I’ve tested just about every waterproof case for the iPhone 5 and 5S. I can honestly say I found one I have no issue using as my day to day case. It’s called the Catalyst and it’s one of the lightest and simplest cases out there that will keep your phone dry.
The name Catalyst might sounds familiar. They previously had a distribution deal that had their cases sold under Griffin’s Survivor branding. This year, Catalyst is selling its wares on its own. Overall, the case is somewhat similar in design and appearance to both LifeProof’s offerings and the Preserver cases from OtterBox. They definitely bring their own flavor to the mix.
Like I teased in the opening paragraph, it’s very thin and light. The case is two pieces: the main body and a clear back panel. The front panel has a clear spot for the TouchID sensor. It works pretty well. The side volume buttons are protective, but really aren’t any more difficult to use than if the phone were caseless. The mute switch has a weird wheel level around it. It takes a bit more effort than the usual up and down flicks, but it works really well. The really interesting part is the bottom port seal. It’s one-piece, really lightweight rubber. The solution is much simpler than doors on other products. You can also easily access the ports. I could use standard headphones without an adapter. This is very welcome because the adapters are a bit of a pain and Catalyst doesn’t include one. The clear back panel also goes on easy and has an easy prying slot. The front half has an integrated screen protector, but you really forget it’s there. This is a very practical design.
I was skeptical. Especially with the 5m depth rating compared to 2m in most other cases. The case came out of prolonged soaking without a drop of interior water. I won’t lie, that has me impressed. Not only they make the case thinner and lighter than everyone else, they more it MORE waterproof. The case is also very ergonomic. It feels good in my hands. While it performed very well in water tests, it didn’t do as well in drop tests. It’ll work great up to it’s 2m drop rating on softer surfaces, but the back tended to pop off in concrete tests over about 4.5′. The hard plastic surrounding the edge of the case could probably use a rubber coating to absorb impacts a bit. Other than that, I can’t think of any way to make this case better than it is.
Catalyst offers a selection of accessories including bike and belt mounts, a GoPro mount adapter, and a wrist strap that doubles as a floatation buoy. The last one I really want to get my hands on. That said, a bright color instead of black would have probably been a good idea.
At $64.99 the Catalyst comes in less expensive than competing products. That being said, it includes neither an audio adapter nor the wrist lanyard. Those cost you an additional $14.99 and $4.99. When it comes down to value, it’s basically a push. It comes in white, black, a pink-ish color they call radiant orchard, and my personal favorite pacific blue.
If you want a waterproof case, I’d have no qualms about recommending the Catalyst. It’ll be less intrusive in your daily life and it can be submerged 2.5 times deeper than other cases in the market. The available accessories are pretty cool, too. However, do keep in mind, it might not protect as well out of the water. Still, this little company has firmly cemented itself into the upper echelon of waterproof case makers.
- Easy to use and install
- Absolutely waterproof
- Great line of accessories
- TouchID and most buttons work great
- Can use most standard headphones
- Back can pop off during drops on hard surfaces
- Wheel for mute switch is a bit convoluted