I received a waterproof iPhone 5 case from Catalyst to try out and review, along with a bike mount, floating lanyard and tablet sleeve. As always, all opinions stated here are 100% either my own or those of my family.
I tend to be a bit paranoid when it comes to electronics. Not without cause – there was the time I accidentally dropped an almost brand-new camera in the sand at the playground several years ago and dented the battery compartment and lens cover (neither of which ever worked correctly afterward), and I completely killed a different point-and-shoot camera (one of my favorite Canons) when it slipped out of my hands and fell just a foot or so onto our kitchen linoleum. Then there are the stories, of course, of folks who have dropped their phones in the toilet accidentally, or had it fall out of a pocket, shattering the screen… It only takes a quick moment to turn a valuable piece of equipment into a very expensive paperweight.
Paranoia aside, I have been careful (and fortunate) enough to not ever damage any of my iPhones (so far!) – although part of that has to do with the fact that I am very selective when it comes to phone cases, and my phone is always kept in the case. My iPhone goes with me just about everywhere – from the grocery store to the beach and everywhere in between. It gets passed back and forth from me to my kids, tossed in my purse or shoved in a pocket. Up until now my cases have been selected for how well they protect against drops, but that’s left enough other options for possible damage – especially potential water damage – that I’ve always had that paranoia creeping in at the back of my mind. But the waterproof cases that I’d seen were all big, bulky and not something that I would even consider using on a day-to-day basis.
Then I was introduced to the Catalyst waterproof iPhone case – and my iPhone has barely been out of this case since. Catalyst sent me an iPhone 5 case to try out, along with some accessories and also one of their waterproof tablet sleeves. Not only is their iPhone case waterproof to 5 meters (16.4 ft – deeper than any other everyday iPhone case on the market) but it is also impact-proof from 2 meters (6.6 ft). As I am only 5.2 feet tall, it’s unlikely that my phone would ever get dropped from anywhere close to 2 meters high, so that’s helping my paranoia quite a bit. Since the case is waterproof, it’s therefore also sand and dust proof (when all openings are plugged), so I feel much more comfortable taking my phone to the beach. Even running with it is much less stressful since I no longer have to worry about stray rainstorms or sprinklers getting my phone wet. Come wintertime, I’m going to be all, “bring on the snow and slush!”. This case can take it, which means that my phone can too.
Catalyst’s waterproof cases are available for the iPhone 4/4S and iPhone 5/5S in four color options (Alpine White, Stealth Black, Radiant Orchid and Pacific Blue). I’ve always had purple cases for my phone – for some reason purple has always appealed to me because it’s feminine, but not overly girly like pink, so I was disappointed to see that there was no purple option for a Catalyst case. I have to say that my Radiant Orchid case has completely grown on me though! The color is just around the edges of the phone, like a bumper case – both the front and back portions are clear. The case is very slim-fitting – it adds hardly any more bulk to my phone than my non-waterproof case did, and my phone still fits easily in my hand, purse or pocket with no trouble at all. Having this case means that I don’t need a separate screen protection film like I’d always used before, which is nice because no matter how hard I tried, I always ended up with bubbles in the film, which was very annoying. I do have to press slightly harder than I did before on the touchscreen at times (not all the time), but that was more a matter of retraining my fingers to give it just slightly more pressure. I have had no problems playing games, drawing or using any of the apps on my phone. And my photos have been just as clear and sharp as they were without the case’s hard-coated optical lens.
Access to all buttons and ports is available when my phone is in the Catalyst case, although the bottom ports (microphone and charging) are covered by a rubber gasket-like part that you can either close or pull open. Obviously you’re not going to be using those ports if the phone is submerged anyway, but you’ll want to make sure to keep that portion of your phone either closed or covered in a rainstorm (the company does also sell an audio adapter that is made to fit exactly into the audio port in their new iPhone cases, but note that the website says it is not intended for continuous underwater use). I just make sure to securely fasten the rubber gasket into both ports whenever I don’t need access to them, and whenever my phone does not need to ventilate. That was one concern I had, with an otherwise water (and air) tight case, how do you keep it from overheating? Keeping those bottom ports uncovered lets the phone ventilate and stay cool, so I leave them open for a good portion of the day, as long as I’m not going to be near water.
Just to be on the safe side – and to avoid possibly damaging my expensive iPhone 5, I tested the case before putting my phone in it, by sealing a dry tissue in the case (along with some pennies to add weight) and submerging it in a bowl of water for a couple of hours. The tissue was completely dry when I opened the case up afterward, so I was comfortable with putting my phone in the case. I have to admit that my paranoia still kicks in a bit – it’s hard to deliberately put my phone in the water, even though I know that it’s safe! I have to keep reminding myself that it’s going to be just fine. And so far of course, it has been. My phone has gone with me to the beach, to our neighbor’s pool several times and to a large local aquatic center. I’ve used it to take photos and videos underwater, and it’s fun to be able to share them right on Instagram without even getting out of the pool. Catalyst says that this is, “the only case you’ll ever need” – and at least for me, that’s definitely true.
Catalyst also sent a bike mount and floating lanyard to go with their waterproof case. I had the chance to go mountain biking on a recent trip to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, so I brought my bike mount along. Now, while mountain biking is apparently not my thing, the bike mount made it easy to take my phone along on the ‘practice’ run we rode through Copper Harbor. The bike mount was easy to install and to remove when I was done. You definitely want to use the little wrench that comes with it to get it as tight as possible – I should have tightened mine more and it started coming loose as I was snapping my phone out of the mount to take some pictures. I fastened it more securely afterward and had no more trouble with it at all. I could even take pictures and video while I was riding for a first-person look at my not-so-very-impressive biking.
My very favorite thing about the Catalyst waterproof case, hands-down, is such a simple little thing – there’s a spot on the bottom right corner of the case where you can fasten a wrist strap or lanyard. I pulled an old wrist strap off of one of my cameras that no longer works, and I can’t imagine how I’d gotten along without it before just in my day-to-day activities. Being able to hang my phone from my wrist when I need to use my hands and don’t have a pocket handy is wonderful. I use the strap to fish my phone out of my pocket or purse, and when I took my phone kayaking on my UP trip, I fastened the wrist strap to my life jacket so that my phone was secure just in case it got dropped. Dropping my phone in a pool or shallow beach swimming area is one thing. Dropping it into the depths of Lake Superior wasn’t something I was going to take a chance on! Catalyst does make a floating lanyard, which I do also have (it’s great for keeping the phone from becoming a diving toy for the kids, lol), but it’s too bulky for everyday use.
My kids’ favorite thing about the Catalyst waterproof case? Two words – underwater selfies. 😉
The last item that Catalyst sent for me to try was one of their waterproof sleeves. There are three sizes available, to fit devices from a 7” tablet all the way up to a 15” laptop. I have the middle size, which holds a 9” to 11” tablet or a small laptop. It also, as I can attest to, easily holds multiple small items at once, like a wallet, point-and-shoot camera, notebook and pen, extra iPhone battery charger and more. I used it while on my UP trip as my on-the-go bag and it did a great job. The sleeve comes with a removable EVA foam pocket to protect electronics, and two straps that can be fastened in various ways – I’ve used it mostly as a backpack, which was perfect for all of my UP adventures as well as a trip to a small local beach with my kids. My iPad 2 fits perfectly into the sleeve and I can add my wallet and camera in there too. The sleeve has a velcro fastening along with a double-lock water closure. I used it as my ‘dry bag’ when kayaking and everything inside stayed completely dry.
My only complaint about my Catalyst iPhone case isn’t really a complaint but more of a suggestion. Catalyst makes a belt clip for their case, but I would so love to see an armband option for it too. My iPhone won’t fit in my current armband when it has any case at all on it, which is similar to most of the armband options I’ve seen out there. I don’t like taking my phone out of the Catalyst case unless I really have to (plus my armband isn’t waterproof), so lately I’ve taken to running while just holding my phone in-hand (using the wrist strap in case it slips out of my grasp), so my phone stays waterproof (and sweatproof, lol) in case of rain or when running near (or through) sprinklers. I’d be first in line to purchase a Catalyst armband that the case could snap onto for running, so I hope they consider adding that item to their product lineup. 🙂
You can find out more about Catalyst’s waterproof iPhone cases at http://www.catalystlifestyle.com. The cases cost $64.99, and the tablet sleeves range in price from $39.99 for the smallest to $54.99 for the largest. Considering what the electronics themselves cost, I think it’s really a small price to pay for the peace of mind you get by knowing your device is protected against just about anything life can throw at it. I’ve paid close to that much just for a non-waterproof case + screen protector. For more information, you can follow Catalyst on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.