- Editor Rating
- Rated 4 stars
- LifeProof Fre iPhone 5/5s Case
- Reviewed by:
- Published on:
- Last modified:
- Cosmetic AppealEditor: 90%
- Design & Build QualityEditor: 70%
- FeaturesEditor: 90%
- FunctionEditor: 70%
- Value For The PriceEditor: 80%
The LifeProof frē iPhone 5/5s case offers a slim design and superior protection from the elements.
LifeProof entered the marketplace back in 2009 and has gained immense popularity with their protective mobile accessories. Their product line features a unique design, impressive protection benefits, and array of attractive color options which keep consumers stay loyal to the brand for future device protection. Having been acquired recently by their leading competitor OtterBox, the company has all the potential to improve in the future and continue to offer more advanced protective accessories for the mobile devices of tomorrow.
Today, we are going to take an in-depth look at one of their newest offerings the LifeProof frē Realtree Camo iPhone 5/5s Case which debuted at CES last month. The Realtree model sells for $89.99 on LifeProof's website and I'd highly suggest choosing their official website to purchase any LifeProof product as you'll encounter a large amount of LifeProof counterfeits on retailers like eBay and Amazon which will not match the same quality and protection benefits.
In case you were wondering, the Realtree frē is no different than the standard frē model besides cosmetic changes which make up for the $10 price increase. Due to this, the review is relevant to any consumers interested in both the Realtree or standard variants. Our opinions are based solely on our hands-on experience with our sample case with no outside influences having any affect on the outcome of this review.
In many of the sections, I will compare it against its closest rival the OtterBox Preserver Series so you can get a better idea of which of these cases is best suited for your needs. If you're still torn between the two, I'll be creating a dedicated article in the near future which will give a more concrete break down between these two high-end, waterproof cases.
The frē case features the standard two-piece design that LifeProof is notorious for. The front piece includes the integrated screen protector and bezel protection whereas the back is merely a thin piece of plastic with a cutout for the camera and flash as well as a plastic latch to secure the two pieces together. This type of design allows for a snug fit, but you'll encounter a few downsides which I'll discuss later on.
The build quality is clearly strong, but I can't help to compare it with the OtterBox Preserver Series which feels substantially more durable. The main reason for this is the LifeProof's choice of build materials whom offer some range of flexibility when pressure is applied. While I wouldn't expect them to break or deteriorate during normal circumstances, it just doesn't give offer the same type of quality as the Preserver Series who appears to be ready to survive being run over by a truck. Additionally, the latch assembly at the bottom of the frē feels cheap and that would be my main point of concern when it comes to longevity.
The Realtree camo print does look stunning on the case as the matte finish offers impeccable clarity. The LifeProof branding found near the bottom is subtle enough to give off a classy appeal without demanding attention. Though I'm not a hunter or have any real need for a camo iPhone accessory (does anyone really?), I still love the overall appeal of this finish and it has been a real hit with my friends who are into outdoor recreation.
When comparing the size and bulkiness of the LifeProof frē and the OtterBox Preserver Series, I surprised to see they how similar they were. The height and width of the cases appear to be identical however the LifeProof is a few centimeters thinner. Judging by hand, I'd say the OtterBox is slightly heavier without a device in it however the difference is negligible.
As with any LifeProof product, you get 360-degree protection against the everyday wear and tear including drops and dings. Additionally, you have full waterproof, dirtproof, snowproof, and shockproof capabilities. This is a huge benefit to any consumers who want to take their device with them while enduring these types of elements and in some situations this type of protection has literally been a lifesaver.
Adding an frē case to your iPhone does not block out any of the necessary ports or buttons and leaves them accessible for future use. LifeProof was sure to make the necessary changes to the rear LED flash and home button to support the iPhone 5s' redesigned flash and TouchID sensor, but it still works just with a standard iPhone 5. There are aspects of this case which hinder access to your device's ports which are a result of the “cork and latch” design used on the bottom of the case.
If you've ever held or seen a LifeProof case up close, you probably noticed the headphone jack closed off using a “cork”. This is a small piece of plastic used to close off your headphone jack and keep water from getting inside. While this is an effective way of solving this problem, it causes other issues at the same time. In earlier models of LifeProof cases, this cork was not attached which made it very easy to lose. In the newer frē cases it is now attached to the rest of the case via a small plastic connector which avoids the previous headache.
The major issue is that this cork design will support many aftermarket headphones and forces you to bring along the included adapter which is bothersome to carry on an everyday basis. The adapter screws into the headphone port and seals tightly to allow underwater listening if you happen to own a pair of waterproof ear buds. While the standard Apple earbuds and earpods work without an adapter, I've can confirm from first-hand experience that most aftermarket earbuds will not.
Another issue comes from the latch which secures 2-piece design together. In order to get access to the lightning port, you need to flip the latch open and insert the cable. However, the opening for the lighting port is tight so it won't support many aftermarket charging accessories including docking stations, certain cables, and products like the ChargeKey.
These issues may not be a dealbreaker as you can always remove the case to use aftermarket headphones without the adapter or to utilize aftermarket charging accessories. Regardless, it is an inconvenience especially since both of these issues are not present on the Preserver Series thanks to improved design.
I've been using the case with my iPhone 5 for the past month or so and my experience has been positive overall. It has been easy to apply or remove the case and the build quality has proved strong since there are no noticeable defects or damage present from consistent daily use.
Our water and snow testing has been proven to work as expected thus keeping my precious device safe even in the worst conditions. The matte finish makes for an easy transition in and out of my pockets or backpack. Additionally, it gives me some extra grip to help keep it from accidentally slipping out of my hands. I did notice the added bulkiness at first, but it is marginal enough that you get used to it after only a day or two.
In the past, I've had issues with LifeProof cases' call quality and the integrated screen protector which did not sit flush with the screen. I'm happy to report our sample frē case has not given us any trouble in either area. I have ran into multiple circumstances where the charging port and headphone jack's limiting design have become bothersome which personally is enough to make me choose the Preserver Series over the frē for the same for small difference in price.
I've found the LifeProof RealTree frē case for the iPhone 5/5s to be an overall satisfying product for the given price-point. The case offers a tremendous amount of protection benefits with only a small amount of added bulk. The biggest downfalls come from the “cork and latch” design which hinders the use of many aftermarket headphones and charging accessories. While I would recommend the case to any prospective buyers, I'd personally opt for the OtterBox Preserver Series as the build quality is slightly better and you won't experience any of the same issues concerning access to the headphone or lightning ports.
As a graduate of the University of Massachusetts and our Managing Editor, Colt loves testing out the newest tech products/services. His goal is to help better educate other consumers to ensure the most satisfying purchases decisions on consumer electronics and services. When he is not working on creating new content, Colt enjoys spending time with his two Australian Shepherds, Mia and Zoey.