Lifeproof vs. Otterbox: An iPhone protective case smackdown

When I was searching around for a super protective case for my new iPhone 5, two names always came up: Otterbox and Lifeproof. The only problem is that I had a hard time deciding which one was best for me. And based on your questions, I know I’m not alone.

While neither case is known for their style, they are recognized as some of the most protective cases out there. So, I spent some time with the new iPhone 5 cases from both Otterbox and Lifeproof to help figure out which case is best for my needs, and maybe yours too.

Otterbox 

Otterbox Protective iPhone Case

Plenty of parents are familiar with Otterbox cases, which, by the way, come in a variety of styles for Androids, Blackberry phones, and range from a lower protection line to their Defender series, which provides the most all-around coverage–literally. And you’ll know it because it is a hefty case. Indeed, this is a gigantic case. Size and appearance aside, the  Otterbox iPhone 5 case is really designed to keep your phone safe from dust, dirt, and the big one, drops.

Keep in mind, you will have to take your phone out of the case to dock it, but charging it with a cord is made easy with handy flaps that can be opened and closed, and a belt clip, if you’re into that sort of thing.

And while the phone is not waterproof, between the cushioning and the two protective layers and the hard plastic screen cover (which is quite responsive), I’d be okay knowing that if a little juice dropped on it, the phone would be relatively safe. A toilet drop or toss in the pool? Not so much.

Bottom line: If you can live with the huge size and no waterproofing, but want extra protection against the elements (like kids) and drops, go with Otterbox. It’s also about $40 cheaper than the LifeProof case.

LifeProof

Lifeproof Protective iPhone Case
I noticed right away how slim the Lifeproof Fre iPhone 5 case (available for Apple gadgets only) is compared to the Otterbox, but perhaps size doesn’t matter in this case, as it does provide complete, sealed protection against everything from dirt to snow and yes water. That means if you (or your kid) accidentally drop it in a tub, you’re safe.

You will have to test it out yourself, however, to make sure it’s ready for water action, without your phone inside of course. Thankfully, the instructions are clear and easy to follow, and once you have the case on, you can pretty much use your phone completely worry free, a huge bonus for such an expensive gadget. Liz’s own sigOth has gone in the pool with his phone in his pocket (accidentally) and it’s been totally fine, thanks to the Lifeproof.

And it’s great that you have access to all your ports, which makes it easy to charge or plug in headphones.

Like the Otterbox case, the Lifeproof isn’t necessarily a looker, but it is slimmer than the Otterbox and it’s definitely made for function. Though keep in mind the Lifeproof for iPad really does make the case significantly more bulky–which could impact the case you carry it in.

Bottom line: If you’re willing spend $80 on an iPhone case, but want something that’s both sleek and protective against all elements, including water, you want the Lifeproof. Especially if you tend to let your kids use your phone.

You can purchase the Otterbox and Lifeproof Fre cases on their websites

Update: Since publication of this article, Lifeproof for Android phones are available too.

Cool Mom Staff

We spend our time looking for cool stuff so you don't have to. Hope this one fits the bill.

28 Comments

  • Reply November 27, 2013

    Randall Harless

    One thing you forgot to mention about the Lifeproof. You can not hear well when the lifeproof is on your phone. Yes waterproofing your phone is great but hearing your call will be the sacrafice.

  • Reply November 27, 2013

    Eric Shotwell

    You also don’t mention that the Lifeproof case seems to cover up the iPhone 5s’s fingerprint sensor. That and the price were critical items for me, and the reasons I went with the Otterbox. I have to say, I am very impressed with the Otterbox’s screen cover. The case more than doubles the thickness of the iPhone, but knowing that it is extremely well protected is more important than style to me.

    One other question: Have you done any sort of durability test or drop test with these two cases? The Otterbox seems very cushioning and durable, and I’d love to know how these two cases compare when it comes to keeping the phone safe from damage when being dropped.

    • Reply November 30, 2013

      Tony

      Lifeproof case for 5s doesn’t cover up the thumbprint sensor.
      And there are dozens, perhaps hundreds of reviews on youtube showing people dropping their phones while the phone is encased.

      • Reply August 10, 2014

        Brittany

        I have the 5s phone and the 5s lifeproof case and it does cover up the thumbprint ! And it still works! I take it underwater all the time and my phone still works.

    • Reply January 7, 2014

      Anonymous

      Speaking of dropping, three of my friends had lifeproof cases. My friend dropped hers barely off the ground not even a foot high and it cracked through the case and it cracked her phone. My other friend said it got knocked out of her hand. Cracked the case and cracked the front of the phone. My other friend didn’t drop hers however. But the sides of the case started tearing away and breaking. Personally I have an otterbox and I find them more protective. Yes, maybe they aren’t water proof but someone told me that the phone goes slower if you use it under water. If you use otterbox, the case has protective brackets on the side so the case hits the brackets first and doesn’t even touch the phones screen. The screen that otterbox provided is very helpful. It keeps the phone protected and protects your phone from scratches. I prefer otterbox because it is more protective.

      • Reply August 12, 2014

        Chris C

        thank you for this. this totally makes my decision easier!!!

    • Reply January 13, 2014

      Ashlie

      I have the Lifeproof for my 5S, and it allows for use of the fingerprint scanner. I used one Lifeproof case for the entire time that I used my 4S, and it went to the beach, the pool…you name it. Now, the 4S is no longer attached to a contract, and is going to my dad, and my cute girly colored case is going to my little sister.
      Did I mention that an extra $10 gives you a year of protection for your phone from Lifeproof? Yepp… if your case somehow were to leak, you get your phone replaced, and a new Lifeproof! I find it unnecessary, because they’re insanely good protective covers! The guarantee of your investment’s safety is certainly cool, though. ;p

      • Reply January 13, 2014

        Ashlie

        I’d also like to note that you need to order through Lifeproof… The ones on Amazon are terrible knock offs. I’ve seen them. Lifeproof warns on their site!

      • Reply September 25, 2014

        Jaime

        Actually lifeproof doesn’t replace your phone they replace the case. Heard many stories about it. Lifeproof even states on their Facebook that they do not replace the phone but will replace the case. Just a heads up

  • Reply November 27, 2013

    Person

    OTTERBOX!!!!
    LIFEPROOF IS BAD AND OVER PRICED
    I got my daughter a purple lifeproof for her birthday and she took it in the pool with her and the case leaked. Get otterbox lifeproof sucks.

    • Reply August 10, 2014

      Brittany

      There was something wrong with the case then.. I have a lifeproof and it works very well! I’ve dropped it so many times, took it underwater countless times lakes,pools oceans and it never leaked

  • Reply November 30, 2013

    Jenna Richardson

    It seems worth mentioning that Otterbox owns Lifeproof. While one style may be a better fit for an individual’s needs, these come from the same company.

  • Reply November 30, 2013

    Ali

    I just purchased a lifeproof case and did the water test. The case leaked. I have to return it and exchange it for a new one. It is very important to test the case before you put your phone in it. I am nervous about dropping the phone. I feel like the otterbox offers more protection.

  • Reply December 3, 2013

    Jose

    Lifeproof isn’t as secure as they say it is. When I dropped my phone with the lifeproof on about 3 feet above the ground, my phone screen practically shattered. Also, the sound isn’t so great. I recommend an otterbox due to past experience.

  • Reply December 22, 2013

    Yasmeen

    Lifeproof tells you on the instructions to TEST if the case leaks and their customer service is great too. I honestly love lifeproof more than otterbox. My sister had gone through five otterbox cases because of her toddler and when he throughs mine with the lifeproof case around in mud, water and on concrete it protects it to the FULLEST! And it’s way slimmer. I honestly would rather have the lifeproof.

  • Reply December 27, 2013

    Shadow

    I want help figuring out what best suits my needs with a phone case. I just got the 4s for Christmas and I want to protect it with a good case, I have done my share of dropping phones in the ground in toilets sinks gutters and concrete. I feel that lifeproof sounds good for the water feature but I want to buy it online for much cheaper(which is about five to fifteen), but I want to be able to trust it that my phone will be safe to take a under water video or slipping out of my hands on my way to class. Opinions?

    • Reply December 29, 2013

      Alex

      Be careful if you buy one off of the internet, there are a lot of fake cases going around. Its almost better to just spend the extra money buying it from a company you can trust. But if you are going to buy one off the internet like from Amazon, or ebay make sure you watch a youtube video on being able to spot a fake so you don’t end up with a fake product. As far as what case to get, I personally like the otterbox commuter, it is slim but still very protective. The otterbox defender is also a good case but I didn’t like it being so bulky. It sounds to me that if you have trouble with dropping your phones in water then lifeproof would be the best bet for you. My mom bought a lifeproof case for her iphone 5s and it comes with a 1 year warranty if your phone gets damaged they will replace it. Hope that helps, good luck!

  • Reply January 18, 2014

    Robert Faulkner

    I own an otterbox defender for my iphone 5 and have had it since I got my phone. The phone has been dropped from scaffolding onto concrete from 3.9 metres. I though it would’ve broken but I picked it up and not a scratch. I was looking at upgrading to the new otterbox armour which is water and crush proof as well but sound quality was too poor. I couldn’t hear conversations. I’m going to get a new Defender. I would like the waterproof aspect but if I can’t hear then I lose work.

  • Reply January 19, 2014

    Dallas Maddock

    I have both otter box and life proof cases. I like the otter box better (mine is water proof) it’s just to bulky for my pocket all the time. The life proof seems very weak and not so protective.

  • Reply January 29, 2014

    jack

    I got my teal lifeproof for the iPhone 5S today-all the features still work great, including touch id. I think the teal is very stylish and I actually got mine for $55 on amazon instead of then steeper $80.

  • Reply February 4, 2014

    Concerned Mom

    I just bought my son the Samsung Galaxy S4 Mini. I was told that Lifeproof does not make a case for the S4 Mini. I know nothing about the other brands other than Otterbox. Is it possible to find out if Lifeproof will make a case for the S4 Mini? My luck, I will buy the Otterbox and then Lifeproof will come out with a case.

  • Reply February 13, 2014

    Janet Farthing

    No one has mentioned the otterbox armor. It is an all proof case. The only waterproof case that otterbox makes. I personally have not used one, but am looking into after all the reviews I’ve read. It is more expensive though.

    • Reply April 12, 2014

      John

      So your commenting on something you’ve never used. I have the armor case from otter box and it does not give the waterproof protection that it says it does. I accidentally dropped my phone with the armor case on the phone and the phone completely quit working. now i have to get a new phone and case.

  • Reply February 21, 2014

    Megan

    I’ve heard good reviews from friends about both, but only have experience with the otterbox. I did not like how bulky the phone was, and that was really the biggest down side. I felt like it limited where I could carry my phone because it wouldn’t fit in my pocket. In the end, the otterbox broke. I want to be sure that Lifeproof is the way to go before I spend the money on it (though I don’t mind spending $80 should it be worth it). I may just buy both, considering the otterbox defender is only $15 on groupon for now. Just a thought.

  • Reply February 28, 2014

    Ronnie

    I spent nearly $100 on a lifeproof case and the waterproofing is fantastic, but it is not very drop proof. I liked how thin the case was, but it was almost too thin. I dropped it from about 3 feet and the case didn’t break but it opened up and my phone fell out. Also the little screw thing that covered the headphone jack is kind of annoying because anytime you want to listen to music you have to take it off and I lost mine after a month, so if someone uses their phone to listen to music a lot, I wouldn’t recommend it. But it is great for underwater photography. I just ordered the otterbox preserver for my iphone 5s so we’ll see how that works. For me, the lifeproof was not worth the money I paid.

  • Reply March 25, 2014

    cat hy

    I owned a lifeproof and hated it. There is a gap between the screen cover and your phone which makes it a nightmare to use for textng and scrolling through a page. My toddler at the time would get so frustrated when trying to use the phone because you have to push down pretty hard.
    Otterboxes are bulky but their customer service is top notch. My son loved to throw my phone on the tile and my phone never cracked. This was with the defender case, which isnt very big. A few times the case cracked and the company replaced the case at no charge.

    —-

    Thanks for your comment Cathy. Just to clarify for our readers, the companies are one and the same; Otterbox bought Lifeproof in May 2013, so hopefully you’ll get the same great customer service with either case. -Eds

  • Reply March 30, 2014

    Chrissy

    I just had to write in to warn you about the Lifeproof case. We just bought a Lifeproof case at the Apple store the day before spring break for my 12 year old son’s iPhone5. The first day we assembled it and did the water test. He then brought it into the shallow end of the pool and it immediately leaked and his phone is now dead. It totally didn’t work. Just a horrible product and what’s worse is when I tweeted them, the company was rude & dismissive.

  • Reply April 13, 2014

    kenny

    My clip where battery charger goes on my lifeproof case just broke for the second time in the last 3 weeks and is the 3rd one I have had since Christmas holidays in January 2014 because first one would make everything echo when talking and vibration when talking,so I am going back to dick smiths to get my 4th one tomorrow thats nearly one a month bit beyond a joke really . besides little clip breaking it would be a great product besides volume of sounds is kess but u got to expect that but end of the day for $80 they suck and I will just keep on getting them replaced until they fix fault ….

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