OtterBox iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III Defender and Commuter Series give me peace of mind

Summary:OtterBox makes some excellent rugged cases for smartphones and their latest Defender Realtree Camo series protects the iPhone 5 and Galaxy S III.

My day job consists of working in the marine consulting industry as a professional naval architect and I often travel to shipyards, on board wrecked vessels, and into some rather nasty areas. Thus, I appreciate having an OtterBox case available to protect my devices and have been using their products for years. They sent along their new Defender Series case for my new Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy S III along with a Commuter Series for the iPhone 5. I've been putting them to the test over the past week and am satisfied that my smartphones can now travel safely with me into the field.

Check out my image gallery containing photos of the OtterBox Defender and Commuter cases.

Apple iPhone 5 Defender Series with Realtree Camo

The OtterBox with Realtree Camo is priced $10 more than their standard Defender case and while it is very similar the back has the camo appearance and removes the opening for the Apple logo. You can get it in orange (Blazed) color or in pink (who ever heard of pink camo?). As you can see in my image gallery , I was sent the AP Blazed one to check out. There is a Max 4HD Blazed model that has a slightly different back camo appearance. The case arrived in a yellow and clear plastic retail package with the holster and case presented in the center of the package.

I opened it up, cleaned off my iPhone 5 display, and placed my iPhone into the front hard shell piece with integrated screen protector. I then snapped on the back of the inner frame and like that there is bed of foam to keep the back of your iPhone scratch free. I then wrapped the outer rubber layer over the inner hard shell. I love the way the outer rubber piece fits securely around the perimater of the inner shell. The inner shell is BRIGHT orange and as a fan of orange I like it. The outer rubber layer is black so the contrast looks great. There are openings for the front camera, headset speaker, bottom mic and speaker. Covers keep dust off the ringer switch, out of the headset jack, and out of the Lightning connection port.

I used to always wear a holster, but have been placing my phones directly in my pockets for the last couple of years. The holster works very well and allows you to easily get your iPhone in and out of it while also keeping it quite secure with the clip mechanism. When I am in the field I do prefer to use a holster since there are other things in my pockets and I don't want my phone scratch up. You can use the Defender case without the holster too.

I have been carrying my iPhone 5 naked and that has worked well for pants and shirts pockets. It is a bit slick and really quite tiny. I have to admit I felt a bit of relief with the iPhone in the Defender case as I no longer even think twice about being careful as I grab it and use it knowing I could drop it and likely be quite safe. The case is not waterproof and with some open areas it is not intended to be used in an environment where you might drop it in the water. It protects from dust, drops, scratches, and other clumsy actions. I plan to use it on the sideline as I coach soccer, in the field when I go on ships, and while out and about camping with my family.

Samsung Galaxy S III Defender Series with Realtree Camo

The Defender Series with Realtree Camo for the Samsung Galaxy S III employes many of the same design elements as the one for the iPhone 5. There is a single camo option with this case and it too is priced at $59.95. Given that the Galaxy S III has a large 4.8 inch display the case ends up being quite large. OtterBox does a good job of wrapping up the GSIII without adding too much bulk, but the holster is significant.

The case has four pieces, including the holster. There are openings for the hardware button, headset speaker, front facing camera, and sensors in the front screen protector. You will also find openings in the outer rubber shell for the top and bottom mics. There are covers for the microUSB port and headphone jack with button covers for the power and volume buttons. There is a lot less orange on the front than what you see on the iPhone 5 case as the display is maximized better on the front of the Galaxy S III. The back openings around the camera, flash, and speaker have lots of orange though.

Once again, I feel almost invincible with my GS III in this case and the worry of dropping it goes away when inside the case. There are a number of cool colors in the Defender Series if you don't like the camo look too.

Apple iPhone 5 Commuter Series

If you want good protection, but don't like the bulk and extreme protection of the Defender Series, then you might want to consider the Commuter Series for the iPhone 5. There are three pieces included with the Commuter Series, this includes the screen protector as one piece. I am not a huge fan of screen protectors on my iPhone, but this one is glossy and easy to apply. There are openings for the speaker and camera on top and the home button on the bottom. I prefer the integrated screen protection on the Defender Series personally.

In addition to the screen protector, you will find an inner soft rubber piece and an outer hard shell,the opposite of how the Defender Series is designed. I check out the Ocean Blue/Night Sky colored case that looks great. There are openings for the ringer switch, bottom mic and speaker with covered openings for the Lightning port and headset jack. There are raised rubber pieces for the power button and volume buttons as well.

I felt that my iPhone 5 was also quite secure in the Commuter Series case, but still felt better with it wrapped in the Defender case for field work. The Commuter Series seems to be a great case for everyday use, but I don't think I can live with a screen protector like this on my iPhone 5.

Other OtterBox case options

OtterBox also has the Reflex Series ($34.95) and Prefix Series (coming soon for $24.95) for the Apple iPhone 5 so check out these case options if the ones I tested do not appeal to you. They also have the Commuter and Prefix Series for the Samsung Galaxy S III in a variety of color options. If you need a case that offers some advanced protection then I recommend you check out those from OtterBox.

Previous ZDNet OtterBox coverage

Topics: Mobility, Apple, iPhone, Reviews, Samsung

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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