LifeProof fre Case for iPhone 6 Review

LifeProof fre ($80 suggested price), the first of the company’s cases for iPhone 6, is designed to protect the user’s investment.

 2-25-15-LifeProof-fre-frtLifeProof iPhone cases are not for everyone. They are not for users who are not invested in preventing damage to and preserving their precious iPhone. Why do I say this? LifeProof cases require user attention. They are not set-it-and-forget-it products. However, the rewards for your attentiveness are many. Keep reading.

Pros – Industrial design does not detract from the phone’s aesthetics; easy installation; adds only marginally to the phone’s dimensions; Touch ID and screen operate as well as without the case’s screen protection; full control of all buttons and switches; has wrap-around “keeper” to assure that waterproof screw-in plug for earphone jack won’t get lost; passes highest standard (IP-68) to keep out dust, dirt and water; passes U.S. Military Standard MIL STD 810G-516.6 for drop and shock protection: waterproof to 6.6 feet for one hour (when case seal is intact); instills confidence; available in six colors

Cons – Somewhat delicate over ringer on/off switch – use a finger’s flesh near fingertip instead of fingernails to engage switch in order to avoid damage to the cover; speaker sound somewhat muffled

 

With experience using LifeProof cases since the company’s iPhone 4S case, I know the value of reading and following installation directions. While case installation is simple, it must be accomplished as directed and without deviation. I know to put the phone into the case top as directed to be assured that the switches and buttons will function properly. I know to place the case back as directed and to snap it onto the case front starting at the top, listening for and feeling the “click” as it snaps together all the way to the bottom.

2-25-15-LifeProof-iPhone-6-FreWhite_Laydown-LightningI also read the following important statement from this case’s page at lifeproof.com, directly under the retail price – “The frē iPhone 6 case works with original Apple Lightning cable. May not be compatible with other brand cables.” Why? I’m not sure, but I suspect that the company had to decide what this dimension through the case and on to the Lightning connector would be. In looking at the universe of Lightning cables compatible with iPhones since iPhone 5, sizes of the surrounding plastic at the Lightning end are generally larger than Apple’s own, with no standard size other than that of the cables by Apple. LifeProof chose to go with THE standard, the Apple Lighting cable’s Lightning end dimension.

Using this specification, LifeProof was assured of the best dust and dirt seal when the cable is installed.

I have not found a third party Lightning cable that fits through the opening, but I’m still looking. Some users have reported shaving the offending plastic on these cables to remove enough material to fit. This is NOT a recommendation or endorsement and I have not performed such a mod, so proceed at your own risk.

For those who are invested in third party charging cables for Apple mobile products using Lightning cables, this may not be welcome news. I am confident that cable suppliers will remedy this before too much longer, for my sake as well as others’.

Note the flip-open access door over the charging cable channel that, when closed, provides a proper seal against the elements. This door WILL see lots of action. Be sure to snap it closed whenever the charging cable is not inserted and pay attention to keeping the surfaces free of foreign material.

2-25-15-LifeProof-iPhone-6-FreWhite_Laydown-HeadphoneMore an inconvenience [to some] than a negative, LifeProof also includes a screw-in cover to seal the headphone jack. The jack opening is inset within the case. When using an original Apple earbud set supplied with iPhone, no dongle is required. A LifeProof dongle MUST be used if it is desired to maintain a watertight seal when using waterproof earbuds. One dongle is supplied with the case. At this writing, additional dongles are not currently available from LifeProof on their Website, but I expect this to change (I have no inside info on this). I do not recommend knock-off dongles.

To use a headset, it must to be plugged into the dongle and the dongle screwed into the LifeProof case to maintain the case’s seal to outside elements. If you have waterproof earphones, take your LifeProof-protected iPhone for a swim! If you’re a Bluetoother or use only the iPhone’s internal speaker, the plug will likely stay in place.

To be sure the Touch ID sensor sees your fingerprint(s) as intended, erase any prior fingerprints in memory and re-do them with the iPhone in the case. This will assure the best chance for success when using Touch ID. This is a one-time activity.

Using this LifeProof for iPhone has been uneventful, just as it should be. The confidence felt with fre in place is welcome. All the buttons and switches perform well. I am mindful of the need to properly engage the ringer side switch without using a fingernail. As well, I am careful when using the membrane over the Touch ID sensor. My nails are short, but I can see how tempting it would be for someone with long nails to use a fingernail to press the Home button. This would not promote the membrane’s longevity.

Despite the need to be aware of how the case the switches and buttons are engaged and, possibly, modify behavior toward long term case integrity and customer satisfaction, I still feel this case is the best I’ve experienced.

Though the speaker sound is just a bit muffled by the case as compared to sound without a case at all, I find the tradeoff to be more than acceptable.

If case integrity and the case’s ability to protect the phone inside is important to YOU, perhaps knowing of my own past experience will help guide you. Though I have the opportunity to play with lots of phones, I purchase ONE for personal use. I’m an iPhone guy. I like checking out others, but my daily phone for personal use is iPhone. I’ve used LifeProof cases since their first model for iPhone 4S. Long out of contract, I took the still-working 4S from its LifeProof safe cocoon to see that it was as clean and pristine as the day it was placed inside its LifeProof case.

I take great care of my stuff, including mobile phones. Sure, I drop them from time to time, but I do not abuse them. The 4S was not often pocketed. Rather, it was held in a LifeProof belt clip that slightly marred the screen protection of the LifeProof case. That phone saw fun in pools, taking underwater videos. It was used in daily life, subjected to not only rain and snow, but also to dust and dirt, as well as drops and bumps. Through it all, LifeProof protected my phone and gave me confidence knowing it was protected from what came its way.

My aim was to have the 4S see a second life, without its more than 3-year old value diminished due to everyday use. Mission accomplished, thanks to LifeProof. I know of no other case that could have done the job and still not have made the iPhone feel significantly heftier than without its case.

LifeProof provides a one-year warranty.

Save a few bucks through Amazon.

I expect the same longevity of performance from this new case for iPhone 6. LifeProof fre for iPhone 6 gets a solid “Get it!” recommendation from Mr. Gadget.

Users might also want to have a look at the LifeProof nuud for iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, coming soon. LifeProof nuud cases features NO covering over the front glass. The waterproof seal is around the edges of the visible, touch-sensitive screen area, so fingers actually touch and interact with the screen itself, yet a watertight seal is maintained. LifeProof continues to innovate!

March 12, 2015 UPDATE:

Luxtr Lightning cable connectors are identical in size to Apple’s own. I bought one to confirm. Luxtr should be a worthy alternative to Apple’s, and costs less. Available in 1m and 2m lengths, exclusively from Amazon.