Case Comparison, different options for your phone while you run

This was supposed to be post 2 of 3 about running with your smartphone.  But to keep this post from becoming too long, I will separate it into 2 posts.  As I stated last week, odds are that you are already running with your smartphone, but I am hoping to provide you with some information you might not already know about the importance of and ease with which you can run with your phone.

I am focusing on cases this time, comparing 3.  One of the added benefits of the popularity of smartphones is that the ancillary businesses created to protect them give a myriad of choices.  Having a myriad of choices though tends to give me analysis paralysis, and because I am rather picky about this sort of thing, I tend to purchase 3 or 4 cases before deciding I have purchased the “perfect” case.

So, with that knowledge of my obsessive pickiness, let’s dive right in to the comparison of three heavy duty cases.  Before starting, I must mention that all of the cases featured in this comparison have a version for iPod Touch if that is what you prefer to run with.  If you read my previous post though, you will know the importance of running with your phone.

I decided on three features that each case must have to be included in this comparison.  First, they must have a built in screen protector, not because they add any significant strength, but simply to let you avoid the neurosurgical intensity of positioning a sticky screen protector exactly right on the first try.  Second, they must be able to withstand at least a drop from your hand or upper arm while you run.  I shudder to think of that happening, but I have been caught with sweaty hands myself, running in August, and dropped my phone.  Third, they must be able to withstand and protect the phone from a splash of water or gatorade.

Case #1:  The Popular One, Otterbox Defender

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Unless you are just purchasing your first iPhone or Android device you have undoubtedly heard of the Otterbox Defender.  If you haven’t heard of it, you have definitely seen it.  I first purchased the Otterbox Defender when my 5 year old was born in the anticipation that he would one day get a hold of my phone and drop it.

The Otterbox offers 4 distinct levels of protection for your phone.  First, the Defender has an interior layer of protective foam to cradle your phone in cloud-like softness.  Second, a hard polycarbonate shell protects from drops and sudden impacts.  Third, the Defender provides a built in screen protector as I mentioned before as part of the criteria for this comparison.  Fourth, the Defender wraps it all up in a silicone outer shell to provide added cushioning against any impacts.

The Defender also comes with a very sturdy belt clip if you choose to wear your phone without using an arm carrier.


1. The Defender is a very heavy duty case and I dropped mine numerous times with no damage to my phone whatsoever.

2. The case was easy to clean with denatured alcohol and the swivel belt clip can also be used as a stand for horizontal viewing.

3. Otterbox offers numerous color combinations plus an option to custom design your case.


1. The Defender is a large case that adds a noticeable bulk to the phone when installed.

2. I am not a fan of silicone outer layers because they get stuck inside your pocket and make it rather difficult to answer a call while seated when your phone is in your pocket.

The Defender starts at $49.95.

Case #2:  The Up-and-Comer, Griffin Survivor


When the silicone layer on my Defender began to loosen, I changed my case to the Survivor.  I made my decision after seeing a survivor driven over by a car with no damage being done to the phone.

The Griffin Survivor provides the same types of protection as the Otterbox Defender, but takes the level of protection up a few notches.  The case has a padded layer inside a polycarbonate shell, with an integrated screen protector, all snuggled up in a silicone wrapper.  The Survivor was designed to meet the US Defense Department’s standard 810F.  If like me, you were not familiar with standard 810F.  The tests to meet standard 810F are: to withstand windblown rain for 1 hour, to protect against a 6’ drop onto concrete, to block blown sand for 1 hour, and to withstand vigorous vibration for 18 hours.  Like the Defender it comes with a belt clip that can be used as a stand for viewing, but the clip is nowhere near as sturdy or durable than the Defender.


1. The Survivor, with it’s additional silicone in the outer skin feels more durable in hand.

2. It can handle quite a bit more abuse than the Defender can if you are rather rough and tumble on your phone.

3. Griffin offers tons of color combinations and like Otterbox, they provide an option to customize your color combination.


1. The Survivor is even bigger than the Defender and thus adds significant bulk to your phone.

2. Like the Defender, the Survivor will get caught in your pocket because of the silicone layer.

3. The belt clip is really quite useless for this case.  The phone can easily become dislodged if you were to bump into another runner while at the water station during a race.

The Survivor costs $49.99.

Case #3:  The Surprising One, Lifeproof Fre (for iPhone 5)

The Lifeproof Fre is the most expensive of the three cases in this comparison, but you get your money’s worth.  I must disclose that both my wife and I are currently using Lifeproof Fre cases on our iPhone 5s and I have a Lifeproof Nuud case on my iPad 2.

When first purchasing the Fre, you will notice just how light the box feels.  Because I was using a Griffin Survivor when I bought the Lifeproof case for my iPhone 4, I thought the boxes were empty on the shelf for security.  It turns out that the Fre is simply a very light case because it doesn’t need multiple layers to provide beyond adequate protection.  All Lifeproof phone cases seem like they are made of Tupperware, but Lifeproof took their time to bring their cases to the market and they got it right.  Like the Survivor, the Fre meets US Defense Department standard 810F and can withstand a drop from 6.6’.  Lifeproof has gone a step further with all of their cases, not just the Fre, and has made them completely waterproof to a depth of 6.6’.  Because of their ability to block water, they are also impervious to snow, dirt, and mud (for those of you who like a good mud run).


1. Because the Fre is waterproof I never worry about having it with me for a run.  I know that if it begins to rain or if I throw water on it by accident, my phone is completely protected.

2. I never have to worry about dropping this case.  It can handle the same drops that the other two cases in this review can take.

3. The Fre has a very slim profile.  It doesn’t have any silicone outer layer and as such doesn’t add significant bulk to the phone while still providing over the top protection

4. Because the Fre is not constructed with any silicone, it can easily be carried in your pocket without getting stuck.

5. After a long run you can take your phone into the shower with you to finish the podcast you might have been in the middle of (not that I’ve ever done this, but its nice to know I can).

6. Lifeproof offers the Fre in multiple colors.


1. Because the Fre is waterproof, there must be hatches to cover all ports that would be accessed while using your phone.  As such, Lifeproof provides a headphone extender to screw into the headphone port.  This minor inconvenience allows the Fre to maintain it’s watertight seals even while listening to music.

2. The Fre is expensive.  $79.99 is a lot to pay for a phone case, but considering the level of protection this is not a prohibitive amount considering the cost of replacing your phone while you are still under contract.

The Fre costs $79.99.

If you can’t tell by now, my personal favorite after using each of the cases above is the Fre by Lifeproof.  Their ability to provide the same protection as the big cases and then take that protection a step further by being waterproof makes this one an easy decision for me.

Do you have any experience with the cases compared in this post?  Do you have a recommendation not covered here?  Please leave a comment letting us know.

Respect the Run!

Zemanta Related Posts ThumbnailJonathan Keeth is a proud father of two and the husband to a beautiful and longsuffering wife who tolerates his obsession with running shoes and gear. Jonathan is the author of where he blogs about his two great goals, training for his first 100 mile race and losing 100 lbs so he never has to register for a race in the hippo class again.  Follow him on Twitter: @odysy100

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One Response to Case Comparison, different options for your phone while you run

  1. txa1265 says:

    Absolutely agree – one stipulation when we got the boys iPhone 5’s last year was they went immediately into a case. One has the Otterbox, the other the LifePruf. Definitely recommend the LifePruf! The Otterbox is pretty clunky … but both cases do the job – which in our case is making the phone as ‘teen proof’ as possible!

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