LifeProof has made a name for itself by making some of the best-known waterproof phone cases out there. We took the FRE case for a dip with the Samsung Galaxy S6 to see just how well it fared.
The LifeProof FRE case has a hard plastic bumper around the rim, and two tough, clear screens on the front and back. A removable gasket seals the two halves of the case, while a clamp directly over the USB port keeps everything tight and together. This kind of construction keeps the total package extremely slim while promising a high level of protection. Black, white, pink and blue models are available, as well as cases for the Galaxy S5, S4, and iPhone 6 (if you're into that kind of thing). In addition to the case, inside the box you'll get a microfiber cloth and #LIVELIFEPROOF sticker that I intend on sticking absolutely nowhere.
A plug covers the headphone jack, but LifeProof FRE also comes with a headphone adapter that maintains the seal while providing better access for wired headphones. I'm a little worried that the stem connecting the case's headphone jack plug is too skinny and prone to ripping off when the adapter is in there. Having the rubber plug disconnected from the case could be a long-term hassle. The adapter is a nice addition, but my daily headphones aren't waterproof, so I'd just as soon pick up a pair of waterproof Bluetooth headphones and bypass the issue altogether. As is, my Bose IE2 earbuds fit just fine without the adapter, though your mileage will vary by headset. It's a really tiny gap.
In a case this tight, it's expected that there is going to be some muffled sound. The external speaker is still fully audible through the waterproof membrane, though you may need to crank up the volume a little more than you're used to. Luckily, the microphones and top speaker are largely unaffected by the case, leaving call quality surprisingly untouched.
Touch responsiveness is perfectly intact through the integrated screen protector. As with any screen protector, there's an extremely small amount of color being washed out, light reflected, and particles caught between the screens, but these are barely noticeable issues and forgotten over time.
Access to all of the important features are still there. Pass-through buttons let you hit power and volume easily, and a special section of the front screen accommodates fingerprint ID. The heart rate sensor also works fine, alongside the infrared blaster for TV. There's no noticeable hit in quality when using either camera. That said, a waterproof case always opens up fun new possibilities for taking pictures and video underwater. LifeProof even offers a selection of purpose-built mounts for those that want to turn their phone into an adventure-ready action cam.
With a case this slim, wireless charging isn't a problem. If that isn't an option for you, the clamp over the USB port flips down very easily. The LifeProof FRE case for the S6 has provided enough space for every USB plug I've tried, and I have a lot of USB plugs within arm's reach. Cracking open the case can be a bit of a hassle. There's a clear indentation in one corner to slip in a coin and twist after the latch is opened. Successfully pulling this off can take a few tries and leave a few dents.
Even though it's certified to handle drops of up to two meters, I was never quite as confident in the FRE's impact protection as I was with an OtterBox's. The idea of dropping my phone face-first onto something remotely pointy with only an admittedly tough screen to ease the blow seemed crazy. Sure, that screen can protect against scratches, but the ample bumper was the only thing I was comfortable with taking a direct hit. Luckily, I haven't had a particularly harsh spill to test this opinion... yet.
Still, for the slim profile, complete visibility of front and back of the device, and all-around water protection, a bit of worry about the impact protection that's been vouched for on paper is a fair trade-off. The prospect of having high-quality waterproofing for your phone without having it look like a tank in a giant case is highly appealing. For good (if not excellent) all-around impact protection and total water protection in a case that still shows off the S6's style, the LifeProof FRE is hard to beat. The pricetag is above average, and may be overkill if water and spills aren't a major risk in your day-to-day life, but I'll be personally using the case for a long time.
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