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Decoding OtterBox and LifeProof cases for iPhone XS and XS Max

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I am a freak when it comes to cases for smartphones.

If I see a family member or a friend running around with an unprotected device, my first instinct, after recovering from a panic attack, is to fit that person’s device with a case.

I usually have a few models sitting in my “case box,” and if the case fits, it’s going on the phone if you show up at my house without one.

Also: iPhone XS Max first impressions: It’s big, but not too big

I used to say that any case on a smartphone is better than no case at all. The main thing you really need to be concerned with is bezel elevation to prevent the phone from falling flat on the screen and taking a direct impact.

Secondary to that concern, you want edge rigidity and shock absorption to buffer against hits on the side and corners.

Prior to the introduction of edge screen designs first seen in devices like the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, followed by last year’s iPhone X and this year’s XS and XS Max, I would have maintained that yes, put on a case, any case.

But given how fragile the design is of this particular phone, and how much this thing dents your wallet when you buy it, and god forbid have to repair it after drop damage, I’m going to have to change my mind on that one.

You want the most protective design money can buy.

Protective cases

There are a few companies that specialize in extreme device protection. One is UAG, and it is an excellent company with great case products. The Monarch is an excellent choice for protecting your new $1,000+ device.


UAG Monarch for iPhone XS Max

Otter Products is the other major player in this market, and I am a huge fan of its offerings. When I am asked by friends and family which case to get, an Otter case is always my first answer.

My colleague, Matt Miller, has written a nice overview of OtterBox’s offerings for XS and XS Max.

Otter traditionally had one ultra-protective design, which is the Defender. And, for years, I only used Defenders no matter which device I had. I still only use Defender on the iPad Pro, because it’s the only case I trust on that device right now.

Also: iPhone XS and XS Max reveals some battery surprises

You could just go get a Defender Series Pro (or the original Defender) for your iPhone XS. You would be very safe with that decision and my work would be done. It’s a rugged, proven design, so it’s practically a no-brainer.

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OtterBox Defender Series Pro for iPhone XS Max

But over the past few years, Otter has really expanded its line of case designs not just in its own branded offerings but also with its acquisition of LifeProof, which was once a fierce competitor.

LifeProof cases once distinguished themselves from OtterBox cases in that they were targeting sporty lifestyle customers, with an emphasis on waterproofing. So, their cases were always a little bit more expensive than the OtterBox designs. The FRE, in particular, is the LifeProof flagship.

Also: iPhone XS, XS Max, XR specs: Battery size, RAM details revealed in new filings

Let’s go through the LifeProof lineup for iPhone XS and XS Max since it is a relatively easy decision matrix.

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LifeProof’s case lineup for iPhone XS and XS Max

For iPhone X, XS, and XS Max, LifeProof introduced two new case designs: the SLAM and NEXT. Based on closer examination, these seem to be very similar two-piece clamshell designs, although, from the samples I received, I noticed that the NEXT had considerably more bumper material on it.

Also: iPhone XS smartphone beauty really is only skin deep

Both are very tight fitting designs and provide ample bezel elevation and side/corner impact protection. However, neither are waterproof or provide additional screen protection for scratches or front impacts.

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LifeProof NEXT for iPhone XS Max

I used both cases for about a day, and I would say that the NEXT felt thicker, but it’s not enough of a difference for me to sacrifice shock absorption with the SLAM — although the SLAM can accommodate Alpha Glass, like the OtterBox Defender and the Pursuit, which we will get to momentarily.

Personally, if I was inclined to get one of these two cases, I would get NEXT.

Waterproof cases

The iPhone XS and XS Max are already IP68 water resistant and can survive 30 minutes of immersion at depths of two meters, so if the primary concern is being dropped with occasionally being rained on, NEXT is what I would go with.

However, nothing is so simple when it comes to making case recommendations for iPhone XS and XS Max.

Also: iPhone XR outshines XS value for upgraders

I have not yet received the iPhone XS Max version of FRE, as the company didn’t have a production sample ready yet, but I do have FRE installed on my Pixel 2, and I had one on my Samsung Galaxy S8+. So, we can infer that the overall design is going to be similar.

FRE is LifeProof’s tried and true waterproof case design, which also incorporates a permanent scratch protector that is a flexible film. This is the case that traditionally provided brand differentiation from OtterBox and the Defender.

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LifeProof FRE for Samsung Galaxy S8


(Image: Jason Perlow/ZDNet)

Now, with iPhone XS and XS Max already being fairly water resistant to begin with, it would seem that FRE is overkill.

Perhaps, I would tend to agree with this — if we weren’t talking about a $1,000+ device that costs $275 to $400 to replace the screen regardless of whether you bought the thing outright or you are making lease payments on the Upgrade Program.

On iPhone XS and XS Max, FRE has a watertight lightning charge connector door latch in addition to a permanent screen/scratch protector. I’m not sure how necessary this is, but if you spend time near the water or on the beach, it might be a good idea to have this feature.

Also: How easy is it to break the new Apple iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max?

Additionally, given the fact that you are now constantly rubbing your finger with nails on the screen itself instead of pushing a physical home button, I am inclined to say that a screen protector on an iPhone XS or XS Max is a requirement.

You just spent $1,000 or more on a phone, get the $80 case.

Done, right? Forget SLAM and NEXT. Get the FRE.

Not so fast.

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OtterBox Pursuit case equipped with Alpha Glass. The new protection standard for iPhone XS?


(Image: Jason Perlow/ZDNet)

With the iPhone X, and now the XS and XS Max, Otter has introduced a new high-end case, the Pursuit.

It appears that the company has created something of a fusion design between Defender and FRE. It essentially merged the DNA between the two companies with this product.

According to the company, the Pursuit is a stronger case than Defender without the additional bulk.

Also: iPhone XS and XS Max reveals some battery surprises

It’s really more LifeProof than an Otter in terms of overall looks, but it isn’t inherently waterproof. The FRE still offers additional waterproofing. Pursuit doesn’t have a waterproof lightning latch; it has a rubber tab like the Defender instead.

So, is the FRE still better for the money? Well, no.

Scratch resistant cases

All the new OtterBox cases (and the LifeProof SLAM) for iPhone XS and XS Max can accommodate the Alpha Glass accessory, which provides additional scratch and impact protection for $39 more.

Can you buy a third-party scratch resistant film to put on a Pursuit? Sure. But then you should get a FRE. It’s cheaper.

Would you rather have additional glass instead? In terms of aesthetic it definitely looks better and is easier to clean, and I think the few extra microns of glass gives me more peace of mind.

I see no point in using either Defender or Pursuit (or SLAM) without Alpha Glass. So, really, in terms of overall decision matrix of which case to buy, in my opinion, it comes down to:

  1. You want a holster and full rubberization and the tried and true Otter design (Defender/Pro + Alpha Glass)
  2. You want it to be thin but still highly protective (Pursuit + Alpha Glass, SLAM + Alpha Glass, or NEXT)
  3. You want it to be more waterproof than what the device provides out of the box, and you want scratch protection but not additional screen impact protection (FRE)

I spoke with Otter reps and asked them why the company simply did not consolidate the product lines or replace the existing Defender with Pursuit and a Pursuit holster.

Otter and Lifeproof have already consolidated their e-commerce sites as well as the type of packaging used in order to satisfy carrier shelf space display requirements and in-store marketing needs.

This is very much like a Ferrari/Maserati or a Cadillac/Buick thing. Same company, same engineering principles, and likely the same production lines. Different brands appealing to similar but different legacy customers.

Also: Should I install iOS 12 on my old iPhone or iPad?

I think the company could have easily made an FRE that can use Alpha Glass as opposed to the integrated film, and then it could just put different branding on it for the OtterBox version along with a holster. This is what I would have done, personally.

I have to assume Otter has done its market research and determined that not everyone wants a true glass protector and that a certain amount of customers, particularly in the vertical market space (construction, military, etc.), want the additional psychological protection of full rubberization with the traditional Defender design.

With any of these three case designs, you’re in good hands. Which one are you planning to use? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

Previous and related coverage:

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The best tablets for 2018: Our top picks TechRepublic

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Apple vs Samsung phones: We compare the Galaxy S series and the iPhone XS

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Apple and Samsung recently released large flagship smartphones priced at $1,000+. They are close to the same size and have the latest specs, but there are also some significant differences that will lead you to one over the other for your business needs.

Will there be an October Apple event? Signs point to yes

Once again, David Gewirtz puts on his mystical prognostication hat (okay, fine, he launches Excel) to delve into Apple announcement history. Will we see new Macs, iPads, and whatnot in October? There’s a pretty good chance, and we’ll even tell you what dates to write in your calendar.

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Yahoo has built a new calendar app called Day, and it’s recruited the co-founder of Sunrise to design it – TechCrunch

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When it comes to online calendars and calendar apps, services like Google Calendar and Outlook from Microsoft rule the roost with hundreds of millions of users globally. Now another company is hoping to ruffle some feathers with its own move into the space. TechCrunch has learned and confirmed that Yahoo is working on called Day, a new standalone calendar app. Sources tell us the company has recruited Jeremy Le Van — who had co-founded another calendaring app, Sunrise, and eventually sold it to Microsoft for over $100 million to make it the backbone of Microsoft’s own very popular calendar platform in Outlook — to help design it.

Many lamented the sunset of Sunrise; now it looks like they might now have a shot at getting Sunrise 2.0, so to speak.

(Disclaimer: Yahoo happens to be owned by the same company as TechCrunch.)

“We are exploring different ways to better serve consumers and that includes new ideas around mobile-first time management, calendar and events,” a Yahoo spokesperson said in response to our question.

The service is currently in an invite-only closed alpha as it gears up for a bigger launch (you can also sign up on the site).

Calendars serve as the backbone for how many of us organize our days, whether it’s for work or leisure. And arguably, the more our activities, and the planning of them, move to digital platforms, the more powerful calendars can become, too.

This means that for platforms, having a calendar feature or app as part of a bigger service is a good way of keeping users engaged on the wider platform, and it’s a way for the platform to glean more knowledge about user behavior. Google’s Calendar, for example, is very tightly, and often automatically, integrated with its wider suite of productivity and information services, giving the company one more spoke in its wheel to keep users sticking around.

And it’s not only Yahoo that might be interested in doing more here. Facebook acquired Redkix in 2018 allegedly to bring more calendar and other productivity tools to Workplace. In the end, Workplace integrates with existing offerings from third parties, and so it doesn’t have its own standalone calendar app. Facebook also doesn’t have a standalone calendar feature in the main consumer app, either. But with people planning so much else on Facebook’s properties (not just through Events on Facebook, but across Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger), it seems that it’s an area it could feasibly still expand into at some point.

Yahoo itself, in fact, already has a pared-down calendar widget that you can access through Yahoo Mail. It’s not clear how popular it is, especially since it’s very easy these days to integrate one’s email to most other calendar apps.

The question, then, will be how Day might hope to differentiate itself, and how it will hope to compete.

From what we understand, in contrast to how Google, Microsoft or even Yahoo itself currently integrate calendar features into their wider productivity suites, this isn’t the approach that Yahoo is taking with Day.

The app is being built by people in its Mail team, but it’s being treated “like a startup” in the operation, we’ve heard, and has been given license to develop it independently: it has no special Yahoo branding, nor with any Yahoo integrations whatsoever. The plan is to keep it separate, not unlike the many calendar apps — like Sunrise once was — that exist in app stores, and make it something that can integrate with whatever other email or other tools that a person users. Over time there also may be efforts to use Mail — which still has around 200 million users — to help market Day.

The move underscores how Yahoo — which has effectively lost out to Google in areas like search, email, video and advertising — believes that with the right approach, there is still room for more innovation in this crowded market, even as it has a number of misses in its history of trying to do just that in other areas, like messaging.

But as we noted in a recent story about Calendly — a $3 billion startup that’s proven to be a big hit with people who need to schedule meetings — calendar apps can be challenging for another reason. They are well-used, yes, but also somewhat under the radar: calendars are never the destination for a person, just a place to mark when, how, and with whom you will get there. Can there be more ways of enhancing that basic functionality?

Yahoo seems to believe there are, and that people will want to use an app that does so.

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Twitter accelerates again with Bitcoin tips, NFTs, recorded Spaces, creator fund and more – TechCrunch

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Twitter’s slate of new product announcements is not slowing down. The company today introduced a number of new initiatives aimed at better serving the conversations and community using its platform, including support for tipping with crypto, NFT authentication, and plans for other experiments designed to provide more context about a conversation to those just joining in. The company also said it’s preparing to launch its own creator fund in a few weeks to provide audio creators with access to financial, technical, and marketing support.

While Twitter was not yet ready to details specifics like the fund size or expected reach, in terms of creator participants, it’s a clear shot across the bow of a top competitor in social audio, Clubhouse, whose own creator “accelerator” offered to connect its participants with brand deals or $5,000 per month during their participation in its program.

Similarly, Twitter views its creator fund as one not aimed at rewarding creators for the content they produce — like some rival funds running across Facebook, Instagram, Snap, and elsewhere — but rather at helping creators get started with audio productions on Twitter Spaces.

“The goal of it really is to provide that technical and marketing expertise,” noted Twitter Product Lead for Creator Monetization, Esther Crawford. “We think of it as kind of a stopgap solution. We want to onboard these folks into other long-term monetization features. But we want to give them an initial boost,” she said.

Spaces hosts will also be able to record and replay their programs — a move likely meant to counteract the threat of competitive platforms which tout recording as a key differentiator. This will launch in a “few months,” the company said.

Twitter also today announced a few new products and expansions to recently launched features.

One of these is a new feature that would allow its app to better serve creators working with NFTs, or non-fungible tokens — a way to certify digital assets, stored on the blockchain. Artists are now creating NFTs of their work which are sold across NFT marketplaces like OpenSea, Rarible, Foundation, SuperRare, and others.

Twitter says it’s planning to “soon” explore support for NFT authentication. This would allow NFT creators to connect their crypto wallets to Twitter, in order to track and showcase their NFTs on the platform. This particular plan is still in the early stages as Twitter couldn’t yet articulate how this would work. The company said it was testing different ideas for making creators with authenticated collections stand out more visually somehow — perhaps with something like a profile badge or differently-shaped avatar.

When pressed for further details on its broader NFT roadmap, Twitter declined to comment.

Another new feature in the crypto space is support for Bitcoin tipping. Twitter first introduced its “Tip Jar” feature in May as a beta product, allowing users to send and receive one-time payments via third-party services like PayPal, Venmo, Patreon, Cash App, Bandcamp, and others. Now the feature will expand to global audiences on iOS with Android coming soon, and will add support for tipping with Bitcoin.

There will be a couple of ways Bitcoin tips can work. Users will be able to add a Bitcoin Lightning wallet or their Bitcoin address in order to start receiving Bitcoin tips. Lightning wallets are popular among users in the crypto community due to their lower transaction fees, the company said. Twitter’s implementation of this uses Strike, a payments application built on the Bitcoin Lightning Network that allows people to send and receive Bitcoin free and instantly, it said.

In fact, Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey this summer tweeted that it was “only a matter of time” before Twitter built in support for the Lightning Network, a layer atop the Bitcoin blockchain, into its platform. At the time, there was some speculation that users would first see this sort of support in a micropayments product, which has now been proven correct.

The Tip Jar will also add a few other services as well, including GoFundMe.

Another new experiment called “Heads Up,” is the first that will help to give users a sense of a conversation’s vibe before they wade in.

One of Twitter’s thorniest issues is its inability to help people feel safe sharing their thoughts and opinions on its network, which has served as a breeding ground for cancel culture, and where armies of trolls can descend on marginalized voices or others they disagree with at any time — like activists, women in tech (as was made famous with the Gamergate scandal), or female journalists.

In this area, Twitter has worked to create new features like those that enable users to limit who can reply to their tweets, which it says has contributed to a decline in abuse reports over the past four weeks.

It’s also launched Safety Mode into beta, which offers a sort of automated level of protection against harassment during a time of heightened abuse. It created a way for people to quietly remove followers as an alternative blocking. And today, Twitter says it will soon launch a new feature that will allow users to remove themselves from a conversation they’re mentioned in and is experimenting with a new feature called “word filters” that would let users stop abusive tweets that don’t cross the line into being against Twitter policy.

Twitter didn’t fully explain how it will measure a conversation’s vibe in the coming “Heads Up” feature, in order to warn newcomers about the nature of the discussion. But said it was considering leveraging data from its emoji reactions (which are only now in testing) and reply prompts, which warn users when they’re about to post something potentially offensive.

The company has been launching new products at an incredibly fast clip in recent months, with additions that have included a rapidly improved Twitter Spaces audio chat platform, the launch of interest-based “Communities,” creator platform Super Follows, newsletters via its acquisition of Revue, tipping, a premium subscription service called Twitter Blue, crowdsourced fact-checking with Birdwatch, new e-commerce features, new profiles and labels, a reopened account verification system, conversation controls, Direct Message improvements, and more.

Today, it offered a few updates on a handful of these products.

It said it’s working on more Spaces discovery tools that would make it easier to find Spaces at the top of the timeline, and elsewhere in the app — a likely reference to the dedicated Spaces tab on mobile. It’s also expanding access to Ticketed Spaces, improving the discovery of newsletters, launching a new creator earnings dashboard, and working on more account labels — like those brands and those that would help memorialize the accounts of the deceased — among other things.

 

More broadly, Twitter attempted to explain its strategy, which is increasingly looking like “throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks.” In fact, it admitted — to some extent —  it may be doing just that.

“You’ll keep seeing us push towards this vision through experimentation and iteration,” explained Twitter Head of Consumer Product, Kayvon Beykpour. “You’ll see us share our progress publicly along the way, as we have over the last few years. And you won’t see us stay tied to the things that aren’t working. We’ve done that with Fleets and you’ll continue to see that with other explorations we test out. We believe that if we’re not winding things down every once in a while, then we’re not taking big enough bets,” he said.

Image credits: Twitter 

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Facebook stock drops after company warns Apple’s privacy changes to have bigger Q3 impact – TechCrunch

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Facebook today provided an update on how Apple’s privacy changes have impacted its ad business. The company had already warned investors during its second quarter earnings that it expected to feel an even more significant impact in its ad targeting business by Q3. This morning, it reiterated that point, but also noted that it had been underreporting iOS web conversions by approximately 15%, which had led advertisers to believe the impact was even worse than they had expected.

According to Facebook’s announcement published to its business blog, this exact percentage could vary broadly among individual advertisers. But it said the real-world conversions, including things like sales and app installs, are likely higher than what advertisers are seeing when using Facebook’s analytics.

Facebook’s stock has dropped by nearly 4% on this news, as of the time of writing.

This is not the first time Facebook has shared misleading metrics. In the past, however, it had inflated its video ad metrics and didn’t quickly act to correct the problem, leading to a class-action lawsuit. In this case, however, the issue with the metrics isn’t making Facebook look better than it is, but worse. The company noted it’s been hearing from its advertising community that they are seeing a larger-than-planned impact to their ad investments on the network, raising concerns.

Facebook offered advertisers a few tips to help them better understand a campaign’s impact and performance in this new era. It suggested waiting a minimum of 72 hours or the full length of the optimization window before evaluating performance rather than making assessments on a daily basis, as before. It also said advertisers should analyze reporting at the campaign level, when possible, as some estimated conversations are reported with a delay. And it suggested advertisers choose web events (like a purchase or sign-up) that are most aligned with their core business, among other things.

To address the issues with improving its measurements, Facebook said it’s working to improve its conversion modeling, accelerating its investments to address reporting gaps, launching new capabilities to track web conversions, and extending its ability to measure in-app conversions in apps that have already been installed. The company said it would work quickly to fix bugs, including one that recently had led to underreporting of approximately 10%, which was previously shared with advertisers.

The company in August explained how it’s been working to adapt its personalized ads business in light of both Apple and Google’s privacy changes and the new regulatory landscape, but those efforts will take time, it said.

Outside of the ad tech updates themselves, Facebook has also been working on new products that would allow advertisers to better position themselves in front of consumers browsing Facebook’s apps. Just last week, for instance, it revamped its business tool lineup with the introduction of new features and expansions of smaller tests that would offer businesses more ways to be discovered. One such test in the U.S. would direct consumers to other businesses and topics directly underneath news feed posts. It also now allows businesses to add WhatsApp buttons to their Instagram profiles and create ads that send Instagram users to WhatsApp business chats.

Facebook has been warning advertisers for some time that Apple’s new privacy features, which allow mobile users to opt out of being tracked across their iOS apps, would cause issues for the way its ad targeting business typically operated. And it repeatedly argued that Apple’s changes would impact small businesses that relied on Facebook ads to reach their customers. When the changes went into effect, Facebook’s concerns were validated as studies found very few consumers are opting into tracking on iOS.

 

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