SNOWSHOE MAGAZINE GEAR REVIEW:

Block and Tackle: A Snowshoer’s Guide to Apple iPhone 5 Protection

After purchasing an Apple iPhone 5, my first order of business was to figure out how to protect my new investment. Knowing how abusive I am with my cell phones—R.I.P., my past five BlackBerries—I had to immediately act on buying a case.  However, considering I upgraded to an iPhone so I can use it for work and play, I couldn’t sacrifice functionality for fortification; clearly, I required both. And searching for a case that served my needs was going to be a challenge. What I found was nowhere near perfect, but it was more than tolerable.

photo (5)First, it’s important to know that no case on the market is going to increase the functionality and convenience of your cell phone. I’ve always found a case decreases the functionality—only slightly in some cases and massively in others. It’s also important to gauge how a case decreases convenience (e.g. removing it to access features, buttons and switches don’t react as quickly, etc.).

More than anything, a case prolongs the life of your cell phone. It protects it from impact, water, everyday abuse and much more. Considering my iPhone has monetary value, it also has a great deal of business value—while it holds essential apps, data and contact information.

Just in time for the holidays, here’s how four iPhone 5 cases stack up against each other.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 12.20.02 PMThe Body Glove ShockSuit Case

Shook proof, yes. Waterproof, no. Body Glove cases are generally pretty effective and serve their intended purpose. In terms of their ruggedness, I’m not that impressed.

Like all of the cases I reviewed, the ShockSuit comes in two parts that fit together—front to back. The back of the Body Glove case is tough and sleek, using almost Hypalon-like material. The front of the case—particularly the frame—is a plastic disappointment.

If the front of the case was engineered with the same ruggedness as the back, it could definitely compete against the other cases, in my opinion. The built-in screen protector was certainly effective and functional—as it should be. However, the plastic frame is fragile at best.

Like most iPhone cases, they have to be removed occasionally for cleaning. Of course, in this process, the plastic cracked on the corner when snapping it back onto the iPhone. As a result, the case doesn’t fit onto the phone with the same rigidness as before.

While I like this case, the plastic frame that holds the screen protector effectively over the front of the iPhone is its only downfall. When fitting the front and back together, it does the job of protecting the phone well—certainly not as seamless and effective as its competition.

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For the money, the ShockSuit is great, but you get what you pay for, unfortunately.  In my opinion, it’s best to spend some more coin on a better case for a cell phone that has more value. The ShockSuit is a backup case… now living in a junk drawer with some stale candy, receipts and an empty canister of dental floss.

For more information on the Body Glove ShockSuit case, visit http://www.bodyglovemobile.com/styles/rugged-series/shocksuit/#style-details.

Hitcase PRO

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 12.51.20 PMWhile not a case for everyday use and functionality, the Hitcase PRO is the answer to the action sports enthusiast’s pursuits in the outdoors.

Simply, the Hitcase Pro magically transforms an iPhone into a GoPro-like camera setup. Using the Hitcase, I could drop my iPhone from the Red Bull Stratos and it wouldn’t get a scratch after hitting the ground. Plus, it’s waterproof, shockproof and dumbass proof (namely what happens when I get careless).

It’s rugged, no doubt, but the Hitcase PRO is not practical as an always-on case. Here’s why: it doesn’t have a port for the charger. A case that requires removal in order to recharge the cell phone loses a tremendous amount of points in the convenience category. And why is this a problem? Smartphone batteries are terrible. Recharging occurs at least once a day, for frequent users.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 1.53.19 PMNonetheless, it does have a port for the headphone jack, but the rubber stopper that caps the port is challenging to open. But it’s there, no less. And it keeps the case waterproof.

The Hitcase PRO is purely about ruggedness to serve a tremendous amount of protection against an assortment of elements that aim only to ruin your device. However, once the three hinges of the case are loudly snapped into place, nothing can harm the enclosed iPhone.

Users can download Hitcase’s Vidometer app to add some exceptionally badass features to all recorded videos: add three different telemetry overlays, 14 different color and visualization options, and an assortment of HD recording and display options.

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In a spontaneous-video-recording world, it’s best to offer several mounting options that are fully compatible with GoPro products. The Hitcase PRO comes with an auto-locking, one-button trigger release tripod mount—known as the Railslide Mount System. Use a variety of mounting options—dashboard, helmet, tripod and more—to take your iPhone places it should never go…without a Hitcase PRO, of course.

For more information on the Hitcase PRO, visit http://www.hitcase.com/hitcase. To purchase a Hitcase PRO, click here.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 2.07.39 PMOtterBox Preserver Series

I’ve been an OtterBox fan since its modest beginnings in Fort Collins, Colo. I love this company. They’ve made cases cool… and they’re from Colorado (our home state as well).

By far, this company has come a long way and its products have evolved, but they have never compromised on quality.

Here’s my review of the OtterBox 1930 Case for the BlackBerry 8700, which I wrote in 2007: https://www.snowshoemag.com/2007/03/02/gear-review-otterbox-1930-case-for-the-blackberry-8700/.

Not only does OtterBox manufacture cases for cell phones and tablets but also you can find dry boxes that are crushproof, waterproof and airtight. In its early days, OtterBox would demonstrate its product’s toughness by slowly driving a Hummer over it. Despite its simplicity, I was always impressed with this form of marketing. Go with what works, I guess.

OtterBox’s Preserver Series for the iPhone 5 is a bullseye approach to total smartphone protection. Drop it from a height of 6.6 feet. Drop it in up to 6.6 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. No worries. Your iPhone will survive just about any kind of abuse with this case’s protection.

Its durability is undeniable. And I know. While my iPhone was snuggly encased in the OtterBox Preserver, it fell out of my jacket pocket while I was hanging lights on my house for the holidays. In slow motion, I saw my iPhone tumble off the roof and into my front yard. Oops. After finally extracting it from a shrub, the iPhone was perfectly fine. Even the OtterBox case didn’t show signs of a roof drop. Awesome!

photo (1)With a built-in screen protector and a two-piece snap assembly, I believe the Otterbox is the superior choice for iPhone 5ers, for the money. And for the most abusive of the abusers, it’s the clear choice.

I only have one bone to pick with OtterBox on the construction of the Preserver Series for the iPhone 5: the bottom part of the screen is slightly obstructed by the frame, making it difficult to open the control panel. But, it’s no big deal.

For more information on the OtterBox Preserver Series case, visit http://www.otterbox.com/preserver-series/preserver-series,default,pg.html.

Screen Shot 2013-11-24 at 5.25.23 PMLifeProof frē

Waterproof. Dirtproof. Snowproof. Shockproof. Drop it from 6.6 feet. Submerge it in 6.6 of water. Engulf it in flames (not really). The LifeProof frē is a case that can handle just about any kind of abuse thrown its way.

Hands down, the two-piece case seals together to make it waterproof—virtually like a one-piece case that impenetrably seals together. I’m VERY impressed by Lifeproof’s design. When sealing the two pieces together over the iPhone 5, you can hear how effective it is—as if it will never come off.  Beauty.

Out of all the cases I reviewed, the port openings for the charger and the headphone jack are by far the best—both maintaining the case’s waterproofness. The charger port easily flips on and off, connected by a hinge.

The headphone port screws on and off. In addition, LifeProof includes a headphone adaptor so the jack can reach the connector through the case (and screws into place as well, without any decline in audio clarity).

Most of the cases I reviewed boasted a “thin and lightweight” design. Honestly, only the LifeProof frē can claim this feature. It truly is the thinnest and lightest I reviewed, which is what you want in an all-protective case.

As I stated earlier, no case is perfect. And the LifeProof frē is no exception. Out of all the cases I reviewed, the built-in screen protector was somewhat disappointing in how it functioned with the iPhone 5. Near the bottom of the case, the screen protector had some “slack” and didn’t lay completely flat on the iPhone screen—making it difficult to interact with the touchscreen. On the positive side, the screen protector has built-in compatibility with the iPhone’s Home button.

photo (3)However, the frē was the only case that works perfectly in conjunction with the ringer’s silence switch. It certainly isn’t a problem when constructing a case with button adaptors, but switches are a whole different story. And LifeProof got it right.

All in all—feature-by-feature—the LifeProof frē was by far the better choice among the cases I reviewed (for everyday use).

For more information on the LifeProof frē, visit http://www.lifeproof.com/shop/us_en/iphone-5/fre/.  To purchase LifeProof products, click here.

slxtreme-5-solar-battery-rugged-water-proof-iphone-caseHonorable mentions: SLXTREME 5 and Mophie Juice Pack 

Combining battery charging with a case is definitely a winning product. And there are two I would suggest researching: SLXTREME 5 and Mophie Juice Pack.

While not yet available as of this article’s publishing date, the SLXTREME 5 case by SnowLizard for the iPhone 5 looks pretty darn awesome. It’s solar powered and waterproof, which is a combo I would love to try. Charging my iPhone while in its case is an amazing feature—especially charging it with solar technology.

jpa-ip5s-blk_blk-ip_back-3qtr_2000px_1And speaking of charging while being protected, the Juice Pack series of cases by Mophie are amazingly effective. Allowing the user to extend the battery life of their iPhone 5 is a remarkable feature, considering Smartphones in general are battery hogs.

On a side note, I’ve been using the Mophie powerstation PRO for a couple years and I love it. Mophie makes a bulletproof product and I stand behind the brand’s quality.

For more information on the SLXTREME 5, visit http://www.snowlizardproducts.com/cases/13-slxtreme-5-solar-battery-rugged-water-proof-iphone-case.html.

For more information on the Mophie Juice Pack cases, visit http://www.mophie.com/shop/.

One thought on “Block and Tackle: A Snowshoer’s Guide to Apple iPhone 5 Protection

  1. I’ve used the LIfeproof Fre with mixed reviews as well. In the end, even after a few replacements, the screen was disappointing with bubbles. I just recently switched to the Lifeproof Nuud and is the best iPhone case I have found for the conditions I’ve put it through. Highly recommend!

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