The people at LifeProof made a grand entrance on to the mobile stage earlier this year with what you would have to call a spectacular live demonstration of their new product. The LifeProof iPhone 4/4S case. Built water proof, dirt proof, snow proof and shock proof which seems to have you covered for the four most likely categories or “four proofs” as they put it of life’s most common conditions and environments. Over two years of development and built to military specifications IP-68 and MIL-STD-810-516.5 the LifeProof case is definitely designed to be tough but what does it really mean to the everyday user.
The LifeProof iPhone 4/4S case comes in two slightly differing versions. A Gen 1 and Gen 2. Both cases are the same in every way except one. The Gen 2 case has two external bumpers added to it. One placed just above the silent switch and one just below the volume buttons. These where added to give the buttons an extra layer of protection. It’s not anything I would call a must have and the $10.00 premium for it definitely made me think twice before pressing that buy button but I do see how it comes in handy.
Note: The Gen 1 case has been discontinued
The case consists of three pieces. A front plate, back plate and the headphone jack cover. The front and back pieces are made of a semi-flexible plastic and rubber compound which snap together acting as one to completely enclose the iPhone. In order for the case to be water proof the back half has a replaceable O-ring which creates an air tight seal when applied correctly. The same applies to the headphone jack cover which is a screw-in design that completes the seal.
Also included is an OMTP adapter and a spare headphone jack cover (with its own keeper which attaches to the adapter cord). The adapter is absolutely necessary for two reasons. The first being quite obvious after taking a good look at the case. The headphone jack is just too deep into the case to reach by anything but the Apple headphone plug and those similarly designed. The second is for use around water, dirt, etc. The adapter is designed like the headphone jack cover to maintain the case’s integrity.
Just about everything you need to use the case on a regular basis is included. The only piece not included and will cost you extra is a belt clip. Unfortunately, as of this writing availability and pricing is still yet to be announced.
Update: belt clip is available for $29.99
Taking this case for a spin was quite an interesting experience for me. For such a toughly built case it’s extremely thin compared to the Otterbox Defender line of cases I’ve used. It took me a few days to trust the case because of it’s size but once I got past that my handling patterns went back to normal. The silent switch which is large enough to easily be used without looking but works in reverse order (pushing up puts the phone into silent mode instead of pushing down). This is really a non-issue but may take some getting use to. The up and down volume buttons are clearly marked and well defined for easy use. The power button is similarly well defined but with an even lower profile than the volume buttons so it’s easy to find but does not incur accidental presses. All the speaker ports are also covered with a gore-tex like material to let only sound in and out. Listening to the iPhone through the speaker is rather disappointing. The sound is muffled with the volume being reduced by at least half. If placed on a flat surface such as a table it gets slightly amplified but gets even worse if placed on even one or any other type of material such as paper or cloth. The sound is directed to the back of the case which is not an ideal solution for this particular design as most of it remains trapped in the case. Even in smaller enclosed areas the iPhone’s volume will have to be turned almost to the max in order to get a decent listening level. This was further made evident when I opened the sync port cover and the volume became noticeably louder and clearer. Although, the earphone speaker is also protected with the same material it seems to fair much better than the audio speaker with clearer and louder sound.
As far as water, dirt and dust this definitely lives up to its claims. I’ve allowed this case to get wet and dirty in ways I would not have done with any other case I’ve owned. The only thing that concerns me is how the case actually snaps together. Although it is very secure I see that it is not designed to be repeatedly removed. At some point the holding points will no longer be capable of maintaining an airtight seal and must be replaced. I read that the limit is around 50 time but I can’t verify that as 100% true. The use of sync/charge cables are limited to those where that are the same size of Apple’s own cables. Anything even slightly bigger will not fit at all. It also concerns me that the cover for the docking port does not completely clear the port itself when laid flat on a table. The cable leans directly on the cover which is a sharp edge and pushes the cable upwards just slightly. Over time and even by accident this could damage the cable housing.
There is no supplied screen protector as the case’s front covering is an all-in-one case/screen shield. It’s uniquely designed to also encompass the home button which is actually nice idea. The only issue here is that the screen protector does not lay flush on the phone. This slightly raised nature does cause gestures and touch to not register from time to time impeding the use of the device. Other than that it works like any other screen shield.
The case operates like any other that encapsulates the phone but it’s definitely a specific use type of case. Those who subject their device to harsher conditions than normal would welcome the LifeProof setup. It’s completely sealed and works well for what it offers. Every piece is replaceable but at full retail price I find the value questionable.
The negatives are minor especially if you don’t use the iPhone’s speaker for listening to audio a lot. While I don’t believe in putting a price on protection I will say that at $79.99 and no belt clip this a tough pill to swallow. If I had to choose between this and the Otterbox Defender it would be a hard choice which I could go either way depending on the situation. So my advice is to weigh in your own needs to see if this case is right for you. Check out all the details at LifeProof.