OtterBox Armor Vs. LifeProof frē For iPhone 5

UPDATE: May 22, 2013 – OtterBox acquires rival LifeProof (Source: iPhone Atlas – CNet Reviews )

ArmorVsFrePintSmall Collage

I have to start this blog off by saying that I have drooled over the LifeProof cases for a while. Working a very physically demanding job, I have gone through a few phones.  I could never bring myself to buy a case that is $79.99.  Just couldn’t find a way to justify that price point.

When I got my iPhone 5 months after it came out, I already had spent hours researching phone cases, even reviewing the cases I had reduced the list down to the ones I was willing to part with my hard-earned cash for.  You can read that list on my Product Reviews page or at OrganicallyMo.com.

I finally settled on the OtterBox Defender.

OtterboxDefender Collage

Which is not a bad case, it was the best case at the time for what I was willing to spend.  As with everything time changes needs and circumstances, as well as brings new innovations.

~ Full disclosure:  I was a little miffed at LifeProof for not having a product or even an image spec ready to go when the iPhone 5 initially came out.  Even months after, when I purchased my phone it still was unavailable.  Also being unfamiliar with the LifeProof case, I was under the assumption it would be maybe $50.  So when I did hear the price of $80 I thought it was OUTRAGEOUS.~

When LifeProof FINALLY did announced the case and it’s price, I updated my review to reflect it.  At the time I purchased the OtterBox Defender, it was going for $49.99.  I was able to get a deal on mine at $44.99.  I intended to use that for my job, which is outdoors and in the elements.

What kept me from using the Defender everyday was its BULKY nature.  It would get sweaty on the inside of the case if I had it in my pocket and it warmed up and I wanted something that was easy to use one-handed. Also the case size made it difficult to place it in my car comfortably.  So I purchased a Splash Cruiser for when I was home.  I would switch cases either at work or when I got home.

 

Image Source: splashproducts.com

 

Since being home on a work injury I have used my Defender only 2 times.  It sits in its original packaging, most likely to be sold at our next garage sale.

I have been in search of a case I could use all the time, instead of switching back and forth.  Lately thanks to social media, I have been seeing more and more of the LifeProof frē.  Then the photos of the new Teal frē came out and THAT got my attention.  Thanks to Maureen, I became a fan of hockey and the San Jose Sharks, which brought with it a love of teal I cannot shake.

 

Lifeproofteal1

Image Source: LifeProof.com

We enjoy going to the beach occasionally and taking lots of pictures.  So how cool would it be to get a picture in the water or of the waves crashing on the phone and not kill it?  I’ve dropped and/or mowed over several phones during my career.  I NEED a case that really does it all!  When you think about it, this is a very special piece of technology. It’s your own personal handheld computer, secretary, camera, and it’s a phone too.

We had a vacation coming up with a few beach outings, so I decided it was good chance to test a case that would protect my phone from me and would be protected from the world.  I went to my local AT&T Store and was dead set on buying a LifeProof.  When I got inside they also had the OtterBox Armor, which, in my opinion, is OtterBox’s answer to the frē.  (OtterBox would probably dispute that statement)

 

Image Credit: OtterBox.com

I REALLY wanted the Teal frē but, all they had were black and white(in-store).  The Armor comes in grey/orange, grey/white/teal, grey/green.  Not just the color of the Armor got me, but the thing is a TANK; it looks damn near impossible to destroy.

The Fré looks like two little layers of thin cheap plastic.  If I am paying $79.99 for two pieces of plastic, why not fork out an additional $20 for a case I KNOW will protect my phone.

After drooling over both for a while, the Customer Service Representative(CSR) Shark  came over and did something that really impressed me.  The CSR was more than willing to take the cases out of the box for me to look at and inspect.  If I am spending this kind of cash it’s an investment and I want to be educated.

Major kudos to AT&T for respecting that!  So I purchased the OtterBox Armor at $99 (saved 95 cents off online price), in orange/grey to represent my San Francisco Giants. (It took me about 10 mins to decide which color, was torn between blue and orange)

OtterBox Armor:

Armor Collage3v2

Pros:

This thing is bulky but the way it is made reminded me of the egg cushion experiment from school.  It was built to withstand an impact, a 2 ton impact to be exact.


With the clasp locking system it is very easy to remove the case to take the phone out, a major plus.  The plastic is not cheap at any level to the consumer.  It is very thick, but gentle on your phone with the silicon lining on the back to help nestle it into place.


Here are the “Tech Specs”:

  • Water Proof – 6.6’ submersion for up to 30 minutes.
  • Drop Proof – 10′ drop to concrete.
  • Dust Proof – 0 entry of dust and debris.
  • Crush Proof – 2 Tons of pressure

OtterBox was named a CES Innovations 2013 Design & Engineering Awards Honoree for the Armor Series, Defender Series and iON Intelligence cases.

Image Credit: OtterBox.com

The CSR kept asking me if I wanted to throw my phone down to test it.  While I did appreciate his enthusiasm in wanting to prove it to me, I politely declined.  Next time he should be more than happy to used his own phone to demonstrate.

I got it home and performed the recommended 30 minute submersion test. Before you put your phone in the case you want to make sure there are no defects in the waterproofing.  I didn’t think for the life of me to take a picture of this, but it was impressive.  Eased my fears, and Maureen’s after seeing how much I paid.

My picture quality didn’t suffer at all from having the Armor on my phone.


I also use my phone as a GPS and the universal phone mount had no problem with the size of this beast.  The clear plastic screen that protects the iPhone’s touch screen had no problems with touch sensitivity or any lack there of.


I really liked the ability to open the colored flexible rubber tabs that were a little bit of a chore at first to remove, but you want that in a case that is supposed to keep stuff out.  It was very easy to use with the headphone jack and the lightning connector.


While at the beach I got sand in my clothes and pockets and on my phone case, but nothing made its way to the phone inside the case. I quickly hosed it off when we got to water and I was good to go.

 

Cons:

Here is what I didn’t like, I was hoping the rubber covers could be opened up to allow for use of the Apple 30 pin to 9 pin adapter to work with this phone.  It does not.

Image Credit: Apple.com

The Armor only comes in 3 colors.  I would like to see more variety.  I suspect more are on the way.

While the price point is not out of line at $99.99, I would like to have a warranty to replace my phone if something there is water damage to the phone because of case failure.

The biggest hurdle for me to get past is its size.  While I LOVE how protective it is, the size makes it harder to handle and store conveniently in a vehicle or use any after market accessory to store the iPhone 5 based on its original size.

 

LifeProof frē:

Pros:

Right off the bat, the frē is definitely more form-fitting to the iPhone 5.  It was made to be a low profile case.  However, the flimsy, thin plastic has me really doubting how this case can be effective.  After I put it together and put it through it’s 60 minute submersion test, I was impressed.  Not one drop of water inside of the case.

There is no lag on the touch interface on the case either, very fluid, fast response time.  I am still amazed at how it fits and feels, I am starting to really believe this product will save my phone even though it is so thin.  It is almost like a “Batsuit”.

There are quite a few accessories available from LifeProof as well on their website.(In some stores as well)

Once again picture quality is great, I see no difference in my photos from the case being over the lenses.

 

 

LifeProof’s “Four Proofs”: 

  • Water Proof – submergible to 6.6’ (2m) for up to 30 minutes
  • Dirt Proof – totally sealed against minute dirt & dust ingress
  • Snow Proof – fully enclosed to keep melting snow, sleet and ice out
  • Shock Proof – withstands drop impacts from up to 6.6’ (2m)

What I REALLY like is that if you buy your frē through the LifeProof website, the cost is still $79.99, and you have a choice of 10 colors!  For an additional $10 you can buy the “Total Water Protection Program” warranty.  This warranty covers (from LifeProof.com):

 

Image Credit: LifeProof.com

“If, within one-year of purchasing your LifeProof case and registering with the Total Water Protection Program, your eligible device suffers water damage while in the case, LifeProof will repair or replace it.* The program is limited to a one-time use, and requires the case be used in accordance with all provided instructions. A simple request process and a nominal service fee ($50 for iPhone, $75 for iPad) is all it takes. And, we’ll send you a new case, too”

 

That’s a pretty stellar program!

 

Cons:


I would like the frē to be made of a stronger plastic, and for the clear screen on the face to be less flimsy, a thicker quality like the Armor’s.

The waterproofing for the headphone jack is a screw in plug with a rubber gasket around it.  While this is affective, I was not able to put a regular audio cable in to connect it to my stereo without the provided adapter. If you had to carry this around all the time it could become a real pain.  The adapter has a male input jack that screws into place to keep it sealed from the elements.

 

LifePFreAux2 Collage

I later realized (while at the Apple Store) that if I buy a Lighting to 30-pin Adapter (0.2m) I could still use my dock to charge and play audio with this case.  A little inconvenient, but it works. (this applies to the Armor case as well.)

Image Credit: Apple.com

Let’s Compare:

 

Thanks to waterproofiphone.info for this picture. In my haste I failed to get this comparison shot.

Both the OtterBox Armor and the LifeProof frē claim to water test each case.

They both meet Military Standard 810F-516

 

Credit: LifeProof.com

LifeProof also touts an additional IP-68 rating, which is a standard for water and dust protection.  I found no information on OtterBox’s website to confirm if they do as well.

 

Credit: Lifeproof.com

Both these cases offer similar protection, in some cases one has something more to offer over the other.  OtterBox and LifeProof both provide Free Shipping if purchased through their website.

The frē is a sleeker, more snug fit, if you want something that doesn’t add to the size of your iPhone 5 but still offers plenty of protection. The frē also comes in a variety of colors, as of now, it is in 10 colors!  With a price point of $79.99, plus an optional(but a must) water protection warranty for $10.  LifeProof doesn’t make $89.99 sting so much.

 

Image Credit: LifeProof.com

With a price point of $99.95, Armor offers the better all around protection.  It is easy to take on and off, you know just by looking at it, your phone is invincible.  I had the waves of the ocean crash over my phone a few times and it was fine! Unfortunately Armor currently only comes in 3 colors.

 

Image Credit: OtterBox.com

 

Once the screen was wiped clean it was good to go again.

I just wish Armor would also offer a warranty to stand behind their product as well as more colors.  It also is easier to access the headphone jack than the frē on the go.

However both Armor and frē don’t allow for use of the Apple Lightning to 30-pin adapter for the iPhone 5 (unless you buy the longer adapter as stated earlier).  However, LifeProof does have one for the iPhone 4/4S to connect to a dock, so I am betting one will be coming (when Apple allows it).

Armor definitely lives up to its “Toughest Case Ever Built” claim.  But I am guessing like many, I just can’t get over its girth.  I spent a week with it and loved it, but the size kept nagging at me.  I saw friends with the frē and I was a little jealous.

The frē, is slimmer, sleek & I can put it in my pocket and not look like I stuffed a brick in it.  While you CAN’T go wrong with either the Armor or frē, at the end of the day, OtterBox offers the better case and protection.

It really boils down to which do you like better?  What works for you?  They both proved that the protection is well worth the price.

For me, the LifeProof frē is more practical. In return, it will get my money.

The OtterBox Armor is rugged and tighter than Fort Knox, so it gets my respect and full endorsement to those who work outside in tough and rugged environments as the go to case for MAXIMUM protection.

It is kind of like American Idol the year Ruben Studdard won.  Ruben was the champ, but Clay Aiken had the better all around voice.

 

Until next time, keep techin’ on.

 

-Gary

@McGSqwared

mcgsquared.wordpress.com

 

Sources

17 thoughts on “OtterBox Armor Vs. LifeProof frē For iPhone 5

    • I am more than somewhat cnencroed. I ordered this from Amazon and after waiting for 9 days for free delivery received what is clearly not an Otterbox product. This was confirmed by Otterbox when I contacted them directly. I would give this product ZERO stars if I could.I ordered from My Gear Store, the other reviewer (W2SJW) ordered from CellOut but with identical results. Like the other reviewers the product that was delivering to me is almost certainly not an Otterbox Galaxy Tab case.* After sending them photos, Otterbox customer support says that this is NOT an Otterbox case.* The Product was listed as new and there was no indication of the use of generic packaging in the listing but the order arrived completely absent the original Otterbox packaging simply dumped in a clear plastic bag. Several others had the same experience (ccgirl etc.).* The unit was completely missing the clear plastic screen protector that’s supposed to be GLUED into the front-half of the case. This screen protector is clearly indicated in both the wording and the photographs of the Amazon listing. (The missing screen is arguably a $22.00 value which is the cost of a high quality screen from a comparable manufacturer)* The rear-half of the shell is missing the suede/microfiber cloth inserts that are supposed to be attached to the inside to protect the back of the tablet. The actual item (as legitimately manufactured), can be clearly seen in the Otterbox Galaxy Tab case review on YouTube and on the Amazon site as a sales promotion!I am not going to mince words the case I received is almost certainly a knock off of an Oterbox case whether the parts are OEM or not which I doubt. No Packaging Parts Missing No Contact from Vendor Disowned by Manufacturer you probably get the picture by now.I tried for 5 days to get in touch with the vendor to get their side with no meaningful response. Their phone voice mail system does not connect you to anyone.This is not a You get what you pay for situation . The advertising for the product lists the vendor as Otterbox and nowhere indicates that this is not a complete or correctly packaged item. In fact the photography and wording states clearly this is a complete Otterbox product. I have the screen shots to prove it. Further, without the protection screen and the design, overhead and warrantee costs this is a $3.00 piece of plastic.

  1. I’m trying to get reviews on sound from both these cases. My boyfriend has the lifeproof and seems to like it but claims he cant hear it. Is there a difference in sound between the two cases? Also the screen protector…. Did one seem to fit better? His case and phone were brand new, and I cleaned them well, as the instructions stated, but there is still “splotches” where the screen sticks to the glass…..

    I’m now looking to get one for my phone, I’m still leaning towards the life proof, because of the replacement guarantee, more accessories, and color options. Just curious if any pros towards sound or screen with the otter box?

    • I have had both the nuud and now the armor I have used Lifeproof for my previous 3 iphones. They were the full covered ones. I never liked the sound from them and friends would say that they could not understand me. I thought the Nuud would be better for that. It was NOT. The thing vibrated and worse….. my phone got wet. I did all the testing etc. I did not bother to buy the 10 dollar insurance as I have Applecare + and I did not think I needed it. My other life proof cases were great. My camera stopped working so I took my 5 month old iphone in and they opened it from the Lifeproof and showed me where I had water damage sensors triggered. It was rather sad as my iphone looked brand new and I am sure I received a reconditioned iphone. It works though but not as shiny.
      I like the Armour. The sound is great! And as I sometimes want a slim phone to put in a purse and go to dinner… the Armour opens easily! I can use a pretty cover in my purse as needed. I feel great using the Armour on my boat and the biggest plus???? It has an opening for a lanyard! The LIfeproof does not! I never understood why they would leave that out? I can attach my phone to a floating device or I can put one of those key ring things on it that will open when wet and inflate a long orange indicator. If it sunk in the harbor I could still see it and retrieve it! (I have had to do that before) I love the Armor.

  2. Just a tid bit regarding the OtterBox Armor Series – the cases are available groupon.com currently for $24.99! Thank you for your review…I am currently using the LifeProof Fre and think I might go ahead and get the Armor!

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