LifeProof's waterproof phone case is the only iPhone case I need - here's why it's worth the $90

LifeProof's waterproof phone case is the only iPhone case I need - here's why it's worth the $90

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  • The single most important piece of modern technology in my life, right there next to my phone, is my waterproof, dust-proof, shock-proof, and, yes, all-around LifeProof phone case.
  • There are several waterproof iPhone cases like it, but this one is mine. Here's why it's well worth $90.

Having worked on, in, around, and under the water for much of my life, I try to immediately waterproof anything and everything I can as soon as possible - that especially goes for electronics, and because it comes with me everywhere, my smartphone takes the worst beating out of all my devices.

I've dropped it into the water more than once, and thanks to the new $90 LifeProof FRĒ case in which it currently lives, it has always survived. Things I have been unable to waterproof (i.e., cameras, laptops, and just about every piece of technology you could imagine), on the other hand, have not been so lucky. But, in spite of the hardships and hazards surrounding, but not limited to, commercial and recreational fishing, oyster shucking, sailing, and all-around bacchanalia (use your imagination), my iPhones have always survived, through and through.

One night, for example, it slipped from my boat bag, off a dock, and beneath a coral reef head in Fiji. I spent over half an hour diving down and trying to find it in and amongst the urchins, eels, and other cantankerous critters of the seafloor. Even after that period of time underwater at about 15 feet - more than twice as deep as it's safely rated for - it was still perfectly fine.


I have also, while embarking upon other (mis)adventures, misplaced and found it floating in the oil and fish-blood-soaked bilge of my skiff, carelessly dropped it into a sudsy sink (why yes, it did come out shining), and run it through the washing machine (I spared it the roller coaster ride in the dryer). Of course, the LifeProof is also handy when it comes to day-to-day incidents like a little splashing from the kitchen sink or a fall from the counter.

For those of you who dislike cases because of their clunkiness, there's no excuse: The LifeProof is almost as slimline as the iPhone itself (the iPhone XR FRĒ case measures 6.41" x 3.51" x 0.57" and weighs a mere 1.5 ounces).

Sure, it may be a little on the pricey side where phone cases are concerned (LifeProof cases range from about $50-90), but so is a screen or phone replacement (iPhone screen replacements are $29 for iPhones within warranty, but run as high as $329 out of warranty).

For that very reason alone, I am ever-indebted to LifeProof.

Specs for LifeProof FRĒ waterproof phone case


Owen Burke/Business Insider

That thin little (gray) gasket is all that's keeping your phone from the treacherous world outside, but it does its job. Just make sure it's in place, unlike above, where I removed it for visibility.


Available for a wide array of smartphones including iPhones 5 and newer, Samsung Galaxies S6 and newer, Google phones, and LG, the LifeProof FRĒ is first and foremost waterproof, or at least submersible up to 2 meters for up to an hour. Mine, I should add, survived just as long at more than twice that depth, but then there are better cases for taking your phone along on a dive (though ProShot won't introduce an XR-compatible model for a few more months).

If you want to bring your phone for a swim, you might consider opting for the lanyard loop (an accessory option at checkout through LifeProof), along with a good keychain float like this one, used by yachties the world over.

In effect, thanks to the built-in screen cover and sealed gasket (see above) that shields ports, mic, and speakers and makes this case waterproof, your phone will be protected from falls (up to 6.6 feet, but again, mine has taken what would have otherwise been catastrophic spills), dust, snow, and, essentially, the whole lot of mishaps it's bound to endure. It will be, for all intents and purposes, hermetically sealed, ever-suspended in a state of newness until you make the mistake of cracking it open.

Read more: The best iPhone cases for every model

Setup process


The setup process is highly crucial.

First and foremost, follow the instructions and make sure to test your case before putting your phone into it and submerging it. A couple of tips from a LifeProof veteran, though: Make sure you use a lens wipe (included in the packaging) to thoroughly clean your phone, and be absolutely certain that the silicone gasket is in place before snapping the case shut.

This case is going to hermetically seal your phone, and if you do it correctly, you'll never have to pop this baby open ever again (unless you change SIM cards).

Getting rid of any moisture and grease will eliminate the gasoline-like slick that is currently plaguing my phone. (I'm lazy). I have in the past, I assure you, perfectly assembled my LifeProof cases. Surgical gloves are also a big help if you have some handy.

On some possible 'flaws' for some people


Techies and the style-savvy have often denounced the LifeProof as too cumbersome, restrictive, or just plain fugly. I, however, have an entirely different take on it. Firstly, I'm wholly impressed by and appreciative of its resilience - it has, matter-of-factly, given my phone nine lives. I don't know where I'd be without it, though I would surely be some four figures poorer.

Non-direct contact with the screen seems to prevent some from opting for a LifeProof. To that, I say bah! Earlier models may not have worked so well, and small bits of oil and moisture (difficult to remove before attaching the case) might leave a little distortion here and there between the case and the built-in screen cover, but the newer screen cover seems to be much more responsive. If you're hyper-diligent, it is possible to clean the phone and case well enough to eliminate moisture or grease residue, at least on the screen.

Functionally, the most frustrating thing about the LifeProof for pre-lightning-cable iPhones was the auxiliary jack, which required an adapter and a screw-on cap to prevent water from seeping in and trashing your phone. Now there's just one simple flap, which clips sturdily shut, and is the same design I've had on all four of the LifeProof cases I've owned.

LifeProof has also optimized the speaker's projection through its newest iteration of the FRĒ. What used to be highly muffled is now a fairly crisp sound, though the microphone, I've gathered from speakerphone conversations, is still hindered. That might just be one of the small prices of a completely waterproof phone case that fits in your pocket, though, and it's nothing a decent pair of microphone-equipped headphones can't fix.

Other features - the buttons and the silence switch - take little effort to engage. Some other waterproof phone cases, like the Pelican Marine, take a bit more force to operate (like, about all my fingers can muster), and while these soft buttons have habitually worn out on me about every 18 months, the company will replace your case under its one-year warranty (two years in EMEA countries).


The bottom line

This case isn't exactly for everyone, but I'll make the case that it's the best option for almost all of us.

We take our phones everywhere, and no one is perfectly careful with their phone. We all drop them at some point or another, and we all splash if not fully dunk them in water. Sure, the new iPhone is somewhat waterproof, but is anyone, save for product testers, really looking to find out how waterproof?

It might not be made from full-grain leather, sequin-studded, or poodle-printed (you can dress it with your own doodads, after all), but this case is about as slimline as they get, and nearly indestructible. What more could you want?

Pros: Almost literally life-proof, slimline, available for most smartphones


Cons: Expensive, muffled microphone

Shop the LifeProof FRĒ for the iPhone XR at LifeProof for $89.99 (also available for other phones)

Shop all LifeProof phone cases and gear

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