Archive for the Technology Category

LifeProof case review

Posted in Technology on July 21, 2011 by jaymallow

Perhaps it’s because I bought my new iPhone due to the fact that I dropped my old iPhone 3g and cracked the screen. Perhaps also the fact that the iPhone 4, while looking definitely sleek and sexy, seems so fragile. (Seriously you almost think those beautiful glass screens would crack just by looking at them) But I’m practically paranoid when it comes to protecting my iPhone. (The $350 price tag probably has something to do with that as well) So from minute one my iPhone has been encased in OtterBox’s Defender case, except for brief moments when switching to my armband case for running. While I appreciated a little piece of mind, and the Defender case definitely worked on multiple droppings, I still wasn’t all that happy with the set up. For one the OtterBox feels like you militarized your iPhone. Being in the military that’s not so much a bad thing, but it makes the thinnest iPhone to date an ugly black brick.
Thanks to my incessant love of all things geeky and case related, I stumbled upon a case made by a company called LifeProof. The claims they make about their cases are almost unbelievable- Mil-Spec (something OtterBox doesn’t even claim), dust and dirt PROOF, and ultimately WATERPROOF. Yes you read right, this company claims that you can drop their case repeatedly on concrete from a height of six feet, bury it in sand, then go shoot underwater movies with your iPhone.(Basically they’re claiming to be the GLOCK of iPhone cases) Sounds either too good to be true, or complete BS right? So I trolled around looking for videos related to this case. Some COULD have been faked, (not saying they were) but careful editing and an underwater camera could have pulled off some videos. The one that sold me however was a YouTube video of a guy dropping his LifeProof encased iPhone into a 24oz mug of beer. It was shot with the iPhone. Looking out of the amber colored glass sold me. Enough for me to spend another $70 bucks for another case anyway.
Just a quick note on the ordering process as I experienced it. It is very obvious that this is a new company getting it’s legs underneath it. I placed a pre-order, then two weeks later was contacted that I could now order my case. I then put in the order and they took over a month to process that order. Perhaps that’s just the way things are done online now but I have to admit that having an outstanding charge on my credit card for over a month was a bit disconcerting. In any case it took some time from “pre-order” to delivery. Though I will say that when they did finally fulfill the order it was delivered quickly. (Two business days by Priority Mail for free)

The Unboxing:

20110721-080049.jpg

20110721-080130.jpg

I have to say the packaging is impressive. It kind of screams, “PLEEAAASSSEE Apple put us in your store?” Believe it or not that’s a good thing. Any company that has the confidence in it’s product to do some real, professional graphic design knows it has a product to sell. The packaging also speaks to the permanence and financial backing of the company. This doesn’t look like a company that won’t be here a month from now because they folded.

First impressions:
The case itself is thin and lightweight. It seems to belie the “shockproof” capability it purports. The plastic is neither smooth, hard, nor shiny, nor soft and rubbery but an interesting blend. (smooth and pliable but grip-able) The clear plastic screen protector feels a little on the thick side but definitely isn’t flimsy. The thing you notice when pulling the two front and back pieces apart is that it isn’t easy. This is a case that you are supposed to leave on.

20110721-080254.jpg

Inside you’ll note on the left the prominent seal going around the case. On the right note the films covering the speakers and camera ports. (The mesh is supposed to be Gore-Tex) I read a LifeProof Q and A about the lack of some kind of felt or soft material for the backing. Supposedly they rejected this idea as it muffles sound and really doesn’t supply any protection. The response indicated that a securely sealed backing won’t scratch the surface and that their material won’t harm the back surface of the iPhone anyway. (We’ll see but it makes sense. If the back of the case doesn’t move in relation to the front then there shouldn’t be scratches)

I can attest that after installation the bottom opening for the charge/synch cable works with Apple’s cables. Beyond that you might want to buy an extender. (which LifeProof also sells) Another note is that the hinge is a metallic one similar to a watch spring/hinge adding to the durability of the mechanism. (ie it’s not just plastic) I can also attest that the volume and mute buttons on the side work perfectly. (And I own a Verizon iPhone) The latter (mute) being a surprise and actually a bonus for quick muting.

The big surprise was the inclusion of this:

20110721-080535.jpg

What you see there my friends is an audio adaptor for the case that is also “LifeProof”. Supposedly this renders the headphone port also impervious to the elements. (Though LifeProof doesn’t recommend swimming with it, they’ve got another adaptor for that.) I was surprised because no mention was made of this little device in my ordering. Such as, “Case includes…” On one hand I’m impressed that something that this company sells on it’s website is included in the case.(It would be easier and sneakier to make people buy it.) On the other hand I have to admit that if I had unknowingly bought this accessory for twenty bucks and then learned that it was included I would have been a bit miffed. Oh and another positive, you see that drum looking thing in the middle of the wire? That’s a device to hold the plug for the audio port along with a spare plug. Which given the fact that the plug is tiny, and conceivably easily lost, is well… thoughtful. All that said, after checking the adapter is almost absolutely necessary with this case. Perhaps with the factory Apple headphones (which I don’t use) the audio opening will still work. Otherwise you absolutely HAVE to use the adaptor. The opening for the audio is just too deep and narrow. Yet still on the plus side for LifeProof the adaptor is gold plated and seems to be quality made.

Comparison:

Here are a few shots of the case side by side with the OtterBox just for comparison. You’ll note that the LifeProof case is longer but noticeably thinner.

20110721-080641.jpg

20110721-080658.jpg

Conclusion:

Perhaps this is the most resounding endorsement I could give this case- I dropped it (and my iPhone) in the toilet. No seriously. I just walked in, took a deep breath, and let go. …And nothing happened. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING happened. I fished it out, dried it off, and… nothing happened. Now will I go scuba diving with this case? NO. But the fact that my phone survived what any phone would be absolutely fried doing is worth the money this case costs. While I would love some sort of belt clip as I’m not a “pocket” wearer of the iPhone I’ll make do. (There are many “generic” belt case options) Even more I look forward to LifeProof’s swim/armband. (As a member of the military I look forward to being able to strap my iPhone on my forearm and make like Sam Fisher) Time will tell if this case over time will continue to live up to the lofty claims LifeProof has made but for now I’m not taking it off.

Advertisements