Review: Lifeproof frē smartphone case and bike mount

Gear Pro Reviews

The LifeProof frē case is a waterproof, snowproof, dustproof and shockproof, and protects the smartphone from abusive encounters with the environment and anything else you can toss at it. It’s available in iPhone 4/4s, 5C, 5, 5S and Samsung Galaxy s3, S4 versions, and retails for $79.99. The upgraded iPhone 5s series case, which I tested, now has access to Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint identity sensor and every function, button and port.

The phone inserts tightly into the two-piece case, and then gets squeezed in snugly when the halves are closed together, and it takes some decent compression to get all the edges snapped completely shut and seal the waterproof gasket. Once everything is closed up tight, the case is immune to the average hazards tossed at it.

The bike mounts (only available for the iPhone) is made from a tough high-impact resistant plastic, and it snugly cradles the iPhone case on its back, corners and top edge, without any undue movement. It clamps down with an easy to use handlebar clamp that has three rubber size adapters for varying bar thickness. The mount has been upgraded from its previous incarnation, and has a better spring clamp to hold the phone, and a wider cutout for the iPhone 5 series camera and double flash.

The mount fits a wide range of bike and motorsport bars, so you can take your iPhone on and off road, and into adverse conditions and environments. The synchronicity of the case and mount, allow you to use cycling GPS apps and normal mobile usage while riding a bike, extending the usefulness of your iPhone. It can be mounted any almost any position, though most likely it would be the typical horizontal or vertical layup.

Impressions

I have used a first-generation Lifeproof case for my iPhone 4, and found it to be rugged and abuse proof, and can offer some serious protection from drops, dirt and water, while still allowing full access to the buttons, touchscreen, camera and phone. This upgraded frē case gave those same attributes, but the touchscreen has a much better tactile response than its predecessor. I could text and do any activity quite easily, and it felt on par with a normal screen protector, though obviously not as good as a naked screen. The company does sell another case called the nüüd, which uses the same basic design as the frē, but forgoes the screen cover and leaves the screen naked or nude. I have that case design for my iPad 2, but I felt as though my phone gets more abuse, and I wanted the extra protection offered by the frē. The interface to the iPhone 5s Touch ID worked most of the time, but it wasn’t perfect, and I think I averaged around an 80-90 percent success, and I didn’t find that to be a deal breaker for me. Sometimes the Touch ID would work perfectly for many iterations (worked 20 times in a row just now), then it would get finicky, but you could always revert to using the old-school keypad method when needed.

In really bright light conditions, out in the full sunshine, the screen is a bit too glossy, and can make it more difficult to view things, but it wasn’t that big of a deal. The speaker and microphone covers work surprisingly well, while still retaining their water and dirt protection qualities, and the back of the case helps with sound reinforcement.

The side buttons all worked admirably, though they were slightly stiff on their actuation. To interface to the headphone jack, there is a watertight screw port, and a special adapter to run accessories, such as waterproof headphones. You’ll need the adapter or an extra-long plug that can fit deeply into the recesses of the case, otherwise you won’t get a proper connection. To use the power or docking port, you just flip the bottom closure flap down, and it’s accessed, and the iPhone lightning connector fits perfectly, though I wasn’t able to stick it on my bedroom alarm clock due to the flap getting in the way.

I accidentally dropped the phone from 3-4 feet in the air several times, and it certainly seemed to offer considerable protection, but I didn’t test the extreme waterproofness (immersion for 1 hour at a 2m depth), so I’ll take their word on it. I got the unit into some hefty rain and snow storms, and plenty of dirt and mud have been thrown up on it, and it has been none the worse from the abuse.

The bike mount did it’s job just fine, and when clamped down with the proper tension, it never moved out of position during normal use or let the phone dislodge, even on the roughest terrain. If you did hit the mount accidentally or crashed directly on it, it might move slightly or the clamp would loosen enough to let it spin around the handlebars, but the phone case still stayed safely encased within the confines of the main body. The mount pivots and locks down using a ball and socket gimbal system, much like an RAM mount, so the angle can easily be adjusted for personal preferences. I do wish the kit came with a medium thin rubber adapter, since sometimes the thin one wasn’t enough and the next size up was too thick. It was simple to pop the iPhone in and out of the unit using the top clip-in clasp, as well as the handlebar clamp, making for easy swap outs. You can rotate the phone upwards and capture video footage if you’re so inclined, since the mount has cutouts for the camera, though I personally never used that feature.

Bottom Line

The Lifeproof frē is a slim case that is rugged and abuse proof, and can provide some serious protection from drops, dirt, water and snow, while still offering full access to the buttons, touchscreen, camera and phone. The touchscreen is too glossy, making it somewhat difficult to view in bright light conditions, and it can be tougher to engage icons and text (compared to a naked or nude screen), but the additional protection is worth the mild compromises, especially if you use the phone in adverse environments. It’s not cheap at $79.99, but I liked the case, and really appreciated that I don’t have to worry about babying my precious and pricey iPhone, as I know it’s well protected. The Apple Touch ID fingerprint sensor interface was a great feature, though on rare occasions, it can be finicky.

The Lifeproof bike mounts is robust, easy to use and adjust, and held their iPhone case in a secure and stable manner. I liked how simple it was to pop the case out of the unit, and that it went right back in and remained sturdy and immobile. I crashed a number of times and hit the mount pretty hard, and although it tweaked it out of position, it didn’t cause any damage to the case. You can rotate the mount upwards to capture video footage of a ride, making for a great additional feature of the unit.

Pros
  • Durable and rugged
  • Case – Slim and light
  • Case – Waterproof, snowproof, dustproof and shockproof
  • Case – Access to Apple’s Touch ID fingerprint sensor
  • Mount – Cutouts to record video footage
  • Mount – Secure and stable
  • Mount – Easy to use, bar clamp and case
Cons
  • Case – Glossy screen can be difficult to view in bright light
  • Case – On rare occasions the Touch ID interface can be finicky
  • Case – Expensive
  • Mount – Needs a medium thin rubber adapter (comes with thin, medium, thick)
  • Mount – When hit hard it can move out of position, though it securely retains the case
Specifications
  • Case $79.99
  • Bike mount $39.99

For further information visit: http://www.lifeproof.com/en/

Review: Lifeproof frē smartphone case and bike mount Gallery
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Lifeproof Bike Mount Parts

Lifeproof Bike Mount - showing all the separated parts and it built together
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Lifeproof Bike Mount Case

Lifeproof frē Smartphone Case
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Lifeproof Bike Case

Lifeproof frē Smartphone Case - showing front and back of cases, inside and outside, note the yellow seals to protect from water damage
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Lifeproof Bike Mount

Lifeproof Bike Mount
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Lifeproof Bike Mount Case

Lifeproof frē Smartphone Case and Bike Mount - showing horizontal and vertical set up on handlebars
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Lifeproof Bike Mount Features

Lifeproof frē Smartphone Case - detailed features
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Lifeproof Bike Mount Case Angled

Lifeproof frē Smartphone Case and Bike Mount - angled viewpoint
About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian has been part of the Mtbr team since 2007, where he has become an integral member of the review and test staff, specializing in technical articles. He likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, extreme skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth and hyperbolic articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on extremely technical singletrack.


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  • chasejj says:

    I use the same setup on my 4S and you can get a mount that replaces the headset cap. Very clean mounting.

    I use the Jaybird Bluetooth headphones and a Polar HRM with app. Works great and I can still get calls if I want or need to use the phone.

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