I kept seeing people in forums talk about the LifeProof case, and how much better it was than the Otterbox. What I hadn’t seen, was a decent review on the LifeProof case. Hopefully, I’ll be able to answer all the questions for you right now.

I’m going to start with the obligatory comparison to the Otterbox. As most of us know, the two best known Otterbox cases are the Defender and the Commuter. The Defender is BIG. It makes your slender iPhone bulky. It never occurred to me to use one just for this reason. The Commuter, on the other hand, does not add considerable bulk, and with the available colors, can be quite attractive while keeping your iPhone safe from most drops. There is no comparison in “girth” between the Otterbox Defender and the LifeProof case. The Defender is still just…enormous. There is a better comparison between the Commuter and the LifeProof case when it comes to size. The LifeProof case adds width over the Commuter, but the Commuter adds thickness. But while the size comparison can be made only to the Commuter, the protection factor can be made only to the Defender. Confused? Let’s leave the comparisons behind and move on to the features of the LifeProof case.

As you can see from these first two images, the LifeProof case boasts a clean design, and is a solid, single color. (The case is also available in pink, purple, and white.) There is enough “grip” on the sides to give you a sense of security, and the knowledge that your expensive iPhone will not slip out of your hand (even though it’s protected against drops).

So what makes the LifeProof case special? The LifeProof cases completely seals in your iPhone. Yes. Completely. LifeProof offers “the four proofs.” You are protected against snow, dirt, water, and shock. (Shock being a physical jolt, as opposed to electrical.) And the magic number seems to be 6.6 (2 meters). You can drop your LifeProof protected phone from a height of 6.6 feet up, and you can submerge your phone up to 6.6 feet down without worry.

It has certainly given me a confidence I didn’t have before. Last night at dinner was the first time I didn’t snatch my iPhone off the table when the waitress came round with drink refills! In the past I was worried that even a splash could ruin my iPhone. Now I know that even if the waitress pours the pitcher of iced tea directly on my iPhone – it’s well protected.

The first question you’re now asking is “what about sound quality if it’s completely sealed?” The microphone has a special thin Goretex vent that keeps the water out but allows sounds to pass. I’ve found the sound to be quite good, and no complaints from callers at the other end as to my voice quality. The back of the LifeProof case is actually used as a sub-woofer, and I believe the sound is better in the case than out when I’m playing music. The speakers, themselves, are covered, but one of the many LifeProof patent innovations allows LifeProof to distribute sound around the device, making the whole device a resonator.

The docking port is covered by a door that opens easily, and clicks shut to maintain the seal. Only your OEM sync/charge cable will fit through the door – it is a precision fit. The LifeProof charge port door will last 10,000 cycles. That is about 10 years if you open and close the charge port door three times a day.

I believe that one of the reasons the LifeProof case adds width has to do with the volume and mute buttons on the side. As you can see, they are precision molded, yet this case fits both GSM and Verizon iPhone 4 as well as the iPhone 4S. There was no wiggling or fitting required to get anything to line up, yet they all work as though time were spent during the case application. One interesting point here is that the operation of the mute switch is now backwards. Pushing down actually pulls the switch up into the non-mute position, where pulling up pushes the switch down and mutes your phone. Yes, I found this out the hard way. It does, however, make sense, and doesn’t take long to get into the habit of pushing up to mute your phone.

The headphone jack is also covered. In a rather unique solution, instead of a cover similar to the dock door, LifeProof has a screw-in plug. I must admit, it reminds me a little of the old stub antennas, and is the only truly unattractive feature of the case.

Should you want to use your headset, you can remove the plug, and plug your headset directly into the phone, or you can use the provided dongle. The dongle plugs in and screws closed, maintaining your waterproof seal.

The power button is similar to the volume buttons. You can feel it, and easily press to switch on or off.

One of my favorite individual features is the screen protector. It is, of course, built into the case. Crystal clear, it lays flat on your iPhone’s screen and allows you to use your touch screen normally. It is shiny, and gives your iPhone that same pristine look as when there is no case or screen protector being used. It does, however, attract fingerprints. (I don’t know about you, but I’ve yet to find anything that actually repels fingerprints.) You may also notice from the above photos, how well the screen covers the home button. It’s not a cutout, it’s a total contour – and I love it.

There can sometimes be a slight air pocket between the screen protector and your screen. LifeProof suggests pressing your iPhone against your chest while pressing against the back of the case. I have only noticed a slight differential in my screen, and that’s at the top, where I sometimes notice I need to apply the tiniest amount of pressure.

Some cases have caused problems with the iPhone’s camera, particularly when using flash. LifeProof’s CrystalClear double anti-reflective (AR) coated camera-grade glass lens delivers the sharpest eight megapixel images possible, with perfect camera flash operation.

LifeProof’s support starts before you purchase your case, with a series video tutorials that include how to apply your case. These tutorials are well put together, and cover almost every aspect of use.

The LifeProof case is by no means cheap. It will set you back $79.99. Of course, if you are interested in a case that will absolutely protect your iPhone from what life throws at you, whether it’s knocking your phone off the table, or dropping it into the commode, then it’s well worth the investment.

You can buy your LifeProof case directly from the LifeProof store, Amazon, and BestBuy. And soon you will be able to LifeProof your iPad 2.