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«Waterproof Phone Cases BY LAURA HAMEL I f you hang out around swimming pools or your local swim- ming hole long enough, at some point, your phone is ...»

SWIM BAG

Product manufacturers and retailers provide the products reviewed in Swim Bag to SWIMMER at no cost.

Waterproof Phone Cases BY LAURA HAMEL

I

f you hang out around swimming pools or your local swim-

ming hole long enough, at some point, your phone is likely to

go for a swim. At the very least, it could be subject to splashes,

a puddle on the locker room bench, a sopping wet swimsuit hasti- ly shoved in the dry part of your swim bag, or other watery indig- nities that our electronic BFFs aren’t really equipped to handle. A hard case that is both shockproof and waterproof is an essential piece of gear for swimmers and coaches who spend a lot of time around water.

If you’re a personal electronics minimalist and prefer to keep your phone in the nude for functional or aesthetic reasons, you’ll want something to keep it from skinny dipping. A waterproof bag designed to encase the phone—with or without another case— can offer protection in a moist environment or when there’s an ex- cellent chance of submersion.

We tested four hard cases and three waterproof bags. And one bonus item: a box that temporarily turns your phone into an un- derwater camera. (See sidebar: Inside the Box.) 40 usms.org Tested WATERPROOF HARD CASES FOR Masters In addition to being waterproof, all the hard cases we tested boast an assortment of other features,

–  –  –

CATALYST | CATALYSTCASE.COM | $65–$75 The Catalyst has the deepest waterproof rating (5 meters compared to 2) of all the hard cases we tested. It’s also a great looking case: Both front and back halves are clear, allowing for brand pride or special inscriptions on the back of your phone to be seen. The rubber bumper along the edge is easy to grip and the case isn’t too bulky compared to some popular rugged cases on the market.

Functions of the phone and camera all worked correctly. Some testers reported slightly diminished sound quality when on speakerphone and diminished thumbprint recognition. The screen cover was prone to attracting and retaining fingerprint smudges more readily than the

other screen covers. Overall, however, testers really liked the Catalyst. Some of the best features they f lagged include:

• The ringer/vibrate switch (for iPhone) is a knob you turn, rather than a toggle you flip back and forth. Testers loved this feature as most toggles and buttons are harder to use when a phone is in a rugged case.

• Catalyst includes an optional lanyard. This was great for testers who have phablets, such as the iPhone 6 Plus, that don’t fit easily in a pocket.

• The rubber cover was easier to pull aside to access the headphone jack and charger port than port covers on the other models we tested.

• There was very little airspace between the plastic screen and the phone screen, making app opening and typing a little easier than for some of the other cases.

• The rubber bumper extends slightly beyond both sides of the case, which elevates the clear screens from f lat surfaces when you set your phone down, making it less likely to pick up scratches.

41 july-august 2016 SWIM BAG

DOG & BONE | WETSUIT IMPACT | DOGANDBONECASES.COM | $80–$90 The Dog & Bone Wetsuit Impact was one of the smoothest, slimmest cases we tested—it didn’t have a rubbery or bulky feel to it—making it popular with testers who frequently slip their phones in and out of their pockets. It’s rated waterproof to 2 meters. The Wetsuit Impact is sleek, modestly attractive, and available in three colors.

Functions of the phone and camera all worked correctly.

Some testers reported minor loss of thumbprint recognition and diminished touchscreen functionality as the screen cover didn’t fit tightly to the screen. The slim design means smaller buttons, requiring more finger pressure to deploy. In addition, the port access covers are small and tight-fitting (a good thing), making them a little harder to pry open.

Overall, most testers liked this case, and gave it the thumbs

up for the following features:

• The screen protector was the best of the bunch for repelling fingerprint smudges.

• Dog & Bone includes an audio jack extender, for large or angled headphone miniplugs, and a small cleaning cloth.

• A slot in the corner of the case accepts a coin for easy opening when removing the phone.

DOG & BONE | WETSUIT | DOGANDBONECASES.COM| $60–$90 The Wetsuit case is unique in that it doesn’t have a screen protector; rather, it relies on a tight-fitting rubber seal that flattens around the outside edge of the touchscreen, leaving the screen itself exposed to the water, but creating a watertight barrier between the seal and the rest of the phone.

In order to accommodate the seal and provide adequate pressure around the screen, the plastic frame is bulkier and elevated a bit higher than frames that include a screen cover. This means touchscreen activity on the far edges of the screen can be affected, but this wasn’t a deal killer. As with the other hard cases, there is a membrane over the home button that caused some inconsistencies with thumbprint recognition.





Testers liked this model for the following features:

• The ability to use their touchscreen without anything covering it.

• The case is compact and, even with a slightly wider profile, it still slides in and out of pockets easily.

• A slab of plastic the size of the phone is included for testing purposes; this ensures that you can test the case prior to putting your phone in it.

• Dog & Bone includes an audio jack extender, for large or angled headphone miniplugs, and a small cleaning cloth.

• A slot in the corner of the case accepts a coin for easy opening when removing the phone.

42 usms.org PELICAN | MARINE | PELICAN.COM/MOBILE | $80–$90 Many readers will recognize Pelican from the company’s popular products in the scuba, photography, law enforcement, and military fields.

Our testers familiar with Pelican were excited to try their Marine phone case. The case is rugged, but not at all bulky, and is rated to 2 meters. It comes in basic black only.

Phone and camera functions all worked correctly in the Pelican Marine. There was only minor degradation of thumbprint recognition and call quality.

Some testers would have liked other color options, and a lanyard would be a great addition to this case.

But this case was a tester favorite for the following features:

• The entire case has a solid, rugged feel without bulk.

• The audio jack and charger port covers are separate and secure.

• Pelican provides a screw-in audio jack extender with an O-ring that is waterproof itself, so if you have waterproof earphones (see our January-February 2014 issue for our waterproof earphone review), you can listen to music or make calls in a watery environment without worrying about water incursion.

• The screen cover is scratch and fingerprint smudge-resistant and highly responsive.

• A slot in the corner of the case accepts a coin for easy opening when removing the phone.

Inside the Box BODY GLOVE | OPTRIX PRO | OPTRIX.COM | $150–$170 This rugged little gadget isn’t meant to be a permanent case, but you can have a lot of fun with it in certain situations. The hard plastic box turns your phone into an underwater camera, good for capturing some quick underwater technique video or your lanemate’s flip turn.

Waterproof to 4 1/2 meters, it’s also great for a beach, boating, or snorkeling excursion.

The phone can be used to make calls (not underwater), and when you’re not submerged, there’s a port that flips open at the bottom of the phone so the speaker isn’t muffled. The touchscreen does work, albeit with a little more effort than needed with the thinner plastics used on the other phone cases and bags we tested.

The coolest feature of the Optrix Pro is the set of four interchangeable camera lenses included: wide-angle, macro, telephoto, and low-profile. Also included is a wrist lanyard. For intrepid adventurers, there are optional accessories available: monopods, remotes, bike mounts, and various attachment clamps, making this a versatile, fun-to-use, and very protective hard shell for your phone.

43 july-august 2016 SWIM BAG

WATERPROOF BAGS

Our waterproof bag testers included physicians who keep their phones next to their pull buoys on the pool deck at morning practice, either because they’re on call or heading to surgical rounds after practice, and swimmers and coaches who pilot safety craft for open water practices and races.

Testers wanted control of their touchscreens in order to check for emails, texts, or calls, and to be able to return those as needed.

All three of the waterproof bag cases we tested met these requirements very well.

When choosing a bag, select the correct size for your phone— shoving a too-large phone into a smaller bag will damage the seals or tear the plastic near the cam locks and render the bag useless. A toolarge bag is less than ideal as the excess plastic can cause noise interference when you’re on a call and block the camera lens when you’re trying to take a photo. If you use a bulky hard case or one with rubber bumpers, size up. Use care when inserting the phone in the bag— the insides of the bags are sticky.

All three of the models we tested have these things in common:

• Good or great sound quality for both caller and receiver.

• Full touchscreen functionality.

• Thumbprint recognition doesn’t work at all, so the passcode unlock feature is the way to go when the phone is in the case.

• Neck lanyards, which make it easy to wear the phone, hang it on backstroke start grab bars, or tie it off to a paddle board.

• No access to headphone or charging ports—these bags are for telephone and camera use only.

Now let’s examine what makes each bag a little different from the others.

AQUAPAC | USSTORE.AQUAPAC.NET | $30–$35 AquaPac is unique in that the bag is designed for the phone to go in upside down, making it most useful if the bag is to be worn with the neck lanyard. When the phone is dangling and the user picks it up and looks down, the clear side for the touchscreen and the window on the back that accommodates the camera lens are ready to go without the need to remove the phone from around the neck.

DRY PAK | AIRHEAD.COM/WATERPROOF/ PHONES-ELECTRONICS/ PHONES-ELECTRONICS.HTML | $15 DryPak is the only one that provides flotation and a little extra bump protection, via a double-walled padded air pocket on the back side. DryPak also includes a small carabiner in addition to the neck lanyard, which is handy for quickly clipping it to a marine bolt, belt loop, or personal flotation device. The DryPak is the bulkiest of the three bags we tested, and the cam levers are slightly more exposed than on other bags.

OVERBOARD | OVERBOARDUSA.COM | $24.50–$46.50 Overboard is unique in that it employs sliding cams that are flush with the plastic clamp at the opening, meaning they’re less exposed than lever cams because they prevent accidental snags that could cause the bag to open. This system also gives the bag a slimmer profile. The other nice feature is an optional bike mount, which our triathlete testers really liked. Overboard also provided a carabiner and a small packet of silica gel to absorb moisture, both great to have.

44 usms.org



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