Review: Lifeproof iPhone case is waterproof without big trade-offs

Tweeting while in the shower? Blogging while in the bathtub? The Lifeproof iPhone case makes it possible, and even manages to do so without adding much girth to your device or sealing it away in a cumbersome bag-style cover, like other alternatives.

A thin, yellow, rubber strip helps seal the case tight. While I didn’t take it in the shower, I did take the empty case into a bathtub multiple times and saw absolutely no leaks inside. I wasn’t quite adventuresome enough to try it with my iPhone inside, but third-party tests and user reports suggest it works as advertised. All the iPhone (s aapl) physical buttons are protected, and an integrated screen protector covers the home button. A screen top protects the headphone jack, and a flip cover protects the dock connector. The screen protector also didn’t take away from the quality of the iPhone’s Retina display. The speakers are protected with Gore-Tex, designed to let sound pass through but prevent water from getting in.

I was unwilling to fully test the shock protection with my own current-use device, but  I did a few drop tests with already cracked iPhone screen components and the protection was impressive.

As a functional daily case it had some drawbacks for me. The dock port is tight, and the only cable that fit in my tests was the one my iPhone came with. If you have a lot of third-party sync/charge cables, you may want to think twice about this purchase. However, Apple’s own cables fit just fine, so this may not be a limiting factor.

The headphone jack is deeply recessed in the case, requiring an adapter (included with the case) to use most headphones. It’s annoying, but not a major problem since you can easily keep an adapter attached to your favorite pair of headphones. I lost the tiny screw top protector (which seals the headphone jack when not in use) multiple times. Fortunately, Lifeproof provides an extra protector in the box.

While the home button is easily accessible through the screen protector, I found other controls such as the volume and sleep buttons a bit difficult to use. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is inconvenient.

Removal of the iPhone from this case was a breeze. I often had to remove it to work with my other iPhone-enabled devices. Typically, cases with high levels of protection require multiple steps to remove the iPhone, so the ease with which the Lifeproof comes on and off is a big plus.

Although callers did not notice a difference in sound quality during normal phone calls, they reported reverberation and feedback during speakerphone calls. I noticed the quality of the sound was a bit muffled, but I was told I received a faulty unit and the second one had improved sound. I also reviewed the instructional videos Lifeproof had online about the case, and made sure it was seated properly. Be sure to watch those videos, because properly fitting the case to your device can make a big difference in sound quality.

Generally, I really liked this case and would recommend it to anyone who works in environments where water damage could become an issue, or for anyone who simply wants more protection without a lot of bulk and complication. The need to use an adapter for the speaker jack, as well as some third-party accessories was annoying, but the cost of those is still much cheaper than replacing a water-damaged phone. Overall, this is one of the best rugged cases out there, with the added benefit of extremely high water resistance.