When LifeProof stopped including optional plastic screen protectors with their NUUD cases for the iPhone 7 Plus, many were disappointed. While not outstanding, these plastic screen protectors were great for situations where the NUUD might encounter scratch hazards, such as at the beach. Fortunately, a solution is now at hand, assuming that you have the necessary cash. For a premium of $40 over the price of the regular NUUD, LifeProof now sells the NUUD + Alpha Glass. For $139.99, this product includes the NUUD case (normally $99) and a custom sized version of OtterBox’s Alpha Glass tempered glass screen protector. A custom sized version is necessary because it needs to fit precisely inside the rectangle of exposed screen area left once the NUUD is installed.
So how does it work? Extremely well. The Alpha Glass screen protector is a great addition to the NUUD case and is relatively easy to install. Once on, it feels like the high quality tempered glass screen protector that it is—the oleophobic coating is outstanding, the lack of an air gap means you have perfect responsiveness, and it is just a joy to use.
Should you shell out the extra cash for the NUUD + Alpha Glass? I think it depends upon your reason for having a waterproof case on your phone. If your phone rarely encounters scratch hazards and you simply want to protect it from a drop in the pool or other potential water disaster, than the regular NUUD may be just fine. But if you like to take your iPhone to the beach, the NUUD + Alpha Glass might be a good investment.
What about the FRE? With the same level of drop protection and waterproof protection, should you just go with the FRE if you want a waterproof case with screen protection? It is definitely cheaper, as the FRE, with its built in screen protector, retails for $79.99. Price considerations aside, I think it depends upon what kind of iPhone user you are. If you are more focused on the audio aspects of the phone (phone calls, listening to music, etc.) then the FRE may be the best choice for you as it has superior audio quality. If, however, you are one of those people who mostly focuses on typing, texting or apps where screen clarity is paramount, then the NUUD, either with or without the Alpha Glass, is probably a better choice for you. The FRE doesn’t have a bad screen protector—in fact, for a non-adhesive plastic screen protector, it is surprisingly good, but it doesn’t begin to compare to the quality of the NUUD’s naked screen or its enhanced one with the lovely Alpha Glass screen protector.
Alpha Glass Pros:
* Excellent optical clarity.
* Outstanding oleophobic coating resists fingerprints and smudges.
* Beautifully smooth under the fingers.
* No issues with 3D Touch
* Looks great on the phone.
* Relatively easy to install.
Alpha Glass Cons:
* Not quite as easy to install as a regular tempered glass screen protector because you have to install it after the case is already on your phone. It is a little trickier to properly clean your phone’s screen and properly position the screen protector with the case already in place.
* Doesn’t completely cover all of the exposed screen area (there is a small area around the perimeter that is left uncovered), but if it were any larger, it would be extremely difficult to install successfully.
* Submersible to 2 meters for up to one hour.
* Drop rated to 2 meters.
* Touch ID works perfectly with the protective home button membrane.
* Nice grippy sides feel good in the hand.
* Clear back allows you to show off your iPhone.
* Easy to install and remove—new plastic removal key included in the LifeProof packaging is a nice touch.
* New mute switch arrangement works well and is easy to use.
* Volume and power buttons are rather stiff and hard to press.
* Clear polycarbonate back shows fingerprints easily and is prone to scratching.
* Good audio quality for a waterproof case—probably better than last year’s NUUD, but not quite as good as the FRE.
The NUUD + Alpha Glass is available directly from LifeProof, comes in four colors (black, midnight indigo blue, mermaid teal and plum reef purple) and has an MSRP of $139.99. Many thanks to the kind folks at LifeProof for sending me out this sample to review.