LifeProof Case for iPhone 4/4S: Protection Without Bulk

| Just a Peek

There are those among us whose fingers seems to be eternally slathered with butter, regardless of their proximity to a kitchen or baked goods. They seem to ooze the stuff, and anything they try to hold onto slips from their grasp like the proverbial greased pig, winding up in pieces on the sidewalk.

Some people can’t seem to keep a personal device dry. They could be in the middle of the Mojave Desert in the middle of its dry season with an empty canteen and barely enough body fluids to keep blood flowing yet their electronic devices will, at some point, manage to get sopping wet.

Then there are people who are dirt and dust magnets, real life versions of Charles Schultz’s Pigpen, a Peanuts characters who existed in a cloud of dirt wherever he went. For these folks clean is a (distant) relative state. Their lifestyles are such that they, and everything they own retains a film of dust and grime that orbits them like a personal Oort Cloud.

These people are not characters in a superhero comic (Dust Man! Able to smother his victims with a dust storm!) They do not think of these abilities as a power with which to battle evil. They make every attempt to live normal lives, attempts that are continually thwarted when these abilities manifest themselves.

I have a friend whose mobile phones wind up in the toilet. Not just one or two phones. Every phone she has owned, from early monolithic Nokias to current Samsung flips, develops an overwhelming desire to swim in porcelain. It’s a sad and somewhat unpleasant fact. She wants an iPhone, but fears its seemingly inevitable demise in some public restroom.

There are several options available to keep an iPhone intact. There are cases which guard against impact, bags in which your iPhone can remain dry regardless of the soup its in, cases made of aircraft grade aluminum or graphite ( I assume to guard against drive-by shootings), there are even cases which guaranty that your phone will survive a drop of fifty feet onto concrete (50 ft)!!! The primary focus of these types of cases is extreme protection, and you’d have to be leading a fairly active lifestyle for them to make sense. (I suppose people do take calls while hanging off the side of a mountain or surfing a 20 foot wave. Maybe in my younger days…)

For my friend whose phones have Olympic swim team aspirations, and for those of us leading less extremely active lifestyles, a case that protects against more common spills, dunks, and drops and still leaves the iPhone pocketable and recognizable might be more useful. That’s the thinking that went into the design of LifeProof cases.

The folks at LifeProof say that an iPhone in one of their cases can survive a fall from about 6 feet, a dive to about 6 feet, and all manner of dust, dirt, mud, and gunk.

LifeProof case

The case comes in two pieces, the large piece covers the front and sides and has a gasket around the edge. The back piece snaps onto the front forming an watertight seal. There’s a screw-in plug for the included screw-in headphone adapter. (More about that later.) The dock port has a sealed swing-open door that snaps tightly shut to keep moisture and dust out.

The material that covers the screen is integrated into the case and it allows you to use the touch screen almost as easily as if it were naked.

There are several openings in the case, over mic and speaker areas. The material that covers these openings allow sound the pass through, but not water and dust.

There’s also a glass camera and flash port on the back cover. This means you can take photos and movies with the case on. Purists won’t like another layer of glass in front of the camera, but most folks will be pleased at how little the glass affects photos. In fact, you won’t be so afraid to take you phone to the beach. You can go swimming with your iPhone and use it to take underwater videos, complete with sound! Or, if you’re the athletic type, you can get a set of waterproof headsets and swim laps while listening to music or podcasts.

Unlike other protective cases, when the LifeProof case is on your phone it only slightly increases its size. The case doesn’t rely on padding to protect, instead it is ablative, designed to take a licking so your phone won’t have to. This is why it can be relatively thin and still protect.

LifeProof

It also means that when you do drop your LifeProof covered iPhone it is important that you check the case. The ablative design safely channels the energy from a drop away from the point of impact, which can result in the case separating. This is a good thing, the case “breaks,” but your precious iPhone remains intact. The case easily snaps back together and is ready for more abuse, but if you don’t check it after a drop and it isn’t together then the next drop or dunk may not save you phone from damage.

I learned this the hard way.

I’m almost sure I didn’t check the case between some of the first test drops. As a result the back panel did crack. I replaced the back panel ($30 at an Apple Store. Takes 15 minutes) and dropped the phone well over 30 times since then from varying heights, checking the case each time after a drop.

I’ve had my iPhone 4 encapsulated in a LifeProof case for about 6 weeks now. During that time I’ve tossed and dropped it on concrete, asphalt,and ceramic tile floors, drowned it in tubs of water, and buried it in sand, dirt, and mud and I’m happy to report that my iPhone has survived it all.

Beyond the checks, however, protecting your iPhone while allowing to to be useful has its tradeoffs.

Remember the screw-in headphone adapter and plug? The plug is a dinky affair that can go completely unnoticed if you have Bluetooth headsets and never use a wired set for music listening or conversation. If, however, you do use a wired set then that plug and the wired headphone adapter will become a bit of an annoyance because every time you want to use your headsets you have to unscrew that wee plug (good luck if you have fat fingers because it has small threads, which you have to twist, and twist, and twist…), then screw in the adapter, then plug in your headsets. Done listening or talking? Reverse that process. I know it doesn’t sound like much until you do it several times a day. Leaving the adapter in, which is what I tend to do, puts stress on the wiring in the adapter. Mine has developed a break in the wired and I have to hold it a certain way to listen to music. Not good.

To make matter worse, that little plug is so easy to lose. LifeProof gives you two. Good thing, I lost the first one a day after getting the case. And you need that hole plugged or your case isn’t waterproof. So, if you lose both plug you now must walk around with this dangly wire that looks like a flaccid antenna. Again, not a good thing.

LifeProof

One other annoyance is the dock opening. It is nearly impossible to use any dock cable other than the one that came with your iPhone. They just won’t fit. If you don’t buy the US$19.95 dock extender then using any dockable speakers or other dockable accessories you may have already invested in is out of the question.

These vexations are not major, but they will affect you and how you use your iPhone, and you should be mindful of them.

Bottom Line

You can lay down big money for cases that do an excellent job of protecting your iPhone, but often that protective cocoon makes your phone bulky and tough to use. LifeProof is different. Their case does not add appreciably to your iPhone’s runway model figure, yet it protects from the more common spills, drops, and dunks that often occur to devices belonging to regular Joes and Jills.

It’s not perfect. The small, dark headphone port plug can be a challenge for some to remove and replace, which you may do often if you use a wired headset, and its just waiting to get lost. You also have to carry around the headphone adapter. Something else to lose.

LifeProof now sells two versions of their case. The only difference between Generations 1 and 2 is the extra bumper on the Gen 2 that gives added protection to the volume buttons and ringer switch. The jury is still out on whether it’s worth US$10 for the extra bit of Gen 2 plastic.

Docking, as with most cases, can be an issue, but the dock opening in the LifeProof case may add to your frustration unless you elect to pay extra for the extender.

Even with these irritations a LifeProof case on your iPhone 4 or 4s should keep it safe and ding free while you explore the urban jungle, which is why I can Highly Recommend* this case. LifeProof cases are available at Best Buy and Amazon.

Review Item LifeProof iPhone Case
Manufacturer LifeProof
List Price

US$69.95 for Gen 1

US$79.95 for Gen 2

Minimum Requirements

All iPhones 4 and 4s

 

* Note: My rating system goes like this;

  • Get it Now! - Highest rating and an absolute must-have
  • Highly recommend - Minor flaws, but a great product
  • Recommend - Flawed, but still a solid product
  • So-so - Problem product that may find a niche market
  • Avoid - Why did they bother making it? A money waster.

 

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26 Comments Leave Your Own

Trish C.

I agree, the case is fabulous.  I’ve had mine for two weeks and love it to death. My husband likes his too, especially since he figured out it will fit in a belt case for a Droid X.  Their customer service, however, is abysmal.  I can’t recommend their case to my friends because it’s absolutely impossible to get a hold of them if there is a problem or a question.

Gary

For great products and customer service, check-out www.crimsoncase.com

wab95

Vern:

Excellent pick. Once I get my 4S, I may just get one of these.

Cheers.

dstrickler

I’ve had my case for about a week, and it’s been dropped, taken videos in a swimming pool of my kids, and generally abused. I am happy to report it’s working perfectly, with my 4S happily living inside.

I do agree with Vern on the audio adapter (I don’t use mine), and on the dock connector (I am about to get an adapter for my car). However, these are minor annoyances since my 4S is so well protected.

Also note that the light sensor seems to be blocked on the black case. They have noted this on their web site, and seem to be replacing the cases as requested.

wab95

Also note that the light sensor seems to be blocked on the black case. They have noted this on their web site, and seem to be replacing the cases as requested.

Does this mean that they are coming out with a new (modified) case?

dstrickler

Does this mean that they are coming out with a new (modified) case?

I can only guess that it’s a new front, and not the whole case, as the back operates just fine.

Apple Guru

we tested and retested this case on our iPhone 4S. It passed, check it out at http://www.theiphoneaddict.com news and accessories.

katinhouston

DO NOT, whatever you do, order a case from Lifeproof!!!!! I ordered 4 cases from different companies for my 4s with the intention of deciding which one that I liked the best and returning the remainders. (I know I was out the shipping but it was a necessary expense in my mind to find the right case for me.)  I have successfully returned all of the cases but the life proof case for minimal charges.  I have tried to reach them via their website (the url at the bottom of their own packing slip is bad), Via their contact email on their website (I recvd a form return email stating that they were very busy and would get back with me in a few days (WTF, this is 2011 right?) that was 10 days ago. Via their 1-800 number (left on hold for 10 minutes then got a recording stating that no one could answer my phone call and to lease a msg).  I just cannot believe this company.  The absolute WORST customer service I have ever encountered.  Every time that you try to contact them, it is like running in a circle.  And of course this was the most expensive case that I purchased to try out!  I was going to send it back because it feels like very cheap plastic. BUYER BE WARNED.

Rossy

DO NOT, whatever you do, order a case from Lifeproof!!!!! I ordered 4 cases from different companies for my 4s with the intention of deciding which one that I liked the best and returning the remainders. (I know I was out the shipping but it was a necessary expense in my mind to find the right case for me.)  I have successfully returned all of the cases but the life proof case for minimal charges.  I have tried to reach them via their website (the url at the bottom of their own packing slip is bad), Via their contact email on their website (I recvd a form return email stating that they were very busy and would get back with me in a few days (WTF, this is 2011 right?) that was 10 days ago. Via their 1-800 number (left on hold for 10 minutes then got a recording stating that no one could answer my phone call and to lease a msg).  I just cannot believe this company.  The absolute WORST customer service I have ever encountered.  Every time that you try to contact them, it is like running in a circle.  And of course this was the most expensive case that I purchased to try out!  I was going to send it back because it feels like very cheap plastic. BUYER BE WARNED.

DUDE! Whingy whiney whinger. Im sending it back cos it feels cheap?? No, don’t test things for your self just touch them and assume its crap, its an awesome case nuff said!!

Lauren

Great Case and Superior Protection.  I’ve encountered the iLoc Case and found it to be a great alternative for casual use like hanging at the pool or at the beach.  And it’s only a buck for a couple cases.  I picked up a couple at http://www.ilocstore.com

Kourosh Mohammadi

This device does not work. My name is Kourosh Mohammadi (ostadkourosh@yahoo.com) I just bought one of these for almost 80 dollars from best buy. Put it in my pocket to go to the beach for a few days. Now my iphone has water damage. I will have to pay another >300 dollars at least to replace it. Would not buy this thing! I tried to call their toll free number and it did not work. Very nice.

Dusty - LifeProof

I agree, the case is fabulous.? I?ve had mine for two weeks and love it to death. My husband likes his too, especially since he figured out it will fit in a belt case for a Droid X.? Their customer service, however, is abysmal.? I can?t recommend their case to my friends because it?s absolutely impossible to get a hold of them if there is a problem or a question.

Our Customer Service has been our top concern. We were hit hard with interest following the 4S release. We have more than quadrupled our support staff but it will take a little longer to get our response times to 4 hours within business hours. Thank you for the support you will soon be able to recommend us to your friends:)

-Dusty (Social Media Manager)

Dusty - LifeProof

This device does not work. My name is Kourosh Mohammadi (ostadkourosh@yahoo.com) I just bought one of these for almost 80 dollars from best buy. Put it in my pocket to go to the beach for a few days. Now my iphone has water damage. I will have to pay another >300 dollars at least to replace it. Would not buy this thing! I tried to call their toll free number and it did not work. Very nice.

Sorry to hear about your phone Kourosh. If you did the water test, something may have happened since they to cause the leak. We have thousands of customers out there who have had great experiences with their LifeProof but it does require a certain amount of care and maintenance. I apologize that we did not answer your call. Our customer service is back logged at the moment but very shortly we will be very responsive. I will send an email to the address you listed.

-Dusty (LifeProof Social Media Manager)

NFLisBoring

I bought one of these yesterday and I’m not sold on it.  The Best Buy had about 10 left and all of the boxes were the same except one had a logo that said for “4 and 4s”  -  I’m not sure if there was a difference between the ones that didn’t have it.

I tried to call them today about 3 times and I left a message first thing this morning when their offices opened.  Now 3:46pm at their office and still no return call.  Worst customer service I have seen in awhile. I’m sure some lifeproofer will be on here tomorrow saying they have quadrupled their staff. I think they need to spend more time returning calls instead of playing on message boards.

The case is solid and I like how it is waterproof, but I have no plans on putting in underwater.  The thing I hate the most is that it’s about impossible to unplug the charger and yes I am using an Apple charger. 

I’m about to leave on a trip where it will be wet. I plan on returning this thing first chance I get just based on the charger and customer service alone

Mike

I was going to order a LifeProof case until I heard about the bad customer service. Now I think I’ll take my business elsewhere. Thanks for your reviews.

dstrickler

Mine is still working perfectly after a few months. Yes, their customer support was bad, but it’s gotten better. And if you’re looking for a competitor, you won’t find one. There’s nothing even close to this case on the market. The cases are amazing, and in the end, isn’t that what you’re buying?

If the case works well, why are you so conceded about customer support being slow to respond (and yes, they do respond)?

Trish C

Customer service response is an issue because what if the case *doesn’t* work correctly?  Or in my case, they send you the wrong order and then don’t get back to you for 6 weeks?

NFLisBoring

3 weeks now and they never called back. I took my case back and got an otter and I am very happy with it

The lifeproof case was affecting my picture quality. All pictures taken with the lifeproof case were fuzzy

Vern Seward

Hello all,
I’ve been reading your comments and I recently spoke to my media contact to LifeProof about the customer support issue. My contact said that LifeProof is aware of the issue and is working hard to fix it. They attribute their lag in support to growing pains.

My media contact forwarded a letter issued by LifeProof’s CEO, Gary Rayner, that was sent to many of its customers who’ve experienced poor support. Here it is in its entirety:

Dear LifeProof Customer,

I would personally like to express my sincere apology to you for the slow response from our LifeProof customer support team.  I have recently learned that some LifeProof customers have been waiting for a response from us for up to several weeks. While this is inexcusable, I would like to offer you the reasons for this delay and our plans to correct the situation.

Since LifeProof became available on our web store and through a major US retailer, we have experienced a twentyfold increase in sales and inquiries. Being a young company, we did not anticipate this growth and did not have enough customer service personnel to cope with the volume of calls and emails.  As a result, our customer service and phone system utterly crashed under the load.

In response, we are multiplying our customer service staff eight-fold. Additionally, we have increased our customer service management and are installing new customer service software and new phone systems so we can respond quickly and efficiently.  However, it may still be a few weeks until we are able to work through the backlog.

We understand your frustration and anger. For this, we are truly sorry. We will honor all warranty periods and refund requests if these have expired due to the lateness of our response.  Our commitment is to respond personally to everyone who contacts us.

My personal commitment to you is that we will fix our service issues as quickly as possible.  We appreciate your support and look forward to providing the kind of service you expect from a quality brand like LifeProof.

Most sincerely,

Gary Rayner.  CEO.  LifeProof.

Trish C

My media contact forwarded a letter issued by LifeProof?s CEO, Gary Rayner, that was sent to many of its customers who?ve experienced poor support. Here it is in its entirety:

Yeah, I got that letter too.  Then I got a letter from their “new” support team accusing me of lying about receiving the wrong items, and then a different letter offering to accept the wrong items back if I paid for the return shipping.

Sorry, still not impressed.  My CC company knew how to do customer service right: they refunded all my money back when I told them what was going on.

NFLisBoring

that letter has been circulating around for several weeks. It’s like the whole company is a scam

Vern Seward

that letter has been circulating around for several weeks. It?s like the whole company is a scam

I’m not defending the company or its practices, and you are, of course, welcome to your opinion, but I think calling them “a scam” is a bit harsh. I’ve had the case for a while and it works as advertised thus far.

I haven’t had a need to call their customer service, so I can’t comment on it.

What I can do is see if my media contact can get me in touch with the company, and I can then ask a few pointed questions about their service and what they are doing to fix any problems they may have.

I can’t and won’t talk about individual cases, but I can see if there’s someone willing to talk about the circumstances in general.

I’ll keep you all posted.

Vern Seward

LifeProof -Dusty Sherriffs (Social Media Manager)

Here is the latest letter to our customers from our CEO regarding the current state of our Customer Service. Thank you for your understanding!

Dear LifeProof Customer,

A few weeks ago, I wrote to you regarding some of the challenges we were experiencing in trying to manage thousands of customer inquiries, explaining our circumstances and asking for your patience. I am happy to report that we have cleared weeks of inquiry backlog and are now responding to your requests as they reach us.  We appreciate your patience and understanding during this challenging period.

As I explained previously, LifeProof has been experiencing unprecedented growth. As a young company, we were initially unprepared to handle the overwhelming response. However, once we recognizedthis problem, we immediately put a plan into effect, which took some time and a lot of effort to become fully operational.

Throughout this process, our goal has been to respond to each and every one of you personally and handle your requests. This required us to hire and train many additional customer service staff and have them review all outstanding requests from weeks of backlog.  Answering older requests was just as important to us as dealing with newer inquiries.

We are now able to answer your calls within minutes and emails within one or two business days, or sooner for issues that are more urgent.  For your convenience, our telephone number is +1-619-324-7755 and our email address is support@lifeproof.com.

We appreciate your support and look forward to providing you with outstanding customer service from LifeProof.

Most sincerely,

Gary Rayner, CEO.

Am

I just got my lifeproof case yesterday and I have a question concerning the 2 bottom microphone openings. If you look from the inside of the case, they are not made the same (right?). One has a thin smooth grey layer covering the opening (like the top speaker one), the other one: a thin black screen, and the membrane inside is wrinkled… This is my concern. Can anyone tell me if your case seems to be made the same way? I worried that it could compromise the waterproof featrue…
thanx

Dusty Sherriffs (LifeProof Social Media Manager)

I just got my lifeproof case yesterday and I have a question concerning the 2 bottom microphone openings. If you look from the inside of the case, they are not made the same (right?). One has a thin smooth grey layer covering the opening (like the top speaker one), the other one: a thin black screen, and the membrane inside is wrinkled? This is my concern. Can anyone tell me if your case seems to be made the same way? I worried that it could compromise the waterproof featrue

You are correct, the vents serve different purposes so they aren meant to look different. The “wrinkle” is normal and wont affect the waterproofness. Thanks!

Stacie Corcoran Wanicki

How can a company claim their product is water proof, dirt proof, snow proof, and SHOCK PROOF not offer any support when their product didn’t protect the phone.  It was dropped from less than 2 feet and the phone cracked.  There was no damage to the case, but there was damage to the phone.  The case was recently replaced since the last one was damaged.  They were good about that.  However, I think they should do something about the phone that THEIR SHOCK PROOF product did not protect.  Maybe it is SHOCK RESISTANT, but it is not SHOCK PROOF.  Sorry… I will not buy another Lifeproof case, simply because it did not live up to it’s claim.  Very disappointed with the customer service and their “too bad for you attitude.”

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