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Lifeproof frē Waterproof Case for iPhone 5 Review (UPDATED)

By Tony Hannides On Feb 9, 2013 0
4.5 out of 5 Rating

UPDATE: AFTER WE SWAPPED OUT THE CASE WITH ANOTHER, WE SPENT A WEEK WITH IT ON. DURING THE WHOLE WEEK, WE DIDN’T HEAR ANY BUZZING OR RATTLING LIKE WE DID WITH THE FIRST UNIT. WE ARE MUCH HAPPIER NOW. THIS PROVES TWO THINGS: NOT EVERYTHING IS BUILT PERFECTLY BUT WHEN IT FAILS, LIFEPROOF IS THERE TO BACK UP THEIR PRODUCT. THANKS LIFEPROOF!

OVERVIEW

The Lifeproof frē for the iPhone 5 is more than just a case, it’s a safe house for the phone. It exceeds military grade specifications and Ingress Protection specifications. Simply put, it is waterproof, snowproof, dirtproof and shockproof. And unlike other rugged cases, it’s not too bulky and can still be used in a belt clip or a car mount. We wanted to put it through its paces so naturally, we gave it a beating.

UNBOXING

Unboxing the case and other contents was quite easy. Inside you find the case as 2 parts, handling instructions, warranty information (90 days), a microfiber cloth and a screw-on headphone cable.

FEATURES

The Lifeproof frē case itself comes in 2 pieces. It has it’s own outer button for the power, it’s own volume buttons and even a built-in toggle switch on the side. The touchscreen is covered completely by a see-through sheet of plastic but you’re still able to use the phone. On the bottom of the case, the charger/USB port is covered by a secure latch and the headphone port is sealed off behind a plastic screw. And if you’re wondering, there’s even a little notch you can attach a lanyard to if you like.

SET UP

Because the Lifeproof frē boasts to be waterproof and shockproof, we wanted to make sure we followed the instructions to a “T.” Although the Lifeproof team promises they water test every case before they ship them (and sometimes a 2nd water test), the instructions say we should do our own. We snapped the 2 sides of the case together and placed it in a bowl of water for 60 minutes. At first we saw some bubbles and thought some air got into the case, but in fact, air was escaping. After the water test, we then opened up the case to find no water or moisture on the inside whatsoever. But to truly see how the case and phone fares in water, we tested it out in the open air in the rain. Believe me, it rained quite hard that day and again, no water or moisture got inside the case.

The next test was the shock test. According to the website, the fre case can withstand a drop from 6.6 feet. So we “double-downed.” The drop test was performed in the rain at 5 feet. Our heart stopped for a second when we initiated the test but thankfully, the case passed. Sure, it got a little scratched but the iPhone itself was still in great shape.

So I feel the case passed all the “ruggedness” tests we administered but the next step was to see how it was with everyday activities. Because all openings need to be sealed, I wasn’t so sure how the sound quality would be. We tested a regular phone call without speakerphone and it sounded the same with or without a case. Then we tested a phone call on speakerphone, same result. Unfortunately, we did come across a big issue when making a phone call. There seemed to be a vibrating noise every time I was making a phone call. I removed the case and the noise was gone. But the moment I put the case back on and made a phone call, the noise was back. I didn’t hear this noise when the phone was on speakerphone, using a Bluetooth headset or a wired headset.

Next test was to see if the cover over the phone’s camera affected the camera quality at all. Answer: it does not. However for music, the speaker is muffled or boxed in. Plus, if the song has loud bass, it vibrates the whole phone because the air is finding it difficult to escape. So again, I would recommend a Bluetooth speakerbox or a wired speaker for music.

EASE OF USE / EXPERIENCE

Using the Lifeproof frē is super simple. Once all of the snaps are in place, there’s really no reason to have to remove that case at all. The only iffy part of the case is the headphone jack screw. If you remember, the bottom of the iPhone 5 has two ports: 3.5mm headphone jack and the Lightning port. Getting to the Lightning port is simple because it either snaps into place or snaps open to accept the cable.

The headphone jack isn’t that easy. It’s a plastic screw that you need to remove each time you plan on using the headphone jack. And once the screw’s removed, the only way to plug in a pair of headphones is to use the screw-in headphone cable that comes with the case.

First of all, it takes an extra 30 annoying seconds to remove the screw. Second, if you lose the screw, water, dust, snow, ice and whatever else will definitely get in the phone. Third, if you lose the screw-in cable, you can’t use headphones (switch to Bluetooth).

RELIABILITY

Other than the possibility of losing the screw-in cable or the plastic screw, the Lifeproof frē case for the iPhone 5 is very reliable. Aside from our own tests, we’ve seen videos of other braver souls go diving with the case, bury it in snow and perform other extreme trials. I can honestly say I would use this case for any extreme activities I may partake in the future.

WRAP UP

The Lifeproof frē case for the iPhone 5 performs tremendously. It met all the main specifications and even surprised me. Until Apple makes a waterproof iPhone, this is the case you would need. However there were the 2 issues: the headphone jack and the vibrating noise during a call. I’m not sure if this a common issue or just with our case the noise can be a deal breaker. And as for the headphone jack, if you can see yourself dealing with the plastic screw then I wouldn’t worry about it too much. I was very happy with this case for the iPhone 5 and I hope Lifeproof plans on making more for other non-iOS devices.

THE GOOD, THE BAD, ETC.
  • Durable
  • Waterproof
  • Dustproof
  • Shockproof
  • Not bulky
  • Works with other Lifeproof accessories
  • Poor design for the headphone
  • Music sounds boxy/muffled
AT A GLANCE
Type:
Brand:
Price: $79.99
Product Info
Features: Military grade 810F-516 Standard Specifications for ruggedness

IP-68 Specifications for water/dust



Water Proof – submergible to 6.6’ (2m) for up to 30 minutes

Dirt Proof – totally sealed against minute dirt & dust ingress

Snow Proof – fully enclosed to keep melting snow, sleet and ice out

Shock Proof – withstands drop impacts from up to 6.6’ (2m)



Available in 5 colors
Everything Else
Dimensions: 2.64″ x 5.41″ x 0.48″
Weight: 1.05 oz
Homepage: www.lifeproof.com
GALLERY

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