Product Review: Lifeproof Armband

During a trip to Florida this past Summer, I decided I needed a case for my phone to protect it from the surf and sand. Based on absolutely no research, I purchased a Lifeproof case for my iPhone 4S and have been pleased with it ever since. It adds a bit of bulk to the phone, but I no longer worry about sweat or water damaging my phone. The Lifeproof case has also done a nice job protecting my phone the few times I’ve dropped it, prompting me to buy one for my poor, dented iPad. Aside from slightly muffled audio, I couldn’t be any happier with both the iPhone and iPad cases.

Of course, this review isn’t about the case itself. If it was, it would get the 3 Toed Seal of Approval. This review is about the Lifeproof Armband, a product with some great ideas hamstrung by major design flaws.

Before I get into specifics, keep in mind that my experience with the Lifeproof Armband primarily involves running. I have used it lifting weights and biking, but those activities tend to be more forgiving to the design of an armband. I’ve not taken it into the water and can’t comment on its performance there.

The first thing you will notice about the Lifeproof Armband is that it is substantial, significantly heavier than most I have used. As you can see in the picture above, the weight comes from the quick-release bracket that holds your device in the armband. With one hand, you can pop your device out and back in without breaking your stride. This is perfect if you get a notification or call during a run but can’t read the screen due to the glare of the sun.

If you read the Amazon reviews, you will probably notice a lot of negative reviews about the size of the armband. These appear to be referencing an earlier version where Lifeproof apparently didn’t do much homework on bicep circumference. The armbands are now cut-to-fit and include enough material to make the vast majority of users happy.

In the picture above, you can see the two part latch that snaps together, sandwiching the breathable material in between at the point of the cut. I was initially suspicious of the strength of the latch, but it has held together well in practice.

Unfortunately, the latch is extremely uncomfortable. As you can see, it pinches the skin as you tighten it for use. You can then smooth the skin out and/or cover the gap with excess material you left during the cut-to-fit sizing. Regardless, the latch may still rub you raw at the crease of your elbow if you wear the armband low, like I do. I can’t wear it higher on my arm as my bicep flexing and relaxing during activity makes it either uncomfortably tight or far too loose. Just above my elbow is the only place it fits well, and to the lay person, I often look like an IV drug user.

In my experience, you can sometimes run a 5k without any significant rubbing problem. If you go much further, though, expect discomfort. The two marks you see here are from a 24 minute 5k training run and a 5.5 mile, 50 minute trail run. There is also a mark on the underside of my arm at the top edge of the latch from the trail run.

Of course, if it’s really cold where you live, put the Lifeproof Armband on top of your long sleeve compression base layer, and you’ll be happy as a clam.

One issue I know everyone experiences with armbands and running is the velcro wearing out over time. There’s nothing like surging toward the end of a tough 10k only to have your armband come flying off. My device hasn’t ever hit the ground, but I’ve certainly experienced the frustration. At first, the Lifeproof Armband velcro was incredible, much more secure than the other 2 armbands I’ve owned. Now that the armband is about 6 months old, the velcro is starting to give out. It’s not falling off my arm during the run, but it frequently slips when I’m trying to get the armband positioned for a run. I’m not sure how much longer it will last.

Overall, the Lifeproof Armband is a mixed bag. It may be your best bet if you want to keep your phone in a Lifeproof case, but 25 minutes of running is way too little to be seeing friction injuries no matter how minor. Of course, if you’re doing activities other than running, the Lifeproof Armband may be perfect for you.

Pros:

  • Cut-to-fit provides more size options than some armbands
  • Sturdy mount keeps phone securely fastened
  • Easy accessibility during most any activity

Cons:

  • Rubbing from the latch leads to friction injuries in multiple locations
  • Heavier than most armbands
  • Short velcro life