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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:

Want a new iPhone or Android smartphone? Here’s how to sell or trade

The new Samsung Galaxy Note 9 was just announced and we expect three new iPhones and two Google Pixel phones to launch soon. Now is the time to consider selling your current one before market prices drop or plan to participate in a trade-in program.

10 best smartphones of 2018

he major smartphone launch season is upon us and one of the first out of the gates is the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, immediately taking over the top spot in our list of best smartphones.

Best Wearable Tech for 2018 CNET

Our editors hand-picked these products based on our tests and reviews. If you use our links to buy, we may get a commission.

The best tablets for 2018: Our top picks TechRepublic

Tablet sales may be declining, but there are still plenty of viable use cases and many models to choose from. Here’s our pick of the best.

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

Should you buy the latest Apple or Samsung device? And which size? This guide breaks down the factors that matter most to business buyers and consumers alike.

iPhone XS Max vs Samsung Galaxy Note 9: We compare the big phones

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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Without a clear ask, your pitch deck is useless – TechCrunch

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You’ve brushed off your Keynote skills, you’re giddy that you’re finally going to be able to start paying yourself a living wage, and you are excited to start pitching your startup’s next round of funding to your investors. It’s heady times, for sure, but hit the other pedal there for a moment, friend — you may be forgetting something.

After working with hundreds of founders on raising money — including the fantastically popular Pitch Deck Teardown series here on TechCrunch+ — there’s one slide that almost every founder gets woefully wrong. The slide is often referred to as The Ask. Or, as one investor friend calls it, the “what is my $10 million going to buy me”? slide.


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The Ask is a sensitive topic to a lot of inexperienced entrepreneurs, which makes sense. Trying to right-size a funding round can be a little overwhelming, and there are a thousand different ways of building a startup. If you were successful in raising $8 million, you can do things one way. If you raised $12 million, you could perhaps launch more features of your product a little faster, or experiment more, or go after an additional market earlier. You know that. Your senior staff knows that. Your investors know that. But regardless, you need a Plan A.

What do those key metrics need to look like in order to raise not this round of funding, but your next one?

What do you need to do?

A lot of founders will tell you that they are trying to raise enough money to survive for the next 18 months. That’s probably true, but that will be true regardless of how much money you raise. A better approach is to think about what you need to accomplish to raise your next round of funding, and then work backward from there. This is probably a combination of metrics and milestones.

Metrics are the measurable parts of your business that grow and evolve over time. One of the best metrics you have is revenue, but there could be many others: the number of sales, average order value (AOV), monthly or annual recurring revenue (MRR or ARR, respectively), customer acquisition cost (CAC), customer lifetime value (LTV), daily and monthly active users (DAU and MAU), retention rate (usually expressed by its inverse, churn rate) and much more. What do those key metrics need to look like in order to raise not this round of funding, but your next one?

Milestones are also measurable parts of the business, but instead of tracking them over time, they tend to be binary: You’ve either hit a milestone or you haven’t. For startups, this could be key hires; finding the perfect, experienced CFO that can help take your company public is one major milestone a lot of companies at some point need to hit. Product launches (coming out of beta), launches in particular markets (launching only in California) and localization (launching your app in Spanish and French, for example) are also important milestones. Financial milestones are also common; the first time you make a single dollar from any customer is a huge shift in the business. When a customer, on average, starts to make you more money than it costs you to acquire them is another. For earlier-stage companies, completing a customer validation phase by talking to, say, 100 potential customers is a milestone.

When you’re raising money, you will be mapping out a set of milestones that you need to hit in order to validate your company. In addition, you’ll set a number of trigger points for metrics — hitting $1 million ARR, having 5,000 daily active users or finding a combination of customer acquisition channels that means you can acquire customers at a reasonable blended CAC, for example.

So let’s examine how to put together a great “ask” slide by ascertaining what it takes to determine how much you need to raise, how to create a specific set of goals and how to bring it all together in a coherent whole.

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Tracking Klarna’s plunging valuation – TechCrunch

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Welcome to The Interchange! If you received this in your inbox, thank you for signing up and your vote of confidence. If you’re reading this as a post on our site, sign up here so you can receive it directly in the future. Every week, I’ll take a look at the hottest fintech news of the previous week. This will include everything from funding rounds to trends to an analysis of a particular space to hot takes on a particular company or phenomenon. There’s a lot of fintech news out there and it’s my job to stay on top of it — and make sense of it — so you can stay in the know. — Mary Ann

A humbling time for Klarna

Welp, I had a whole other topic planned for my intro today and then the Klarna news hit.

In case you missed it, on July 1, the Wall Street Journal reported that the Swedish buy now, pay later behemoth and upstart bank is reportedly raising $650 million at a $6.5 billion valuation, giving new meaning to the phrase “down round.” The news was shocking, to say the least. Why, you ask? Well, in June of 2021, Klarna was valued at $45.6 billion after closing on a $639 million round of funding — making it the highest-valued private fintech in Europe at that time.

When Klarna confirmed that raise on June 10, 2021, CEO and founder Sebastian Siemiatkowski sat down with me (via Zoom) in an exclusive interview, detailing why he was so excited about the company’s “explosive growth” in the U.S. and how it planned to use its new capital in part to continue to grow there and globally. He also said that an IPO was still in its sights “but not anytime soon.” The company then had 18 million users in the U.S.

Fast-forward to 2022. As of February, Klarna had 23 million monthly active users in the U.S. and 147 million globally. It reported 32% higher revenue of $1.42 billion for 2021.

By May, Klarna had laid off 10% of its workforce, or 700 people.

As TC’s Romain Dillet reported, the company didn’t name a single reason for the layoffs. Instead, Siemiatkowski listed different macro and geopolitical factors that led to the decision.

“When we set our business plans for 2022 in the autumn of last year, it was a very different world than the one we are in today,” he said. “Since then, we have seen a tragic and unnecessary war in Ukraine unfold, a shift in consumer sentiment, a steep increase in inflation, a highly volatile stock market and a likely recession.”

Now the company could be slashing its valuation by an astounding 1/7 to $6.5 billion. Notably, Klarna has not confirmed this, but, startlingly, the projection for the company’s alleged latest funding round and new valuation has steadily declined in recent weeks. The Wall Street Journal reported on June 16 that Klarna was considering raising capital at a valuation of around $15 billion. Even that new figure represented both a dramatic decline from Klarna’s mid-2021 valuation of more than $45 billion and the $30 billion figure it was reported to be targeting earlier this year, as our own Alex Wilhelm noted here. So from $45 billion to $30 billion to $15 billion to $6.5 billion. It’s hard to imagine it going even more downhill from here.

It’s also important to note, though, that Klarna is not the only BNPL provider that has seen a decline in valuation. As another tech enthusiast tweeted on Friday, competitor Affirm’s stock is also down significantly. On July 1 alone, shares were down 5% to $17.13 at the time of my writing this at about 2:30 p.m. CT, giving Affirm a market cap of $4.9 billion. That’s down from a 52-week-high of $176.65. Ouch.

Image Credits: Twitter

Weekly News

Speaking of valuations, Alex examined how after financial technology startups saw their fortunes rise during the venture capital boom in 2021, they’re now suffering from a slump of a similar scale. The damage, he wrote, is not unidimensional. Instead, pain around the fintech sphere is varied and multifactorial.

The layoffs in fintech continue. Amount, a company that reached unicorn status last year, recently laid off 18% of its workforce. The exact number of how many people were affected is not known, but when TechCrunch reported on its last raise in May of 2021, the company said that it had 400 employees. If that is still the case, then about 72 people were let go. Amount was spun out of Avant — an online lender that has raised over $600 million in equity — in January of 2020 to provide enterprise software built specifically for the banking industry. It partners with banks and financial institutions to “rapidly digitize their financial infrastructure and compete in the retail lending and buy now, pay later sectors,” CEO Adam Hughes told TechCrunch last year.

The Federal Trade Commission is suing Walmart for sitting by while scammers bilked customers out of more than $197 million, the agency alleged in a statement. It’s seeking a court order that would force Walmart to give money back to customers, on top of civil fines. In a brief response, Walmart described the lawsuit as both “factually flawed and legally baseless.” Money transfer scams are widespread, and they can involve everything from promises to share an inheritance to lies about a family emergency. They happen just about everywhere, from Zelle, Venmo and Cash App to crypto ATMs and popular dating apps. In this case, the FTC alleges that Walmart “turned a blind eye to fraud” that went down inside its stores.

Robinhood made headlines three times over the past week. First, Taylor looked at how the stock trading and investing app was blindsided by the surge in interest from the first big “meme stock” after Redditors and other retail investors rallied around $GME and sent its price into the stratosphere. Jacqueline Melnik then addressed the rumors that FTX is looking to acquire Robinhood in this piece. And then Alex broke down for us why a crypto exchange might want to buy Robinhood in the first place.

According to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), less than 2% of financial institutions’ CEOs are women, and for executive board members the figure is less than 20%. Why does this matter? Apart from the obvious lack of opportunities for talented women, there are broader implications for business resilience as well as economic policy at national and international levels. Read more at Fintech Futures.

Cash App last week launched Round Ups, allowing customers to invest their spare change into a stock of their choice or bitcoin every time they use their Cash Card. Cash App said the product would allow Cash Card users “to seamlessly accumulate bitcoin and stock investments through everyday purchases.”

If you haven’t heard yet, there is a fintech conference on the water coming to San Diego, California, on August 10. Fintech Fest 1.0 is bridging together leaders from Brex, Encore Bank, Mastercard, Checkout.com, Figment, Sift and many others for business meetings and discussions on the largest boat on the West Coast. You can get 40% off ticket prices this week only.

Speaking of discounts, be sure to take advantage of this amazing deal. TechCrunch+ is having an Independence Day sale! Save 50% on an annual subscription here. More information here. And the two-for-one ticket to TechCrunch Disrupt sale will expire on July 5.

Funding and M&A

Seen on TechCrunch

Drive now, pay later: Startups make EVs more accessible by putting off the biggest bill

A look into how Conversion Capital plans to back early-stage fintech startups out of its new 6x larger fund

HomeLister wants to make selling your home more of a DIY affair, and cheaper

Brazilian motorcycle rental startup Mottu revs up with $40M to help more Latin Americans become couriers

Here’s Carta’s response to venture becoming more global

Sava, a spend management platform for African businesses, gets $2M pre-seed backing

And elsewhere

GoCardless goes after Plaid with Nordigen buy

Knox Financial to expand loan products with $50M in funding

Zilch draws $50M more funding to buck BNPL industry woes

That’s it for this week. For our readers in the U.S., I really hope you’re enjoying the long weekend and Happy Independence Day. And to all of you, have a wonderful week ahead. To borrow from my dear friend and colleague Natasha, you can support me by forwarding this newsletter to a friend or following me on Twitter. Xoxo, Mary Ann

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Equity crowdfunding appears immune to market volatility, on track for its best year yet – TechCrunch

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Equity crowdfunding — or community raises, as the fundraising platforms involved prefer to call it — has grown steadily over the last few years. Regulations governing the process continue to evolve in the market’s favor, and 2022’s venture funding pullback may be the final piece needed to quiet the fundraising strategy’s naysayers for good.

This year looks poised to be monumental for equity crowdfunding, which entails raising capital through specific filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, including Reg CF and Reg A, from a mix of investors that don’t have to be accredited.

Over the past few years, equity crowdfunding has shed much of the stigma that used to imply that only companies that weren’t good enough for VC raised this way. Some traditional VCs have even scouted on the platforms or encouraged their portfolio companies to pursue the process. But with the fundraising climate now showing cloudy skies, equity crowdfunding is getting ready for a field day.


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More than $215 million was invested in startups on equity crowdfunding platforms this year through the end of May, according to the Arora Project, a Republic-owned platform that curates crowdfunding initiatives and tracks data, up from around $200 million in the same period last year. Crowdfunding campaigns raised a total of $502 million in 2021.

While that isn’t too big of a leap, industry players are encouraged by the growth and see scope for more improvement later in the year, as crowdfunding typically sees an uptick around the fourth quarter.

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