We unbox and deploy Lifeproof's latest 'nüüd' case for the iPhone 5
We've been eagerly awaiting a review sample of Lifeproof's latest IP68-rated waterproof, dust-proof and shock-proof 'nüüd' case for the iPhone 5. Watch as we unbox, deploy and get the 'nüüd' a little wet for science.
The nüüd's claim-to-fame is its 'nude' screen feature - rather than covering the iPhone's touchscreen with a waterproof membrane, it places a firm waterproof seal around the edges and exposes the glass screen to the user.
The case comes stuffed with a convincing paper replica of the iPhone's screen. It's a good match for our iPhone 5 test-model, as shown here. No, the iPhone ain't included.
The case isn't significantly larger than the iPhone: this isn't one of those behemoths that your phone sits inside like a suit of Starcraft power armor.
The whole deal, from left-to-right: user manual, screen cleaning cloth, optional scratch protector (this has no influence on the waterproofing or dust-proofing of the case), headphone lead (more on this later), and the case itself.
The case comes in two halves, filled with Lifeproof's 'iPhone 5 test unit': the blue plastic blank pictured here, which is exactly the size of an iPhone 5. Lifeproof say the case has been water-tested, but if you want to check you can assemble it correctly, you can use the blue 'blank' instead of putting your iPhone at risk for that first water-test.
The rear of the case is clear, and our test version featured a white front with a dull grey rubber surround. Note the white gasket around the edge of the screen.
The iPhone's camera and flash lenses are covered by thin transparent membranes, and surrounded by black gaskets.
On the front of the case, a fine mesh allows the speaker to transmit sound while preventing the ingress of water or dust. Note that like the rear cameras, the front camera and proximity sensor are behind thin clear membranes and surrounded by rubber gaskets.
At the bottom of the case, a pass-through button allows you to push the home button while maintaining waterproofing.
An entryway is provided iPhone 5's Lightning connector, seen here in white at the bottom of the case. In use, it's protected by a snap-cover that's part of the rear of the case and thus not shown here.
The headphone socket has a waterproof screw cap. This is why the nüüd case includes a short headphone cable: one end has a matching screw plug, and as it screws into the socket in the case and makes a waterproof seal, the standard 3.5mm minijack connector at the end enters the iPhone's headphone port. At the other end of the cable is a standard 3.5mm socket for your headphones or speakers.
The iPhone 5 fits snugly into the front of the nüüd case, held in place by the rubber outer edge.
The rear of the case attaches to the front via a firm snap mechanism around the outer edge. The case is flexible enough that repeatedly opening and closing the case shouldn't cause it to snap, and the nüüd is rated for drops of up to 2 metres.
When fitted to the iPhone, the nüüd case looks fairly attractive. The grey rubber edge isn't nearly as stylish as the iPhone itself, but it does have a certain industrial charm.
The iPhone's Lightning connector and headphone socket are visible here through the open port covers.
The included headphone cable forms a firm, watertight seal when screwed into the case. The plug remains attached via a short length of plastic, so you won't lose it when you've got headphones connected.
Headphone socket shown here, slightly unscrewed. Note the gold-plated connector - this isn't mere bling. Gold-plated connectors are more resistant to corrosion and more conductive than their nickel counterparts, which is why they're so commonly seen on audio connectors.
With nothing between you and the screen, you get the full iPhone touch experience and - perhaps even more importantly - the full brightness and colour quality of the display. The only downside is that your fingers will hit the case when you're tapping or dragging near the edges of the screen.
And yes, this iPhone 5 has been updated to iOS 7.
The iPhone's volume buttons and mute/screen rotation switch are accessible via rubber buttons on the outside of the case. They all require a fair amount of pressure (more so than pressing the buttons on the iPhone itself), but activate reliably.
We're particularly impressed by the smooth functionality of the mute switch, which can't have been easy for Lifeproof to implement, compared to the simple volume and power push-buttons.
The power button requires a slightly firmer touch to activate than without the case, but is reliable in its operation. The front camera, proximity sensor and speaker openings can be seen clearly here.
Another view of the front camera, proximity sensor and speaker cutouts, the right way up this time. Note that the entire screen is accessible: the waterproof gasket doesn't cover any of the touchable/visible area and sits on the glass 'deadzone' around the edge.
The home button is easy to press through the case, and waterproofed by a rubber membrane between the button and inside of the case.
The clear rear panel shows off the iPhone 5's branding, makes the model and serial numbers visible, and lets you quickly check whether water or dust have entered the case without taking the whole thing apart.
Our initial wet test: 10cm of water in a plastic bowl. The IPx8 rating means continuous submersion at a manufacturer-specified depth, and Lifeproof say up to two metres. Don't worry, we'll be testing that before we slap a rating on this little piece of plastic.
We tested underwater video playback, and the sound quality was surprisingly good from our little bowl-speaker. Having the screen uncovered means great visual quality, as well. Not that watching videos in a bowl of water is exactly a day-to-day activity.
Unlike some deliberately 'rugged' smartphones, the iPhone 5's screen is not designed for operation underwater, or even whilst significantly wet. This means you couldn't, say, take a photograph or check your email underwater. You know, if you had that in mind.
You could always shoot video underwater by starting to record while the screen was dry, then immersing the iPhone. However, the case seems designed more to protect the iPhone from accidental immersion than to give you a full underwater experience.
Our initial test saw the iPhone 5 immersed for 30 minutes. At the end of that, it was still happily playing our test YouTube video via Wi-Fi. We had to dry the screen before it would recognise taps and gestures again, but no water had entered the case and the iPhone was totally unharmed.
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