There may be a more protective iPhone 5 case than the US$79.99 LifeProof Frē, but darned if I know what it is. The case — available in black and white versions — is water proof, dirt proof, snow proof and shock proof.
The LifeProof Frē — custom engineered to protect and enhance the thinner iPhone 5 — protects all features of the Apple smartphone, including the headphone jack and charge port, while still offering access to them. What’s more, the case protects the speakers and microphones. LifeProof says the Frē also improves the speaker sound. Perhaps it does a bit, but not enough to make much of an impact on my ears.
I tested the case in water without my iPhone inside (hey, I’m no dummy). The interior stayed dry, so the Frē — if properly installed — will protect the smartphone if you drop it into, say, a swimming pool.
Clumsy guy that I am, I have dropped my Frē-encased iPhone 5 several times. The smartphone seems to be no worse for its spills, so the LifeProof case is doing its job.
The LifeProof Frē does add some bulk to your Apple smartphone, but not as much as you’d expect considering the protection it offers. Even with it installed you can slip the iPhone 5 into a pocket — assuming you’re not wearing skin-tight pants.
With the Frē installed, you may have to press the screen on your iPhone 5 a bit harder than without the case, but you’ll adjust quickly. It’s worth the adjustment to protect the pricey phone.
The speaker at the bottom of the Frē sounds a bit muffled, though the audio is better if you unsnap the charging door. You should also note that only the Apple supplied cord that came with the iPhone 5 can be used for charging. No other cable I know of will fit the opening.
One suggestion for LifeProof: you make belt clips and bike mounts for your other iPhone cases. Make some for the Frē.
There are more elegant, more sophisticated cases for the iPhone 5. But none will offer the peace-of-mind-providing ruggedness of the Frē.
ADR rating: 8 out of 10
For more info go to www.lifeproof.com .