I have this grandiose idea that life is an adventure and I’m an adventurer. I realize that this is often a silly way to look at something as complicated as life, but I think it keeps me positive and open to exploration. But sometimes, I try and embark on actual adventures. You know, the ones that require less human interaction and provide chances to look at the beauty around you. However, I’m still aware of my need and desire to keep my phone around during these adventures, solely because the iPhone 5 is my main camera. I had always been hesitant to take my iPhone on my adventures with just a normal case on, however. The iPhone 5 doesn’t exactly age well, in regards to scuffing. And heaven forbid if you drop it on a hike. However, thanks to the Lifeproof fre for iPhone 5, I can rest easy bringing my iPhone along for each adventure I embark on. Read on.
The Lifeproof fre is a completely encapsulated iPhone case that protects your iPhone from the elements, including dust and water, and has great shock absorption during drops.
The folks at Lifeproof strongly suggest that you test your Lifeproof case’s waterproofing before you embark on an underwater photography journey. They suggest that you assemble the case, place it at the bottom of the sink weighed down by a bowl, and leave it there for an hour. Only after inspection should you put your phone in. I did this, and my case was bone dry on the inside. A good start.
Assembling the case is easy enough, considering it completely encompasses the iPhone. Separating the case requires a little bit of elbow grease and a dime or penny. While this may seem like a pain to some, you need the case to be hard to open. It seals itself when you close it.
Put your phone face down in the front part of the fre after cleaning both the front of your iPhone and the inside of the fre’s screen protector. Assembling the case is easy: simply snap on the back, but make sure to hit every single point of contact to ensure that the fre is completely closed. Flip close the Lightning port cover and screw in the headphone jack plug, and you’re good to go.
The fre is surprisingly thin, considering that this is an element resistant case. It will feel bigger than a lot of cases you may use, but not woefully big. For example, it’s not as bulky as Otterbox’s Defender (which is something that will likely change, considering Otterbox just completed its purchase of Lifeproof).
Using the fre with your iPhone 5 is awesome, solely because of the fact that you can almost completely disregard any fear you have of damaging your phone. Unless you lose it (and don’t have the Find My iPhone app installed), your phone is safe from almost anything. I’ve shot photos underwater, used it during work around my girlfriend’s ranch, and even showered with it to listen to music (TMI, I know). In all cases, the fre protected my iPhone 5 an unprecedented amount compared to any case I’ve used.
It’s not all roses with the fre, though. There are tradeoffs that have to be considered when using a case like this. And while they’re certainly annoying, it’s important to realize that they are necessary annoyances to provide this level of protection. First of all, I’m not a fan of Lifeproof’s implementation of a built-in screen shield. The screen shield doesn’t fit snug to the screen, and can often lead to typing errors during use. Moreover, the screen shield leaves traces of “oil marking” on places that it does contact the screen. In general, you’re not going to get to see the Retina display in all of its glory when using the fre. Furthermore, and less annoying, is the need for a headphone adapter. Lifeproof includes this with your case, so it’s no big deal, but you have to screw in a 3.5 mm headphone jack with an O-ring to use headphones with the case. Again, this is a completely necessary annoyance, and I’m glad Lifeproof has thought through a solution.
All in all, I see the Lifeproof fre as a situational case. I will be using the fre on every single adventure life takes me on. But I’ll be taking it off immediately when I get home. I think this is what Lifeproof expects as well. The fre is attractive and well-designed, so it is completely possible to use it full-time, but my bet is that you won’t want to do so. Besides, you shouldn’t be doing much more than taking photos with your phone on adventures anyway, so the screen shield and headphone jack adapter annoyances are easy to swallow for me. You can check out the fre on Lifeproof’s website for $79.99.
Pros: Phenomenal protection, great design
Cons: Screen shield woes and need for a headphone jack can be hard to swallow if you don’t understand how the case should be used.