Review: Bravo Case for iPhone 5
Statistically speaking, if your iPhone is going to die an accidental death, it will likely be either from a fall or drowning in the toilet. Just like people. And if you have small kids, the odds of both of those events happening increases 10 fold. But is the fear of an impact or submersion worth having your iPhone encased in some bulky, unstylish rubber and plastic monstrosity for its entire life? Well, Bike2Power’s $99.95 Bravo Case is actually an uncommonly stylish, solidly built aluminum case that may ease the aesthetic pain for some of you living in fear of a toilet drop.
Now, if you are solely looking for a nice-looking, truly waterproof case, you can stop reading right now and head over to Bike2Power’s site and plunk down your $99.95 for the Bravo, because as you can see in this video I made in my fish tank, the case works as advertised.
However, as you may have guessed, such great protection comes with a few not insignificant trade-offs in ease of use that may or may not be a deal breaker for you. The Bravo case is not a casual case for people who like to change cases to match their moods. There is a 9 minute installation video (below) that will take you about 12-15 minutes to do the first time, including pausing occasionally and rewinding. The case comes with all the necessary tools you’ll need, but of course it’s up to you to keep track of them should you ever wish to get the case off. If you are considering getting the Bravo, it might be a good idea to watch the below video before making your purchase just to make sure you aren’t going to be scared off by the work involved.
So yes, as you can see the case is basically constructed of three pieces, a front and back aluminum case, and a flexible screen protector film, similar to what you might buy as a standalone screen protector. This was perhaps the most nerve-racking aspect of testing the case, as I expected the case to have a glass cover built in. How it actually works is the two halves of the aluminum case screw together very tightly so that the thin rubber ring that outlines the interior of the case is pressed down so hard against the screen protector as to create a waterproof seal. So the plastic screen protector is getting wet when your phone is underwater. There is no built-in screen cover.
However when properly put together, the case works, and works well.All the phone’s buttons work, although when under water I found I could not use the touch screen. I guess however capacitive touch works, it doesn’t like water. Of course, I decided to test it on my wife’s iPhone 5 versus my own, but after our test I was no longer worried about the cases’ ability to protect against leaks. However, it should be noted that the case is rated by Bike2Power for depths up to 6 feet deep. So this is not a scuba-diving case for daily submersed use.
As for fall protection, this thing is rock solid. And also as heavy as a rock, which might also be a problem for some. While the case looks cool, and feels great in the hand, it is by no means a “dainty” case, and it will sit heavy in your pocket. It actually is one of the “manliest” feeling cases I have ever used, although I almost think the added weight makes a drop more likely.
OK, so the case looks great, and works as advertised. However, it does have a few issues that should scare away the anyone with a casual interest in perhaps videoing friends at a pool party. First, as I mentioned, it is heavy. Second, it is NOT easy to get on and off, it requires tools, and some degree of organization in knowing where those tools are. Also, because the screen protector is not built in, you need to carefully remove it, and find a way to store it flatly, and dust-free for your next use. It’s not a sticker-like film like the Invisible Shield where you can leave it on and use with other cases. The case also muffles the built-in speaker to about half volume, so if you are used to listening or music or podcasts without headphones you will be a bit disappointed. If you pop open the bottom clasp covering the charging port, the sound gets louder again, almost what you are used to with no case, however you’ve then lost the water protection aspect of the case.
Speaking of charging, only the original iPhone cable or similar size can fit through the lightning cable cut-out – my Amazon brand cable would not work. And speaking of cables, if you are a fan of listening to music via headphones, there is some more bad news. The Bravo comes with an adapter that will allow you to connect your iPhone to earbuds while maintaining the waterproof seal, but it needs to be screwed in, and leaves a 4 inch cable dangling from your case at all times. You can replace this adapter with a small screw-in plug when you do not need it, but again, you are going to need to keep track of these items.
Phone calls still work fine, and we were able to hear and be heard very close to normally with perhaps a slight muffling. Speakerphone on the other hand occasionally produced some odd echoing.
Finally, the biggest warning I have is that despite my best efforts to not do so, I must have overtightened one of the screws on the case during one of the opening and closing sessions, and I somehow stripped the screw head. Once the screw is stripped, my iPhone was more or less trapped in the case, forcing me to ultimately bend and break it in order to pry apart the last screw. There really was not other way to remove my Phone I’m afraid. I would like to say this is pilot error, but the screws are so tiny, that really I would be surprised if you did not strip at least ONE of them if you tried removing the case any number of times. I feel over tightening is a big danger, as the only thing keeping your iPhone safe is a properly tightened down case, and you don’t really know how tight is too tight, and certainly don’t want to risk letting water in. Bike2Power includes a bag of extra screws in case you DO strip yours, but that assumes you can get the stripped screw out of your case.
Bike2Power’s $99.95 Bravo Case, available in black and aluminum, looks great, works great (if properly assembled) but is really geared for a very select audience. I would say if you live in a bluetooth world, headphones, speakers, and such, many of the annoyances I found will not be issues. The lack of ease in removing the case will likely be what ultimately keeps many from using the Bravo, however, and the fear that like me, you may heave to more or less destroy a $100 case to get your phone out at some point.
Pros: Provides great water protection and drop protection, not overly bulky and it looks cool
Cons: Costs a lot for some peace of mind against water damage, not a great case for every day use due to weight and difficulty removing, charging and using headphones. Must keep tools handy and a stripped screw can render the case useless.