Trying to choose the right protective case for your iPhone 4/4S out of hundreds, if not thousands, of cases on the market is a daunting task if there ever was one. Do you go for awesome uber drop/water protection and end up with an iPhone that’s twice the size and looks like it’s straight out of the 1980’s? Or do you pick a case that is slim, sleek, and sophisticated, but doesn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of surviving that impending drop onto concrete or dunk in the lake. Until recently, those were basically the only two overall options available to anyone when it came to choosing what your iPhone 4/4S would be styling.
This is where the LifeProof waterproof iPhone 4S case comes in. The LifeProof case finally allows users to have both an awesome level of protection against dings, drops, dips, and dunks, without sacrificing the slender shape, size, and style that is the iPhone 4/4S. The LifeProof case shines in several other areas where competing cases falter. Unlike many other waterproof iPhone cases, the LifeProof allows the user to continue to have access to all the iPhone 4/4S buttons as well as the headphone jack and the charge/sync port. I can’t stress enough how frustrating it is to have an iPhone in a case that blocks access to ports and buttons - leaving you stuck without the ability to charge your iPhone, use headphones, or even accomplish simple tasks such as adjusting the volume, or hitting the power button. The LifeProof lets you accomplish all the simple tasks that we take for granted. You won’t know how much you miss them until you end up with a case that blocks their use.
Even though the LifeProof allows access to the headphone jack and charge port, I found it does have a few drawbacks that some users might find frustrating. The access to the charge port is very narrow. This means that only cables with the same profile as the cable included with your iPhone 4/4S will be compatible. This can be a problem if you have any 3rd party cables or accessories that plug into the 30-pin charge/sync port. For instance, if you have some form of car mount kit that has a built-in charging capability for your iPhone 4/4S, then I can almost guarantee that the LifeProof case will not be compatible with it. That goes for most accessories that plug into the 30-pin charge/sync port on the bottom of your iPhone 4/4S. There is an optional extension dock adapter that will allow some accessories to work with the LifeProof case but certainly not all of them.
The same problem is true for the headphone jack. The access port for the headphone jack is very narrow and will only support headphone plugs that are as narrow as the headphones included with your iPhone 4/4S. The next problem with this port is that the waterproof plug that you must remove to gain access to the headphone jack is not tethered to the LifeProof case, which makes it very easy to lose such a small item thus rendering your iPhone no longer waterproof. There is an optional headphone adapter that allows you to use waterproof headphones underwater with the LifeProof case, but it’s certainly not something you would want to permanently leave attached.
During my testing, I found the LifeProof case to be very effective at both protecting against impacts as well as full submersion in water. I did, however, find one weakness with this waterproof case. I was utilizing a tactical chest pack with the LifeProof case mounted to it while going down a river on a surfboard. I was lying against the surfboard with the LifeProof pressed between the surfboard and myself. The pressure against the LifeProof must have somehow temporarily deformed the waterproof seal because after a few hours, a little bit of moisture had leaked inside the case. I was forced to sundry my iPhone for a few hours to remedy the situation. Luckily, there was no permanent damage to my iPhone. The lesson here is: don’t severely squish your iPhone while underwater in the LifeProof case or any waterproof case. Other then that little hiccup, the LifeProof case is awesome. The case is rated for underwater use down to 6.6 feet. I successfully used it at this depth for several hours while snorkeling in Hawaii as well as in fresh water lakes without any issues at all. I believe I actually exceeded the rated maximum depth accidentally a few times. Luckily, nothing bad happened. I don’t recommend ever going any deeper than 6 feet just to be safe.
Having a protective iPhone case that can withstand getting wet and getting dropped is great. It dramatically increases your iPhone’s chances to survive being dropped onto a hard surface as well as into bodies of water up to 6 feet deep. But what happens when you drop your iPhone into that lake, river, or ocean that’s much deeper than the 6-foot depth rating of the LifeProof? To put it simply, you’re sunk; it’s game over for your iPhone if this happens, thereby undermining the whole point of having a waterproof iPhone case. The simplest solution to this problem is utilizing a neck or wrist lanyard to prevent the iPhone inside the LifeProof case from ever being dropped in the first place. Sadly, the LifeProof case has no place at all to mount a lanyard. Personally, I see this as a major design flaw and a big mistake by LifeProof. Luckily, LifeProof has come out with The LifeJacket Float. It is an all-in-one add-on solution to both the issue of not having a lanyard as well as the problem of your iPhone sinking down to Davy Jones Locker, never to return. Obviously, as the name states, it floats. It also has a spot to connect a lanyard on each of its four corners and comes with a high quality neck lanyard that is adjustable in length. It is bright orange, blocks access to the charge port, and more then doubles the size of your iPhone while its in it, but it is probably the best option that currently exists to make an iPhone float.
Using the LifeProof case for taking photos and video underwater works amazingly well! My only wish is that it could be capable of some form of waterproof add-on wide-angle lens, which is ideal for underwater photography and videography. Phone call and music quality with the LifeProof case is arguably the highest of all the waterproof cases on the market today. Many competing waterproof iPhone cases have rather horrible audio performance in comparison. So, if this is an important feature, then I highly recommend the LifeProof case. Being the slimmest waterproof iPhone case on the market is definitely something the LifeProof case can be proud of. However, if you are the kind of iPhone user that frequently uses other iPhone accessories that require their own special iPhone case to accomplish their special feature/task, such as wide angle or telephoto lens case, then the LifeProof case is probably not for you. The reason I say this is that it is not an easy or quick task to remove or install your iPhone to/from the LifeProof case. Furthermore, the LifeProof case is only rated to maintain its waterproof capabilities with up to 50 case openings. The latch to the charge port on the other hand is rated up to 10,000 cycles.
After I finished my testing of the LifeProof case, I passed it along to a reader. A few months later, I heard back from him about the case. He had enjoyed the case very much and had come to some very similar conclusions about its strengths and weaknesses as I did in my review above. I also learned that his dog had completely chewed up the LifeProof case while his iPhone was inside, tearing off the latch for the power plug and puncturing the back of the case several times. Miraculously, the iPhone inside has survived the traumatic ordeal without a scratch! If this story doesn’t speak volumes as to the ruggedness of the LifeProof case, then I don’t know what will.
If you want your iPhone to be nearly impervious to impacts, mud, snow, and submersion in water without increasing the size or weight of your iPhone or decreasing its usability, then the LifeProof case is definitely a front runner in the waterproof iPhone case sea battle. I highly recommend it.
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