter models provide the three layers of protection that their big brother without being as thick as the Defender. Instead of pulling a case out of your pocket that looks like it could survive a tsunami, you'll have a better looking suit for your iPhone.

We're giving away one Commuter and one Commuter TL! Many thanks to the OtterBox folks for providing these quality cases. To enter, just leave a comment letting us know which of the two OtterBox cases you would like to win. Here's the scoop:
  • Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
  • To enter leave a comment telling us which OtterBox case you'd like to win
  • The comment must be left before Wednesday, October 7, 2009, 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
  • You may enter only once.
  • Two winners will be selected in a random drawing.
  • Prizes: One OtterBox Commuter iPhone case valued at US$34.95 and one OtterBox Commuter TL iPhone case valued at US$29.95.
  • Click Here for complete Official Rules.
Good luck!

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