Review: LifeProof Nüüd for iPhone 5
With its most recent release, LifeProof has married features of its prior iPhone 5 Frē and iPad Nüüd cases; the result is Nüüd for iPhone 5 ($90). From the back and edges, it looks very similar to the original iPhone 5 case, except this one has a clear rather than solid-colored back. The big change from Frē is the fact that there's no longer integrated screen protection, something of a surprise given the higher price. Packed in with the case are a headphone port extender, and a cleaning cloth.
If you were to view Nüüd from the back or any of its edges, you’d have a hard time telling it from a color-swapped Frē. There are only two real differences: the first is that it’s clear, rather than black or white, and we actually really like the way this looks—it’s nicer than the prior solid colors with Apple logo windows. The shape and details are otherwise identical. LifeProof’s other smart improvement is the introduction of a tether for the headphone port protector. Now, instead of having to keep track of an easily-lost part, one can simply unscrew the plug, while still keeping it attached to the case. Button coverage continues to be solid, and there’s still little discernible difference in audio quality, both in and out.
LifeProof made major changes to the case’s front. While Frē comes with full screen coverage—a thin sheet of either white or black plastic over the bezel, and clear material over the screen itself—Nüüd follows the iPad case in forgoing this protection, leaving the display fully exposed. Now, there’s molded plastic around the bezel, with cutouts and filters for the camera, sensors, and earpiece. The Home Button is protected by a perfectly tactile cover, but there’s nothing else. The idea is that you can touch directly through the iPhone’s glass display, without anything interfering.
While it might not intuitively seem OK to toss an iPhone with an unprotected screen in water, it actually makes sense. The screen is simply glass, and since Nüüd creates an airtight seal around it, no water can get to the electrical components. You won’t be able to actually use the screen underwater because of conductivity issues, but that’s a limitation of most waterproof cases. For those who still want scratch protection, LifeProof includes a sheet of film that’s optional, but welcome. It’s made to be attached to the iPhone 5 after the case has been installed.
Nüüd gives you the benefits of Frē, with the advantage of not covering the screen—arguably both a positive and a negative. Overall, we like the look of the front more now, and appreciate that users have the choice of installing film if they want it. However, the case is less safe for glass-compromised devices, and it’s hard to understand why the price is higher for this model. While we get that some people may really want an unobstructed screen, we don’t see $10 worth of value being added atop Frē. That’s why Nüüd earns the slightly lower B rating. It’s still a very good case, but for all intents and purposes, Frē accomplishes the same thing with greater protection at a lower price.