In our LifeProof Fre Review, we’ve discovered that this iPhone case is thin, provides average protection and will suck the joy out of using your iPhone
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Today we’re going to review the LifeProof Fre for the iPhone 6. This is the first waterproof case that we’ve found worthy to review for the iPhone 6 and we can say, it’s a pretty average waterproof case.
We’re actually very surprised at how thin this case is. It’s almost as big as a regular slim case and is one of smallest of all the tough cases that we have in our possession. What that being said, there are a couple issues that have crossed over from the Fre’s for the iPhone 5S that we’re not a big fan of, namely the screen view-ability and access to your iPhone in terms of sound and hardware.
Based on our time with this case, we gave it a score of 3.8 Eh’s out of 5. When compared to other tough cases, we’ve rated the Amzer Crusta and Ballistic Hardcore higher though they are not waterproof. We are in the middle of another waterproof iPhone case for the Dog and Bone Wetsuit so stay tuned for that. If you’re wondering how this case fares against other cases, check out our comparison tool!
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Design – It is surprisingly thin for a tough iPhone case
In terms of design, the LifeProof Fre is one of the thinnest and lightest cases we’ve reviewed. It’s really blown our mind how slim the case is especially when you compare it to tough cases like the Otterbox Defender and Griffin Survivor All-terrain.
The general design hasn’t really changed between the Lifeproof fre for the iPhone 5/5S and 6. The back of the case looks pretty similar and the front hasn’t really changed either but they have removed the plastic piece around the camera. This change improves the screen viewablity slightly.
Installation of the case is pretty simple and remains unchanged from the 5 version which requires yo to snap two pieces together. If you do get this case, we recommend that you snap from the bottom up as it’s a bit easier than the other way. The gasket that sits at the bottom of the latch cover still can be lost if you’re not careful and we’ve noticed that the green o-ring comes out much easier than the o-ring on the previous generation.
For build quality, we’re disappointed with the Fre. The back casing shows scratches quite easily and as you saw from our drop video, a 6 ft drop resulted in a cracked case. On the flip side, LifeProof’s warranty is pretty awesome as we were able to get a replacement case. With all that being said, Fre does fit fairly well and one of the things we’ll note is that there is a little bend in the Fre when it’s empty.
Protection – So thin and droppable? The perfect slim tough case?
In terms of Protection, the Fre is waterproof up to 6.6ft and droppable from 6.6 ft. We’ve dropped our Fre several times on concrete and the iPhone’s fine but the Fre did crack on a 6 ft drop. If you’re concerned about the break consider all the times when you’re actually going to be dropping your iPhone 6 from 6 ft.
In terms of water protection, we don’t think the Fre will have any troubles filming all your underwater shenanigans. We didn’t take the Fre down to 6.6 ft but with waterproofing, it it’s not going to leak in a shallow bit of water, there’s a good chance it’ll be waterproof at 6.6 ft as the deeper you go, the greater water pressure which compresses the case together which keeps the case waterproof. (**apparently my understanding of waterproof is flawed, the comments below for how waterproofing actually works)
In terms of dust, since it is waterproof, it is going to be dustproof if you keep all the ports sealed. The only places that dust can enter the case is around the lightning port and headphone jack cutouts so dust and debris entering the case will be kept to a minimum.
For screen protection, the plastic screen protector does a decent job of protecting your iPhone’s touchscreen as you can see in our face-first drop tests. LifeProof does recommend that you remove all films prior to installing the Fre. Given how tightly the Fre fits around the iPhone, we wouldn’t try to use another screen protector.
All in all, the Fre for the iPhone 6 offers the same amount of protection as the Fre for the iPhone 5/5s versions.
Functionality – Like fine wine, this case gets better with time
Functionality is where the Fre falls flat on it’s face. In terms of accessing your iPhone inside the case, if you have a large selection of 3rd party cables and headphones, throw them out. Take them, go the nearest garbage can and throw them out because you can’t use them with the Fre.
Apple-branded accessories will work but nothing else. The cutout for the lightning port will not fit your Amazon basics cables and the headphone cutout will not fit headphone jacks that are slightly larger than Apple’s Earpods. There is a caveat for the headphones as LifeProof does include its signature threaded waterproof headphone jack extension so that fits with any type of headphones.
Also, you can’t attach a wrisstrap to the Fre. On the Previous versions you could attach a wriststrap via where the headphone jack plug attached to the case but they’ve removed that feature on the 6 version of the Fre.
Using your iPhone 6 in one-hand isn’t great as the Fre’s back isn’t very rubbery so it doesn’t sit on the palm of your hand too well.
The buttons on the case are pretty tough but I do believe will get easier over time and the Touch ID membrane does work but you will notice it may take a bit longer for your fingerprint to register. One of the things that LifeProof doesn’t mention is to pay special attention to the Touch ID area when you’re installing the case as leaving a fingerprint on the home button and then placing a membrane on top of the sensor will degrade the performance of the Touch ID. This is from my personal experience.
The LifeProof Fre isn’t great with sound. Unlike the 5/5S versions of the case, sound coming from the Fre isn’t louder. In fact it’s a little muted which is weird since there is still some sort of acoustic chamber on the back of the case but out of the 4 tests I did for sound coming out of the bottom speaker, the Fre was slightly muted. We will note that the Fre does cover most of the mics with the mic at the bottom of the iPhone being the only one that has one of those thin acoustic membranes.
In terms of the loudness coming from the ear piece speaker, it is a bit muted. On our tests, the iPhone in the Fre averaged a difference of 5-10 db’s lower than the iPhone without the Fre. This isn’t much but it still will mute it.
Now, the odd thing about the sound and this has to do more with the iPhone I think then the Fre was that recording a message through the Fre and without the Fre resulted in the loudness being the same which is nice.
In terms of accessing your iPhone’s touchscreen, there is still a gap and it is noticeable but does not degrade the sensitivity of the iPhone too much (or that we noticed). Getting to the rest of the screen is quite easy as there is nothing that gets in the way.
On to the screen viewablity of the case, there are issues galore. In fact, most of the issues with the Fre for the 5 and 5S exist on the 6. Since the screen doesn’t sit flush on the iPhone’s touchscreen, you’re going to get double reflections. The glare on the screen protector is generally noticeable and the screen protector still diffuses your iPhone’s touchscreen.
Have questions about our LifeProof Fre Review for the iPhone 6? Please ask them on our Google+ page or on our Facebook page.