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LifeProof case for iPhone 4/4S review: LifeProof case for iPhone 4/4S

This iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S case is tough and waterproof, without looking like an old tire. Just keep track of that headphone adapter.

David Carnoy Executive Editor / Reviews
Executive Editor David Carnoy has been a leading member of CNET's Reviews team since 2000. He covers the gamut of gadgets and is a notable reviewer of mobile accessories and portable audio products, including headphones and speakers. He's also an e-reader and e-publishing expert as well as the author of the novels Knife Music, The Big Exit and Lucidity. All the titles are available as Kindle, iBooks, Kobo e-books and audiobooks.
Expertise Headphones, Bluetooth speakers, mobile accessories, Apple, Sony, Bose, e-readers, Amazon, glasses, ski gear, iPhone cases, gaming accessories, sports tech, portable audio, interviews, audiophile gear, PC speakers Credentials
  • Maggie Award for Best Regularly Featured Web Column/Consumer
David Carnoy
3 min read

The LifeProof case's claim to fame is that it's the toughest iPhone case you can buy.


LifeProof case for iPhone 4/4S

The Good

The <b>LifeProof</b> is a sleek, highly protective iPhone 4/4S case that's been engineered very well and makes your iPhone waterproof and able to withstand falls from decent heights. It holds up well over time, and several optional accessories are available for it.

The Bad

It's pretty pricey and using wired headphones with it requires you connect an adapter, which is a nuisance. Replacement headphone adapters are expensive.

The Bottom Line

While it's fairly costly and requires an included adapter for headphones, the LifeProof is arguably the best tough iPhone case on the market.

Indeed, this thing is no 10-pound weakling. The company says that the LifeProof case is waterproof, shockproof, dirtproof, and snowproof, yet it's slimmer than virtually all the other tough cases out there, with an integrated clear plastic shield that protects your screen (and, obviously, seals your iPhone into the case). Also, according to LifeProof CEO Gary Rayner, the case cost $2 million to develop.

After using it for a while, I have to say it does strike an excellent balance between sleek looks and toughness, and it's the case I use most on my phone. And yes, it totally waterproofs your iPhone 4 or 4S.

I've had it on my 4S off and on, mostly on, for the last five months and it's held up very well and only has a few small dings from when I dropped my phone on the pavement. I took it underwater in a pool -- yes, you can shoot video underwater, though you need to start shooting the video before you go underwater because the touch screen doesn't work underwater -- and dumped it in a snowbank and my iPhone came out no worse for the wear. This case is drop-tested for 2 meters (6.6 feet) and is rated to go underwater to 2 meters. It also fits the iPhone 4.

There's a black iPhone inside this white case. The LifeProof is available in several color options. Sarah Tew/CNET

As impressive as the case is, there are a couple of small issues worth highlighting. First, the headphone jack is recessed, which means that with most headphones and earphones the plug simply doesn't fit and you'll have to use the included headphone adapter. There's a good chance you'll lose the adapter or the little plug that you screw into the headphone jack to keep everything nice and watertight. LifeProof offers replacements (at a ridiculous price of $19.95), but the adapter is a nuisance to deal with. One way around the adapter is to simply use wireless Bluetooth headphones, but some people don't like the sound of Bluetooth headphones.

LifeProof supplies a headphone adapter for using wired headphones with the case. Sarah Tew/CNET

Secondly, because of how the sturdy clamping mechanism is designed to seal the charging/syncing port on the bottom of the iPhone, you won't be able to connect your iPhone with any docking devices when the case is on. An optional adapter for docks is available, but most people will simply charge their phone with the cable supplied by Apple.

The bottom of the case with the clamping latch that seals your connector port. Sarah Tew/CNET

For those wondering about whether the iPhone's internal speakers get blocked by the case, it's not a problem. In fact, the back of the case is designed to augment the bass of the iPhone's speakers, and we had no problem playing a movie or hearing ringtones with the case on. I should also note that although the back lens on the iPhone is covered by a small piece of glass, my pictures weren't affected (as far as I could tell). And while you have to press a little harder to engage the volume up/down, ringer off, and power buttons, all the buttons worked fine with the case on.

LifeProof has had a lot of success with the case and has nabbed some sales from OtterBox, which used to be the king of the iPhone tough-case market. OtterBox recently announced its own waterproof iPhone 4 and 4S case, the Armor Series. At the time of this writing, that model hadn't shipped yet, but I've seen an early sample of the series, and it, too, seems like an impressive case, though it's a little bigger and heavier than the LifeProof.

The case will soon come in even more colors. David Carnoy/CNET

In the spring of this year, LifeProof launched a line of accessories, including various mounts, an athletic armband, even a LifeJacket floaty, that are all designed to fit the case. It also announced that the case will come in additional colors.

Except for that issue with the headphone jack, this is a really a great case that should be on your shortlist if you're looking for an ultraprotective cover for your iPhone 4 or 4S. The only other downside is the price: it's expensive at $79.99 list. But if you're someone who treats your phone roughly or has a tendency to drop it, the LifeProof may be the next best thing to paying for insurance for your iPhone.

LifeProof offers a number of accessories, including a flotation LifeJacket for boaters. David Carnoy/CNET


LifeProof case for iPhone 4/4S

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9