iPhone 5 Cases: LifeProof vs. OtterBox vs. DriSuit

LifeProof Fre OtterBox Armor Drisuit Endurance iPhone 5

Waterproof Case for iPhone 5 Showdown:

LifeProof Frē vs. OtterBox Armor vs. Drisuit Endruance

With the market for waterproof cases for the iPhone 5 in full swing (albeit the Catalyst + Survivor Escape Capsule late to the party) a full comparison of features, sizes, advantages and specs of the major players offerings for protecting your iPhone 5 is warranted. Of course, this includes the LifeProof Frē, OtterBox Armor, and DriSuit Endurance for iPhone 5.

Reviews of LifeProof Frē, OtterBox Armor, and DriSuit Endurance.

 

Size Comparison

lifeproof_fre_waterproof_iphone_5_case side shot
Size is important for everyday use of a waterproof case. Too big and it is cumbersome to use, too small and it isn’t well protected. Thickness is an important dimension here: surprisingly, the DriSuit is the thickest by far at 20mm (0.79in), nearly twice as thick as the slender Frē. The cases are comparable in terms of width, and in terms of height the OtterBox Armor is the largest.

Height (mm) Width (mm) Thickness (mm) Weight (g)
LifeProof Frē 137.5 67.1 12.2 29.8
OtterBox Armor 140.2 75.5 17.8 111
DriSuit Endurance 132.1 71.1 20.1 n/a

In addition to physical dimensions, case weight is a major concern for most people, as you will be constantly carrying around your phone in the case. The weights of these cases vary wildly. LifeProof is slim and trim at just under 30g, and the OtterBox Armor is a behemoth at 111g. This is much heavier and all around more solid. That said, weight and size somewhat translate into protection, and when your phone falls it is that weight that is absorbing part of the shock instead of your phone. We imagine that the Drisuit will clock in at around 90g, like their original Scuba Suit version for iPhone 4/4s.
 

Depth Rating and Drop Test

Another important metric is how well the case protects your phone from dirt, water, and other drops and spills. This is one way to measure protection and durability, or how well the case will protect your investment. Each manufacturer rates and tests their product to a certain depth at which water will not ingress. It is possible to take the case greater than this depth but not guaranteed by the manufacturer.

Depth Rating (m) Drop Test (m) Dust Proof Crush Test
LifeProof Frē 2 2 IP-68 n/a
OtterBox Armor 2 3 IP-68 2 tons
DriSuit Endurance 2 2 IP-68 n/a

It is clear here that the OtterBox is the strongest of the bunch, as it should be given its size. It has a better drop test rating and more defined crush proofing (2 tons!) than any of the other cases. But that comes at a price (weight). All cases carry the IP-68 standard which puts them on par with depth ratings for water at 2m, or 6.6ft. Please note that the Survivor + Catalyst Waterproof Case for iPhone 5 will have a depth rating of 3m when released.
 

Materials, Screen, Closure System and Seal

otterbox armor iphone 5 headphone charging port cover

Materials Screen Closure System
LifeProof Frē molded plastic, some softer overmold thin, clear plastic top/bottom snap together with small o-ring; clasp covers the charging port with gasket
OtterBox Armor molded plastic, metal clasps, colored soft overmold protective flaps and seals thin, clear plastic top/bottom pieces connect via living hinge; small square o-ring around perimeter. 2 metal clasps then clamp unit together
DriSuit Endurance thicker plastic, plastic clasps, interior overmolded sealing gasket, clear overmold for buttons and front camera/sensor Fluidic Touchscreen Membrane which functions underwater Bottom cap comes off and has waterproof gasket around perimeter. Fits into top piece, while 2 low profile cams on side pull these pieces together, sealing the case.

Almost everything on these cases is injection molded plastic, the differences are mostly in durometer, type of plastic and color. Notable exceptions include the metal clasps on the OtterBox Armor and the soft pad on the charging port door on the LifeProof Frē. LifeProof has the thinnest plastic, both on the case and screen, while DriSuit uses surprisingly thick materials which add in protection. The Drisuit Fluidic Touchscreen Membrane may be a bit slower than other options for everyday use, with the advantage that it works in/under water while the others do not.
 

Cameras, Headphones, Charging Port

lifeproof_iphone_5_fre_bottom

Front / Back camera / Flash Waterproof w/ Headphones Charging Port
LifeProof Frē Yes / Yes / Yes yes; unscrew cap, then use adapter provided opens with phone in case
OtterBox Armor Yes / Yes / Yes No remove bottom overmold and second seal to access
DriSuit Endurance Yes / Yes / Yes Yes, small built in waterproofing connection must undo and remove bottom cap of case

All cases allow for both front and back camera, which includes flash. This seems to be an industry standard nowadays. DriSuit has the best waterproof headphone usage as the connection comes waterproof standard – no extra pieces or adapters. LifeProof is next best with a small adapter that seals into the case and creates a waterproof seal for your standard headphones. OtterBox does not offer any waterproofing options for headphones. For Charging, LifeProof is easiest as you open one waterproof clasp. OtterBox requires you to peal away to overmolded pieces, while DriSuit requires that you undo and remove the bottom cap of the case.
 

Color Options

LifeProof Fre iPhone 5 waterproof case colors 2013

Available Colors
LifeProof Frē Black, White, Blue, Earth, Red, Cyan, Magenta, Lime, Yellow, Olive
OtterBox Armor Arctic, Neon, Orange
DriSuit Endurance Black; White planned and possibly others

LifeProof offers the most color options, but perhaps the OtterBox colors are a bit more aggressive or edgy. DriSuit only has a black model out but like their 4/4s case, we can expect variations in the future.