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Hands-on with OtterBox iPhone 5 cases

When we first got hands-on with the iPhone 5 it had been without a case, which is ideal considering you want to understand the hardware and design without any other factors involved, but this is not ideal for consumers that want to keep their new iPhone 5 scratch free. Two months ago we looked at the fortification process used when creating the new iPhone 5, and this seemed to show that the new hardware wouldn’t need a case thanks to being a lot tougher, although this would be an assumption to be proved wrong in real world tests.

We started to understand the need for an iPhone 5 case after being hands-on with the new hardware for almost a month, and we published a photo that showed scratches on the edge of the iPhone 5, which Apple’s SVP previously confirmed would happen thanks to the aluminum underneath. We found the solid aluminum design to feel a lot better than certain plastic Android phones, and the new iPhone 5 design delivers a device that is much harder to break, but sadly the downfall is this design means scratches can show in bright silver and are common on the Black and Slate iPhone 5.

Meet OtterBox and their iPhone 5 cases — this is where OtterBox come in and aim to not only help protect your new iPhone 5 from scratches, but also from some extreme punishment that could be found in certain jobs and environments. We’ve taken a look at the OtterBox Commuter and Defender Series cases for iPhone 5, which our review included 2 weeks of daily use for both the cases, so we had a really good idea of how these cases perform in the real world and not just an office environment.

You can see a screenshot above that gives you a quick look at the OtterBox cases and shows the different Series on offer, although the option you choose will depend on the type of case you’re after. When it comes to the Defender Series you’ll want this case if you expect your iPhone 5 to be taken to some harsh environments, which need some extreme protection. The Commuter Series does just what the name suggests, and this is ideal for regular travelers that need something stylish, which is easy to access while delivering good protection as well.

The OtterBox iPhone 5 Commuter case includes a silicone interior, rock solid plastic exterior, and also a microfiber cloth to clean your screen with before fitting the screen protector. We’ve used a number of iPhone screen protectors over the years and some just don’t fit well and leave bubbles even after fitting them correctly, although we can confirm the OtterBox screen protector included with the Commuter Series worked like a charm. You can see a photo above that we took after fitting the silicone interior to the iPhone 5, and just before we locked the phone inside the solid exterior that OtterBox are known for that just snaps in place.

The photo above shows the rear side of the iPhone 5 Commuter case once fitted, and below you can see the front, which certainly adds a little thickness to the thinner iPhone 5 but also a lot of added protection. This OtterBox Commuter case will leave the front of your iPhone 5 unprotected, so this is why they include a screen protector to offer that added protection, which we recommend you fit for added peace of mind.

In the next couple of photos you can see the iPhone 5 and OtterBox case from a couple of different views, which we used for at least a week and felt a lot safer while using it. There had been a number of occasions where our iPhone 5 flew across the room, not on purpose we promise, and the iPhone 5 had not been affected although we wouldn’t recommend you try this at home.

The downside for using this OtterBox case is the fact that it makes the iPhone 5 feel much bigger, which is not what the redesign had been all about although the only other option you could try is a bumper case to keep the original feel of the iPhone 5. There are pros and cons with every iPhone 5 case, and when it comes to bumpers you should be aware these would never offer the protection found with OtterBox cases.

The OtterBox Commuter Series retails for around $35, which can be seen on the official OtterBox website here. We’ve also included a video below this article that shows you how to install the Commuter Series iPhone 5 case, so feel free to take a look.

Features for iPhone 5 Commuter Series:

  • Silicone plug covers keep dust and debris out of the main openings.
  • All the normal iPhone 5 features and functions are still usable with the Commuter Series case, including the charging port, volume controls, microphone, and camera.

Material for iPhone 5 Commuter Series:

    Prevent scrapes and smudges with the adhesive screen protector.
    The new iPhone 5 gains extra protection with the sleek exterior shell.
    Interior rubber layer cushions the iPhone 5 from bumps and drops.

Weight & Dimensions for iPhone 5 Commuter Series: – weighs in at 37.3g/1.32oz and measures 129.7mmx65.3mmx14.1mm.

Meet the OtterBox Defender Series for iPhone 5 – these cases are built with one thing in mind and that’s protection, which is shown by the all-round casing that covers the iPhone 5 from all corners but will make your new iPhone feel a lot chunkier. We’ve used this iPhone 5 case for over a week everyday, and even spoke to a few builders that also use the OtterBox Defender Series. The fact is there are a number of people that rely on the Defender Series to get them through a working day, and without it their iPhone would surly die a quick death.

The photo above shows the iPhone 5 Defender Series before it is installed and you can see there’s protection for the screen already in place, which is a great addition for those users that enter harsh environments everyday. The photo below shows the rear of the Defender Series and also the belt clip that OtterBox add to make it a lot easier to carry, which is especially good for laborers, construction, etc.

We’ve included a few photos below to show the iPhone 5 Defender Series case from a number of angles, although you’ll also find a second video below this article that shows how the Defender is fitted to the iPhone 5. This is well worth watching considering a lot more goes into this when compared to fitting most other iPhone 5 cases, which is due to the extreme protection OtterBox deliver with this case.

Features for iPhone 5 Defender Series:

  • You’ll find the same access as the previous case, which means the Defender Series allows access to volume controls, charging port, camera, and more.
  • Your iPhone 5 ports will be protected by rubber tabs that keep out debris, dust, and dirt.

Material for iPhone 5 Defender Series:

  • Outer rubber layer wraps around the inner-shell to create a solid defense against misadventures such as drops and bumps.
  • The redesigned holster has a slim profile and strong attachment to the belt clip. Face the iPhone outward for use and inward for ultimate protection.
  • The plastic inner-shell snaps together around the device to create a solid cushion.
  • A plastic screen protector is built in to the inner-shell to prevent scratches and smudges to the screen without compromising the sensitivity of the touchscreen.

Weight & dimensions for iPhone 5 Defender Series – this case weights in at 4oz/114g, and measures 135.12mmx69.9mmx16.18mm without the holster. You should expect to pay around $60 for an OtterBox Defender Series case and can see the official product page here. It is also worth noting that while the Defender will protect your iPhone 5 from shocks, bumps, and drops, it won’t protect against water.

One downside to the Defender is the bulk it adds to your iPhone 5, which can be seen in the photo below, although this is a downside expected by the majority of people this case is designed for.

The photos below show the iPhone 5 looking great without an OtterBox case, although as we found this created a number of scratches within a couple of weeks that showed us some sort of case would be needed, and even more so with the Black and Slate model that seems to scratch easier.

The Bottom-line: After using both of these OtterBox iPhone 5 cases for a couple of weeks we certainly understand how good they are at protecting an iPhone, but each case will be designed for certain users and for us the Defender made the iPhone 5 too big although the Commuter had a much better balance of protection and bulk in our opinion. If you’re in construction then we’d strongly recommend you purchase the Defender, as it doesn’t get much better.

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Written by Daniel Chubb

Daniel is the CEO of Dansway Communications LTD and founder of; a top blog dedicated to breaking tech news, hands-on reviews and delivers real solutions to everyday consumer electronics hang-ups.

Daniel now spends his time keeping an eye on the latest technology and business trends. Also developing other blogs/news sites in the entertainment and business industries.

Contact Daniel Chubb: [email protected]



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