How Strong Is Your Cell Phone Case?

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A broken phone was the end result of a small household accident.

"We moved some of the stuff on the table and we knocked the phone down to the floor," says Doug Wyrick, who had this phone in a "LifeProof" case.

Wyrick says he was surprised it broke, but he was even more surprised when he contacted the company asking them to pay for the repair to his phone.

Wyrick recalls saying, "I called them and the girl that I spoke with told me that she was sorry, but that LifeProof did not guarantee the device inside the case, they just guaranteed the case."

We asked, "Isn't that why you bought it?"

Wyrick says, "Yes, I bought the case to protect the phone."

Wyrick was shocked, and frankly, so were we, especially after we surfed the company's product website. It was says their case is "shock proof"; they dare you to "drop it"; and they claim their cases are built to military specs and they promise to protect your electronics from the bumps and bruises of everyday living. Even a video on their website showcases drop after drop.

So, shouldn't they be responsible for Wyrick's broke phone? After all, protection is what they're advertising and that's the reason he bought the case.

In a statement to NBC Charlotte, LifeProof wrote, "Unfortunately, it would be impossible to call out every possible yet unusual situation. We would need to include improper closure of the case, dropping the device on an uneven surface like a rock, unlikely yet possible drops at strange angles that disburse the shock around the device in a way that can still crack the screen, repeatedly dropping a device in its case and not checking for cracks in the case or hairline fractures….there are just too many variables. We have no way of monitoring if the user installed the case correctly (which is why we ask users to test the case before inserting the device), if it had sustained drops before (which we say in the instructions can diminish the effectiveness of the case), etc….. Unfortunately, there is no way to account for every possible variable and we certainly do not claim that our case is indestructible. However, in the vast majority of instances, a LifeProof case can make a great deal of difference in terms of protecting your device. We have very high test standards and have earned both an IP68 rating for ingress protection, as well as meeting Military Specifications for drops: No case will ever be 100% effective, 100% of the time, but, a LifeProof case does offer some of the highest protection available. On the box itself it does state that "the case or phone may be damaged by drops from less than tested heights - particularly on non-smooth surfaces". You can go to our community page and see how the case is being used in people's daily lives, including saving people's lives since they were able to call for help after exposing their phone to water or shock:"

So could it have just been a fluke, could the angle of Wyrick's kitchen table drop been to blame for the break?

We took our curiosity over to CPR, the cell phone repair shop at the Arboretum where techs see plenty of broken phones, and they also sell many kinds of cell phone cases.

"We've seen a number of people come in with a false sense of security because of the name, it's an Otterbox, sounds tough, LifeProof, sounds indestructible, but none of them are indestructible, and therefore none of the phones inside the case are indestructible" says Brent Belch, owner of the shop.

I'm a hands-on, let's-see type of reporter, so the owners here gave me a cell phone and we put it in a LifeProof case and dropped it from different heights, from different angles, on its edge, and on its face. And you know what? It didn't break, in fact, not even a single crack.

We asked, "Is this a case you would recommend?"

"Yes, we would recommend this for basic protection," says Brent.

Meanwhile Wyrick says, "That's what I thought the purpose of the case was, it's what I bought it for, to protect the phone and it didn't protect the phone."

Wyrick's point is well taken, you buy the case to protect the phone, but LifeProof's point was made, too.

If your phone does break, no matter what the case, the fix and the cost, is likely on you.


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