This water/dirt/snow/shock-proof case is designed to go on your phone and stay there. For the protection it offers, the slim design makes it practical to leave this case on your phone for full time protection, not just when you want to get out in the elements. As the instructions suggested, I first tested the case empty as the waterproofness is not intuitively apparent. But once that past the test I inserted my phone and haven’t taken it out since. Until something that does everything this LifeProof case does and resolves some of the issues I mention below, this will continue to be how I protect my iPhone.

The screen cover is a little thick and doesn’t sit completely flush to the screen requiring a heavy finger to get your command through and it takes some getting used to. A little clasp on the bottom allows full access to the charge and data port. It’s well designed for the included Apple charge cord to reach in there, but a port extender (available from LifeProof) will be needed for some docking situations.

To let sound pass through, LifeProof has done well to use a super thin waterproof membrane that is cleverly protected from being exposed to any sharp or compromising objects. Naturally, some clarity is lost while using the regular phone mode though I’ve not received complaints from others while speaking to them on the phone. The speaker (either the speaker phone or listing to music) has some trouble as an air gap between the back of the case and the phone tends to create a buzzing with certain harmonics. I’ve found that placing the phone, face up, on some sort of cloth or something soft, eliminates the buzz somewhat. As long as you’re not fixed on using the phone’s speaker, muted calls and buzzy music are easily solved by using headphones or a Bluetooth headset. But using headphonts leads into another issue, the headphone jack plug, or bung, as LifeProof calls it.

The bung is screwed into the top of the case to cover the headphone jack. When removed, it is a small object that is easy to loose. Conscious of this, LifeProof includes a spare and sells three packs of them in their store. If you’re looking to do some active watersports and want to have your tunes pumped into your head, you will need to trade the bung for the waterproof headphone adapter as well as purchase a set of waterproof headphones. You will also need to order the armband or belt clip separately. Just a few more accessories for you to keep track of.

The modifications I’d like to see include: some sort of way to attach a lanyard, having the data port clasp open further to accommodate more styles of 3rd party plugs and a built in solar charger/battery.

Though, with all this detail of issues I’ve mentioned above I still recommend this case. The level of protection it offers for the size it is, is worth pushing a little harder to reach the touch screen, keeping track of the bung, and I don’t use the speaker much. Like I said, I’m keeping it on my phone.

Pro’s: Full time protection, full access to all switches, ports and touch screen functions, very slim, excellent shock/drop protection, rated to 6.6 feet (2m) underwater.

Con’s: Expensive, extra push to use touch screen, keeping track of headphone jack cover (bung), accessories sold separately, does not float

$79.99 – lifeproof.com

NB FEB 2012 – After speaking with some of the LifeProof staff at Outdoor Retailer Winter Market show in Salt Lake City, I learned that the reason the screen cover does not sit flush on the screen, giving it that gappy feel is to prevent the screen from “rainbowing” making it hard to read in some lighting situations.