Having grown up in the Midwest, followed by spending the majority of my life in New York, you’d be correct in assuming that getting out and about on camping trips and other expeditions meant dealing with the elements. So you’d think that moving to Southern California would mean dong outdoor activities pretty much all year around. And you’d be right.

But what’s changed since my days in New York are the gadgets that I take with me on trips to the woods and other outdoor excursions. Before it’d be a camera (conventional with film) and a radio or something similar — now it’s a smartphone that pretty much handles all those chores and even plays music.

But if my radio or camera got wet or damaged, it’d be annoying as heck but not necessarily a hazard to my safety or mucking my work schedule up. You can’t say that when a smartphone is taking the lead. So maybe that’s where the value of Grace Digital ECOXGEAR ECOXPRO really comes into play; that it’s got a built-in battery powered 3-inch speaker to amplify a smartphone placed inside (or MP3 player) is good, but that it protects that device is even better. It weighs enough to justify an examination before I’m taking it along on the next trip.

But before I try it out with a mobile device inside, let’s see if it does indeed float (and is waterproof). I go to my apt. building’s swimming pool and drop it in with a soft “plop.” Yep it floats alright (and I get that it’s not guaranteed against being submerged past 10 feet so no pushing it to the bottom of the deep end for me). But more importantly, all the seams and such are watertight (including the headphone socket), as I find out when I remove it and open it to check the insides. Pretty cool.

Opening the ECOXPRO, by the way, involves pressing in on a tab on each of the two side latches. It’s best to then open the clamshell-like shape on a horizontal surface to reveal the interior. Let’s start with the right side where’s the webbed compartment is located. This is where you put the mobile device (i.e., phone), with additional space in front for holding such things as keys or I.D. or credit cards that you want to be sure don’t get lost while you’re mucking about a trail. Look stage right since that’s the half of the ECOXPRO where all the effort is going on.

You’re now seeing the back of the speaker near the top, but it’s whats in the middle and bottom that takes care of business: there’s the battery compartment to hold the three “AA” batteries (use good quality batteries) that provide some 30+ hours of audio playback. Below that is the all-important switch that goes from left/right in order to accommodate the technology of the different types of smartphones (for example, left handles iPhone while right handles a Samsung).

With batteries inserted and the compartment reattached, pull the mini-jack cable out from its groove that’s wrapped around the back of the speaker. Insert the plug into the headphone output of the phone or player, insert the phone into the webbing and start some music playing. Then close the two sections and while holding them tightly using one hand, push in on the tab of the top latch and secure it onto the hinge. Do the same to the latch below and you’re ready to go.

So now the mobile device is totally protected. Yeah, we’ll see. I stand it up and rotate the Volume knob on the front right corner which illuminates a LED as the speaker is powered. Okay I can hear what my phone is playing, and adjusting the volume shows that you can get some real loudness out of the speaker. I let it play.

I then took a water gun and sprayed about 20 blasts at the speaker on the ECOXPRO’s front. No it wasn’t a super-soaker, but if water can seep in, this should do it. Of course I DON’T want the water to seep n  as I kind of like my phone. Good thing that the audio never crackled and the ECOXPRO didn’t explode in a burst of smoke and burnt insulation. And when I opened thee case, all was nice and dry inside.

I also should note that I tried taking the ECOXPRO with me to a dog park, partly to see how it both sounded and handled itself in an open environment. Sound was fine and, from what I can see, dust and other detriments didn’t get through the case to my phone. Just be sure to regularly clean the connections (like the rubber sealing ring and the dirt/dust filter).

Finally I should add that you can control the internal mobile device through a properly configured headphones. Of course if you want to be sensible, pair a waterproofed pair of headphones with the waterproofed headphone socket.

Editor’s Rating:

Rating: ★★★★☆

Great

Bottom line: For $79 retail the ECOXPRO gives you more than a reasonable amount of protection for whatever is inside. Its bulk does make it a bit cumbersome to lug around, but if you don’t want the protection it offers, why would you take it with you in the first place?

Pros

  • Impact resistant (6 foot drop)
  • Long lasting rechargeable battery

Cons

  • Monophonic speaker










Marshal Rosenthal

 
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.