Review: Aquabox Waterproof Cases

Now that we’re back up and running, I suppose it’s time to do more than  stare at the various products and hope the reviews write themselves. Not that we were doing that, of course… We’ve been on sort of a kick for waterproof phone solutions lately, what with all the snow we didn’t get this winter and the upcoming summer. We gave you a preview of the LifeProof earlier this year (still testing…), but we’ve been looking at much more behind the scenes. Now we have another waterproof phone for you to look at, and it’s not just for illustrious iPhone users (take notes, LifeProof). Introducing the Aquabox!

As much as I tend to use brute force to break the will of my phones, I know a lot of people out there prefer a more passive aggressive approach; drowning. Whether it be the pool, beach, lake or river, water can do your phone in about as permanently as any physical damage I can think of, and some companies (Apple) wont even attempt repairs on water damaged phones. While it used to be enough to just leave your phone in the car while you went swimming, many cant bear to part company with their phones long enough to take a piss, let alone a whole boat ride, and keep their phones on hand whether or not the phone is protected from water. That is where the Aquabox comes in.

The Aquabox is a gasket sealed clam-shell style case with a silicon membrane that allows full, nearly unimpeded use of most phones. The Aquabox comes in two models; the 100 series for smaller smartphones ( up to 4.5in X 2.6in X .6in), and the 200 series for larger smartphones ( up to 4.88in X 2.70in X .55in). Each model is identical as far as design, features, and build quality are concerned, differing only in their size. Between the the 100 and 200 series, Aquabox has a sizable field of smartphones covered. The 100 series is available in 4 colors (black, white, yellow, pink) and the 200 series in 2 (black, yellow).

Included in the package is the case, a neck lanyard, and a floating wrist lanyard.

And now, with some overview out of the way, lets get into what you’re waiting for… is it any good!?

Protection

This case, first and foremost, is not for impact protection. Then again, I wasn’t expecting it to be, and it’s probably not what you’re buying it for either. The main concern with respect to impact is the relative loose fit of the case around your phone. Because both models are more or less a one-size-fits-all design, that leaves the phone a lot of room to bounce inside the case, and with no cushioning inside the case nearly all the energy from the blow will be transferred to the phone.

But more importantly, is the case’s performance in protecting your phone from water damage, as any self-respecting waterproof case should. Check out the video below to see for yourself.

Now, I’m not just basing my evaluation on the case’s waterproof ability on dunking it in a glorified cup of water. It’s seen plenty of use in the shower (need my morning news and a rousing game of solitaire), hot tub, snow, and rain over the last month or so, with not a single drop of water leaked. The spin-lock top ensures a repeatable seal every time you close the case, so there is no worrying about whether you snapped it all the way, and there wont be any gaps for water to seep in. All-in-all, as far as the waterproofing is concerned, Aquabox fully lives up to expectation.

As for sand and dirt intrusion, the case does an equally outstanding job. If water cant get in, not much in the way of particulates can. We did run into issues with sand and dirt building up on the outside of the case, around the membrane, and in the hinges and spin-lock top, which I’ll elaborate on in the following section. Despite that slight hiccup, the inside of the case remained clean.

Design/Build Quality

The quality of the product, overall, is commendable.  The materials used do not inspire fear of failure while your phone is underwater, and with the exception of a severe drop, I wouldn’t expect the case would be very susceptible to damage – especially considering this case will be most at home in the cushy embrace of beach sand and water.

We did notice that the case had a tendency to collect dirt and grime one its exterior during use. While being kept in a bag that is used for hiking, beach expeditions, and general outdoorsy antics, a mixture of sand and fine dust had coated the case pretty thoroughly. The inside of the case remained clean but the grime has crept into the hinge, and most important, the spin-lock top.  The locking mechanism began grinding while opening and closing the case, though it never seized. Sand had also build up around the edges of the silicon membrane, which caused some concern with wear and damage to the membrane, as the sand was pressed between the silicon and the hard plastic case.

The membrane material was also found to be about as good at attracting hair and dust as a Swiffer Sweeper. My dog’s hair seems to be perpetually covering the case. I’m not sure if this is a static electricity issue, but in the end its just some hair (though I find myself methodically picking it clean…).

Despite all the heavy grime, the case was relatively easy to clean, with the toughest part being the twist lock, which you have to blow on pretty hard. A can of compressed air, similar to what you might have for your keyboard or PC, would to the trick pretty quickly. The membrane can also be pulled off to help clean around the edges. Which brings up one of my only glaring critiques of this product…

One side of my membrane was FIRMLY glued in place… So what you ask? Well, if you tell me the membrane is replaceable/removable, and that taking care of the membrane is critical,, I’m going to remove the membrane and clean it once in a while.The two long sides and the bottom near the hinge all came free from the case with no more than a light pull, by the top side seemed somewhat stuck. I figured it must be surface adhesion, or at most a light adhesive used to keep the membrane from falling out on its own. So I pulled a little harder and…

Needless to say, I was somewhat displeased to find the membrane was firmly cemented in place, and even with the proper tools I have been unable to pry the remaining chunks completely from the groove the membrane fits in. Even if I had intended on replacing this membrane, I would not be confident that the new membrane would seat properly with the chunks of silicon that I haven’t been able to scrape out yet. I suppose this may have been a one off issue, but if not, the adhesive needs to be seriously rethought if the membrane is to be billed as either removable or replaceable.

Despite the tear shown above, I actually found the membrane to be very resilient. It  seems to be sufficiently durable, yet thin and flexible enough to allow surprising access to even recessed buttons.