I have tried cases with my iPhone devices in the past, but kept going back to an InvisibleShield or BodyGuardz plastic skin because I didn't want anything adding bulk to my iPhone 3GS. Silicone cases are very popular today, but I have never been happy with them since I carry my phone in my pocket and they tend to cause the phone to stick in my pocket and gather lint. OtterBox recently launched a couple of new hybrid silicone cases that add a hard plastic shell to a silicone case so you can slip your iPhone in and out of your pocket while also gaining a decent level of protection with minimal addition of size. The OtterBox Commuter and Commuter TL series cases are available now for the iPhone 3G and 3GS. Their Defender series adds the most protection, but add too much bulk for me to accept for daily use. Check out my image gallery of the OtterBox Commuter and Commuter TL Series cases.
Both of these new iPhone case lines are similar in that they are composed of two pieces; a silicone inner shell and a hard plastic/polycarbonate out shell. You also receive a self-adhesive screen protector in each package and I found the protector gives you a feel very much like the oleophobic finish on the iPhone 3GS device. The inner silicone shells are almost exactly the same on both cases with just a slightly different back (designed to fit the plastic shell) and ribs on the inside left and right sides of the Commuter TL Series. The plastic shells are quite different, but they weigh almost exactly the same (0.74 ounces and 0.75 ounces) and have almost the same dimensions. The Commuter TL Series is available in seven different colors so it has a bit more personalization and as you can read below there is another main reason I prefer the Commuter TL Series.
OtterBox Commuter TL
The Commuter TL Series
is available in black, blue, green, pink, red, white, and yellow. At the time I was sent an evaluation unit the black model was the only one available, but I may have to pick up a colored one soon. I was reluctant to place the screen protector on my iPhone 3GS because I love the oleophobic feel of the display and was worried the screen protector would take away from that experience. I was pleasantly surprised to find it felt much like the default display and decided to keep the protector on since it protects the display from scratches.
I then wrapped the silicone shell around my iPhone 3GS and found openings for the Apple logo, camera, silent/ringer switch, stereo speakers, bottom Apple iPhone port, and headset jack. There are covers for the headset jack and bottom connection port designed to help keep dust out of these open ports. There are rubber protrusions over the volume rocker and power switch so you can operate these through the silicone case. The Commuter TL also has textured rubber sides and offers a bit more grip than the Commuter Series with its plastic sides along much of each side.
You then need to place the plastic back cover on the iPhone. The shell I received is clear plastic and fits over the top and bottom of the iPhone so that it hooks around to the front to stay in place. The top fits over the headset jack and power switch while the bottom fits over the Apple connection port and stereo speakers. There is an opening in the plastic shell for the camera. The reason I like the Commuter TL over the Commuter is that the opening over the Apple logo on the back is clear plastic so it protects the entire back of the iPhone and keeps the silver logo from getting scratched. The OtterBox logo is also present on the lower back of the case. The dimensions of the case are 4.73 x 2.63 x .66 and 0.74 ounces.
The OtterBox Commuter
case offers more plastic protection than the Commuter TL Series with plastic that doesn't just extend down the middle, but also wraps around more than half of the left and right lower sides. I wish there was a clear plastic cover over the Apple logo because then I would probably choose the Commuter over the Commuter TL.
The Commuter case slides out of my jeans pocket easier than the Commuter TL case, but it does take a bit more manipulation of the silicone to get the case set in place just perfectly. I found it easy to lift up the plastic ends (top and bottom) and use my fingernail to slide the silicone up and under the plastic to get everything right.
The Commuter does offer more corner protection than the Commuter TL case because it has the plastic closer to the corners making the silicone more solid and allowing the shock of an impact to spread away from the corners. Dimensions of the case are 4.71 x 2.61 x .62 inches and 0.75 ounces.
Wrap-up, Pricing, & Availability
While the Commuter case offers a bit more hard plastic protection than the Commuter TL case I preferred the feel and Apple logo protection of the Commuter TL case and carried it more. I have a Griffin four station dock and with the iPhone in these cases I cannot use my dock. It isn't that much effort to remove it if I want to use the dock, but it is just easier to attach a cable to charge my iPhone.
The Commuter TL case is available now for $29.95 and the Commuter case for $34.95. There will soon be Commuter color packs available for $49.95 that give you the inner silicone shell and screen protector with three back plastic covers in three different color options. These options include black, maroon and grey; black, blue and yellow or black, white and green so there will soon be some color options for the Commuter Series too.