Reviews: LifeProof Cases LifeProof for iPhone 4

The design is deceptively straightforward, as LifeProof is composed of two rather plain-looking plastic halves. from the outside, it feels somewhat thin and cheap, though this may be attributable to the fact that it only weighs 28 grams. the rear piece has an O-ring running along its inner perimeter and the two halves snap together, forming an airtight seal. At the bottom is a small latch, which serves as an additional lock and also covers the Dock Connector port. once assembled, the case has an IP-68 rating, meaning it is dust tight and can survive immersion in water beyond one meter.

As is necessary with a waterproof case, all of the ports and buttons are covered. there are acoustic vents over the microphones and speakers, leaving them usable while protecting them against elemental intrusion—no easy engineering feat. Audio quality is affected very minimally. the headphone port is filled by one screw-in stopper; a second is included, and attaches to the company’s headphone adapter for safe-keeping. the adapter is necessary for any headphones with plugs wider than Apple’s current generation earphones, and if it’s removed, the case isn’t watertight. LifeProof’s Dock Connector port opening is also very tight; only cables with ends as small as Apple’s fit. both cameras are covered with optical glass, and we didn’t see any sort of distortion of pictures that were taken.

We really like that there’s coverage over the side switch that leaves it still usable; it’s a feature that’s pretty uncommon. Notably, the mechanism works in the opposite direction from the iPhone 4’s integrated switch, so flipping the protrusion forward actually pushes the switch back and puts the phone on silent, as well as working in the opposite direction. the modest confusion is excusable given the protection that the case offers, and there are standard covers over the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons.

The real problem with LifeProof is the plastic sheet that covers the iPhone 4’s touchscreen. Some sort of coverage is necessary, but the company didn’t pick the best possible solution. instead of a cover that sits flat against the screen, like ones we’ve seen on cases such as Griffin’s Survivor and Otterbox’s Defender Series, this one is slightly raised, leaving air between the two surfaces. This means that you can’t use the light touches you normally would to control the device. rather, you must ensure that contact has been made by pressing down with force. Reduced touchscreen sensitivity takes away from the experience of using the iPhone, making this a case that you’ll really only want to use under extreme conditions—ones that literally require one or all of the Four Proofs.

Overall, what LifeProof accomplishes is somewhat impressive and somewhat disappointing. thanks to the IP68-grade elemental sealing, it offers a degree of protection that separates it from most iPhone 4 cases on the market. But the screen cover is a serious letdown, and the price is pretty high for a case that feels as light and simple as this. We offer only a limited recommendation, specific to individuals who would use such a heavy-duty case on a daily basis; they may find it to be a practical option. Other users will be better served spending fewer or similar dollars on competing designs.

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