LifeProof, Seidio, PureGear & Speck iPhone Case Review

Review of the LifeProof Gen 2, Seidio Active X, Speck PixelSkin HD, PureGear Kickstand Case iPhone 4S Cases.

CES proved there was a sea of iPhone cases available with varying levels of protection, girth and additional useful benefits. Depending on how you use your phone and how abusive/careless you choose to be with your device, one of these cases could be worth your hard earned money. Note that none of these cases includes a screen protector, so if that is important to you, you’ll have to pick one up separately.

Let’s take a look at the following four cases:

LifeProof Gen2
PureGear Kickstand Case
Seidio Active X
Speck PixelSkin HD

LifeProof Gen 2

iPhone Cases

LifeProof spent over two years and two million dollars developing this case. They claim that it is water, dirt, snow and shock proof (to certain limits). What impressed me about the LifeProof was the level of protection in exchange for the size of the case. The thickness is nearly the same as the Seidio Active X, while being a bit taller to accomodate the specialized protection of the headphone port on top and the 30-pin connection on the bottom.

Screen Protection

The LifeProof has the ultimate screen protection. It lays a sealed piece of plastic over the front of the phone, necessary to keep the elements on the outside of the case. LifeProof recommends that you remove any screen protector you have on the device to maximize the usefulness of the touchscreen. In my quick test, I found that the screen loses a bit of sensitivity when you keep the screen protector on, especially when trying to access the screen with water running over it.

Button & Port Accessibility

All of the buttons and ports are usable with the LifeProof on but you must make the proper accomodations to access the 30 pin port and the microphone. To access the 30 pin port, flip the cover open to access the port. The phone will not be dockable with the case on. The microphone audio quality obviously diminishes when used under water. The rocker switch is accessible by a covered piece of plasic that allows you to toggle the option.

Overall Protection Level

Out of the four cases, the LifeProoof is the most protective case, no question. The ability to be submerged is amazing. It prevents dust and moisture. You do have some tradeoffs with the LifeProof. Your touchscreen experience is lacking because of the protective plastic that resides on top of your screen. You have a screw in piece for the headphone port to keep water out and the dock has a flap. These are not knocks on the LifeProof case, just things to consider that you trade in exchange for this incredible level of protection.

To test out the case, I ran my phone under water.

PureGear Kickstand Case

PureGear Kickstand iPhone Case

PureGear is one of those companies that we found tucked away during CES in the North Hall. Their Kickstand Case looks like most other black iPhone cases but adds a handy stand on the back of it. This makes it great for FaceTime or Skype – great for video chats without having to hold your phone. The kickstand works well in both portrait and landscape modes. The back of the case has an interesting pattern that encourages your touch. It’s grippy but it slides out of your pocket easily enough.

Screen Protection

The screen protection of this case is minimal. The phone clicks into the case and the sides are nearly flush with the screen. If screen protection is a major concern, this is not the case for you, unless you use the optional holster. But then, you know, you’re using a holster. (Sorry, dad)

Button & Port Accessibility

The case has a wide open top and bottom so you shouldn’t have any trouble accessing the ports and potentially docking the iPhone while keeping it in this case. The left side has a large slot for both the ringer switch and the volume buttons which make them easily accessible. It doesn’t get much more open than this.

Overall Protection Level

This case will help absorb the impact if your phone is dropped and lands on its sides or back. If it goes face down or lands on the top or bottom of the phone, it will likely be cringeworthy. There is no felt or other impact absorbing material other than this soft touch plastic.

Seidio Active X

Seidio Active X iPhone Case

Seidio is a company based out of Houston that prides itself in making high quality after market gear for a number of different phones. Their accessories line runs deep with cases, batteries, chargers and other goodies for all brands. The Active X is a two piece case made up of a silicone base layer that wraps the phone first, which is reinforced by an exoskeleton.

Screen Protection

The Active X has silicone that wraps around the screen of the phone completely and the exoskeleton of the case covers it in six points – the corners and the mid section to keep everything tight. The case design does a great job of protecting the screen by recessing a bit under the silicone. If the phone were to drop face down, you’d reduce your chances of scratching/destroying your screen. The protection can make reaching buttons close to the edge a bit more challenging.

Button & Port Accessibility

The top headphone port is cut open for easy accessibility with headphones, while the power button is covered with silicone, as are the volume buttons. The ringer switch has an acceptable size opening that shouldn’t be a problem unless you have hands like a caveman. The bottom has cutouts for the speaker, mic and 30-pin port. Don’t bother trying to use an HDMI dongle with the phone, though, it won’t fit.

Overall Protection Level

The Seidio Active X has a strong level of protection against drops and bumps. The silicone is thick for strong impact absorbption further bolstered by the protection of the Exoskeleton.

Speck PixelSkin HD

iPhone Cases

Speck is famous for making a fleet of different iPhone cases. They’ve been doing it for generations of the device and their offerings are wide with anything from a wildly lightweight case to the heavy duty. Here we’ll check out the new PixelSkin HD. This case just begs to be used because of the texture on the back. It’s a slim and semi-rigid case.

Screen Protection

The PixelSkin HD and the Seidio have a similar lip that covers the perimeter of the iPhone. While the Seidio opts for the chunkier silicone, the Speck uses a thinner plastic. The PixelSkin HD would help the screen from touching a surface if slid face down, preventing it from getting scratched.

Button & Port Accessibility

The top has a hearty cut out for the headphone port where most any headphones should plug in with ease and the power button is covered with plastic and easily accessed. The left side has a full cut out for the ringer switch, while the volume buttons are covered by the plastic and easily accessed. The bottom has a cut out for the microphone, 30-pin connector and speaker. An HDMI dongle can fit into the cut out with a little wiggle.

Overall Protection Level

The Speck PixelSkin HD has a great feel to it and it will provide a decent level of protection from drops and scrapes. It’s a solid step up from running around with a naked phone.

Wrap Up:

Each of these cases can work for you depending upon how you use your phone. If you’re not going to use the Jonathan Ive case (no case), as my friend Davis calls it, one of these might be a good fit. Here’s what you might like:

If you jump out of planes and are interested in an active outdoor lifestyle and you want to film the action along the way, check out the LifeProof case. The cases are even compatible with GoPro Camera mounts.

For those of you that use your phone to watch videos or do quite a bit of video Skype work, the PureGear Kickstand Case will be a life saver thanks to its built in stand.

To blend a desire of robust protection while keeping a slim case, check out the Seidio Active X. It will take a beating and still look good doing so.

For the minimalist that wants to reduce scratches and provide some protection for the infrequent drop, the Speck is for you. It will work sliding out of a pair of jeans or out of a sport coat.

First published on MySA.

Seidio Active iPad 2 Case Review

Seidio Active + Sonos Play 5

The Case I Didn’t Want to Love

Growing up, my parents would make me eat all types of food. “If you don’t like it, you don’t have to keep eating it, but you must taste it” they’d tell me. I’m glad they did. I’ve learned to eat snails, sushi, calf fries (look it up), and even cow’s bone marrow. The Seidio Active case for iPad 2 provided a similar experience. I didn’t really want to love it.

My iPad 2 has been protected by the standard smart cover and a skin on the back to keep the aluminum scratch free. When the Seidio Active case arrived, the weight was hearty and the materials were tough. The three piece design includes a silicone inner sleeve that wraps around the iPad with an exoskeleton covering the silicone sleeve. The third piece is hard plastic shell that we’ll discuss in further detail.

Silicone Sleeve + Exoskeleton

The silicone and exoskeleton are well crafted. The few buttons that are on the iPad and denoted by raised silicone while the home button is the only one that remains uncovered. You’ll find the sleeve wrapping around the front of the device, keeping the corners and edges well protected under its cover. There are cut outs for the iPad port, rear speaker, camera, microphone, mute switch and headphone jack. In daily use, I found the cut outs to be properly sized. The headphone jack easily accommodated vertical and L-shaped plugs thanks to the generously cut sleeve around the port, while being careful enough not to expose too much aluminum. To help you keep your rep intact with your friends, Seidio gives you a cutout around the Apple logo on the back. Don’t worry, the logo will remain clean room perfect thanks to the clear plastic cover. This may also be the first cover that is iOS 5 ready. On the back of the case, you’ll find ridges that fit your fingers perfectly when you’re using your thumbs to type on the upcoming screen keyboard. Good thinking, Seidio bros. (Even if these ridges were just for fun, let’s pretend you did it purposefully, okay?) You’ll find the finish on the exoskeleton to be pleasing with a rubberized feel. It’s a welcoming texture that keeps the iPad from slipping from your grip. If you can’t catch a football, like me, this case will make you feel like the sticky fingered athlete your dad wanted.

Hard Plastic Shell

The hard plastic shell plays multiple roles. It is used the cover the screen when the iPad isn’t in use, clicking onto the exoskeleton in 6 places. It leaves a gap off the screen when attached to allow for impact onto the case without touching the screen. This is especially helpful because when the shell is removed, it has a kickstand attached to it that allows the iPad to be stood up in portrait or landscape mode at 15 different angles. When using the plastic shell as your base, you can feel confident that it’s not going anywhere – the shell has two rubberized feet that keep the iPad planted. Their grip even kept the iPad planted on my tray table when we experienced turbulence on my recent flight from Chicago. I found standing the iPad in the case was difficult the first time I tried it because the kickstand is so firmly attached into the base. Give the kickstand a firm tug, it will release and loosen up quicker than your granny after a few tall boys.

Real Life Use

The Seidio Active Case for iPad 2 is one of those accessories that I’ll see online, respect it for what it can do, suggest it to others but never consider as a viable option for me. I baby my devices, infrequently drop or abuse them and so I don’t consider these cases for my needs. I found, though, that I really have enjoyed using this case. I was hired to revamp the technology in a house in Colorado and I took the Seidio…and I loved it. The iPad came with me as we wielded screw drivers hanging cantilever mounts, rewiring rooms and setting up new receivers. The iPad could be tossed here and there without any threat. Bolts, screws, zip ties, drill bits and my iPad all lay together harmoniously without a threat to my prized possession. A week later, it was time to install new fender flares on a friend’s Jeep. Out came the Sonos and the iPad to control the tunes as we sweat away in the garage. Again, the Seidio case kept the iPad protected while we toiled in the Texas heat. The iPad didn’t budge off the Jeep as we yanked the old fender flares off, drilled, screwed and installed the new ones. The job was completed beautifully and we were thankful for the rockin’ tunes we experienced during our efforts. I would have been much more concerned about the safety of my iPad otherwise. This weekend the Seidio Active will continue its duties when my iPad is used for an outdoor Angry Birds contest. These scenarios are part of my life and none that I would trust just a skin and smart cover to handle in keeping my iPad safe. You may need it for hiking up a mountain, then reading a book at the peak or jumping from one train to the next in the tube and making sure that the hobo that smashes into you doesn’t blow out your screen – but I hope you brought some alcohol wipes to clean up. Yuck.

What I want to see in the next case

As much as I enjoyed used the Active case, there are some things that I’d like to see considered for the next iteration. Since the iPad has a strong battery and I don’t have to sync that frequently, a rubberized plug for the port would further protect the device. Next, I would love to see a magnetized hard plastic shell so that the screen turns off when you click the device closed. Right now, you have the choice of the device going to sleep from inactivity or you can press the power button to put the iPad to sleep. Seidio engineers, make this magic happen! Finally, a screen protector should be included with the case. Seidio makes these and they should be in the package. It adds to the comprehensive sense of protection that the case provides.

Overall, I take my hat off to the work Seidio put into developing this case. It turned a non-believer into a fan. The proof is in the continued use of the case even when I thought all I needed was a smart cover and skin. The Seidio Active Case for iPad 2 is tough, well built, good looking and properly thought out.

Legalities – Seidio provided the case gratis.

Pick up a Seidio Active iPad 2 Case on Amazon (referral link)