Real Review: LifeProof frē iPhone 5 Case


LifeProof requires that you water-test their cases prior to installation.

Author Douglas Adams quipped, “A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools.” That, my friends completely sums up my experience with what should be the ultimate iPhone case, the LifeProof frē for iPhone 5.

Let me back up by saying that prior to purchasing my first iPhone, I habitually ruined a cellphone almost every year. Whether it was crawling under a car, heaving something heavy up into the bed of a truck or just tooling around; if it was in my pocket, it was doomed. I crushed, soaked or cracked one flip phone after another.

But forking over a few hundred dollars at the Apple store quickly changed how I handled my phone and was immediately terrified of ruining it.

Unfortunately, our LifeProof frē case couldn’t hold up to the rigors of being in Kevin Shaw’s pants.

We struggled with the tactility of the touchscreen protective cover – keystrokes and finger swipes were muted and often too insulated explaining our miserable scores while playing Candy Crush.

After a few plastic and rubberized cases, I turned to LifeProof. True to the advertising, LifeProof’s protective case was significantly thinner, lighter, and more accessible than other cases I used.

I specifically opted for the frē for its waterproof capabilities – for obvious reasons. Fully submersible up to six and half feet, the case features an integrated scratch protector designed to preserve the iPhone’s touchscreen. While LifeProof claims it as “ultra flat and ultra clear,” the scratch protector is anything but unnoticeable.

Better than other protective cases for sure, the touchscreen protector is still insulating, making keystrokes and finger swipes less precise and clunky. It also was far from glare-free. But again, that’s not a deal-breaker.

LifeProof does offer the hilariously Ikea-spelled “nüüd” model, which is far less obtrusive than the frē, but offers significantly less protection, and protection was what I was looking for.

The frē case does permit for all iPhone5 functions – camera, microphone and speakers – but through waterproof filters and covers. Accessing the new Apple power port is an insulated plastic flip door that snaps shut. The headphone port is sealed off with a O-ringed and threaded plastic screw cap.

The massive LifeJacket float cover offers exceptional visibility thanks to its bright orange coloring and much added shock absorption.

Inside the waterproof case, pictures never revealed the presence of the anti-reflective optical-glass camera lens. When taking video, the microphone didn’t sound muffled. While touting total protection from dirt and dust, I continually found the inside of my frē dusty.

Using my phone as often as I did, I began to really struggle with the touchscreen cover. Only months into using my frē case, I lost the first of two of my headphone port screw-in plugs. The second vanished shortly thereafter. Finally, it was the plastic power cover that cracked in two, rendering the case completely useless as a protective cover.

Although this case claimed to be LifeProof, it certainly wasn’t KevinProof. But again, I have to admit how horribly hard I am on phones, and the frē did deliver as promised in several instances: it still was the slimmest, most streamlined waterproof case I have ever encountered, and not once did water ever penetrate the sealed case.

And adding some serious bonus points were the LifeProof suction cup mount and the absurdly bulky but 100-percent functional LifeJacket Float cover. The LifeJacket added an absurd amount of shock absorption that it literally bounced across the floor without even dropping a call. While neither of these offset losing the headphone jack plugs or breaking the power port door, they did make ownership more enjoyable.

The short video below was taken using the LifeProof mount and the frē case, making my iPhone a makeshift GoPro camera.

If you’re looking to score a great deal on a LifeProof case of your own, make sure to check out their coupon page HERE.

LifeProof manages to imbue their products with small details that make a world of difference but can go unnoticed. Case in point: the LifeJacket features a beveled matte black shroud so as to not block or glare your iPhone’s camera.

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Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Editor-in-Chief – kevin.shaw@shawgroupmedia.com Kevin Shaw is a decade-long powersports and automotive journalist whose love for things that go too fast has led him to launching The Watercraft Journal. Almost always found with stained hands and dirt under his fingernails, Kevin has an eye for the technical while keeping a eye out for beautiful photography and a great story.

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