LifeProof Case Review for iPhone 5

More and more people are looking for cases that provide the utmost in protection,  allowing them to remove restrictions on where they can take their iPhone. LifeProof has been one of the companies that has been a pioneer in this case category. While LifeProof cases have a natural appeal to those who enjoy extreme sports, these cases are also suited for those who simply want maximum protection for all life throws at them. Water, Dirt, Snow and Shock. Their latest case is the LifeProof frē, designed for the new iPhone 5. So how does it measure up to the elements? Read on for our full LifeProof case review for iPhone 5. For user opinions, check out this forum discussion with hundreds of Lifeproof users.

LifeProof case review

Unlike other cases, there is a fair amount of preparation that is required before you actually install this case on your iPhone. As someone who typically likes to dive in without reading instructions, this is not a situation where it’s even a remotely good idea to not follow the guidelines set forth in the manual. If for some reason you do discard the manual, the big CAUTION decal on the back reminds of the proper steps you should take for using this case.

Use Caution

The LifeProof has what they call O-rings which border the entire bottom of the case, enabling the case to be waterproof up to 6.6 feet. The directions aren’t terribly clear as to what part are the case are the O-Rings (it’s the green gasket material that runs inside the bottom shell), but you are supposed to check and remove any dust or debris.

O-Rings LifeProof

To assemble the LifeProof, you snap the two pieces in place, close the charge port door seal and screw in the headphone jack cover. The first time you assemble the case, it should be done without the iPhone, allowing you to safely conduct the water test. I submerged the case in a bathroom sink for 2-3 hours with a mug on top to keep it underwater. This water test is not only suggested, but required by LifeProof. It should be noted that LifeProof tests every case they make and then an independent agent does further testing with selected cases undergoing a second water test. By the time you complete your water test, it’s either the second or third test. Having passed my water test, it was time to entrust the safety of my iPhone 5 to the LifeProof frē.

water test

Installation at this point is similar to other snap-type cases. You drop the iPhone 5 into the face forward into the case and then snap on the back shell carefully making your way around to ensure it’s tight throughout. Finally, a quick snap of the lightning door latch and screw in the headphone jack cover completes the install.

LifeProof fre bottom

Like so many, I carry my iPhone everywhere. If it’s not in my hand, it can be found in my front pants pocket. Before installing the LifeProof, there were a number of times during my recent vacation that I reached for the front pocket of my swim trunks for fear I had brought it in the pool. While I was fortunate, there are a number of folks who haven’t been so lucky and have had to take steps to bring their iPhones back to life after it came in contact with water. It made me realize why the appeal of waterproof cases extends to everyday folks.

LifeProof iPhone 5 case

Water tests concluded, it was time to go swimming with the iPhone. The risks are spelled out on LifeProof’s website.

LifeProof warranty does not, under any circumstance, cover the replacement or cost of any electronic device or personal property inside or outside of the case.

As you can see in the video, I went swimming with my iPhone 5 using the LifeProof frē. The iPhone having been submerged in water, I towel dried the LifeProof case to see if any water had seeped into the case. Everything appeared to be completely water-free. Removing the case later that evening, I didn’t see any signs of water on the inside of the case. I will say that when I removed the case, there was some water on the edges of the case. While no water was to be found on the inside, it can still find it’s way to the iPhone if you are not careful when removing the LifeProof. It’s natural to want to check your iPhone after its first swim, but it’s probably not a great idea to continue taking the case on and off. While there is no indication that will adversely affect the case, there is a greater chance for error when repeatedly installing the case. The LifeProof frē can withstand water and snow. They official rate the case as IP-68. When reviewing IP rated enclosures, the IP-68 classification means: 6: Dust tight 8: Protected against prolonged effects of immersion under pressure.

This isn’t purely a waterproof case being offered, but case designed to take on life. Using a heavy duty hard plastic, it meets the Military Standard 810F-516 standard specific to functional drop. This translates to the LifeProof providing protection from damage for drops up to 6.6 feet.

LifeProof case

On the interior walls, you’ll notice small foam inserts that provide an added shock absorption in the case of the drops. Two of these came off when taking the case in and out. The company makes a point of letting customers know that while the case is a precision piece of equipment, it should still be used sensibly. The idea here is not to install the case and then test it by dropping it 5 feet or more. No case is indestructible and neither is your iPhone. That being said, this case should go a long way towards protecting your iPhone in the event of a drop.

shock proof foam

There is a plastic cover that projects the screen. I was very impressed with the fit, as I’ve seen other implementations where there was a noticeable gap between the screen and the plastic protector. This screen protector requires you press harder than you normally would, but response was quite good. At certain angles, there was a slight rainbow affect, but this was more noticeable with the display off.

top lifeproof case

From what I’ve described, one would think it might require a big, bulky case. This isn’t much bigger than some of the standard case designs from other manufacturers. If anything, it’s taller than most, due to the headphone cover and lightning seal which add depth to the bottom of the iPhone.

LifeProof iPhone case side view

The volume up/down and ringer/mute switch work perfectly well, but you will have to press harder, a function of the girth of the case. The Lightning dock connector is easily accessed by snapping open the cover. The same cannot be said for the headphone jack and I can see the cover getting misplaced with ease.

LifeProof volume buttons

The LifeProof also comes with a special adapter, should you want to pair it with headphones, while keeping the seal tight.

During my tests, I made several calls and callers had no problem hearing me. I did however have what I’d call a major issue with a buzzing sound that would occur during calls. It’s almost as if I had received a notification while the iPhone was set to vibrate. It would occur on and off throughout my calls. I thought perhaps the iPhone itself might have had an issue, but the problem was gone when I removed the case.

Pros:

  • Absolute highest level of protection we’ve tested
  • Waterproof
  • Not overly bulky considering the protection level

Cons:

  • Buzzing sound during calls
  • Expensive
  • Install mistakes could be costly
  • Sounds get muffled

When it comes to protection, the LifeProof case for iPhone is in a class by itself, one that will start to get a bit more crowded with similar products coming this year from Incipio, Otterbox and Griffin. If you take the proper steps to test, this would seem like an ideal case for someone who enjoys outdoor activities and sports. Any time you take your iPhone to extreme conditions, there is some level of risk, so the LifeProof isn’t a replacement for a warranty. Regardless of how impressed I was with the protective qualities of the LifeProof fre, I simply cannot recommend a case that suffers from significant poor audio quality during phone calls. While it’s possible this has been corrected, our final rating reflects the case as tested. Should we have the opportunity to test a LifeProof case that corrects this issue, we’ll append the review as necessary.

The LifeProof fre case for iPhone 5 retails for $79.99 and can be found at major online retailers including Best Buy and Amazon.

Our extensive review of the LifeProof fre case for the iPhone 5.
LifeProof fre case
Date Published: 02/28/2013
When it comes to protection, the LifeProof case for iPhone is in a class by itself. Regardless of how impressed I was with the protective qualities of the LifeProof fre, the case suffers from significant poor audio quality during phone calls.
6 / 10 stars

Written By

Christopher Meinck is the Founder and Editorial Director at everythingiCafe. You can also find him co-hosting on everythingiCafe :the show. His smartphone obsession started with the Handspring Treo 180. While the phones have changed, the obsession continues. You can find him on Google+ and Twitter.

Comments

  1. Scott Smith says

    As a long time LifeProof user, I was happy to see that you did a review of one of their cases!
    Great review of a great product. A word of caution though… You posted a link to Amazon. There are MANY fake / knock off LifeProof cases that are sold on Amazon.
    LifeProof will not warranty the cases that are not sold from their approved resellers list. LifeProof does have an Amazon store however.
    Link to the true LifeProof store:
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/aag/main?ie=UTF8&asin=&isAmazonFulfilled=&isCBA=&marketplaceID=ATVPDKIKX0DER&orderID=&seller=A1Q8EVTM3PFQN7

    Authorized resellers list:
    http://www.lifeproof.com/distributors-and-resellers/

    How to spot the Fakes:
    http://www.lifeproof.com/en/fake-lifeproof-case

  2. Janet Schmidt says

    It also appears that you don’t have the most current version. The newest cases no longer have the small stick on foam pieces. The sides are solid. There are some that have buzzing, but mine which is the same as yours has none. My call quality and speakers are excellent. Better than the case I had for my 4. I did have an early release case that had to be replaced for a shrieking during calls, but I am quite pleased with my replacement. Nice review Chris!

  3. rexxiboy says

    This is a great product at the beginning. Yes I was mesmerize with how well it can protect my Iphone. But using it over the course of six months, my phone is still protected.. but the material or the perimeter started to deteriorate… Go ahead google it.. Yes, I had the genuine product. I got it from BestBuy. The perimeter will start to peel slowly.. Go ahead check my video

  4. NJTNS says

    i have this case and its been replace 3 times i like 4s case a lot better. don’t get me wrong all the things u said about about the case is true its a good case but beware ATT iPhone owners there is a none problem with while u talk on the phone sometimes u will here a beeping noise coming from ur phone and its annoying they still haven’t fixed that issue

  5. Mark Wallace says

    Good review. I just bought one myself. I like everything except the fact that the screen protector is flimsy and not taught like other cases I have used. Also do not like have to unscrew the headphone jack plug everytime I want to listen to music using my earphones. I am still happy that I got it. It is much slimmer than the Otterbox Defender. It beats the Otterbox Armor in call quality. I tried 2 different LP cases at the store and the call quality was perfectly fine. When I used an Otterbox Armor, the sound and microphone were extremely muffled.

  6. Brian says

    Awesome review! Can you also review the Griffin Survivor + Catalyst… Or maybe put together an article of the best waterproof (lifeproofish) case on the market? I’m doing my research and trying to determine the best of the best before I buy.

  7. mary simpson says

    My daughter’s Life proof case has worked so well in the past 5months, until now! Her Iphone4S is currently sitting in rice and I am hoping for the best! It may be too much videoing underwater that did it in. Wish us luck!

  8. judith wilson says

    I have a newer 5 and purchased the Lifeproof for it. The problem I am having–I am having difficulty ending a call. you can push 5-6 times and it wont go off. Also, if I need to have a coupon scanned, the scanners won’t pick up through the Lifeproof case. Michaels Crafts told me they have not been able to get their scanners to work with the cases. Any suggestions

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