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Why the Lifeproof FRĒ Phone Case?
I was a bit sceptical about buying a Lifeproof FRĒ phone case for my phone, especially as I am so careful with my belongings. I have never needed nor had phone insurance and have also never dropped or damaged a phone. I’ve seen tons of other people’s phones with cracked screens and dents in them, but as I’m so careful with my kit, why would I need a case?
When I got a new iPhone back in October 2016, I had it case-free for several months whilst living in London. But then I travelled to Hawaii, and was persuaded that I would regret not having a case because I’d be at the beach so often. My friends are paddlers on traditional Hawaiian outrigger canoes, and because of that spend a lot of time in the water. I saw how necessary a protective case would be for them, but for me – I really didn’t understand why they were pushing it so much.
After a few weeks in Hawaii, though, I gave in. I started paddling too, and was living in Hilo, notorious for heavy downpours. After seeing these cases in action, I heeded the advice and promptly bought a bit of plastic protection for my mobile. And boy has it been worth its weight in gold!
The Lifeproof FRĒ phone case isn’t the cheapest phone protection on the market, which was another reason I was dubious about purchasing it, but within days it had proved its worth. I went cycling and got caught out in a tremendous storm. The road turned in to a river and I was soaked through. But my phone was dry as a desert in its trusty case. I went hiking and camped at the beach. I had no qualms about leaving my phone on the sand, or balancing it high on volcanic rocks. I forded streams with my phone in my pocket and took photos underwater. Through all of these, the case has protected my phone. I’ve also been caving, pack rafting, sea fishing, scrambling over rocks and painting houses (the latter may not sound particularly adventurous, but when you’re high up on scaffolding having drop protection is fantastic, not to mention that paint on a case wipes off easily, whereas paint directly on the screen of your device may not). It really is go everywhere, do everything protection.
Lifeproof claim that their FRĒ cases have four ‘proofs’ – waterproof, dirt proof, snow proof and drop proof. This pretty much covers all bases, but let’s look in depth at the nitty gritty.
The case is submersible to 2 metres (6.6 feet) for up an hour. That’s plenty of time to drop your phone in the swimming pool, go have a coffee and then return later to collect it. For any water based recreation, you’re pretty well covered unless you’re going scuba diving, in which case you’ll probably not be taking your phone with you anyway. For your standard swimming/snorkelling/surfing/paddling/pack rafting/waterfall showering/river crossing/wet weathering activities, this case won’t let any of the wet stuff in.
I’m a bit of a dirt monkey. I try and keep clean but mud, sand and grit tend to be attracted to me. When cycling on New Zealand’s 90 Mile Beach, not only did the bike and myself get covered in sand and salt, but so did my phone. Or at least, my phone case. The way the case is designed means it is fully sealed from dust and dirt. This is great not only for outdoor activity, but also for any situations where you’ll come across dusty conditions. I’ve started doing some work as a painter, so my phone has been on building sites, covered in paint, dust and plaster, but a simple wipe down after work or activities means it looks almost as good as new again. (I say almost, as it has got a few notches in, but at least it’s the case that has the notches and not the phone itself).
Lifeproof say their cases are closed to ice and snow. Whilst I cannot vouch for this – I’ve not been near any snow since having it – as it seals so well to dust, dirt and water, there’s no reason it wouldn’t perform in snowy conditions.
Whatever the U.S Military standard for drop and shock protection is, the Lifeproof FRĒ phone case meets it. I try not to drop my phone, but there are occasions when it finds itself jumping off furniture or taking a leap on to the floor from a table just for fun. As I write this, I have purposefully dropped the phone to see what happens. It bounces. You, too, can have the fun of watching your phone bounce from a height of 2 metres (6.6 feet) without fear of damage. Bring it on!
As mentioned above, Lifeproof FRĒ phone cases meet the U.S Military standard for drop and shock protection. The case is also classed as IP-68, meeting the international standard for Ingress Protection (IP). If, like me, you have no idea what this means, Lifeproof’s website helpfully informs that ‘6 and 8 are the highest ratings for solids and liquids. IP-68 rated cases withstand circulating talc for 8 hours’. Quite why you would want to circulate talc around your phone for 8 hours I don’t know, but it’s good to know that if you’re bored you can pass the time doing this without damaging your precious device.
Design & Features
I’m not overly fussed about aesthetics – form and function are far more important – but the Lifeproof cases aren’t hideous and come in a range of colours. Lifeproof make cases for all phone models so finding one to fit wasn’t a problem.
When I first bought the case, the instructions told me to submerge it underwater (without the phone in it) to check the waterprooficity, which they do in their factory anyway but it’s best to double check at home too. Satisfied that it held up to the test, I snapped it on to my phone.
The case comes in two parts – the back and the front – and they neatly close together. There’s no risk of it coming off accidentally. It’s a perfectly snug fit, and to take the cover off, you need something like a coin to hook under a lip at the base of the case and then prise it open. To say it’s sturdy is an understatement!
Although it does bulk out your phone a bit, it’s not overtly huge. It’s very light so doesn’t add much weight to your phone which is great for when you’re counting the grams on a hiking trip. It’s also quite ‘grippy’ – there’s little chance of it slipping accidentally out of your hand.
The volume, silent mode and power buttons are all in the right places, and using them doesn’t require any extra effort. When you first get your case, make sure not to lose the little black bit of plastic which is inserted in the silent mode button area. The sound works perfectly when talking on the phone or when on loudspeaker. There’s no interference with the camera, either forward or back, which is an issue I have had with fancy leather cases (which offer little or no protection!) in the past.
A nice feature is the headphone port. When not using headphones, it’s tucked away using an integrated screw. When you want to use headphones, it takes a few seconds to unscrew and plug your headphones in. The case also comes with a headphone adaptor, so whether you’re in driving rain or a sandstorm, you can use this simple attachment to prevent damage. It’s a nice little extra which has been well thought out.
To charge the phone, you simply unclick a slot where the charging port is. It definitely feels solid and there’s an audible ‘click’ when you pop it back on after charging so you know it’s on correctly. Unfortunately, Lifeproof don’t have a charging adaptor solution like the headphone adaptor, so I wouldn’t feel confident charging my phone whilst pack rafting, but I have charged it whilst cycling in the rain, with the charging port facing down away from the rain.
The phone functions exactly as it would without the case. The screen scratch protector is built in, so there’s no fiddling about trying to smooth out air bubbles which you get when using tempered glass. The screen protector does not affect the touch screen at all under normal conditions, and you can still use the fingerprint scanner (if your phone supports this) with no issues. However, if it gets wet – and I mean, really wet – and your hands are wet too – using the touchscreen can be annoying, as it doesn’t respond the way that it should. By this, I mean that if you are trying to open the camera on your phone with wet hands in the rain, you’ll unintentionally open everything except the camera. If your hands are dry though, it doesn’t present this problem. A little hack to get around the camera issue is using the volume buttons to take pictures, rather than the camera button on screen. Of course, this doesn’t help if you want to zoom in on a map. I have only had this issue a handful of times in 9 months – on boats getting soaked with sea spray, paddling in the pack raft, and once cycling in a deluge. A little hack for this is to keep the microfibre cloth (supplied with the case) on you so that in wet conditions you can wipe the screen and your fingers before use.
Its unusual for me to sing the praises of a product so much. I’ve had my Lifeproof FRĒ phone case for over 9 months now, and wouldn’t ever consider not using a Lifeproof case on a phone again. There are a few notches in the case which, had it not been on, would undoubtedly have destroyed the phone or at least some of its functions.
I continue to be careful with my phone, but now I don’t worry if it gets wet in the rain, or covered in mud, or dropped on the floor. It’s not only given my phone protection, but also given me peace of mind. After all, who doesn’t rely on their phone nowadays for pretty much everything? It would really suck if I couldn’t check where I was going on maps, find out where the best accommodation in the area is or order a takeaway and check my emails because of a preventable cracked screen.
My only criticism of the case design is that it does not have a loop to attach a cord to. When pack rafting, I like to use my phone for photos, and am always a bit nervous I will drop the phone in the water. Lifeproof make little inflatable jackets for iPads (they really have thought of everything!) but not yet for phones. Watch this space. I know that in its case my phone will survive a good swim, however if it drops to murky depths I doubt I will be able to find the phone on the ocean floor. A small loop attachment would mean I could wrap it around my wrist or tie it on to one of the boat loops, but it’s a minor complaint for an otherwise excellent product.
- Durable. You can throw this at anything, submerge it, drop it, take it to the extreme – and your device is still good as new.
- Water, dirt, snow & drop proof. What else do you need?!
- Screen protector is built in – so no air bubbles!
- Sound quality is not affected by the case, either when using speaker or microphone mode.
- No interference with the camera lens, which is an issue I’ve had with leather cases.
- Headphone adapter is a nice little touch.
- Dust, dirt, mud and other messes easily wipe off.
- Removing the case is purposefully difficult, requiring a coin to wedge it open, meaning it won’t accidentally come off.
- Light weight.
- The materials it’s made from make it easy to grip and handle.
- Screen performance is affected in wet conditions – so taking pictures or using other touch screen functions is compromised in the rain/during water based activities.
- No wrist strap loop. There is a way of attaching a wrist strap to a Lifeproof FRĒ phone case, but this involves removing the headphone adapter completely (not just unscrewing it, but pulling it out of it’s holder) and attaching the wrist strap in its place. You can then reattach the headphone adapter by screwing it in, but the piece of plastic that attaches to the case will be left hanging, so this is a temporary, and not great fix.
- No charging adapter for outdoor charging, which is a pain for outdoor enthusiasts. You need to be in a fairly static environment to charge – in a tent or somewhere dry but without dust – before opening the charging port.
Who is this product for?
If you are a traveller, enjoy outdoor pursuits or have a job which means you’re out and about a lot, the Lifeproof FRĒ phone case is invaluable. Since first sticking it on my phone, it has been subjected to all manner of muck, water and droppage, and has survived heartily. It doesn’t matter how careful you are, sometimes accidents happen – and Lifeproof cases are there to protect your devices from these instances. It’s an awesome case and a great company – they also give you a one-year warranty on their products. Another bonus is the case works brilliantly with the QUADLOCK universal adapter and bike mount for the ultimate in bike touring adventure gear. (Lifeproof have their own bike mount, but I haven’t tried that). These two products combined have me pedalling all over the world, safe in the knowledge that my technology is secure. With phones costing more than computers nowadays, I can’t recommend Lifeproof’s protection highly enough. After all – what price is piece of mind?
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Lifeproof make cases for major brands and devices – iPhone 4 onwards, most of the iPads, Samsung Galaxy and others. There’s plenty of accessories too – including the bike mount and even a life jacket for your devices!