I was passing by the pool of my apartment building and saw a girl reach onto the edge where her phone lay. She did some texting and then put it back down, only to watch it slip and fall into the water. It looked like it was in a case, but I bet that it wasn’t waterproof. And I doubly bet that her phone was now toast.
It’s times like this, not just being caught outside in a thunderstorm, that a waterproof case can make all the difference. It got me to thinking about the reason that you don’t see all those many reviews of waterproofed smartphone cases: what if it doesn’t work and it’s your iPhone that was inside the case that has been destroyed? That thought kept going through my head as I looked at Ballistic’s iPhone 5 HYDRA Series Case. At the basic level, it’s designed to seal an iPhone inside of it but still allow it to be used. But at the more important level, its job is to keep out the water that is enveloping the case so that the phone inside stays completely and totally dry.
So I decided I’d try it out first with an iPhone that didn’t work — one that was dead, defunct. Ballistic suggests you practice using the case by submerging it in water without a phone to make sure you get how to use it. That’s a common sense approach, but I’ll go one better by holding it under a faucet so I can watch whether the removable paper tag that’s inside gets waterlogged or not.
So the first thing is to separate the iPhone 5 Ballistic HYDRA Series Case into its three parts: removing the 7 latches (2 each top/bottom, 2 side, 1 edge) releases the front frame. The screen cover can now be pulled off the back. The iPhone would then be slid inside and the screen cover returned — it has a series of o-rings circling the edges which must be pushed down hard to create a seal. This also removes air which helps to keep the iPhone in position inside. The o-rings are colored red to make it easier to see how you’re doing. With this done, the front frame is then put back on, starting at the top 2 tabs and ending at the bottom where the plug that covers up the headphone jack is located (you can pull this up to use headphones, but the case now is no longer waterproof). It took me a little over 6 minutes to do this, counting from the initial disassembly.
I turned on the faucet and held the case beneath the stream for over a minute. After drying it off and disassembling it, I could see that the tag inside was completely dry as was the inside of the case. Good.
I then reassembled the Phone 5 Ballistic HYDRA Series Case again; only this time with my iPhone inside. I noticed that the case itself is not that much bigger and certainly barely heavier than other plain-Jane protective cases. I also had no difficulty in using the various controls, the Home button or in the touch screen responding to my finger taps.
But now for the tests. I replaced my iPhone with the dead one. Ballistic makes two claims about the HYDRA that are easy to substantiate: the first being that it will protect a phone’s screen from a drop of up to 8 feet. So I stood away from the pool area and held the case even with my eyes — that would be about almost 6 feet high. I then dropped it onto the tiled floor. It made a sickening “thumping” sound, but when I retrieved it neither the case itself or the phone inside had any damage (i.e., a broken screen for example). The second claim is that the case can handle being submerged in up to 7 feet of water for 30 minutes. So I attached the belt clip to the back of the HYDRA and clipped it to my trunks. I then sat in the water at the shallow end so that the case was underwater, timed 10 minutes and then got out of the water. Drying off the case, I opened it and inspected the phone which, as had been the case with the tag and the faucet, was dry.
Bottom line: The iPhone 5 Ballistic HYDRA Series Case protects the iPhone inside of it from getting soaked, while also providing a reasonable amount of drop protection. Whether it’s from rain, falling into a pool or creek, if your iPhone needs to stay dry, $79 will buy that for you.
Holster with swivel belt clip
Must remove any 3rd party screen covering from the iPhone
Marshal Rosenthal is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer and journalist specializing in technology, consumer electronics and pop culture.