Smartphone Case Review: LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 Waterproof Case Review
Editor's Ratings (1-5): 4.5
What's Hot: Waterproof, dirt proof, snow proof, shock proof in a slim case, and it's very functional.
What's Not: Very difficult to take off.
Reviewed by Tong Zhang
LifeProof offers two waterproof cases for the Samsung Galaxy S4 Android smartphone, the fre (the product names have stylized accents; in order to make this review web-friendly, we'll use plain text) and the nuud. The big difference between these two case models is that the fre case has front plastic layer that protect the Galaxy S4's screen from coming in contact with water, dust, snow and more, while the nuud case leaves the S4's front glass exposed and only seals the edges of the screen so that water and dust don't get to the device but only touch the glass. We look at the LifeProof fre for this review. The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 is a very slim case in the category of rugged cases but it protects the phone from water and other elements completely.
The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 case comes in two pieces. The back piece is made with tempered hard clear plastic with rubber edges that improve grip and seal the case. The clear hard cover is great for showing off your Galaxy S4 and also protects it from scratches, bumps and nicks. The front piece is a thinner and softer plastic layer that covers the front display of the Galaxy S4, and it's glued onto a hard plastic frame that snaps onto the back piece and has water-sealing strip inside the frame. Two pieces of the case snap into each other to create a pretty slim profile for a case that's waterproof and shock proof. The case weighs only 1.6 ounces and it comes in black only. The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 takes some practice to install but not too hard to snap it on; however, it takes not only finesse and patience but a tool to pry open the case. When the phone isn't in the case it's not very hard to open it, but when the phone is inside, you'll very likely need a flat screwdriver to pry open it at the bottom corners.
The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 doesn't just claim it's waterproof, dirt, snow and shock proof, it has passed and exceed military specs and water proof specs. For water and dust proof specs, the LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 case has passed IP-68 standard test for Ingress Protection from water and dust for enclosures. This means the case can withstand immersion in water up to 6.6 feet (2 meters) for an hour, and it's completely sealed from dirt, dust particles, snow, ice and more. The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 also has passed MILSTD 810F for shock protection and it means your phone can survive a drop up to 6.6 feet (2 feet) height.
The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 may have sealed the phone like a fortress but your Galaxy S4 is still quite functional while being protected by the case. You can use the touch screen through the front soft plastic cover. It's not as responsive as it would be on the naked screen but it's very useable, even on the edges of the screen. The front sensors and the two capacitive touch buttons are also under the clear plastic cover and they work fine through it. The case has a hard button for the Home button on the Galaxy S4, and it also works very well. The case has a small cutout for the earpiece but covers it with a special meshed material to let the sound through.
All side buttons and ports on the Galaxy S4 are protected. The power button and the volume rocker are under rubber seal and they work fine through the case's raised buttons over them. The case has a latched door for the bottom sync/charge port and a rubber plug for the top 3.5mm audio jack. The case comes with a short extender audio plug that's water proof and you can connect your headphones to the plug and use the phone in this case under water or in the rain. The case has a cutout for the IR port on top and covers it with clear plastic.
The LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 has a clear back and uses CrystalClear optical glass over the rear camera lens to provide better view for the phone's camera and flash. The case also has a meshed port for the rear speaker to let the sound through. Audio through the earpiece and the rear speaker has good quality and volume.
If you're looking for an ultra protective case yet not very bulky, the LifeProof fre for Galaxy S4 case is a winner. It provides the necessary protection that passes both military standard for shock protection and IP-68 for water and dust proof, yet it doesn't add too much bulk or weight to your slim Galaxy S4 smartphone. The case is very functional and the screen is reasonably responsive in the case. All ports are protected yet you can use them when you need to. The case is reasonably easy to install but very difficult to de-install without some kind of tool.