The LifeProof iPhone 4 case wants to keep your iPhone safe from just about everything. The company claims that the LifeProof case is waterproof, dirt proof, snow proof, and shock proof. Indeed, in my testing, the case seemed to keep my iPhone safe, but there are limitations to the LifeProof that you should know about before you dive in, so to speak.
The LifeProof doesn’t ship with a manual; instead, you’re directed to the company’s website for text and video instructions on the case’s use. The case itself consists of two polycarbonate shells that snap onto your iPhone on either side. The online manual stresses the importance of assembling the case around your phone patiently, ensuring all of its internal latches lock together. Failure to do so, of course, could negatively impact the case’s ability to keep water and dust particles out.
Snapping the case shut isn’t too tough. You just squeeze tightly, everywhere, and it snaps together. Taking it apart requires a bit more effort, unsurprisingly, and LifeProof emphasizes that you must do so in a seesaw fashion, carefully ensuring that you don’t bend or otherwise damage the shells.
(In truth, LifeProof really doesn’t want you taking the case off too much—it’s designed to be a put-it-on-and-leave-it-there case. The company suggests that you can open and close the case about 50 times before its many latches will become too worn to ensure your device’s protection.)
Once your iPhone is in the case, you lock the Charge Port Door, a mechanism that folds over the phone’s dock-connector port. Thankfully, you can open that door whenever you need to sync or charge your iPhone; the door is rated for 10,000 cycles, so it shouldn’t wear out any time soon.
To keep the elements out of your iPhone’s headphone jack, the case includes a cover that screws into the opening for that jack. Also included is a headphone adapter for use with third-party headphones—the case’s opening won’t fit headphones with a plug larger than the thin one on Apple’s stock earbuds.
You can access all of your iPhone’s features when the case is on: The cameras remain exposed, and all the buttons can be accessed through the case. The volume, Sleep/Wake, and Home buttons are easy enough to press. The Ring/Silent switch is a bit tougher, and because of the case’s construction, you actually need to flip the switch in the opposite direction of what you would on an unclad iPhone—I found that I often needed a few tries to toggle my iPhone’s mute status.
LifeProof says the case remains water-tight down to 6.6 feet (2 meters) of water, and it can survive drops onto smooth concrete from the same distance. (The company advises that you not perform unnecessary drop tests, of course.) The case is also rated IP68, meaning that when sealed, it can keep out all minute dust particles. The case can also withstand temperatures between -40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit, though Apple recommends you use your iPhone 4 between 32 and 95 degrees.
The case is surprisingly light, given its protective properties, weighing just under an ounce. It also adds less bulk than most super-protective cases, measuring just 2.6 inches wide, 5.1 inches long, and 0.5 inches deep at its thickest point, adding just 1/16th of an inch to the iPhone’s overall thickness.
Macworld’s buying advice
The LifeProof case is very rugged without adding the traditional rugged-case bulk—if you need this level of protection, it could suit you just fine. If you don’t need such serious protection, though, a case that you can more-easily apply and remove will make more sense.