Review: Lifeproof Waterproof iPhone Case & Handlebar Mount
There’s certainly no shortage of iPhone mounts for the bicycle. Topeak, Optrix and even some DIY versions have all been spotlighted here on Bikerumor. Each has their unique features, but the Lifeproof one is among the most practical for just riding with the screen in easy reach.
Lifeproof’s claim to fame is submersible waterproofness, something I cautiously tested. Honestly, I was most interested in this to protect against getting caught in the rain and the occasional dropping of the phone, but having it completely sealed against the elements is nice insurance. On the bike, the ball-jointed quick release mount makes placement quick and easy.
It’s available in white, black, pink and purple. And, recently, they added a floatation jacket in bright orange. That item all but removes any complaint I have about the case. I was thinking it should have a small loop to hook to a keychain floatie or something, but the jacket (not tested) is even better and presumably adds additional cushioning against impact.
Anyway, about the on-bike performance…
The mount clamps around oversized and regular bars with varying thickness rubber straps between it and the bar. A ball-and-socket joint lets you angle the phone so glare doesn’t reflect directly into your face. It’s easy to set it tight enough to stay in position, but loose enough to let your adjust while riding. There’s a locking slide to keep the phone in place once snapped in. I never had any issues with it rattling or sliding out of position.
The screen’s functions and home, on/off and volume buttons all work just fine through the cover, though the mute switch is a bit tougher to operate. The speaker outputs/mic input on the bottom double as pressure equalization vents and do a pretty decent job of letting sound pass through. It’s a bit muted, but I was able to get Siri to text message Sweetie with surprising accuracy while riding along at 15-17mph. The benefit of this is that you can easily (and virtually hands free) get directions home should you fall off pace and not have a cue sheet.
The case consists of three pieces: front and back panels and an earphone port plug. The yellow rubber seal keeps water out, but it must be kept clean. In fact, Lifeproof provides detailed (read: lengthy) video instructions on their website about how to properly insert your phone and close the case. The short of it is this:
- Don’t touch the inside of the screen cover, because apparently it’s very difficult to ever get clean.
- Clean your phone obsessively before putting it in.
- Insert top first, then press the bottom of the phone in.
- Place bottom cover in from the top first, pressing it shut as you go down.
- Close the clasp that covers the sync/charging port.
The port cover allows you to charge/sync your phone without removing the case, but we found it doesn’t fit some third party cables’ pin connector section.
Not shown, there’s also a waterproof headphone jack extension that lets you use headphones without really compromising its waterproofness. Two basic headphone port plugs are included, which is good because they’re small (read: easily lost).
I tested the waterproof claims briefly at my brother’s pool. Both of these pics were taken with the phone underwater, one aimed down, the other up. My phone was perfectly dry, but this was shortly after receiving the case. Over the past couple months, the case hasn’t snapped quite as tightly shut as when new. It could just be that the seal needs to be pulled out and cleaned, but since I don’t plan on taking my phone underwater, it hasn’t been a priority.
Should you decide to use it for a life aquatic, you’ll need to use the volume button as the shutter button. When submerged, the touchscreen doesn’t work because the water is acting as one giant finger touching the entire screen. So, you’ll have to select the camera before going under, and choose between video and still, too. The lens is an anti-reflective, optical glass lens. Picture quality through it is great…I couldn’t tell the difference between photos take with and without the case on.
The case is polycarbonate with some shock absorption built in. It not only protects against water, but sand, snow, ice and road/trail grit as well. This includes sweat from being in a jersey pocket. For the all-weather, adventurous rider, it’s a good option.
One caveat: If you have a stick-on screen protector, you’ll want to remove it before using with the Lifeproof case. I kept mine on initially and the case’s screen cover would “stick” to it, giving the appearance of a drop of water being squished between the case and screen. Without a screen protector, the screen is clear if slightly harder to read in direct sunlight. I could still type pretty well, but hitting the keys at the edge of the screen was minimally less accurate. For the most part, I just put the case on when I’m heading out for a ride, then remove it when I get home.
Retail is $79.99 and $39.99 for the handlebar mount, though you can find them cheaper. Worried about fitting your ANT+ dongle on it to sync up with any power meters or other sensors? Check out Wahoo Fitness’ bluetooth speed/cadence/HR sensors, which don’t require any additional hardware attached to your phone.