The most recent “everything proof” case for the iPhone 5 is Seidio’s Obex ($80-$90), which is now available in packages with or without a belt clip. The hard plastic case comes loaded with warnings and disclaimers — multiple stickers and inserts alike — indicating everything from the right way to open the case to how to install your iPhone, and recommending that you test it underwater before trusting it with your device. Available only in black, it’s clearly aimed as a competitor to LifeProof’s Frē and comparable cases that’ve popped up over the past few years.
Compared with Frē, Obex is a bit shorter but has otherwise similar dimensions. Its two halves snap together over the front and back of the iPhone, using a central O-ring to create an airtight seal. Along the back, the top and bottom edge are raised; Seidio claims this is not only to provide a secure grip, but also to help absorb shock. The front is protected by raised plastic around the bezel, which includes coverage around the earpiece, sensors, and FaceTime camera, as well as over the Home Button. We were expecting more of an audible click when connecting the halves, indicating a solid fit. Even though it wasn’t there, we could see and feel that the unit was together—at least, when the O-ring didn’t get in the way and require another attempt. Despite the effort it took to assemble the case properly, Obex kept water out as advertised during our testing.
Along the bottom, a plastic clasp helps keep the halves shut, while opening to expose a rubber port protector. The headphone port cover can be opened even when the latch is closed, but to get to the Lightning port, you have to lift both the latch and the port cover. Both openings are somewhat deeply recessed and tight, so unless you’re using first-party Apple accessories, you may not be able to make a connection. LifeProof’s Frē includes a headphone pass-through adapter; Obex does not.
We were pleased with the quality of protection Obex offers for the rest of the inputs and outputs. The volume and Sleep/Wake buttons are quite clicky, although the rounded rectangular Home Button cover requires just a bit more pressure than normal. A permanent protector keeps the screen safe, and although a grid of dots can be seen at certain angles, the protector doesn’t detract from the display’s touch capabilities one bit. Access to the side switch is an issue, though, as it’s deeply recessed within a rather small opening. To reach it, you must have really small fingers, be willing to dig around for a few seconds before actually hitting it, or use a pen or other poking device. Additionally, we noted that audio on both ends was noticeably muffled during phone calls.
While we don’t find it as aesthetically pleasing as Frē, Obex is functionally competitive and costs the same price. If you’re looking to protect your iPhone from water, dust, and drops without an extra large case, it’s an acceptable option, but not the best. We’d like to see tweaks made to improve the installation process and make accessing the side switch easier, but we can live with it as is. Obex earns a limited recommendation. Frē is worth your first look, but this one’s not a bad second choice.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 5