I love getting out and about, and on a normal day the weather won’t make any difference to that. Having some protection for my iPhone, which never leaves my side, when it’s raining is an absolute must. Knowing I always get rained on when I go away on my motorbike (it’s a given), and loving to take snaps when I’m skiing, a waterproof and shockproof case is the only way to come home again without a broken phone!
This is the Naztech Vault case for iPhone 5 (and 5S) that I’ve been testing for a week or so. I received it from Mobile Fun to test out to help keep me connected when the weather is bad.
One of the things that I liked in the spec for this phone is that it is submergible. I doubt that I would ever take my mobile phone swimming, but I do enjoy being around water and am always finding myself out in the rain (well I do live in Lincolnshire) wanting to send a text or tweet or take a photo. So the fact that this case isn’t just shower proof but can be completely covered in water (up to 20 metres – that’s deep!) is a definitely plus for me.
Before you put your phone in it and trust the case completely the manufacturer suggests you do a water test just to make sure the case itself is working properly (and you know how to fit it correctly). I completed due diligence by placing a crisp white and dry tissue inside the case, sealing it up, and then dunking it in some water in the kitchen sink. I dunked it, swirled it, left it in there for a few minutes, and then took it out, dried it and my hands off, and opened it up to see if any of that cold water had got inside. Nothing – not a drop – not a hint of dampness. Excellent.
To get the case on the phone is a bit fiddly but easy enough when you get used to it. The phone sits in the solid plastic front which fits very well, and then you push the rubber part of the case around the back of the phone and over the sides of the plastic until it tucks into the groove around the edge. You need to make sure it is fully pushed in all the way around, but once you’ve done that you’ve got a completely enclosed phone you can take anywhere. Taking the case off is simple too; once you’ve managed to wedge a finger nail between the rubber and plastic at the bottom of the case you can pull it off – meaning you can keep this case for when you need it and use something a bit less utilitarian at other times.
For something with such protective qualities, this case doesn’t add much bulk to the phone, which is great. I like that the smooth lines of the iPhone have been mirrored in this case, although this means that the corners are probably not as well protected as they might be on some other types of waterproof and shockproof case – I would still gasp loudly if I was to drop my phone onto concrete in this, I wouldn’t expect it to bounce much but know it’s much better than my usual plastic case.
As far as using the phones buttons and sockets while in the case you can access everything except the toggle switch on the side above the volume buttons (so, if you use that for mute you don’t have that function and if you use it for orientation you can’t use that function). Two waterproof covers reveal the headphone and lightning sockets, although be warned that these have been made to Apple specifications to the letter and so you’ll only get official cables in there… my original lightning cable and Apple headphones slot in easily, but my replica cable and Sennheisers don’t. It’s also worth noting that unsurprisingly I can’t slot the phone into my charging dock while it’s in this case, but I would never expect that from a case like this.
I was able to put the usability of the case to the test when on our trip over to Normandy at the weekend. I put the phone in the case and popped it in my motorcycle jacket pocket. While my jacket is waterproof I knew for a fact that we were going to get a beating by the weather and so was interested to see how well the case did in terms of protecting my phone as well as allowing me to use it normally without having to worry about it getting scratched, dirty or waterlogged.
We did indeed get horrid weather on the way down into France. I’ve ridden in worse, but for miles and miles the rain came down. It was so heavy at times that I could feel the individual drops on my legs as they fell. But despite that my phone stayed perfectly dry and thanks to the case I could check it when we stopped, text, take pictures, tweet and whatever else I fancied without worrying about the water and inevitable dirt that came with it.
I found that the touch screen worked fine through the front of the case, but that it was difficult to tap near the edges which made pulling down the notifications screen from the top and pulling up the settings screen from the bottom was fiddly and not always successful. That was a bit frustrating and I ended up using the settings menu proper rather than the quick buttons from the home screen. It was as easy to type a text or tweet with the case on as it is without, and with the rubber surround I was confident with the phone in my hands even in the pouring rain – it felt secure.
I am surprised that the screen protector, a clear thin plastic layer across the front of the phone, is already really scuffed. This is not a case to look pristine itself, but to keep your phone in tip top condition. It means you’re not looking at a beautifully clear picture, which is a shame, but I’d much rather this get a bit scratched on my adventures than my phone itself. This damage has all been done through normal use – it’s not been in my bag with my keys or anything like that, but through using the phone with my fingers and putting it in and out of my pocket. It’s not so bad I can’t use my phone properly, just not as good as new. The screen protector is also quite reflective – much more so than the screen on its own – which means using this in bright sunshine can be a bit awkward; I had to shield the screen with my hand to read a message, for example.
One tiny thing that has consistently got on my nerves this last week is that it is impossible to clean the protective layer over the lens. I have a (what I think is a good) habit of giving the lens a quick clean before I take a photo – I don’t want a finger print or hair or bit of fluff turning what might have been a nice snap into a blurred mess. I know the shape cut out of the rubber on this case has been designed to offer as much protection as possible while still allowing you to take photos, but it’s too small to get the corner of my t-shirt (or lens cloth if I’m being very good) in to give it a wipe. I found this way too frustrating to be normal, probably, but it did mean I was not able to have a crystal clear lens and I think this notices in my photos.
Then I took a call… “Can you hear me?” Yes, I said… “Where are you” in my office… “I can’t hear you very well” I’ve got full signal, have you?… “You sound all muffled have you got your hand in front of the microphone?” No… oh… is it this case? We tested the phone again both in and out of the case and I was right – the rubber seal around the bottom of the phone seals up the mic so it sounds like you’re speaking with your hand over your mouth, or through one of those awful megaphone things turned up too high so the sound is distorted. I don’t have another waterproof case to compare this to so I’ve no idea if this is a normal issue with these fully sealed covers, but I am a bit disappointed. I played some music to see if the speaker had the same effect and that does seem to fair a bit better, but it’s not as good as without the case on.
While this case does its protective job very well, and allows you to use your phone outside in the rain or around the pool (or in the bath?!), the fact that the screen cover is really scratched after just a week using this normally and the microphone is muffled by the rubber seal mean it’s not quite brilliant. Having said that, this is one of the cheapest fully waterproof cases on the market – and for £40 you’re getting a pretty decent effort and if you are out and about and want a bit more protection than the traditional style iPhone case then this is worth a punt.
You can buy the Naztech Vault in black, blue or white from Mobile Fun in their iPhone 5S Covers category for £39.99.