Apple iPhone XS Max OtterBox case roundup: Three options for adding rugged drop protection

The iPhone XS Max is Apple's most expensive smartphone yet and while it offers a high level of dust and water resistance, it is still susceptible to drops. OtterBox is known for protecting your phones and has 48 options in eight different series.
Written by Matthew Miller, Contributing Writer

The Apple iPhone XS Max, see our full review, is a big, beautiful iPhone. With the large size and slick glass panels, it is also easy to drop. While it has Apple's strongest glass, putting this expensive phone in a case is a smart move.

OtterBox has 48 total case options for protecting your iPhone XS Max in the form of Defender, Commuter, Symmetry, Strada, Statement, Pursuit, Defender Pro, and Traction series cases. Over the past week I have been using Pursuit, Commuter, and Defender Pro Series cases with my iPhone XS Max being carried in one for my shipyard visit next week.

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All three of the cases I tested have OtterBox Certified Drop+ Protection, which means the case has passed more than 24 test over more than 238 hours. Looking at the list of tests, it is impressive what these cases go through to earn this certification.

While I found all of these cases to be solid options with good drop protection and attractive styling, the least expensive one, the Commuter Series, was my personal favorite. The ringer switch access was too inconvenient for me on the Pursuit and the Defender Series Pro was more protection than I need for daily carry.

OtterBox Pursuit Series

This is the first time I've tried out a Pursuit Series case on a phone and it's a great case for adding drop protection without too much bulk. This is a two piece case with most of the case composed of the back panel that extends up around the four edges. A hard plastic piece snaps into the front to lock the case onto your phone.

It took some effort to work around the outside edges of the case to get the material around the edges to work up and over the plastic front frame piece. I discovered using a SIM card removal tool worked as a lever to slide around the edges as I worked the rubber over the edges and locked into the channel on the front frame. Once all is locked in, I loved the angle of the front face that leads down to the glass display.

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The Pursuit Series case covers every port, except for the ringer switch opening. I have short fingernails and had some difficulty in working the ringer switch so I would prefer to have a piece over this that would allow me to manipulate the ringer switch more easily.

There is a cover over the Lightning charging port on the bottom. Rather than speaker openings along the bottom, there are openings in the plastic front frame piece so that audio is directed forward towards you for an enhanced audio experience. There is also an integrated lanyard opening on the bottom so you can safely carry your iPhone XS Max around with you too.

Apple Pay and wireless charging work with your iPhone XS Max in this case so there is no real need to worry about uncovering the bottom Lightning port. Raised buttons over the volume and right side buttons make it very easy to manipulate and use these keys. The rear camera opening and case design make the camera flush to the back.

I tested a black case with clear back that shows off your iPhone. There are also black, burgundy/gray, brown/green color options. The Pursuit Series case is available now for $79.95. This is an excellent case for protection with OtterBox Drop+ certification.

Apple iPhone XS Max OtterBox case roundup: Three options for adding rugged drop protection

OtterBox Defender Series Pro

The $69.95 OtterBox Defender Series Pro is the most protective offering from OtterBox, comprised of three layers to help your chances for iPhone survival in the case of an accidental drop.

There are two pieces to the hard plastic inner frame; a back piece that includes the four sides with a soft foam shock layer inside the back and a minimal front frame that snaps securely into place. After these two pieces secure around your iPhone XS Max, then the outside thick silicone slipcover fits over the plastic frame pieces. This outer layer has port covers for the ringer switch and Lightning port with raised buttons for volume and the right side function button.

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There is an opening on the back for the dual cameras with a glossy black plastic area around the camera. I have seen no degradation on photo quality even though the camera is set down in a bit with the case on the iPhone XS Max.

The iPhone feels very secure in this case and you can trust it will protect your phone. The front is raised above the display so there is a few millimeter gap when you set your phone face down on a table. There is no screen protection, but if you want that then you can add a screen protector. OtterBox has the Alpha Glass protector available for $39.95.

The OtterBox Defender case package also includes a holster so you can carry your iPhone XS Max on your belt. The hard plastic frame is easy to snap your iPhone in and out of with a belt clip that opens about half an inch to attach to your belt. The belt clip rotates around 360 degrees in increments of 30 degrees to fit your situation perfectly. If you watch media on your iPhone, you may be pleased to know the holster also functions as a hands-free kickstand. Simply rotate the belt clip until the two holster corners are on the bottom and then press in on the top of the belt clip until it snaps open and locks into the top of the belt clip spring.

The Defender Pro Series case also has OtterArmor Microbial Defense, which means there is some protection on the case to protect it from common germs. It does not protect you, the screen, or holster.

The case is reasonably priced for something this protective and well designed. It comes in black, Purple Nebula, teal (Big Sur), and Dark Lake blue. I tested the Big Sur model and it looks great.

OtterBox Commuter Series

The Commuter Series is available for $49.95 and is one of the most popular case options available from OtterBox. It is also a two-piece solution with an inner soft layer and a hard plastic outer shell. It is very easy to put your iPhone in the case and also to remove it if you desire.

The inner soft layer helps offer some shock protection while the hard plastic outer shell deflects impacts. The hard outer layer covers about a third of each side, the bottom two corners with most of the bottom protected, and about 80 percent of the top in the center area. There is an opening in both layers on the back for the Apple logo on the back of the iPhone.

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There is also an opening in the back for the camera and with this case design there is more rear thickness than the Pursuit Series so the camera is sunk down a bit more from the back. I have not seen any impact on the quality of photos with any of these cases.

There is also a ringer switch opening on the Commuter Series, but I am able to manipulate it easier than I can with the Pursuit Series. There are also openings on the bottom for the mic and speaker. Again, the raised buttons are easy to find and use on this case.

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