| Last Updated: October 10th, 2023 | Reviewed By: Mimi McFadden
TL;DR: I prefer the Otterbox Symmetry over the Otterbox Commuter becuase it’s slimmer and works best for everyday protection. With that said, the Commuter might work better for people who prefer more rugged protection and don’t mind a bulkier case.
Otterbox is a company with a reputation for making supremely protective phone cases.
This past month, I’ve tested out three of their top-selling cases on my iPhone 7, trying to determine which one is best.
I use my phone for just about everything. It’s never far from my hand – except for the several times per day that it inexplicably flies out of my hand!
So, I need a phone case to counteract my chronic clumsiness and simultaneously stay functional while feeling ergonomic.
The Otterbox Defender Series is synonymous with advanced protection.
But even though many people feel the Defender provides some of the best protection on the market, I ultimately decided it was too bulky for my taste.
Now I’m down to the Otterbox Commuter series and the new Otterbox Symmetry case.
These two different types of Otterbox cases are on the slimmer side. The main difference between them is that one keeps rugged protection as its top priority, while the other focuses more on a stylish aesthetic and a sleeker look.
So, which case is the best between the Otterbox Symmetry or Commuter?
In this Otterbox series comparison, I’ll describe and contrast my experiences with these two phone cases to determine the best one.
The Otterbox Symmetry vs Commuter showdown begins now!
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Overview of the Otterbox Symmetry
First Impressions: My Otterbox Symmetry Case
The Otterbox Symmetry is a slim, protective case with a sleek design. After deciding the Otterbox Defender had too bulky of a design, I was eager to try out Otterbox’s thinnest case.
As I’ve mentioned in previous reviews, Otterbox does an excellent job with packaging.
Their phone case packaging is well-designed, easy-to-open, and recyclable. Slipping the Symmetry case out of its package was super quick and easy.
The Symmetry is a single, integrated piece, as opposed to some of Otterbox’s other double and triple layer cases. It has a rigid polycarbonate backing and a rubber bumper that fits snugly onto my phone.
I bought the Otter + Pop Symmetry Series, a collaboration between Otterbox and Pop Socket. So my case has a built-in pop socket on the back as well.
I chose the white marble graphic for my print. The Otter + Pop series also includes select models of the Defender series and the Otterbox Figura series.
Once I had my phone suited up, I immediately noticed that it fit super comfortably in my hand and I was ready to test it out.
Materials & Key Specs
- Materials: Polycarbonate and synthetic rubber.
- Special Features: Slim, one-piece design, built-in pop socket, Qi wireless charging compatible, car mount compatible.
- Fits: Apple phones as old as the iPhone 7, Samsung phones as old as the Galaxy S20.
- Best for: Stylish phone users who value a sleek profile and convenience.
The main allure of the Otterbox Symmetry is its ability to pack solid protection into a slim and trendy design.
Like many of Otterbox’s cases, it combines the hard protection of polycarbonate with the soft cushioning effect of rubber.
The hard polycarbonate body is raised around the camera lens for sturdy protection. It feels like a thick shell that encases your phone.
And a synthetic rubber bumper raises slightly around the screen’s perimeter to protect against cracking.
The rubbery feel around the edges of the phone case provides extra grip – something I appreciate because, as I may have mentioned, I’m prone to spontaneously dropping my phone.
The button covers are also very sensitive and easy to push. With other phone cases, I often feel like I have to squeeze the button covers very hard, and the Otterbox Symmetry feels like I’m pressing the actual buttons.
The Otterbox Symmetry is available with a variety of printed designs. Mine is black-and-white marble with a black rubber bumper and contrasting white button covers.
My model, which includes a pop socket and fits the iPhone 7 and the iPhone 8, is also available with an outer space nebula design in addition to solid mauve, lilac, and white.
Otterbox offers more exciting designs and colors for newer iPhone models, such as brightly saturated Ombres and colors like “rock candy blue” and “cake pop pink.”
The pop socket on my case is a fantastic addition. The polycarbonate shell extends about a quarter-inch out from the phone, allowing the pop socket to fit into a recess and fold away flush.
The pop socket has three functions. First and foremost, it works as a kickstand.
It can also be an extra handle to hold onto, which is very useful when using my phone in the bathtub (I do not recommend this, do not live by my example. I live life on the edge!).
It’s also just something to fidget with, which can be very stress-relieving at times.
Looking for more comparisons? Read our guide to the Otterbox Symmetry vs Defender.
What’s Different About the Symmetry vs Commuter?
But while the Otterbox Commuter is visually similar to the Defender, the Symmetry case is much more sleek and stylish.
Most notably, the Otterbox Symmetry case is a single piece.
Like the other Otterbox cases, it uses both polycarbonate and synthetic rubber, but these two materials are connected rather than separate pieces.
Another unique quality of the Symmetry case is that it’s available with printed designs, so in addition to being sleeker than other Otterbox cases, there are also more aesthetic options.
Because the Symmetry doesn’t offer a double layer of protection, it’s not Otterbox’s most rugged case, but it still provides above-average protection.
Who is the Symmetry case for?
If your top priority is a slim and stylish phone case, but you’d also like great protection and superior drop defense, then the Symmetry Otterbox case is for you.
The Symmetry Otterbox phone case is best for people with an on-the-go lifestyle but who won’t often expose their phone to especially high-risk situations.
Symmetry is not your ideal pick if you take your phone on excursions to do extreme sports.
But if you’re an office dweller who’s looking for protection against city life and lighter adventures like weekend hiking, the Otterbox Symmetry will serve you well.
Overview of the Otterbox Commuter
First Impressions: My Otterbox Commuter Case
Like all Otterbox products I’ve tried, the Otterbox Commuter Case came in easy-to-open, well-designed packaging.
For the iPhone 7, the Commuter has a few different color choices. I went with a shade of seafoam green called “Ocean Way.” I always seem to gravitate towards minty greens and teals.
The other color choices for this model of the Commuter series are Black, “Indigo Way,” a dark blue, and “Ballet Way,” which is light pink.
There are different options for different phone models, although all seem somewhat limited.
The iPhone 13, for example, has the same number of color choices as my model, but the Indigo is replaced by a slate blue, and a mauve replaces the light pink. With the iPhone 12, the blue option is replaced by “Earl Grey,” a warm smoky color.
Compared to the Symmetry case, the Commuter series is bulkier but offers more protection.
It comes with two separate components: a flexible rubber dust cover and a hard polycarbonate shell that fits over it.
These two components combine almost seamlessly. They feel like a single case and work together to protect against drops.
Materials & Key Specs
- Materials: Polycarbonate outer shell and synthetic rubber inner.
- Special Features: Port covers, slim design, and two-layer protection.
- Fits: Otterbox makes Commuters for iPhones as old as the iPhone 6, all the way up to the newest model. They make Commuters for Samsung phones as old as the Galaxy A01 and various LG and Moto phones.
- Best for: Phone users who want to be absolutely sure their phone is safe.
The Commuter series feels like a compromise between the rugged extra protection of the Otterbox Defender series and the trim, pared-down style of the Symmetry Series.
This Otterbox case does a significantly better job protecting against drops than your average phone case, without too much bulk or extras. With that said, it’s a bit thicker and boxier than the Symmetry series.
If you compare the Otterbox Defender vs the Otterbox Commuter, you’ll notice the Commuter is visually similar to the Otterbox Defender.
The Commuter doesn’t have the Defender’s belt clip holster or the built-in screen protection, but in return, it has a less bulky size.
It’s also compatible with a third-party screen protector or one of Otterbox’s covers for phone screens.
Additionally, the Commuter Series offers dust protection with a lightning port cover on the iPhone models.
Because of this, you don’t have easy access to the charging port. But luckily, the Commuter is compatible with wireless chargers as well.
What’s Different About the Commuter vs Symmetry?
In a Commuter vs Symmetry comparison, the main differences between the two cases are their level of protection and their aesthetic appearances.
The Commuter offers better protection in two layers: a soft inner layer and a hard outer. These two layers work in unison but are separate pieces.
In contrast, Symmetry is a single piece that uses polycarbonate and rubber. The Symmetry line offers only one layer of protection, as the polycarbonate and the rubber don’t overlap.
The available models of the Commuter case don’t come in any printed designs. By contrast, the Symmetry case has many.
The Commuter case also features a charging port cover, while the Symmetry doesn’t.
Read my comparison guide to the Otterbox Commuter vs Defender series.
Who is the Commuter case for?
The Commuter series is for anyone who wants rugged protection for their phone without too much added bulk.
It’s a versatile phone case that works well in a day-to-day urban setting. It also keeps out dirt, whether you’re digging in your garden or out hiking a dusty trail.
And the Commuter case helps protect against a cracked screen if you happen to drop it down the subway stairs or while rock climbing.
The Commuter case is also pretty bare-bones in style, and it’s relatively slim but still packs some heft.
Most models have only four color options. So, the Commuter case is best for someone with an active lifestyle and who is not overly concerned with personalizing their case.
Comparing the Otterbox Symmetry vs Commuter
Each case has its strengths and weaknesses. To determine which one wins out, let’s compare the Commuter series vs the Symmetry series on specific aspects.
Durability & Protection
Both cases are durable and come with the Otterbox warranty, which means that Otterbox will replace your case for the product’s estimated lifetime.
For phone cases, Otterbox estimates that lifetime to be seven years, so you can count on either case to last you a significant amount of time.
But when it comes to durability and protection, the clear winner is the Otterbox Commuter.
Both cases have raised edges to protect your screens and your camera lenses. However, rugged drop protection is the Commuter’s primary focus.
The rubber inner shell is shock-absorbing, while the hard outer shell is like an exoskeleton to protect against impact and sharp objects.
The Otterbox Commuter’s port cover gives it another advantage. Not only does it offer drop protection, but it also keeps dust and dirt from infiltrating your charging port.
Design & Style
Just as the Commuter effortlessly took the lead in the durability and protection section, the Symmetry is the undeniable winner when it comes to design and style.
First of all, the physical shape of the case is slimmer and more ergonomic than the Commuter.
The Commuter may feel thin and sleek when you compare it to the Defender, but it starts to look more clunky once you pit it against the Symmetry.
But beyond that, there are many colors and printed designs to choose from within the Symmetry series.
The choices vary wildly from phone model to phone model, but overall the options are a lot wider and more exciting than the options for the Commuter.
I am not a fan of bulky and cumbersome phone cases because they can inhibit how well my phone performs.
A super protective yet bulky case can feel like an overstuffed snowsuit: it’ll keep you warm, but you won’t be able to move your arms. That’s why the Defender wasn’t for me.
So, comparatively, the Commuter felt like a significant improvement, but it still had its drawbacks in terms of size and functionality.
When you look at the Commuter case vs Symmetry case, the Symmetry has an edge over the Commuter.
I’ve found the Symmetry case to be super easy to slip on and off my phone, but it feels snug and secure once it’s on. I’m especially impressed by how responsive the covered buttons are.
So, ultimately, the Symmetry case is better to interface with, winning it the title of best functionality.
Number of Options, Variations & Accessories
When comparing the versatility of the Otterbox commuter vs Symmetry cases, they each offer different types of variation.
Both cases are compatible with screen protection. The Commuter is compatible with a belt clip holster, so you have the option to add that as an accessory.
On the other hand, the Symmetry series has models that are compatible with a MagSafe charger or other MagSafe technology (these are accessories that attach magnetically to your case).
Both cases have an anti-microbial variation, but only the Symmetry has models with a built-in pop socket.
On top of that, the Symmetry series has more aesthetic options than the Commuter. With the Symmetry, you have the option of bright colors, like cake pop pink and rock candy blue.
There are also patterns like the “shell-shocked” graphic (available for iPhone 12 and Galaxy s21), a pearlescent pink, and the “Moon Walker” graphic (for iPhone 12), an ombre from silver to clear. And that’s only to name a few.
So, while it was a close race, Symmetry ultimately wins out in terms of versatility.
Both the Otterbox Symmetry and Commuter series have several variations that cost more or less than the standard version.
The Otter + Pop Symmetry Series with the pop socket is about ten dollars more than the standard model.
The Commuter series also has a slimmer version called the “Commuter Lite,” which is about ten dollars less than the standard Commuter.
But when you compare the equivalent versions of each case – the standard, classic Otterbox Symmetry vs Commuter for iPhone 7 – they come up entirely even, making it a tie in terms of price.
Conclusion: Otterbox Symmetry Series vs Commuter Series – Which One is Better?
Now that we’ve gone point-by-point to compare the Otterbox Symmetry vs Commuter cases, the time has come to determine which case wins out for the title of best Otterbox case.
The main difference between Otterbox Symmetry and Commuter cases is that one offers more protection with less aesthetic appeal.
And since my top priorities are the size, look, and feel of my phone case, I pick the Symmetry line over the Otterbox Commuter cases.
Out of the three Otterbox cases I tested on my phone, the Symmetry is the one I am sticking with.
When I did a three-way comparison between the Otterbox Defender vs Commuter vs Symmetry, both the Symmetry cases and the Commuter cases win out against the Otterbox Defender for their svelte designs.
They’re both slimmer, more versatile, and compatible with a tempered glass screen protector.
But when you put the two against each other, comparing them point-by-point, the Symmetry cases win out over Commuter cases.
They’re sleeker, more versatile, more stylish, more functional, and more comfortable to hold. Plus, they’re equally priced, so the Otterbox Commuter doesn’t take the lead in affordability.
Admittedly, the Otterbox Commuter has a few advantages over the Symmetry.
It offers more protection due to its dual-layer construction and the port cover over the lightning port.
So, if a higher level of protection is super important to you, the Otterbox Commuter may be a better choice for you.
However, I feel that the protection the Symmetry offers is more than adequate. I’m a busy city dweller and I drop my phone a lot.
However, my phone doesn’t find itself in many super risky environments, so I feel secure with how well the Symmetry protects against drops.
In my book, all of the Otterbox Symmetry pros outweigh the cons for my tastes and needs.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Elina’s offbeat, colorful sense of style has been a mode of self-expression for as long as she can remember. As a visual artist, she travels the world, and her shoes have to keep pace. With a swanky NY art gallery opening today and research adventures in Italian ghost towns tomorrow, Elina has high standards and prioritizes style, versatility, and comfort. Her online shopping addiction has led her to test dozens of shoes in her lifetime, and she’s always up to date on the latest trends. Over the past two years, she’s reviewed four different shoe brands and five clothing brands for The Atlas Heart and is always hunting for apparel that can offer comfort, style, and sustainability all at once. Stay tuned for her next fashion adventure.
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