Let's say that your sweet child decides to give your iPhone 4 a bath. Or maybe you're riding on your bike at 40 mph down a hill and drop the phone (or, as our own Dave Caolo can describe from personal experience, in a canoe that decides to deposit you in the Delaware River). All of these scenarios could spell disaster for your iPhone 4, but not if you've equipped it with the US$69.95 LifeProof Case.
The LifeProof case is designed to protect your iPhone 4 against all sorts of havoc. It's fully sealed against dust particles, it is tested to Military Specifications MIL-STD-810F-516.5 (6.6 feet / 2 meter drop onto all surfaces and edges) standards for shock and impact protection, and it can even be used in water up to 6.6 feet / 2 meters deep.
You'd expect a case with this level of protection to look like an armored car and weight about as much, right? Nope. The LifeProof case weighs less than one ounce (28 grams) and adds only about 1/16th of an inch (1.5 mm) thickness to the iPhone 4.
LifeProof requests that you first assemble and test the case without the iPhone 4 inside it to make sure that you know to assemble it properly, ensuring a proper seal. The test is done in a sink with something holding down the case for an hour or so. If it's dry inside after that hour, the test has been passed and you've obviously taken great care to assemble the case properly. If not, read the directions again.
How do they keep everything nicely sealed up? There's a thin yellow gasket that goes around the inside of the area where the front and back halves of the case snap together. For the earphone jack, there's a rubber plug that screws into the case where the jack goes -- but you also get a special cable that can be used to safely use waterproof earphones with the LifeProof case. At the bottom of the case near the dock connector is a special door that latches shut.
What about the speakers on the iPhone 4? There are two ports for the speakers, both of which are covered with waterproof Gore-Tex material. They're thin enough to let sound pass through unimpeded, but won't let water seep in. The iPhone 4's rear-facing camera is protected by a small piece of optical glass to allow good photography while keeping the case sealed, and there's also a sealed opening for the flash. The screen is covered with a thin plastic membrane that provides a seal against water, but lets your multi-touch gestures pass through unimpeded.
The case itself is part of an overall system that you can purchase separately. Need a bike mount, arm band, belt clip (in two different sizes) or those waterproof earphones I mentioned earlier? They're all available from the LifeProof website. The case comes in three different colors -- black, white, and pink.
The LifeProof case philosophy is to provide protection against the "Four Proofs": Water, Dirt, Snow, and Shock. While I unfortunately didn't have time to test the case in dirt and there isn't any snow around Denver this time of year (maybe next month...), I decided to test the case against the main bugaboo of iPhones -- water. The company recommends that you assemble the case once without the phone and place it in a sink of water for at least hour, which I believe is set up to make you confident that you're not going to lose your iPhone by drowning and to insure that you really understood the simple directions for putting the phone together.
Assembling the phone means snapping the two halves together, gently rubbing the outside of the case above the gasket to insure a tight seal, and closing the door on the bottom. I left the case in the water for close to 90 minutes with a coffee cup on top of it (see the gallery) and the inside was completely dry when I opened it later. With that experience behind me, I decided to take the plunge (no pun intended) and potentially sacrifice my iPhone 4. This isn't the first time I've done something like this -- check out my video of breaking an egg on the face of an iPad here. And here's the video of my iPhone 4 taking a swim. Did it survive?
Yes, it did! There are even better videos on the LifeProof website if you're up for some iPhone 4 abuse.
You'll have to take LifeProof's word on the dust, mud, snow, ice, and sand-proofing, but if it's able to handle a dunking, it's definitely going to be able to handle the other elements as well.
The LifeProof Case for iPhone 4 is a slim, lightweight, and sturdy case that offers better water and dust protection than any other iPhone 4 case, and is the only case we know of that actually meets military specifications for shock proofing. While it's not the most attractive case, it adds virtually no bulk to the iPhone 4 while making it truly waterproof. Between the case itself and the accessories that let you use the protected iPhone 4 while swimming, biking, or running at the beach, the LifeProof Case offers unparalleled protection for any active lifestyle.