Silicon Valley State of Mind, a blog by John Weathington, "The Science of Success"
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Silicon Valley State of Mind

Tips, thoughts, and advice based on the consulting work of John Weathington, "The Science of Success."

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Posted by on in Operational Excellence

It has been a couple of months since I purchased a LifeProof case for my iPhone, and I wanted to share some of my thoughts. I bought one for both my wife and me in the wake of an incident that happened some time ago. My two-year old niece accidentally fell in the pool, and my wife dove in to save her life. Thank God everything turned out okay with my niece; however, the iPhone she was holding at the time never recovered from the swim.

Since that time my radar had been raised for something that could protect the phone better. I eventually decided on LifeProof. After two months of using the case, I’m completely thrilled. To be honest, it’s overkill for what I need—I’m not exactly mountain climbing in the Himalayas every day. In my normal day to day activities, 9 times out of 10 I didn’t worry about the phone at all. I can’t tell you how good it feels to now not worry about the other 1 out of 10.

I have a healthy paranoia about mixing electronics and water, as any good Silicon Valley native should. Kim’s phone was only in the water for a few seconds, but as you know, that’s all it takes. I tried to resuscitate it with an overnight rice plunge (rice draws the water out), but to no avail. The LifeProof case changes all of that for me.

LifeProof claims that it will keep your iPhone safe from water, dirt, snow, and shock. So far, I have full confidence the case will live up to their claim. I can already attest to the claims on water and shock, and as soon as winter arrives, it’s off to Lake Tahoe for the snow test!

LifeProof is very diligent about covering all the bases. They exhort you to do a rigorous water test without the phone before you ever put your phone in the case. Of course I complied (with both phones), and I was delighted at the results—after an hour under water, both cases were completely dry. Then it was time for the real test. I carefully sealed up my wife’s phone, and threw it in the pool (you didn’t think I was using mine, did you?).

Voila! The phone worked completely fine underwater, just as they said. I was thrilled! Since then we’ve used our phones in and around the pool with no worries at all—what a relief.

As much as I like the phone, I’d be remiss if I didn’t share some of the areas I would recommend for improvement. First, the case is a bit bulky. It has a relatively slim design as far as protective cases go; however, compared to no case, or any normal carrying case, it makes the phone a little big. Also, it’s best to keep the phone in the case at all times. Because of the way it seals around the phone, LifeProof doesn’t recommend that you open and close the case too many times. A full water test is recommended every time you put the phone back in the case, so you won’t want to do this very often.

This makes the handling of the phone a bit cumbersome. There is a door at the bottom of the case that swings open so you can charge the phone. That’s fine if you plan to use the normal charging cable that comes with Apple; however, it presents a challenge for docking stations. LifeProof claims that if you buy a dock extender (like the one in the picture), you can use the case with any docking station; however, that’s not true. Shortly after I purchased the case, I purchased a dock extender and a Sinjimoru Sync and Charge Dock Stand. With almost 100 reviews and an average four star rating, I thought it was a safe bet—I was wrong! There’s nothing inherently wrong with the stand; I think it’s pretty slick. However, when you add the LifeProof dock extender, the unit becomes top heavy and it doesn’t take much to flip the phone over. This was driving me crazy, as when I’m in the office, I keep the phone in the stand next to me. This thing would dump over several times a day. I gave up on this idea, and after some research, settled on an iHome iD37GZC Dual Alarm Stereo Clock Radio. I don’t need an alarm clock in my office, and this doesn’t sync, but it does support the phone when it’s docked. As a bonus, it charges my iPad when I’m not using it for my iPhone.

Another minor thing about handling the phone with the case on it, is the headphones. Without the LifeProof case, it’s no big deal to plug-in and unplug headphones. I would do it all day long, as I only use headphones when I’m talking on the phone. With the case, there’s a screw where the headphones go. Every time you want to plug in headphones, you must unscrew the cap, and screw in the LifeProof headphone adapter (actually, you don’t need the adapter if you’re using standard iPhone headphones, but for any other kind of headphones, you need the adapter). This is a bit of a process compared to just plugging in headphones when you need them. I may adjust in the future to bluetooth, but I’m still not impressed by the connection quality.

Of course, I have a belt clip as well, which makes the bulky phone even more bulky. This might be appropriate for an athlete, but there’s no way I’m going into a meeting with an executive wearing this bat-phone gadget. Plus, the belt clip won’t work with the dock extender in the phone, so you must remove the dock extender, close the door, then push it on the belt clip. It’s all a bit clunky compared to my Belkin case that would just slide and snap into place.

Shortcomings notwithstanding, I love this case. The peace of mind is worth every penny I’ve spent and all the adjustments I’ve had to make. I just ordered a second dock extender to keep in my car, when I need to use the car charger. I’m also looking into waterproof headphones and an armband for when I’m swimming in the pool or at the beach.

All this is of course analogous to extra investments in risk mitigation. Even if you have some tolerance for risk, it’s okay to take a few more steps and spend a few more dollars once in a while for the extra peace of mind. As long as priorities are covered, it’s okay to splurge a bit on extras. That might be hiring a consultant even when you have capacity in house. It might be putting redundant controls in place even though the existing controls are working fine. It might be taking a process to six sigma even though five sigma is well within tolerance. It might be going after 85% market share when you already have 75%.

It’s hard to put a cost on anxiety, but it sure feels good when it’s not there. And if you have an iPhone, go buy a LifeProof case—you’ll see what I mean.

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