The Troubles and Woes of Using a Waterproof iPhone Case

The Troubles and Woes of Using a Waterproof iPhone Case

The leading cause of broken, unusable iPhones is a cracked screen, followed closely by water damage, so a good waterproof case can typically go a long way to keeping your precious device safe from exposure to liquids. The great thing about waterproof cases is that when they work, they turn your iPhone (or iPad) into the ultimate adventure-proof accessory. Not only does your iDevice become capable of safely handling what could otherwise be catastrophic conditions like underwater videography or surfing, but also it's protected from day-to-day hazards like an accidental drop into the bathtub or toilet. The not so great thing (major understatement) about waterproof cases, is that even the best waterproof case is only waterproof, until it isn't. When it comes to intentionally submerging your iPhone in water, there aren't usually incremental levels of damage. Let's face it, short of a minor splash, if your iPhone's innards get soaked, it's history, and hopefully you have insurance and a recent back up if that happens.

Related: What to Do If You Drop Your iPhone in Water

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It's a sad truth I've learned all too well, much to the chagrin and bemusement of my friends and family, that even the best of the best, most reliable waterproof cases eventually and almost inevitably fail. And when they do, you'll be lucky if it happens when you are on dry land.

Unfortunately, I've had some of the top brand waterproof phone cases fail on me at the most inopportune times. Like the time I was filming my son's first swimming lessons and a poolside drop loosened the case's gasket seal just enough to allow water unhindered access to my iPhone, destroying it in the process. Or the time I was visiting my home in the Caribbean and my all-time favorite waterproof case failed—for no apparent reason that I could ever pinpoint—when I was wading chest deep in salt water, again destroying my iPhone. Or the time, just the other day, that I accidentally dropped my waterproof-case-wearing iPhone into shallow creek water. Even before my phone had been in the water for two seconds, and with all the seals and ports properly closed, water had found its way into the case, and into my iPhone. Thank goodness for Asurion insurance.

Sometimes the good old burying-the-iPhone-in-gel-silica-for-48-hours trick works, but more often than not, in my experience, when your iPhone gets really wet, the kind of wet that it gets when fully submerged, not just incidentally splashed, there's no coming back. And no amount of gel silica, oatmeal, cat litter, rice, or blow drying will save your iPhone.

When a waterproof case is working, it opens up all kinds of wonderful and exciting potential uses for your iPhone. I have a waterproof case on my old iPhone 5, and even when my newer, fancier waterproof case for my iPhone 6 Plus failed while in the Caribbean Sea, my old iPhone 5 waterproof case kept on going, and actually allowed me to capture some awesome underwater footage of my island adventures. I've included a video I made when I went back to the islands, filmed entirely on my iPhone 5 in its waterproof case.

Will I ever trust a waterproof phone case again? I expect so, my active lifestyle requires that I have an iPhone that can safely come with me most anywhere I go. Yet even though I am obsessive about constantly checking the port seals, and making sure the integrity of the waterproof case is holding fast, water has still found ways to win the battle and work its way into my cases and get to my iPhones. So it's safe to say that after having to replace several iPhones—something the cases manufacturers typically aren't too keen on doing for you—I'm a little, (no, actually, a lot) wary of using waterproof cases, at least with my primary iPhone. Of course, if the manufacturers of waterproof cases were more keen on replacing your iDevice if their waterproof case failed that would be one thing, but alas, that's not the case.

If I had any constructive words of advice it would be this: if you—like me—enjoy using your iPhone in aquatic environments, it might be a good idea to save an old phone as a dedicated "water spare," and let that be the one that gets sacrificed if and when its waterproof case fails. That, or get yourself a GoPro or similar equivalent, just for your creekside, beach time, and underwater escapades. At least, that is until Apple catches up with the competition and introduces a waterproof iPhone. Fingers crossed...

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Dig Om's picture

As Senior Gear Editor at iPhone Life, Dig reports on the latest and greatest accessories built for the iOS ecosystem. From rugged gear and Bluetooth speakers, to headphones, unique iDevice cases, and iOS remote controlled vehicles, Dig's articles cover a wide range of great gear for the iPhone and iPad. A core gamer for over three decades, Dig also writes iPhone Life's Game Centered column, which focuses on the best iOS games and game related news. Additionally, Dig's company, iDoc Tech Support, offers web design and administration services as well as iPhone and iPad repairs. When not at his work desk, Dig loves spending time with family and enjoying the wonders of nature. You can follow him on Twitter @idoctech