iPhone 5 cases: OtterBox Defender or Lifeproof Fre?

I recently got the iPhone 5. Two words: love it. In fact, I don’t know how I lived without it.

I used to have an old school hand-me-down iPhone from my brother. I use the Pocket Informant iPad app to try to manage my calendar and to do list. I use pocket informant and ToodleDo to try to keep my life organized, but running an app on an iPhone 3G is painfully slow.

Now, running informant Pro on my iPhone 5 is unbelievably fast. Click on the app, and it opens immediately.

So, now that I’ve signed my life away for three years, it’s time to protect my investment with a solid case. It came down to the OtterBox Defender and the Lifeproof FRE.

OtterBox Defender

For the past two weeks, I’ve been using the OtterBox Defender. Here’s why I like it:

  • It’s hard to argue with a YouTube video where the phone gets dropped off the roof and it works fine. The OtterBox Defender apparently protects against drops, dust, and scratches. (There are holes in the case for the camera, so it’s not waterproof.)
  • I like how the OtterBox Defender has three separate layers: a solid screen protector, and inner layer and a third rubber layer that wraps around everything. (In comparison, the OtterBox commuter seems a little weak when the screen protector layer is simply a plastic overlay that you manually apply to your iPhone 5.)
  • The OtterBox Defender case feels solid. Sure, it’s a little big and bulky, but I wasn’t worried about the phone slipping out of my pocket, especially with the silicone outer layer that’s easy to grip.

LifeProof Fre

I just got my hands on the newly released Lifeproof FRE case for the iPhone 5. I think I might switch cases.

  • It’s hard to argue with a YouTube video where the phone is submersed in a fishbowl and it works fine. (Nice goldfish.) The OtterBox Defender isn’t waterproof. The Lifeproof FRE case is.
  • The Lifeproof FRE case only has two separate layers: a front and a back. It feels less sturdy than the OtterBox Defender, but the packaging claims the Lifeproof FRE is waterproof, to improve, snow proof, and shockproof (tested to a 2 m drop.) The inside packaging is careful to state that the device is not indestructible and “under no circumstances will Lifeproof FRE repair or replace a damaged device.
  • Side-by-side, the Lifeproof FRE case is definitely slimmer than the OtterBox Defender. The screen on the Lifeproof FRE feels just slightly different. I think I prefer the rubber home button on the OtterBox Defender.
  • When you play music on your iPhone 5, the back of the Lifeproof FRE case vibrates. That never happened with the OtterBox Defender.

Bottom line:

I think I’m going to miss the solid feel the OtterBox Defender, but it’s hard to argue with the waterproof protection that the Lifeproof FRE case offers. We’ll see.

What do you use to protect your iPhone 5?

1 thought on “iPhone 5 cases: OtterBox Defender or Lifeproof Fre?”

  1. Otterbox won’t replace your phone if it is damaged either. No case company will, it’s just that LifeProof is up front about it. I’ll stick to my LP every time, I don’t like the truck-tire look and feel of the OB.

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