Product review: Lifeproof cases   3 comments

I have studiously avoided anything Apple for many years, but the arrival of the iPhone 4S at a time when I was needing an upgrade got me into that particular infrastructure. While I found the iPhone extremely limited in terms of customization, the large number of apps and the smoothness of the operating system, the quality of the camera and the number of accessories available made it a very reasonable purchase. Since I spend a lot of time on the water, being able to protect the phone became a priority. My previous phones were tucked into Aquapacs, which worked fine as long as you don’t need to use the phone for anything other than making or receiving calls. At the time the 4S was released, there was already a waterproof case available that provided full functionality, so even though it was a little more expensive than the average case, I purchased a Lifeproof case. The online reviews seemed to be divided; while most loved the case, there were a number who really didn’t like it at all. The appeal to me was that the case was meant to stay on the phone at all times, providing shock protection; it was much less bulky than some of the other protective and waterproof storage solutions; and mostly, it was billed as being completely waterproof, allowing use of the iPhone as an underwater camera. Now I have an underwater camera, so I don’t intend to necessarily use my iPhone in that manner, but I figured it would be protected in most situations I could get into. I bought the case and following the instructional videos on the Lifeproof website , I put it on.  The case is quite thin, and in two clamshell pieces that snap together with an O ring along the border of the junction of the front and back pieces.

There were a number of complaints about the case on the internet, primarily that the built-in touchscreen had a “pillow effect”…that there is an air gap between the screen and the screen protector. The other major complaint was that the sound was muffled by the case. These turned out to be minimal problems for me. While there was a slight air gap, the screen protector stretched out after a week or so and the protector fit tightly against the screen. As with all screen protectors, there is a slight decrease in sensitivity on the touchscreen but it’s no worse than any other protector and not bothersome at all. The sound was only diminished during speakerphone calls but also was very manageable. Every case I’ve ever owned is a trade-off, and the positives about this case are many. You are instructed to do a water test when you get the case, and in fact I have submerged the phone and case a number of times without any problem whatsoever. Additionally, the case is very light and thin, much thinner than my son’s Otterbox Defender, which is not waterproof. The camera lens cover is optical glass, and the camera was fantastic. Here are a few pictures I took with the phone.

It didn’t me very long to become a big fan of the Lifeproof case. I could leave it on continuously, keep it in my pocket easily and be confident it was protected from water damage. There was only one thing that made me nervous about the case…it has no way to attach a lanyard. As I used the phone on the water, I was always concerned about dropping it in the water. It turned out to be a reasonable concern as I forgot to zip my pocket closed during the Nuts and Bolts fishing event and I watched the phone, still lit up, flutter down into deep grass. After a half hour of searching I gave up the ghost, an expensive loss. It was particularly frustrating because I knew that Lifeproof was about to release the Lifejacket, a solution to this problem.  After replacing the phone, I received my Lifejacket… just about a month too late. The Lifejacket is well named; it is a brightly colored jacket for the phone, with attachment points for several kinds of lanyards, and it will float the entire phone.

The Lifejacket comes with two lanyards, a wrist lanyard and a longer one that allows the phone to be worn around your neck. It allows access to all buttons on the phone, doesn’t interfere with the camera at all, and while it adds to the bulk of the phone, it’s very light and unobtrusive.  It is the final answer to the challenge of using your iPhone in the marine environment safely. This photo, taken by Drew Wickstrom this past weekend during a major Indian River Lagoon thunderstorm, demonstrates how valuable this combination is.  At this point in time, there aren’t any alternatives to the Lifeproof case and Lifejacket and they are highly recommended.

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Posted July 24, 2012 by grassflats in Product Reviews

3 responses to “Product review: Lifeproof cases

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  1. Excellent review. Only thing I might add is, do not go snorkeling with the case. They advertise that you can do this, so I did. The first 3 times seemed fine, but the next time, a few drops of water got into the case and completely ruined the phone. I sent the phone to two repair shops, but neither could fix it. So even if you had retrieved your phone that you dropped over the side, it would have probably been beyond repair. I have used several waterproof cases. Lifeproof has been the best because it allows all the functionality of the phone. I use it to protect from splashes, rain, etc., but I do not snorkel with it. Just bought my daughter a lifeproof case for her phone for Christmas.

    • Thanks, David. I have a number of friends who are guides and are on the water a lot, many in kayaks, and I think they would all agree that they wouldn’t use the case aggressively underwater for pictures. I have done it, but I also have Applecare+ which will replace the phone (as long as I have it in my possession, unlike my first experience). Some have recommended that the case be taken apart every six months or so to check the O-ring and make sure the case is well-sealed. I think that is probably the cause of many of the failures. As I said, I have one of the underwater Panasonic Lumix cameras that has taken most of the pictures on this site; it’s an excellent camera, and totally waterproof to at least 10 feet, and very reasonably priced. But for carrying an iPhone on the boat, which I always do, the Lifeproof remains the best option at this point in time.

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