General

REVIEW: LifeProof FRE iPhone 5s Case is not good and not life proof

I previously reviewed my LifeProof FRE case when I first got it. At the time I felt it was a great case with some minor issues regarding mostly how annoying the headphone adapter is.

I stopped using the case right after I got it because of it’s annoying headphone jack issue. Shortly after that point I got a large iPhone 6s+ because my vision started to fail really badly last year before I had surgery to save it.

Now that my eyes are good again I recently got a smaller iPhone 5s and decided to switch to LifeProof again because this case fit that phone and I already owned it.

The TL; DR is that even though I only used it for a net of about 3 months over the course of 13 months the entire case fell apart like this:

Broken volume button:

lifeproof-4

Center button cover fell out:

lifeproof-2

Everything else fell out:

lifeproof-1

To LifeProof’s credit they honored the warranty and sent me a new case (as long as I paid for shipping). However I now understand this case well enough to know that I no longer want to use it. I recommend you avoid LifeProof cases until they sort out the issues that I am about to go over.

Irritating headphone jack / muffled calls:

LifeProof cases are waterproof. This is good. I’ve actually dropped my phone in water and it sat there for at least 4 seconds with no problems before I fished it out. The phone was unharmed. I understand that they need to close off the headphone jack to make this waterproof but the headphone adapter is incredibly annoying to use. You must screw it in and then you can then plug your headphones into it.

LifeProof only gives you 1 adapter so when you inevitably lose this small piece of wire you are screwed.

I bought some from a 3rd party store in bulk because this thing is so easy to lose I assumed I would be needing several. I found out the hard way (Thanks to The WireCutter) that “…third-party headphones that use a standard 1/8-inch plug can, depending on the plug design, wiggle a little—enough to cause audible static, or to cause an electrical signal that triggers Siri. It’s not just one brand of headphones, either, as the problem seems to be peppered across all sorts of manufacturers and headphone models.”

So if you have a LifeProof case and an iPhone don’t buy 3rd party cables. Voice Control was being triggered every 10-80 seconds unless you loosen the cable, which prevents you from being heard when you make calls. Thanks to Apple you can’t turn Voice Control off as of this writing. Also half the time when I called someone while wearing headphones when the cable was tightly screwed in they couldn’t hear me but I could hear them. It also would get stuck and I had a tough time unscrewing it.

So let’s just say you are happy with buying a lot of extra adapter cables from LifeProof and you don’t have the Voice Control or the “I can hear them but they can’t hear me” issue.

You still will have a terrible time full of fail.

When using the phone in the new LifeProof case without headphones I got complaints that I was muffled and that I could barely be heard.

On the bright side, they did reinforce the volume button on the new generation of cases (AKA the one they sent me as a replacement), but it’s so reinforced that it’s really hard to use the volume at all now and your calls will sound muffled. It feels like the plastic is more rigid on the new cases, but somehow the construction feels cheaper. It’s harder to get the case off and on. I discovered this when trying to quickly remove my case so that the person I was calling could hear me.

Conclusion:

LifeProof cases are waterproof and a great form factor that I absolutely love the idea of. The design is marred by quality issues, issues with the cumbersome headphone adapter cord, and call quality / muffling issues. The longer I use my LifeProof case the less I like it.

I still have not found my perfect iPhone case: a slim form factor, protection from damage, and waterproof. If you require a nice-looking waterproof case LifeProof may be your only option but for the $79.99 price I’d recommend you get a cheaper ziplock bag-style case.

Normally I could say “if you are ok with putting up with the annoying cable you will like this case” but the fact that calls are muffled with the case on when not using headphones tells me that almost no one will like this case. I hope that they sort out these issues because if everything were working correctly with this case it would be the absolute best case on the market.