When we purchased an iPhone 4S for my wife (her first iPhone) we knew we’d either have to get an Apple Care warranty or a really good case.

We opted for the LifeProof case and haven’t regretted the decision for a second!

My wife is a stay at home mom, a job that on most days is rougher than my 45-minute often traffic-filled commute and cube-bound 9 to 5 combined. We’ve got two little girls (ages 5 and 2.5) that not only get into anything any everything they are not supposed to, but have been known (on multiple occasions) to use iDevices as projectiles. While not quite offering Military Grade testing, our little “angels” have certainly done their best to thwart the LifeProof case. However I’m getting a little ahead of myself, first I’ll give you some information about the case.

The LifeProof case is a two piece design with a waterproofing rubber gasket and built-in scratch-resistant screen protector. It has a nice grippy feel on the sides and adds a minimal amount of bulk and weight. Although, it does make the phone a little wider and a taller, but overall it is much less bulky than something like the Otterbox Defender.

The built-in screen protector rarely effects touch sensitivity and doesn’t have any of the annoying puddling effect that you sometimes see where it looks almost like water is trapped between your screen and screen protector. There is a plug that screws into the headphone jack when not in use to maintain the waterproof seal. Depending on your headphones, you may need to use the special dongle to get them to fit into the recessed jack. The built-in speakers and mic have acoustic waterproof vents and we’ve had no issues with muffled sound or anything of that sort. Though it is worth noting that we did notice that while in the case, my wife’s iPhone 4S would often show one less bar of WiFi and/or cell strength than my iPhone 4 (which is in a less-protective Speck PixelSkin HD case.

There is a hard flap on the bottom of the case that not only helps maintain a firm seal between the front and back of the case, but also locks into place to keep the 30-pin connector waterproof as well. The one issue that we had with this design element, is that it makes it a bit more difficult to put the charging/syncing cable in/out of the phone. Also, unless you plan on purchasing the optional $20 dock extender you can pretty much give up on using the Apple’s HDMI-out kit or likely any dock while you have the case on.

LifeProof claims that this iPhone case “delivers the highest level of waterproof, shock-proof, dirt-proof protection”. After nearly 3 months of abuse, the case has held up quite well, with just a few nicks and surface scratches on the back. I could have setup any number of specific test situations, but I figured it was best to just see how the case survived real-life, how a normal person would use it. So I just watched and waited and it wasn’t too long before we had our first “accident” so to speak.

Round One: Emily (Age 5) vs. LifeProof Case

Imagine it’s nearly 6pm and you’ve got a couple hungry and cranky kids distracting you while you are trying to make dinner. You’ve just set them up with their dinner and rush back to the stove to finish making yourself dinner. In your haste, you leave your nearly brand-new iPhone 4S sitting on the kitchen table (thankfully out of the reach of curious little fingers). Your daughter reaches for her nearly full glass of water and accidentally knocks over her cup, sending a raging rapid of liquid rolling toward your unsuspecting (and remember, nearly brand-new) iPhone 4S.

Without the LifeProof case, the situation could have ended tragically, but instead the water never penetrated the iPhone and all was safe. Don’t get me wrong, both of our hearts nearly stopped when we saw everything going down in bullet time, but relief came quickly. You’d be hard-pressed to get me to actually test out Lifeproof’s claims that you swim and take the phone underwater to a depth of 6.6ft depth, but this common real world scenario definitely showed the case lives up to it’s name.

Round Two: Claire (Age 2.5) vs. LifeProof Case

Claire is a Netflix addict! If we leave any of our iDevices around unattended, Claire will immediately grab them swipe on over to the Netflix App and start watching Curious George, Busytown Mysteries or (thankfully) some other age-appropriate fare. The thing you need to know about Claire is that when she’s confronted about having something that she shouldn’t, she doesn’t just hand it over. Instead, her flight instict kick in, she runs away and chucks whatever she’s not supposed to have on the ground behind her as she goes. I think you can probably guess where this story is headed and thanks to the LifeProof case it has a happy ending.

In Conclusion

Accident prone? Have young kids? If you are in the market for a case that will offer the very best of protection for your iPhone, but with very little additional bulk, The LifeProof case will fit that bill and then some. However, if you are someone who regularly uses the dock, or non-Apple-issued headphones then you may find that the cases recessed ports, while offering superior waterproofing may restrict or dampen your enjoyment of this case.

You can purchase the case for $79.99 directly from LifeProof’s website. Additionally, LifeProof just announced that the case is now available at both Staples and AT&T retail stores nationwide, with additional retail partners to be formally announced over the next few months.