LifeProof, waterproof iPhone case review
Just posted this review on SotP and thought it would be of interest here too
This is a review I have been meant to do for ages but I wanted to be sure I had used the case for long enough to give a considered opinion. I looked at a lot of reviews of this case before I bought it and it seemed like the perfect solution for my needs but the people reviewing it seemed to only just have received it. This has been the case on my iPhone for a few months now so I am confident I can speak with some conviction about it.
What is it?
In a nutshell it is a waterproof and rugged case for the iPhone 4 and 4s that is small enough to have on all the time and that still allows the use of all functions.
The specification has this as waterproof to about 2m and offering drop protection from about 1.5m. It also has high quality optical glass covering the camera port and access to all buttons and functions.
A Closer Look
First off the clip on the back has been added by me. It is a Nite Ize Eclipse and I will give some details on it at the end of the review.
The case is in two main parts. The front with a clear screen protector and the back with a glass lens for the camera. These two parts clip together with a yellow seal to keep the water out.
There is also a hinged flap at the bottom to gain access to the dock connector. This is again sealed with soft rubber. It should be noted that you cannot use or access the dock connector while under water but this really is not any sort of drawback.
At the top there is a screw in plug that protects the headphone jack from water ingress.
In these pictures you can also see the hole for the noise cancelation microphone. This is sealed on the inside with a waterproof membrane as are the speaker and main microphone holes.
The case comes with a short screw in headphone adapter which allows you to use the phone with headphones while still maintaining the waterproof rating. This adapter also has a clip on it which has a spare headphone socket plug, a neat and thoughtful addition.
The case is very easy to put on. You put the phone in the front, clip on the back and clip the bottom flap over, job done. You can't really use the case with a screen protector though. It tends to stick to the case scream protector and you get air bubbles between the two. This may be an issue if you are going to swap cases a lot but if this will be your sole case it does not cause a problem
Also you can only really use Apple leads to connect to it as the port at the bottom is too small for any other leads. I got round this by buying a short dock extender so I can use this with my other accessories without having to constantly take the phone in and out of the case.
Of course the first thing you really want to know is if it is actually waterproof. Yes it is.
Here it is at the bottom of a sink full of water.
Of course I first checked it empty with some tissue paper in it
Why would I want one?
I admit I am a geek. I love technology and my iPhone has integrated itself into all of my geekdom. Being able to take pictures while out on a canoe trip and have them uploaded and posted on the forum or Facebook while I am still out really appeals to me.
Despite being a geek I still spend a lot of time outside in all weathers and when I get a text or a call I am always worried about the rain damaging the phone. I work in the construction industry and any time phones have gone faulty it has always been due to water damage. We now issue waterproof phones as standard.
I have tied a number of other products to protect the phone. They have either been boxes you can't use the phone in or bags that give an unsatisfactory user experience. Both of these are really only going to be considered when canoeing, when out for a walk with the dog in the rain your phone is likely to just be in your pocket in its normal case. So what I needed and what you may need too, is a normal case which is waterproof.
So far this is by far the closest I have found to the ideal case. I did have some reservations though. Some turned out to be groundless and a couple still have the jury out.
My first reservations where the aesthetics. I worried it would be too bulky and the screen protector would be rubbish. Size wise the case really could not be any smaller. It does increase the size of the phone but not too much and not much more than the normal cases I was using before. I cannot see any way a waterproof case could be any smaller.
The screen protector is good and clear and has not scratched so far. It does give a kind of oil on water sheen if you look at it from a sideways angle but from straight on it is not very noticeable. It does not bother me but I have had some people comment on it. To my mind it is an acceptable trade for the waterproof specification.
The response to touch does not seem to be effected at all so full marks to the case on that front.
I was not that bothered about the glass over the camera at the back as I was only planning on low resolution pictures for the web. However with the case on my phone became my main camera when out and the quality has become a factor. The case does not seem to reduce the quality at all. I have a few pictures taken with the case on that have been printed at A1 (30 x 20inches) and the picture is as clear and sharp as you could hope for. Certainly way better than you have any right to expect from a phone camera.
The blurb for the case says it is constructed so that the case amplifies the sound from the phone. I took that with a pinch of salt so was pretty surprised to find it is true. When holding the case you can feel the vibrations on the back. If set down on a hard surface the sound is noticeably louder.
The performance of the microphones seems to be pretty much as good as when the phone is uncased. So in use as a phone you lose nothing by having the case on (it is a sign of the times that the phone functionality of the phone case is this far down the review )
You have two choices when using the headphones. You can unscrew the plug and connect your headphones directly. If you do this you can get water in through the connector and you need to have headphones with a narrow connector, like the apple one to fit in the small opening.
The other choice is to use the supplied connector. This allows you to use any headphones and still maintain the waterproof rating. The adapter also allows the use of headphones with the microphone and controls for the phone. I found the sound quality to be clear with the adapter being used, however the sound on the other end of the call of me through the microphone kept cutting out for the person on the other end. I do not know if this is because there is a broken wire in my adapter or if the connector does not screw down far enough to make the proper connection. I don't use headphones much for phone calls so have not really looked into this but probably should.
Of course you have the option of using any sort of Bluetooth headset with all ports of the phone still sealed.
So the phone still does all the things it did before it was in the case, which is good but of course my worry was that it would not protect it as well as advertised. I have already said it is waterproof and it is, however, there are a couple of things that concern me on this front. One me being overly cautious and the other more of a real concern.
The overly cautious concern is that the front and back of the case are not clipped together tight enough at the bottom corners.
If you look at this picture you can see the front and back of the case are not tight closed at the corners.
The sides and the top are much tighter. In all honestly I think this is still tight enough to seal against water ingress. I would just be happier if it was just as tight all the way round.
My real concern is the flap at the bottom that seals the dock connection.
When clipped shut this is certainly tight enough to exclude water. The problem is the catch itself is not that secure. I have unclip and swing open a few times when taking the phone from my pocket. Not a problem in a rain shower but a disaster if it happened under water. As a result when actually in the water I am very careful about how I handle the phone to avoid any contact with this part of the case. This is the one area of the case I would really like to see an upgrading of the design. I would be so much happier if this clip locked securely shut even if it meant a two step operation to open it.
Was it worth it?
In a word, yes. I am very happy with this case and it has been well worth the money it cost me. When out in the rain you can answer calls without any concerns. If running you can be listening to music in any weather. You can also take a picture or video any time you want, again without having to worry if the phone will get water damage. You also have the option of taking the footage from under water.
As I have said I have concerns about the ease with which the bottom clip opens. I think this concerns me more than most because I am often in the canoe with the risk of ending up having to make a call while in the drink. Making this call could be vital and the thought of the phone being disabled does nag. That said most of the other solutions would render the phone safe but unusable anyway.
I think this type of use puts me at the more extreme range of the user this case is designed for. I imagine the target is for people enjoying the outdoors, walking, camping, running etc and for this range of activities it is superb. I guess one way of putting it is that for weatherproofing this case is ideal. For use underwater I still have that reservation but have found nothing better, yet.
So in summary a thumbs up but not 100%. I bought my case from here
Nite Ize Eclipse
As mentioned I have a Nite Ize Eclipse on the back of the case. I have had one of these on my last few phone cases.
The clip serves two purposes. First it keeps your phone near the top of your pocket and makes it easier to get out. You don't need to fish about for it.
Also the clip has a sort of lock on it that grips the material of your pocket so that your phone cannot slip out. This is as handy for stopping it slipping out your pocket at the cinema as it is when you are climbing over a rocky outcrop. Before the clip I had a few occasions where I got up from the couch and found my phone had slipped out. The clip saves me worrying about this as well as making it easier to get out. The only downside is it can wear the material on your pocket a bit.
The clip was not that expensive and again I got mine from Amazon