Lifeproof frē Smartphone Case and Bike Mount Review

by Brian Mullin on March 1, 2014

The LifeProof frē
case is a waterproof, snowproof, dustproof and shockproof, and protects
the smartphone from abusive encounters with the environment and
anything else you can toss at it. It’s available in iPhone 4/4s, 5C, 5,
5S and Samsung Galaxy s3, S4 versions, and retails for $79.99. The
upgraded iPhone 5s series case, which I tested, now has access to
Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor and every function, button
and port.

The
phone inserts tightly into the two-piece case, and then gets squeezed
in snugly when the halves are closed together, and it takes some decent
compression to get all the edges snapped completely shut and seal the
waterproof gasket. Once everything is closed up tight, the case is
immune to the average hazards tossed at it.

The
bike mounts (only available for the iPhone) is made from a tough
high-impact resistant plastic, and it snugly cradles the iPhone case on
its back, corners and top edge, without any undue movement. It clamps
down with an easy to use handlebar clamp that has three rubber size
adapters for varying bar thickness. The mount has been upgraded from its
previous incarnation, and has a better spring clamp to hold the phone,
and a wider cutout for the iPhone 5 series camera and double flash.

The
mount fits a wide range of bike and motorsport bars, so you can take
your iPhone on and off road, and into adverse conditions and
environments. The synchronicity of the case and mount, allow you to use
cycling GPS apps and normal mobile usage while riding a bike, extending
the usefulness of your iPhone. It can be mounted any almost any
position, though most likely it would be the typical horizontal or
vertical layup.

Impressions

I
have used a first-generation Lifeproof case for my iPhone 4, and found
it to be rugged and abuse proof, and can offer some serious protection
from drops, dirt and water, while still allowing full access to the
buttons, touchscreen, camera and phone. This upgraded frē case gave
those same attributes, but the touchscreen has a much better tactile
response than its predecessor. I could text and do any activity quite
easily, and it felt on par with a normal screen protector, though
obviously not as good as a naked screen. The company does sell another
case called the nüüd, which uses the same basic design as the frē, but
forgoes the screen cover and leaves the screen naked or nude. I have
that case design for my iPad 2, but I felt as though my phone gets more
abuse, and I wanted the extra protection offered by the frē. The
interface to the iPhone 5s Touch ID worked most of the time, but it
wasn’t perfect, and I think I averaged around an 80-90 percent success,
and I didn’t find that to be a deal breaker for me. Sometimes the Touch
ID would work perfectly for many iterations (worked 20 times in a row
just now), then it would get finicky, but you could always revert to
using the old-school keypad method when needed.

In really bright
light conditions, out in the full sunshine, the screen is a bit too
glossy, and can make it more difficult to view things, but it wasn’t
that big of a deal. The speaker and microphone covers work surprisingly
well, while still retaining their water and dirt protection qualities,
and the back of the case helps with sound reinforcement.

The side
buttons all worked admirably, though they were slightly stiff on their
actuation. To interface to the headphone jack, there is a watertight
screw port, and a special adapter to run accessories, such as waterproof
headphones. You’ll need the adapter or an extra-long plug that can fit
deeply into the recesses of the case, otherwise you won’t get a proper
connection. To use the power or docking port, you just flip the bottom
closure flap down, and it’s accessed, and the iPhone lightning connector
fits perfectly, though I wasn’t able to stick it on my bedroom alarm
clock due to the flap getting in the way.

I accidentally dropped
the phone from 3-4 feet in the air several times, and it certainly
seemed to offer considerable protection, but I didn’t test the extreme
waterproofness (immersion for 1 hour at a 2m depth), so I’ll take their
word on it. I got the unit into some hefty rain and snow storms, and
plenty of dirt and mud have been thrown up on it, and it has been none
the worse from the abuse.

The
bike mount did it’s job just fine, and when clamped down with the
proper tension, it never moved out of position during normal use or let
the phone dislodge, even on the roughest terrain. If you did hit the
mount accidentally or crashed directly on it, it might move slightly or
the clamp would loosen enough to let it spin around the handlebars, but
the phone case still stayed safely encased within the confines of the
main body. The mount pivots and locks down using a ball and socket
gimbal system, much like an RAM mount, so the angle can easily be
adjusted for personal preferences. I do wish the kit came with a medium
thin rubber adapter, since sometimes the thin one wasn’t enough and the
next size up was too thick. It was simple to pop the iPhone in and out
of the unit using the top clip-in clasp, as well as the handlebar clamp,
making for easy swap outs. You can rotate the phone upwards and capture
video footage if you’re so inclined, since the mount has cutouts for
the camera, though I personally never used that feature.

Bottom Line

The
Lifeproof frē is a slim case that is rugged and abuse proof, and can
provide some serious protection from drops, dirt, water and snow, while
still offering full access to the buttons, touchscreen, camera and
phone. The touchscreen is too glossy, making it somewhat difficult to
view in bright light conditions, and it can be tougher to engage icons
and text (compared to a naked or nude screen), but the additional
protection is worth the mild compromises, especially if you use the
phone in adverse environments. It’s not cheap at $79.99, but I liked the
case, and really appreciated that I don’t have to worry about babying
my precious and pricey iPhone, as I know it’s well protected. The Apple
Touch ID fingerprint sensor interface was a great feature, though on
rare occasions, it can be finicky.

The Lifeproof bike mounts is
robust, easy to use and adjust, and held their iPhone case in a secure
and stable manner. I liked how simple it was to pop the case out of the
unit, and that it went right back in and remained sturdy and immobile. I
crashed a number of times and hit the mount pretty hard, and although
it tweaked it out of position, it didn’t cause any damage to the case.
You can rotate the mount upwards to capture video footage of a ride,
making for a great additional feature of the unit.

Pros
  • Durable and rugged
  • Case – Slim and light
  • Case – Waterproof, snowproof, dustproof and shockproof
  • Case – Access to Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Mount – Cutouts to record video footage
  • Mount – Secure and stable
  • Mount – Easy to use, bar clamp and case
Cons
  • Case – Glossy screen can be difficult to view in bright light
  • Case – On rare occasions the Touch ID interface can be finicky
  • Case – Expensive
  • Mount – Needs a medium thin rubber adapter (comes with thin, medium, thick)
  • Mount – When hit hard it can move out of position, though it securely retains the case
Specifications
  • Case $79.99
  • Bike mount $39.99

For further information visit: http://www.lifeproof.com/en/

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