Lifeproof - a phone ruggedness prerequisite

Yes, yes, manufacturers usually quote durability specs (materials, IP rating, etc.) when advertising their phones, but for me it comes down to a certain minimum - if a device is man enough (or, I guess, woman enough!) to survive real world daily use.

So, for example, I have my iPhone 14 Pro Max. It:

  • has a stainless steel chassis
  • has 'Ceramic Shield' glass
  • is IP68-rated for dust and water, so is essentially waterproof to the nth degree, you can wash it under the tap or in the bath if it gets dirty
  • is encased in tough clear TPU (and belt-holstered)

Then, to one side, the other smartphone I'm captivated by, the Microsoft Surface Duo, two displays, 360 degree hinge, and so forth. Amazing potential for productivity, a folding tablet in the pocket, effectively. It:

  • has two Gorilla Glass Victus displays, with Gorilla Glass backs
  • has no IP rating, thanks mainly to the 360 degree hinge mechanism and likely ingress of dust and water
  • can't be cased due to the need to fold closed and then right back on itself

Closed up and skinned (to protect the exterior glass) and bumper (to protect the plastic edges), the Surface Duo 2 here is still horribly fragile for daily life in the rough, tough, real world...

So here's the thing. I've tried using the Duo (and the Duo 2 even more) as a main/primary, day to day phone. And although I've not had any disasters with either Duo, they didn't last long with my main SIM card and being carried around - I was simply too afraid too often, handling them with kid gloves, as it were, and always wary of damage.

It starts raining. The phone gets put away. I'm washing up and a few drops of water get splashed? The phone is frantically dried, checked out, and put away. Heaven forbid I should ever take a Duo down the beach...!

About as far into the real world as I dare to take my Surface Duo... the local cafe, sheltering it from the rain inside my jacket pocket in order to get there!

In contrast, I treat my Ringke TPU-cased iPhone with a certain amount of disdain. It has been dropped numerous times, onto wood, vinyl, and a few times onto concrete, with no worries. It has been liberally splashed with washing up water and used in the pouring rain, again, zero concern.

In short, the cased iPhone is 'lifeproof', in that it can stand up to whatever my lifestyle demands. If I was younger and (say) snowboarding or windsurfing or whatever then I think I'd still be confident. Whereas the Surface Duo is demonstrably not 'life proof' and so, reluctantly, I can never take it much beyond the confines of an office, my house, a car, or public transport. 

Am I being overly dramatic? I don't think so. I observe friends and family and the state of their phone screens and (as I'm sure you) have seen cracked screens and water damage at many turns.

As a minimum in my eyes, 'lifeproof' requires a IP65 (or higher) rating for dust and water, rugged enough build materials to survive multiple drops, and the possibility of adding a protective case (or case halves in the case of some foldables).

Thankfully, the modern cutting edge of phone design, folding displays, is just starting to get to the point where these too are lifeproof - Samsung's latest '4' series (Fold and Flip) are testament to this. So a folding phone (albeit not to 360 degrees, as with the Duos) doesn't necessarily rule it out from being fit for duty in all situations.

Admittedly, I've been looking at perhaps the two (mainstream) extremes of durability. So, is your phone lifeproof? Whereabouts on this scale does it fit? Thoughts?

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Kurt said…
I suppose it depends on the individual. I don't have particularly large hands, so I might be at a disadvantage with a large phone on which I'd have a less secure grip. In certain circumstances, a phone's size and weight will dictate where it can be stored, and I'd wager that the removal of a phone from a pocket or wherever it stored, and it's replacement there are the points at which it is most often dropped. I also don't think I'd ever want to risk using a phone without a TPU case, which increases *grippiness*.
Dave Rich said…
Im not sure that it bothers me if phones are IP rated anymore. Granted it's a nice to have, but regardless I wouldn't want water getting onto my phone. I have the iPhone 14 Pro Max and I don't use that in situations where it could be compromised. Down the gym I'll use an old Pixel for example. I think you can treat a phone a certain way if you're prepared to cover the replacement cost. The pixel I could easily cover again, the iPhone would be a bitter pill to swallow. That being said I have Apple Care plus on it, but from my experience the excess is one to be avoided.
Robin Ottawa said…
I'm glad the glass on phones is tough. My P30 Pro has curved glass and I cannot find a screen protector that fits and is not awful plastic. I finally gave up and keep it naked, and it's great. (I have been thinking about getting a flip case.)

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