If you look at the two leading brands of a protective enclosure for smartphones, it’s easy to be confused by all the models. Here’s the distilled version to help you choose the right case.
We are obsessive when it comes to cases for smartphones. If we see a friend, college, even family members with an unprotected device, we need to talk cases with them.
We have many cases for all phone models in our display case and if the case fits, it’s going on the phone.
We believe that say that any case on a smartphone is better than no case at all but not all cases are equal. The main thing you need to be concerned with is bezel elevation to prevent the phone from falling flat on the screen and taking a direct impact.
Also as well as that concern, you can improve rigidity and shock absorption to buffer against hits on the side and corners.
Before the introduction of edge screen designs — first seen in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, followed by 2017’s iPhone X and 2018’s iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max, we would have maintained that you still put on a case.
There are many companies that extreme device protection. One is Lifeproof, and it is an excellent company with great cases. Otterbox is another with the Defender, as well as the Symmetry being excellent choices for protecting your new $1,000+ device.
Mostly we had one ultra-protective design, which is the Defender. And, for years, I only used Defenders no matter which device I had. I still only use Defender on the iPad Pro, because it’s the only case I trust on that device right now.
You could get a Defender Series Pro for your iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, or iPhone 11 Pro Max. You would be very safe with that decision, and my work would be done. It’s a rugged, proven design, so it’s practically a no-brainer.
OtterBox Defender Series
But over the past few years, Otterbox has expanded its line of case designs not just in its own branded offerings but also with its acquisition of LifeProof, which was once a fierce competitor.
LifeProof cases are always a little bit more expensive, once distinguished themselves from OtterBox cases in that it was targeting sporty lifestyle customers, with an emphasis on waterproofing. So, its cases were always a little bit more expensive than the OtterBox designs. The Fre, in particular, is the LifeProof flagship.
Let’s go, through the waterproof lineup first.
In 2018, For iPhone X, iPhone XS, and iPhone XS Max, LifeProof introduced two new case designs: the Slam and Next. Based on closer examination, they appeared to be very similar two-piece designs. From the cases we have the Next has considerably more bumper material on it.
LifeProof Case Lineup
Both are very tight fitting designs and provide ample bezel elevation and side/corner impact protection. Neither is water-proof or provide additional screen protection for scratches or frontal impacts. We have looked at the Next and Slam for an iPhone 11 Pro Max and the design is identical to last year’s models except the camera cutout.
We used both cases for about a month, and we would say that the Next felt thicker, but it’s not enough of a difference for me to sacrifice shock absorption with the Slam — although both the Next and the Slam can accommodate Amplify glass like the OtterBox Defender, which we will get to momentarily.
Personally, if we were inclined to get one of these two cases, we would get Next.
For 2019, LifeProof has also introduced Flip, which is a rather exciting design; it incorporates heavy shock protection along with an integrated credit card wallet and billfold pocket.
LifeProof Flip Wallet Case
Unlike the regular shock-proof cases from LifeProof, this is a single piece rather than a clamshell design — the phone slides into it, snugly. The bottom part of the case has a flip-open wallet that has room for a few credit cards as well as a bunch of bills.
As you can see, there is a rather large indentation at the bottom of the case to accommodate the flip-out wallet. This makes the case considerably thicker than the Defender, although it adds a bit of rigidity and shock protection. I tried using this case for a day, and it felt bulky. If we wanted to do away with a wallet, this might not be a bad option if we only carried two or three credit cards. We are guessing that the LifeProof case was targeting Apple Card users with this product.
The iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Max is already IP68 water resistant and can survive 30 minutes of immersion at depths of two meters, so if the primary concern is being dropped with occasionally being rained on, Next is what we would go with.
Anyway, nothing is so simple when it comes to making case recommendations for iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Pro Max.
We have received the iPhone 11 Pro Max version of Fre and can say that the overall design is similar to previous Fre cases.
Fre is LifeProof’s tried and true waterproof case design, which also incorporates a permanent scratch protector that is a flexible film. This is the case that traditionally provided brand differentiation from OtterBox and the Defender.
Now, with iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Max already being somewhat water-resistant, to begin with, it would seem that Fre is overkill.
Perhaps, we would tend to agree with this — if we weren’t talking about a $1,000+ device that costs $275 to $400 to replace the screen regardless of whether you bought the thing outright or you are making lease payments on the upgrade Program.
On iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Max, Fre has a watertight lightning charge connector door latch in addition to a permanent screen/scratch protector. We are not sure how necessary this is, but if you spend time near the water or on the beach, it might be a good idea to have this feature.
Additionally, given the fact that you are now constantly rubbing your finger with nails on the screen itself instead of pushing a physical home button, we are inclined to say that a screen protector on an iPhone 11 or iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Max is a requirement.
All the new OtterBox cases (and the LifeProof Slam and Flip) for iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Max can accommodate the Amplify glass accessory, which provides additional scratch & impact protections.
Can you buy a third-party scratch resistant film to put on a Defender or a Flip? Sure. But then you should get a Fre. It’s cheaper.
Do you have a glass protector? In terms of aesthetic, it looks better and is easier to clean, and we think the few extra microns of glass gives more peace of mind.
We don’t see any point in using either Defender, Next, Slam or Flip without Amplify glass. So, in terms and condition of the overall decision matrix of which case to buy, in my opinion, it comes down to:
You want a holster and full rubberisation and the tried and true Otter design (Defender/Pro + Amplify glass)
You want it to be highly protective but transparent (Slam + Amplify glass, or Next + Amplify glass )
You want it to be more waterproof than what the device provides out of the box, and you want scratch protection but not additional screen impact protection (Fre)
You want it to be highly protective but have a wallet built-in (Flip + Amplify glass)
By the way, did you notice anything different about this year’s version of the Otterbox lineup? The OtterBox Pursuit case is missing. Otterbox chose not to produce it for the iPhone 11 and iPhone 11 Pro/iPhone 11 Max. We guess it didn’t sell very well. That’s a shame because we liked it, but we understand the business decision.
We think the company could have easily made a Fre that can use Amplify glass as opposed to the integrated film, and then it could just put different branding on it for the OtterBox version along with a holster and an optional rubber shell.
We have to assume Otterbox has done its market research and determined that not everyone wants a true glass protector and that a certain amount of customers, particularly in the vertical market space (construction, military, etc.), want the additional psychological protection of full rubberisation with the traditional Defender design.With any of these four case designs, you’re in good hands. Which one are you planning to use? Come and see us at Brisbane Riverside iPhone Cases and see these cases for yourself.