Gear I Don’t Like – Lifeproof Iphone 4 – 4S Case

I, like a lot of people, have joined the Smartphone revolution as a way of condensing many devices into a single, portable unit.

The iPhone has for me (like many folks) taken a ‘front pocket’ role in both my business life (as a commuter) and in my hobbies (backpacking, hiking, etc). It combines a personal computer, GPS, Phone, Camera and entertainment centre into one simple Ounce-Light device.

It’s only failings are its durability (common to all technology), susceptibility to water damage and of course reliance on power.

Two of these I was hoping to have solved with my iPhone 4S case from Lifeproof. After reading some reviews, including a recommendation from Backpacker Magazine, I selected it as my new case over Otterbox due to it’s lighter weight and versatility. It would also work with my external collection of camera lenses which extend the iPhones versatility taking photos of the outdoors. The price tag ($99) was fairly average for the case type so I picked it up roughly nine months ago.

For roughly six months it held up well. I took photos on the tops of Tolmie peak in the fall, dropping my phone in the slop as the sun rose and snow started to melt. It held my case safe as it was knocked out of my hand by fellow air commuters in the airport.

Over Christmas it slowly began to decompose. Perhaps the extreme amount of use and time in the sun/outdoors caused the rubber to break down. Regardless, the rubber lips on the front face which seal in the faceplate and cushion the edges from damage began to crumble. Over time, the entire top and left side (along with the side switch cover) had eroded. I removed the phone and tested it for watertightness and the case continued to keep out moisture… so with a shrug I continued to use it, assuming this erosion to be cosmetic at best. The interior cushions still protected my phone and that tiny amount of rubber could not possibly endanger the device.

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It would appear I was wrong. One fateful day last weekend I was knocked while walking through Midtown Manhattan and my phone was tossed from my hand. Landing flat and facedown I assumed at first (having survived many a similar fall) that the phone was fine. It was my wife that noticed a line running down my screen.

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The screen was crushed directly in the area where the eroded rubber had flaked away. My assumption that this small cosmetic flaw wasn’t actually what was protecting my phone was apparently erroneous.

Now, seven months of abuse and my phone’s first bit of damage came after I knowingly watched part of the case fail… but I still feel cheated. The case itself is still watertight and 99% intact. In addition Lifeproof describes that the interior of the case is designed as shock resistant, not the film of rubber at its edges.

While this does give me the excuse to upgrade my iPhone to a 5 (I’m due anyway), I will likely be looking for a new and different brand of case to protect it.

So if any of you are experiencing the same rubber failure on a Lifeproof Case, consider yourself warned. That little bit of rubber lip is apparently what is keeping your phone screen from being drop damaged. Caveat Emptor!

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Filed under Backpacking, Commuter Travel, Outdoor Gear, Traveling Light

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