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August 17, 2011

LifeProof Review: Your Phone Will Never Be the Same


Never have nature’s elements been more an enemy to mankind than today -- in the world of gadgets, cell phones and electronics galore.

 Water, fire, wind -- you name it -- chances are you’re phone and it will never be BFFs. But they can get along.  LifeProof, a Calif.-based company, recently released a product that promises to allow users to take their phones along with them for their journeys in life without fear of breaking or damaging the pricey item.

 The company’s concept-turned-successful-product, is a protective case -- their most recent market introduction has been for the iPhone (News - Alert) 4 --  and offers an ultra-slim cover that weighs less than an ounce and adds only 1/16” to the depth of the phone while also protecting from water, dirt, shock and snow.

Gary Rayner, LifeProof Cases founder and CEO, said the company’s main challenge, “was to develop a protective case that was barely larger than the device and that did not impede on your experience or enjoyment of the device.”

According to Rayner, “LifeProof spent 18 months and more than $1M to meet the environmental challenges while maintaining a simple, sleek design.”

“It was an extraordinarily difficult project that many of the industrial design firms initially contacted said could not be done. The company went back to the drawing board five times to get it right, but it achieved its protection and design goals.”

 Yours truly had a chance to review the case and see what all the hype was about.

 On first look, the case seemed a lot less obtrusive than I thought it would be. Size-wise, the cover was similar to other cases for phones sold in the market and included a special backing, protective cover and special headphone plug created to help the phone withstand rough use.

 Once on the phone, the case did add a little bit of bulk, and getting used to having the clear protective cover over the screen took a few minutes to adjust to. However, the touch interaction remained seamless and the phone was not extra ‘weighty’ like some protective cases on the market.

 I dialed out a few calls with the phone and all seemed in order. I did see some comments online from other users reporting an echo with the speaker phone, but I didn’t experience that echo with a few test calls with and without speakerphone.

 Next was the moment I had been waiting for with anticipation and angst – the “DROP.” For someone with slippery  fingers who has constantly allowed phones to slip  to the ground, I’ve been pretty careful with my new phone and having to drop it on purpose was a rough task, but I did. And… no cracks, no breaks – but I am not willing to test it again it on purpose.

The company touts their devices as being able to handle this kind of shock and impact because the cases are tested to Military Specifications MIL-STD-810F-516.5 - and can be dropped on all surfaces and edges onto concrete from a height of 2 meters (or 6.6ft).

 Finally, I wanted to test out the biggest bragging point of this phone -- taking it into water.

 Below is a test video shot from my pool – taken after I plugged in the headset piece to fill the hole and the result was a phone with dry insides that still worked.  I don’t remember getting that clear a photo with those old disposable underwater cameras, never mind clear video with great sound.

According to the company’s website, LifeProof’s design allows the device to be waterproof “to a rated depth of 2 Meters (6.6ft) exceeding IP-68, the highest 'International Protection' rating.” 

Rayner also said the company had to “invent and patent new manufacturing processes and latching mechanisms to enable such a high degree of protection in such a small package.”

Not only does LifeProof incorporate a number of exotic materials and ultra high-precision injection molding, but Rayner said they also make use of Gore-tex membranes so air pressure is able to equalize and sound can get in and out of the case without allowing water to enter.  

In order to ensure that protection stays and the latches do not become weak, it is recommended that the cases are not removed and put back on several times.

One thing I did realize while using the case is that once you are underwater, you cannot use the touch screen. It seems to lose the ability to recognize the touch of your finger – so the only way to record an underwater video is to start recording while still outside of the water, and then going down into the water.

Because the cover also includes IP-68 level protection, it is also able to keep a seal between the phone and exposure to things like sand, grit, dust and more that can get into tiny places underneath regular cases causing damage.

To ensure you’re getting the full benefits of this protection with your LifeProof case, remember to clean off the white rubber seal around the back of the case every once in a while just in case any dirt particles get underneath, preventing the case from sealing properly.

What’s next in the works for the company? When asked if there were plans for cases for other leading mobile phone brands, Rayner said LifeProof is evaluating these and plans to introduce cases for a variety of mobile devices in the future.

 In all, I have to say this little gadget is def. a winner and a positive move in the direction of a world filled with mobile devices that leave users in control, and with even less restrictions.

Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO West 2011, taking place Sept. 13-15, 2011, in Austin, Texas. ITEXPO (News - Alert) offers an educational program to help corporate decision makers select the right IP-based voice, video, fax and unified communications solutions to improve their operations. It's also where service providers learn how to profitably roll out the services their subscribers are clamoring for – and where resellers can learn about new growth opportunities. To register, click here.


Stefania Viscusi is an assignment editor for TMCnet, covering voice and Voice over IP technologies. She also oversees production of TMCnet's e-Newsletters in the areas of Internet telephony and speech technology. To read more of Stefania's articles, please visit her columnist page.

Edited by Rich Steeves
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