Electronic Armor

Safeguard your phone or tablet with a waterproof case

electronic armor

electronic armor

One of the great pleasures of fishing revolves around the idea of “getting away from it all.” These days, however, technology is ever-present in our lives, especially with the proliferation of smartphones and tablets over the past several years.

Sure, you can still fish without your phone. But it's also nice to bring it along. Whether for taking pictures, using fishing-related apps, texting friends, sharing stories and images on social media or — go figure — actually making phone calls, these devices help us keep connected while on the water.
If you're going to bring one of these gadgets along, however, you'd better make darn sure they're protected. And that means investing in a good waterproof case.

Protection in Many Forms

| |LifeProof cases make an iPhone virtually indestructible; adding a Bike & Bar accessory (above and top) makes for flexible, creative mounting.|

Salt water and electronics don’t mix. That’s a stark reality that many anglers have learned the hard way, shrieking in angst as their beloved iPad slips from their hands and drops into the drink with a splash. It doesn’t have to end badly, though.

“Our HardBack Series of cases is rated ­watertight up to three feet for 30 minutes,” says Keith Swenson, marketing and advertising analyst for Pelican Products.

Renowned for its all-weather, all-purpose, go-anywhere camera cases, Pelican began creating protective solutions for phones and tablets about four years ago. While its phone cases are not waterproof, Pelican’s tablet cases are — and most important, both product lines offer incredible protection from breakage.

But hard-shelled cases aren’t the only type of protective product on the market. Soft cases, such as those made by Aquapac, offer a viable alternative. No, these cases won’t provide the physical-damage protection of a Pelican or, say, an OtterBox Armor series product, but they effectively keep water out. What’s more, their soft composition makes them pliable, allowing a user to manipulate both the material and the device for a tight, near-custom fit.

“Got your phone in a bumper case? Your iPad in a silicone wrap? That’s cool; they’ll both still fit,” says Andy MacAuley, creative director at Aquapac, noting that the soft material is a food-grade TPU, a tough urethane that contains no harmful additives. “The advantage of a soft case is that it allows you to adapt the gear going into the case — and if you buy a different phone or tablet, it may well still fit in the case.”

Hard Case, Soft Touch

| |Pelican i1015 phone case|

LifeProof cases, which have made a big push in the angling scene in recent years, most definitely cannot be adjusted to fit any old phone. Instead, these hard shells are molded ­specifically for particular electronic devices.
Currently designed for Apple iPhone 4 and iPhone 5 phones, as well as Apple's iPod Touch, the LifeProof product line for phones will expand this summer with a new model for use with Samsung's Galaxy S3. (See news article about OtterBox acquiring LifeProof.)

“But the brand promise will be the same,” says Barbara Meyer, marketing communications manager at LifeProof. “It will be waterproof, shockproof, dirt‑proof and snow-proof.”

LifeProof claims its cases are ­waterproof up to six-and-a-half feet for 30 minutes, and that devices will be safe even if dropped from a height of ­six-and-a-half feet. Yet these cases are not big and bulky. Instead, they are slim and lightweight, and Meyer says the idea is that they’re meant for everyday usage, not simply for going out onto the water or into the woods.

“They enable you to do stuff that you couldn’t before,” she says. “They give you peace of mind. But they’re perfectly suitable to be carried anywhere, anytime.”

The shell of a LifeProof case comprises two hard-plastic pieces, a front and a back, which snap together tightly like Tupperware. A small screw plugs up the earbud jack, and a hinged flap closes to seal the power receptor. The front portion of the shell features a clear polyester screen that covers the phone’s touch-screen surface, allowing full usage of the phone anytime. “It’s super thin, scratch resistant and ­minimizes fingerprints,” says Meyer.

Tablets and Accessories Too

| |Encasing an iPad with a LifeProof nüüd shell creates a serious on-the-water tool for anglers. (ADRIAN E. GRAY)|

Ironically, LifeProof’s latest product, introduced last year built to house Apple’s iPad tablet device and dubbed the nüüd, has no such clear membrane covering the touch-screen. Yet it too is fully waterproof.

“It’s a slightly different ­technology,” says Meyer. “It works like a car’s ­windshield. A raised-lip seal keeps the screen from actually touching a surface if you put it down; and an O-ring on the inside of the case seals the connection to make it perfectly waterproof and protected from dust, dirt, and sand.”

Meyer says doing so ensures zero degradation to the touch and retinal experience of the iPad’s renowned screen, which she says is already built to shed water. The nüüd carries an Ingress Protection rating of 68, which is the highest rating in two categories, providing protection against solids like dirt and against liquids.

Of course, LifeProof, Aquapac and Pelican are not the only manufacturers that offer water-safe tablet cases. Aryca, Griffin and TrendyDigital are just a few of the others that make products for various devices from different manufacturers.

| |Aquapac’s soft case designed for the Apple iPad is fully waterproof, and provides functionality and touch control through a thin TPU casing. (ADRIAN E. GRAY)|

And with all this innovation in go-anywhere waterproof cases for ­electronics, a new market has emerged as well: accessories.
LifeProof alone offers a gaggle of cool accessories perfectly suited for anglers. The company's LifeJacket Float is a molded buoyant foam that fits snuggly over a LifeProof case, ensuring the case floats if dropped into the drink. It's even orange, resembling a traditional life preserver. Then, there's the Bike & Bar mount that can be used to attach a water-sealed device to an aluminum handrail in any boat.

Of course, you can always fish in ­solitude without any of the distractions of modern living. But, says Meyer, “if you prefer to use fishing or navigation apps, listen to music, or take pictures of your catch to post to Facebook while on the water, these cases enable you to do it easily and safely.”

An Invisible "Case"

Hard and soft cases seem a logical solution to protecting electronics, but a relatively new product offers a barrier against water exposure — with no case involved. Liquipel uses a hydrophobic nanocoating to protect a gadget's circuitry. You simply send your phone or tablet to the company, it treats the product and sends it back. Liquipel was distinguished as a 2012 Edison Awards winner, and Randy Smith, the company's marketing officer, tells Sport Fishing that the new Liquipel 2.0 offers enhanced saltwater corrosion resistance. Treated products can be immersed in fresh water for 30 minutes at a depth of three feet. That said, Liquipel is designed to protect against accidental water ­contact, not necessarily intentional immersion. Learn more at liquipel.com.

Colorful Bumpers

No, these device cases might not be waterproof, but they’re certainly stylish. Renowned marine artist and conservationist Guy Harvey has teamed up with Case-Mate to release a new ­collection of bumper cases for Apple iPhones and iPads and Samsung Galaxy phones. Four models are offered: the Tough, Tough Xtreme, Barely There and Vibe. All feature a slim profile and impact-resistant outer shells — and, perhaps most important, some of Harvey’s best paintings and photographs emblazoned on the case. For more information, visit ­guyharvey.com.

Protective Manufacturers

Aquapac USA
East Norwich, New York
866-929-0639
aquapac.net

Case-Mate
Tucker, Georgia
866-689-3432
case-mate.com

Guy Harvey Inc.
Davie, Florida
800-288-1227
guyharvey.com

LifeProof
San Diego, California
888-533-0735
lifeproof.com

Liquipel
Santa Ana, California
855-478-4735
liquipel.com

OtterBox
Fort Collins, Colorado
855-688-7269
otterbox.com

Pelican Products Inc.
Torrance, California
800-473-5422
pelican.com