What's the Best Waterproof iPhone Case?

We dunked, abused, and submerged the LifeProof FRE case. Our iPhone stayed bone-dry the whole time.

Apr 14, 2016
Outside Magazine

I destroyed two iPhones this year. They died not of trauma, but of drowning. The first iPhone 6 shorted out after plunging into a rest-stop toilet in Ohio. The second iPhone 6 met its maker thanks to a spilled glass of red wine. Vowing to keep my third phone safe, I tracked down the top-rated LifeProof FRE case and spent the rest of the season putting it through its paces. I chose the FRE because of the waterproof rating, durability, and slim build. Here’s how it fared.

The Test

To start, I knocked five glasses of water onto the phone. Then I took it on a rainy mountain-bike ride and two rainy runs. I also threw it into the toilet, where I let it soak for a full minute. Then, to really challenge the thing, I brought it along for two kayaking trips: one in the ocean and one in a river, where the phone lived in my vest except for a few intentional dunks. Several pro kayakers tested the same case on the Green River Narrows in North Carolina, where they ran it through Class V rapids for hours. 

The Results

Every time we opened the case, the phone was bone-dry. But a warning: I nearly ruined the phone in the ocean because I didn’t fully seal the case. If you plan to submerge this thing, double-check the perimeter to ensure it’s completely snapped shut. Also, pay attention to the screw that allows you to open and close the headphone jack. Make sure it’s ratcheted down or water will leak into the case. In terms of functionality, I was able to take photos when the case was wet but had a hard time typing if it was dripping water. Dried off, however, it’s easy to use.

Bottom Line

The LifeProof FRE case is totally waterproof, but what really sold me was its sleek design. At only 12 millimeters thick, it offered complete water protection for my phone, but I didn’t have to carry around a plastic brick.

Other Waterproof Cases We Like

Mophie H2Pro ($130)

This case keeps your phone safe in the drink but will also charge your battery back to 100 percent.

Hitcase Pro ($100)

We like this case because it’s waterproof down to 33 feet, which is useful if your phone really takes a swim. It’ll also save the phone from a six-foot fall.

Pelican C02040  ($80)

Our photographers regularly use Pelican cases to transport expensive camera gear, and the company brings the same durability and dependability to its iPhone case, which is made from waterproof and shock-absorbing materials.

Filed To: Design and Tech

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