Having been very pleased the iPhone 4 version of the LifeProof case when I reviewed it last year, I was eager to try out LifeProof’s new offering for the iPhone 5.
On opening up the package I was taken with the sleek styling and two-toned coloring of the case. A nice gray bezel on the front and solid white on the back, with a small icon-shaped window to display the apple logo on the back. It looks rather sexy on my white iPhone 5, and despite its protection, adds a minimal amount of bulk.
Like the previous model, it is a two piece design with internal rubber gaskets embedded in the back half as well as on the small hinged door for the lightning connector port. The front cover has a built-in screen protector and all external buttons have rubberized covers that feel great to the touch. The headphone jack has a plug that gets screwed in and the case comes with a special dongle that must be used when listening with headphones. A minor inconvenience, but par for the course when it comes to his type of case and necessary for maintain waterproofing.
The first order of business when opening any new LifeProof case is to run through the standard 45 minute waterproofing test where you submerge the empty (ie no phone inside), sealed case in water. The LifeProof passed with flying colors, so now I was ready to put it on my phone. Using compressed air and a sterile environment to make sure there was no dust or debris, I was able to easily to install my phone into the case. Once inside the rear of the case, the phone felt very secure and attaching the back cover feels akin to closing one of the finest pieces of Tupperware ever made. This thing is sealed up tight!
Now it was time to put the case through its paces, so I set about my business, using my phone as usual, which meant that it went through a LOT of daily use. Sure there was the everyday stuff like phone calls, emails and gaming, all of which felt great, with no noticeable loss in sensitivity from the LifeProof‘s built-in screen protector. Though I did notice that with the phone in my front pocket, it was easy to accidentally trigger Siri if I bent over, resulting in a few looks when I tied my shoe in the break room at work. Then came the more interesting challenges, you know the real-life events that you don’t necessarily see coming, but which test the character of your case. Things like your wife accidentally tossing your phone several feet off the couch onto a lightly carpeted hardwood floor while straightening up or your daughter handling it like it’s her own toy phone or accidentally dropping it into her plate at a restaurant. Yes these did all happen, and yes the LifeProof (and my phone) survived just fine. And if my family hadn’t tortured it enough, I decided to use my LifeProof protected phone in the middle of a blizzard to check my email, play some games and make a phone. The LifeProof fared better than my glove-less fingers.
Successful feats of protection aside, I did run into a few minor issues. Despite taking great care when inserting the phone, some time into my usage, dust (and even a few sand particles) had somehow made it into the case, forcing me to pull it out, clean and re-install the iPhone. Seeing as it should be completely waterproof, I have no idea how this happened, unless it was the offending particles somehow entered through the lighting adapter door when the phone was charging. Another issue that came up a few times was small spot of rainbowing/oil slick in one area of the screen, that was especially noticeable when that area of the screen was displaying a darker color (or nothing at all). There is a picture of this below.
This tends to be a common issue with built-in screen protectors, but not one I ever saw with the iPhone 4 version of this case. I was able to temporarily resolve it by re-seating the phone, but it kept coming back. I contacted LifeProof about this issue and they pointed me to some instructions on how to fix it, I followed these (though not the baby powder part) and so far (over 24 hours later) things still seem to be okay, but only time will tell if this is the last I’ve seen of this issue. To LifeProof’s credit, they have offered to exchange the case should I see the issue again.
Unfortunately one sticking point for me on the LifeProof case continues to be that while the company does adequately warranty the case from defects, it absolves itself from any iPhone damage claims should the case fail to actually protect it from water.
The terms of the warranty clearly state: “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. Notwithstanding any other provision of this agreement, LifeProofs’ maximum combined liability shall be limited to the cost for the specific product only“. This is something that I hope to see them rectify in the future and the sole reason I cannot fully endorse this case. This means the most you’d be able to recover should the waterproofing fail is the cost of your case.
Next month Incipio is releasing their own waterproof case, a direct competitor for the LifeProof case called The ATLAS, which will come with one phone replacement within the first year of ownership, should the case’s waterproofing fail. Though I’m certain offering a guarantee like this opens them up to all manner of fraudulent claims, the have an insurance company that covers the cost of any claims. I really think LifeProof needs to consider something like this as well.
While the lack of water damage warranty may keep me from being willing to purposely submerge my phone in water solely in the name of this review, having the LifeProof case on my iPhone 5 DOES make me much less on edge when using my phone near a body of water. Like a life jacket on a boat, you hope you never have to use it, having the LifeProof on your iPhone 5 provides you that peace of mind knowing that if your phone happens to come into contact with water, the LifeProof case should protect it. Since installing the LifeProof case about a month ago, I have had no second thoughts about using my phone in the rain or out in the snow and on a recent family vacation to Florida, I had no hesitation about pulling out my phone while standing ankle-deep in the ocean to take videos of my daughters playing at the beach.
If you’re looking for peace of mind solid all around protection (including waterproofing) for your iPhone 5 the LifeProof case is well worth the money. There are a number of other waterproof case options coming out later this year from other manufacturers, but there is no other iPhone 5 case available right now (that I know of) that offers as complete of a protection package as the LifeProof. Everyone who’ve I recommended the LifeProof case to has been very satisfied with their purchase.
You can purchase the case for $79.99 directly from LifeProof’s website in an array of 5 different colors and at a number of retail chains nationwide. LifeProof also offers a number of accessories like armbands, bike and car mounts, and even a LifeJacket which keeps your iPhone buoyant and afloat in water.
Note that LifeProof ONLY warranties cases purchased from their website or one of their authorized online and retail partners.
I received a replacement case from the folks at LifeProof, but it also started showing the annoying rainbowing/oil slick in one area of the screen as well. It seems like the built-in screen protector on this case just doesn’t sit flush enough with the iPhone’s screen. It is frustrating because the iPhone 4 version of this case did not have this issue. I’ve deducted 0.5 stars from the review score to reflect this.