Back in the early days of smartphones before any of them had any sort of IP ratings, if you wanted a case that could fully protect your phone not only from drops but also from water, dirt, snow, etc, you’d pick up a Lifeproof case. The Lifeproof Fr? for example was a fully enclosed case with a built-in screen protector that would in essence cover your phone in an airtight enclosure, meaning you could literally use your phone underwater. Nowadays, a lot of phones can do that without the need for a case anymore, but Lifeproof is still around to protect your phone from the environment. For the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra, Lifeproof makes two cases for it, the LifeProof NËXT and the Lifeproof WAKE.
The LifeProof NËXT is the evolution of what the original Lifeproof cases were in their heyday. This is a two-piece case that is meant to protect almost every aspect of your Galaxy S21 Ultra. Much of the case is made from hard plastic, but there is some rubber around the edges for grip and on the inside of the case as well. Must of it lines the borders where the edges touch the phone. This seems to help seal the case and keeps any dirt or dust from entering it. This is very much like classic Lifeproof and helps with waterproofing, even though the Galaxy S21 Ultra is IP rated.
Speaking of which, you’ll notice too that while there are holes for all the mics and speakers, they are being protected by some kind of thin membrane that allows sound to pass through, but not dust or dirt. Once the case is completely on, everything is covered up, except for the display. Even the USB-C port is covered up with a rubber flap that helps seal the port from dirt and dust as well.
Also, once the Lifeproof NËXT is on, it’s really on. There is no way to take it off again unless you use something like a coin and pry at the edges, starting from the top corners. The two halves of the case click together tightly and this is a case meant to stay on, even when dropped. That makes the Lifeproof NËXT a very secure and protective case.
While the Lifeproof NËXT is going to give you pretty much all the protection you’ll ever need, it has one negative that keeps it from being perfect. This case is humongous. That’s right, once you put this case on, your already large and heavy Galaxy S21 Ultra will become even more large and heavy. In fact, it becomes comically large to the point where it’s impossible really to use the phone one-handed and people with small hands will have a hard time holding it. It’s really thick around the borders which is the main issue.
If you can deal with how much larger the Lifeproof NËXT makes the Galaxy S21 Ultra, then you’ll definitely be happy about the rest of it though. This is a very protective case and I love how all the open ports and holes are covered up to protect from dust and dirt getting into it. It’s a great feature especially for those who might be around this type of stuff all day. For the rest of us, the Lifeproof NËXT might be a bit overkill, but maybe that’s what you want.
The Lifeproof WAKE is almost the complete opposite of what the Lifeproof NËXT is. While this case does provide some protection, it’s nowhere near as protective as the Lifeproof NËXT is. You see, this case is a very simple case made of recycled plastic and just snaps onto the Galaxy S21 Ultra. The case itself seems relatively strong and solid, despite it being also relatively thin. By that, I mean that it doesn’t add very much bulk to your phone.
The back of the phone has a neat, ripple-like water effect and it does offer a bit more grip for your fingers. The inside of the case doesn’t have any rubber padding or cushioning making the Lifeproof WAKE a fairly basic case.
I will say that the case does provide a bit of screen protection though since the edges are raised a bit, however, the edges on this case do not extend all the way around it. That is one of my main gripes about the Lifeproof WAKE as the bottom of it is open and doesn’t protect that portion of the screen or the bottom rail. I have to ding it for that.
So with that said, is the Lifeproof WAKE any good? It’s okay. It’s not the best, but it’s also not the worst case I’ve seen. I mean if you’re looking for a relatively lightweight case that’s thin and provides decent protection, then this is the case for you. But if you want something better, you should look elsewhere as there are plenty of other cases that will, in my opinion, provide much better protection than the Lifeproof WAKE will provide.
So which Lifeproof case should you pick up for your Galaxy S21 Ultra? If you’re going to go for one of them, I’d suggest the LIFEPROOF NËXT. It’s the closest thing they have currently to traditional Lifeproof cases and it’s the one that offers the most protection. While it does make your phone chunkier, it’s a small tradeoff if you want the ultimate protection from drops, dirt, and dust.