Review: LifeProof Fre Power turns iPhone into a long-lived, ruggedized giant

Posted:
in iPhone edited September 2015
LifeProof's Fre Power case promises to make an iPhone 6 virtually indestructible, both literally and in terms of battery life -- and in that it mostly succeeds, even if there are sometimes tradeoffs to cope with.




Like other LifeProof cases, the Fre (pronounced "free") Power is above all advertised as dirtproof, snowproof, drop-proof, and waterproof. The manual in fact insists on testing the waterproofing immediately, before inserting an iPhone, by submerging the assembled case in a bowl of water for 30 minutes.

In this small-scale testing, at least, the Fre Power did well. When we checked, the inside appeared dry, except for a handful of tiny drops we suspect landed there after cracking open the case. Officially the product should be able to last an hour at depths down to 6.6 feet, assuming everything is assembled properly.

That process can be a little tricky, mind you. Although there are just two layers, snapping them together requires so much force that we had to lay the bottom one down on a desk or table to push down with both hands -- another thing the manual recommends, incidentally. Before this, an O-ring had to be pressed into some tiny crevices.

Testing drop protection was a little too risky, but it's safe to say that the case is built like a tank -- every surface except for the screen protector is covered in thick rubber or plastic, and because it has an integrated battery, it's especially tough in the back. Raised bezels should make it extremely difficult to crack or shatter an iPhone's display.




The battery is of course one of the main reasons to buy the Fre Power over other rugged cases, and it performs about as well as one could hope for. It's rated at 2,600 milliamp-hours, which is about enough to fully recharge an iPhone.

We let our iPhone drain its internal reserve down to 10 percent over a span of 24 hours before switching the case's battery on. Within two hours the phone was back up to 99 percent with some marginal case power to spare, although the phone never managed to reach 100 percent until it was plugged in.

That leads us to some of the flaws with the case. For one, forget about charging its battery from a computer's USB connection -- while it technically works, it's so slow as to be completely impractical. A wall outlet is the only real option, if a non-issue for people who charge their phone overnight.

More significant is that while the case needs just one port for charging itself and an iPhone, as well as syncing, it's a micro USB connection that can render a lot of Lightning accessories useless. A hinged lid would prevent the case from working with some docks anyway, which is a sin even in an era of Bluetooth speakers and Wi-Fi sync.




The case also affects the feel of using an iPhone. The screen protector is a little mushy, for lack of a better word, especially the thinner portion over the home button. The power and volume buttons become a little less responsive, and for whatever reason, the mute switch suddenly has to be flipped in reversed directions to turn it on and off.

That being said, it all functions well enough to be liveable. There's no pressing repeatedly to get Touch ID or the touchscreen to work.

The biggest obstacle for some people will simply be how huge and heavy the Fre Power is. It makes an iPhone 6 seem almost as large as a 6 Plus, and far weightier and thicker than either. There are some pockets and car mounts it just won't fit.

Conclusion

If a person is willing to accept these sacrifices, though, the Fre Power is a great choice. More than just about any other case, it removes the stress of carrying around a smartphone. There's no worry about dropping an iPhone on a sidewalk or running out of power on a long trip.

The real question is whether it's worth spending $130 on a case, especially when many people replace their phone every two or three years. For the average person, perhaps not, but people who absolutely need protection and extra battery life should be more than satisfied.

Score: 4.5 out of 5

Pros:
  • Tough as nails
  • Fully waterproof
  • Doubles battery life
  • Charges and syncs through single port
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Bulky and heavy
  • Micro USB port renders Lightning accessories unusable
  • Makes buttons less responsive

Where to buy

The Fre Power is available for $130 from Best Buy or directly from LifeProof.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 19
    The user and all related content has been deleted.
  • Reply 2 of 19
    Case companies don't get it; stop including what may be the worst connector ever created on a case meant for an Apple device.
    AustinCable
  • Reply 3 of 19
    bobroobobroo Posts: 87member

    Not everyone works in a cubicle! Many folks exercise by biking or hiking rugged trails! A lot of people are admittedly clumsy and forgetful!

     

    I'd say one important thing lacking from this design is a loop or secure point to tether the iPhone to something.

     

    I LOVE my Snow Lizard case. IMO the ultimate iPhone case.

  • Reply 4 of 19
    The "obsession with thinness" trolls should be happy to have the heavy brick they've always wanted the iPhone to be.
  • Reply 5 of 19
    The "obsession with thinness" trolls should be happy to have the heavy brick they've always wanted the iPhone to be.

    Are you legit? So if you had an iPhone 5 with twice the battery life instead of being twice as thin, would you think that's horrible?
  • Reply 6 of 19
    Are you legit? So if you had an iPhone 5 with twice the battery life instead of being twice as thin, would you think that's horrible?

    Your question is a false dichotomy. Apple evaluated a range of sizes and thicknesses and evaluates them for the best set of trade offs. Battery life is one measure, time to charge, weight and "feel" are also considered. If you think Apple was just shooting for thinness without regards to anything else, then you haven't been paying attention.
  • Reply 7 of 19
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 883member
    Your question is a false dichotomy. Apple evaluated a range of sizes and thicknesses and evaluates them for the best set of trade offs. Battery life is one measure, time to charge, weight and "feel" are also considered. If you think Apple was just shooting for thinness without regards to anything else, then you haven't been paying attention.

    If that's the case, why does "thin" always come out as the primary consideration before all others, even when it doesn't matter (iMac)? I think Apple's done a great job on the 2015 Macbook Pro in trading off battery and thinness, it's just about perfect; great battery life and thin enough to be super portable. I was surprised too how quickly it charges vs my old 2008 MBP.

    IMO though, the iPhone's battery is lacking, which is a shame considering they've got the most efficient CPU out of all the manufacturers. The thin obsession means when the CPU efficiency increases by 10%, no one actually gets to benefit from that since the battery size decreases 10% to make the thing thinner. Would making the whole of the iP6 half a millimetre thicker to match the thickness of the camera lens really be a worse trade off than the extra battery that could have been squeezed in?
  • Reply 8 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post



    If that's the case, why does "thin" always come out as the primary consideration before all others, even when it doesn't matter (iMac)? 



    Where did Apple say it was their "primary consideration before all others"?

    Or is that simply your personal opinion?

  • Reply 9 of 19
    mike1mike1 Posts: 1,871member

    No lightning connector, no sale. Especially for a case that, for me, is not a daily case. I will not worry about carrying around a USB cord too.

  • Reply 10 of 19
    boredumbboredumb Posts: 1,414member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Silver Shadow View Post

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Suddenly Newton View Post

    The "obsession with thinness" trolls should be happy to have the heavy brick they've always wanted the iPhone to be.


    Are you legit? So if you had an iPhone 5 with twice the battery life instead of being twice as thin, would you think that's horrible?

    I know I would think so - there are so many ways to have extra charge with you, without encumbering the phone itself.

    And I rarely, if ever, even need need the extra charge, but I always have the phone, so I never need the bulk.

  • Reply 11 of 19
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 883member

    Where did Apple say it was their "primary consideration before all others"?
    Or is that simply your personal opinion?

    Considering how they rave about shaving 0.5mm off whatever device they're touting at the time, then just mentioning battery life in passing, it does seem to be pretty high on their priority list. If it wasn't, would we really have 5mm thick desktops?

    Don't get me wrong - I think it's an incredible feat of engineering that goes into making these devices so thin, but that's just it, it seems more like an engineering exercise over practicality.
  • Reply 12 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Silver Shadow View Post





    Are you legit? So if you had an iPhone 5 with twice the battery life instead of being twice as thin, would you think that's horrible?

    interesting, so i tested it right now with a small TDK remote that was sitting for no reason on my office desk, it is the same thickness as my iPhone 5s so I joined them together. I have decent largish but not giant male hands that are fairly refined and not pudgy etc.

     

    I actually would think it horrible, I hold my phone mostly in my left hand and if operating one handed use my left thumb.

     

    Factors I observed

     


    • The way I hold it one handed at that thickness intersects badly with the distance between the first knuckles and the bend of the palm

    • Trying to type on the keyboard, one or two handed meant that my thumb's travel distance was halved and awkward..

      • This would create more errors

      • It would also keep my thumb in an always flexed state and felt like it would be "crampy" to the muscles

      • The base of my thumb connecting to the palm would badly intersect the touch screen, as opposed to being just edge

      • It was hard to bend my thumb through the meat intersecting with phone to the bottom row of keys


    • In one fingered operation the 5s felt like an iPhone 6 in terms of reaching the upper right corner of the screen

    • Subtle, but i noted that my thumb length lands central on phone depth as it fits inside the thumb width

      • This means the volume and mute buttons sit instantly on my finger

      • The phone being deeper meant my thumb had to search for the location, even if the button were moved to centre


    • One handed - using my thumb to hit the home button flatly for TouchID is difficult, with more so the finger tip not the flat hitting it

    • A positive would be that when holding in landscape two handed in bed for video games the power/headphone cables would be between my fingers instead of being mildly crushed or simply awkward

     

    To conclude my observations I think operationally it would not be desirable, especially for something I interact with so constantly each day, typing for long periods (minutes) would become a chore and tiring. The trade off on usability for a bigger lens camera would still not appeal, I would (shudder) prefer it had a bulge at the top to allow that, giving a little raised end when the phone was lying flat, while also handy the thickness would not appeal for all its other uses. the trade off of a double time battery, not remotely as I charge it at night while I sleep or on a desk at work and it charges quick. If it was like my old Nokia brick that took hours and hours to charge then sure I might consider the tradeoff of usability vs usage.

     

    I would prefer it charged faster than held more charge. Or that it was more clever with power usage and didn't keep trolling networks when not in range, which I realise is user selectable; or sent/received data thoughtfully, 4G for this, 3G for that 2G for weather updates.

     

    My somewhat scientific sample of one

  • Reply 13 of 19
    elijahgelijahg Posts: 883member
    interesting, so i tested it right now with a small TDK remote that was sitting for no reason on my office desk, it is the same thickness as my iPhone 5s so I joined them together. [snip]

    I know the OP says double the thickness, but Apple could add a fair bit of battery life by having it as thick as the 4s; which is by no means twice as thick as the 6 and imo, not bulky at all. In fact, I gave my old 4 to my dad and he uses it a fair bit for Internet radio over 3G. Even with the original battery, its battery life is comparable to my 5s, which is pretty disappointing. My 5s seems to use loads of battery when it's just idle.
  • Reply 14 of 19
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    Case companies don't get it; stop including what may be the worst connector ever created on a case meant for an Apple device.

    I'm curious, they make the male lighting connector to plug into the iPhone, so why not make the female part on the case? Is it possible they would have to pay twice the licensing fee in order to do so?
  • Reply 15 of 19
    jackansijackansi Posts: 116member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by dasanman69 View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TheWhiteFalcon View Post



    Case companies don't get it; stop including what may be the worst connector ever created on a case meant for an Apple device.




    I'm curious, they make the male lighting connector to plug into the iPhone, so why not make the female part on the case? Is it possible they would have to pay twice the licensing fee in order to do so?



    At the price this is at, it wouldn't make a difference to add the female lightning port

     

    ...except I'd actually buy one.  Hell, if this had a female lightning port, instead of crappy microUSB, I'd pay $150 today.

  • Reply 16 of 19
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 12,979member
    jackansi wrote: »
    dasanman69 wrote: »
     
    Case companies don't get it; stop including what may be the worst connector ever created on a case meant for an Apple device.


    I'm curious, they make the male lighting connector to plug into the iPhone, so why not make the female part on the case? Is it possible they would have to pay twice the licensing fee in order to do so?


    At the price this is at, it wouldn't make a difference to add the female lightning port

    ...except I'd actually buy one.  Hell, if this had a female lightning port, instead of crappy microUSB, I'd pay $150 today.

    Adding a female lightning port might just take the price up close to $150. It's possible they thought the $20 difference would be more of a deal breaker than a micro USB port.
  • Reply 17 of 19
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Elijahg View Post





    I know the OP says double the thickness, but Apple could add a fair bit of battery life by having it as thick as the 4s; which is by no means twice as thick as the 6 and imo, not bulky at all. In fact, I gave my old 4 to my dad and he uses it a fair bit for Internet radio over 3G. Even with the original battery, its battery life is comparable to my 5s, which is pretty disappointing. My 5s seems to use loads of battery when it's just idle.

     

    I agree, double was a bit outrageous and I think at double it would add a lot more than twice the battery life.

  • Reply 18 of 19
    bobroo wrote: »
    I'd say one important thing lacking from this design is a loop or secure point to tether the iPhone to something.
    Yep, there would even be free space already in this case at the other bottom corner than which has headphone plug!
  • Reply 19 of 19
    I am in Jamaica writing this, couldn't wait to get back to the states. This case is worth MORE than its weight in gold...if you value your phone. I use my phone as my camera when I go on vacation so I have this case to protect it from the elements. My wife and I hopped on a paddle boat at our resort and I was going to take so pictures of us, the water, the resort from the paddle boat etc. I noticed my seat was cracked and we turned around only 100 feet after paddling out to exchange paddle boats. When we got in, my phone had worked its way OUT of my Velcro pocket SOMEWHERE in that 100 feet!!! We called my phone and it rang 6 times then voicemail...still working. The water was murky that day and after snorkeling for it, I couldn't find it. Called it 2 hours later and went straight to voicemail...I knew it was dead. The next day, one of the Beach Activivties guys put his snorkeling gear on and found it buried in sea grass in about 4 feet of water. He brought it to me. When I touched the Home button, IT WAS WORKING. After 24 hours of sitting in the Caribbean Sea, my phone was working perfectly. This case is definitely worth the money. 
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