Pelican is well-known by professionals in photography, the military, and government for their incredibly strong carrying cases. Now they've brought their expertise to the iPhone 5 with the new Pelican ProGear Vault Series case (Model CE1180, US$79.95), which appears to be one of the first iPhone cases that could survive being run over by a locomotive.
All kidding aside, the ProGear Vault Series case is really the first iPhone case that's truly worthy of carrying the Pelican Case name. The case is made of an "engineering grade polymer outer shell with elastomeric liner," which is marketing-speak for "hard, almost-bulletproof case with a soft insert."
Four flush-fit hex-head screws hold an aircraft aluminum faceplate in place. There's also a screen guard with a scratch-resistant coating that fits under that faceplate. To install and remove the protective shell, a small hex-head driver is included along with two spare screws if they happen to fall out when you crash your wingsuit into a rock face.
You gain access to the external buttons on the iPhone 5 through small metal equivalents on the outside of the case. A small knob is used to flip the mute button; it's actually easier to change through the case knob than by flipping the switch on the iPhone.
While the Vault doesn't appear to be completely waterproof, it is designed to defend "against extreme wind-driven snow, rain, and dust." There are water-resistant mic and speaker covers, and optical glass protecting both cameras on the iPhone. Finally, Pelican guarantees the Vault Series case for life.
Proving that protection doesn't need to be dull, the Vault Series case comes in a variety of colors. Sure, there's dull old black and white, but you can also get purple, a dark grey/red mixture, and a green case as well.
Finally, Pelican wants to make sure that the protection is used wherever you may be, so you can purchase optional accessories including a vehicle phone mount, a bike mount, and a sport armband.
Since TUAW is always happy to give away our review items, I didn't install the screen guard. I did, however, undo the hex-head screws to get a feel for just how easy (or difficult) it is to install the Vault Series.
The case appears to use small brass-lined fittings built into the polymer outer shell to insure that you'll be able to remove and re-install the screws easily. This is much better than what I've seen with some other cases that just used a poorly-threaded metal liner or had screws driven into plastic.
The nice thing about the Vault case is that it doesn't end up being a bulky Iron Man suit for your iPhone. Instead, it weighs just 2.72 ounces and is only .52" thick. You get top-notch protection without weighing yourself down.
In a market that's been dominated by two companies -- OtterBox and LifeProof -- for ultra-protective cases, there's a new and credible entry from Pelican. While the Vault Series case for iPhone 5 isn't completely waterproof, the shock, crush and splash protection that it does provide should keep your favorite phone safe from a world of potential disasters.
Lightweight and thin while still offering a high level of protection
Reasonably priced for a case offering this much protection
Easy installation of the tough outer shell
Comes in a small but welcome variety of colors
Spare hex-head screws are included, along with a small screwdriver for installation
Not completely waterproof like some other competing iPhone cases
Who is it for?
Anyone who wants a slender and lightweight iPhone 5 case but doesn't want to compromise on protection.
One lucky TUAW reader is going to get a chance to keep his or her iPhone 5 protected from drops and splashes. Here are the rules for the giveaway:
Open to legal US residents of the 50 United States, the District of Columbia and Canada (excluding Quebec) who are 18 and older.
To enter, fill out the form below completely and click or tap the Submit button.
The entry must be made before April 26, 2013 11:59PM Eastern Daylight Time.
You may enter only once.
One winner will be selected and will receive a Pelican ProGear Vault Series iPhone 5 case valued at US$79.95