Waterproof Cases for Android Phones

By Carolyn Shearlock © 2014 • all rights reserved

Waterproof cases aren't confined to iPhones any more . . . and there's an alternative to LifeProof cases.Until this past week, I didn’t know that you could get a waterproof case for anything other than an iPhone and I certainly didn’t know that there were any cases other than LifeProof — everyone that I knew with a waterproof case had an iPhone and LifeProof case. Hence this post to say that cases for Samsung Galaxy phones are available and the pros and cons of the two I’ve used.

UPDATE: I’ve used the Seidio case for about 20 months now — I had to replace it after 15 months when the door to the charging port broke off so it was no longer waterproof. Overall, it’s done well and provided better waterproofing than several friends have reported with other waterproof cases, so I still think it’s a good deal.

Quick bit of background: when I got my first smartphone nearly three years ago, I decided I didn’t want an iPhone (battery life and the learning curve to make it play nice with my desktop computer being two of the big reasons). So I got an Android. It pretty well died this past week and I had to get a new phone.

On one hand, I wanted to stay with an Android phone as we were familiar with the apps. But, I thought, if I wanted a waterproof case, I had to get an iPhone, which had a LifeProof case available.

Then I saw TV ads for the Samsung Galaxy S5, a water resistant Android phone. Aha — that could work! Even better, they were offering a good rebate. Unfortunately, while I was trying to eek a little more life out of my old phone, the rebate went away without warning. The S5 would cost $100 more than anticipated. I was not very happy to say the least.

The good news is that my local Verizon store is actually a local store and the clerk there very knowledgeable and helpful.

And it turns that while it used to be that LifeProof only made waterproof cases for the iPhone, they now make them for the Galaxy S3, S4 and S5. The S4 was substantially cheaper and would do everything I wanted. Even with the LifeProof case, which would provide better water protection than the built-in water resistance of the S5, it was still within our original budget.

So that’s what I bought. Great — until I brought it home and Dave tried making a call. He has some hearing loss from working 36 years in heavy industry and the LifeProof case made it almost impossible for him to hear a phone call (yes, the volume was turned up all the way). And his son complained that he couldn’t hear us all that well either. Uh-oh.

In checking online reviews to see if others had the same problem (yes), I discovered another waterproof case for the Samsung Galaxy phones: Seidio Obex. I’d never heard of this brand, but it got good reviews, particularly that the sound quality was much better than LifeProof. So I returned the LifeProof and got the Seidio Obex. Verizon doesn’t sell the Seidio Obex, but Amazon does . . . for less than list price (and as I’m writing it, with a coupon for an extra $10 off).

The call volume and ringer volume is definitely much better with the Seidio Obex cover. Not quite as good as without a cover, but close (I can give tips on improving the ringer volume, too). Call quality/usability has been restored!

NOTE: I also discovered that OtterBox makes a waterproof cover for the S4 (the Preserver series; other lines aren’t waterproof), but it gets horrible reviews on Amazon — particularly for sound quality — and thus I didn’t try it.

Comparing the LifeProof and Seidio Obex:  Both claim to be waterproof to 6 feet, dustproof, and shock resistant (dropping from 6′). The LifeProof “fre” case and the Seidio Obex also provide scratch resistance for the screen; the LifeProof “nuud” doesn’t. All these cases are designed for you to be left on the phone all the time, not for the phone to be taken in and out all the time. You can use all phone functions and take photos with the case on. All have “doors” that open so that you can use headphones and charge the phone; when these doors are open, the case is NOT waterproof.

Overall, the Seidio Obex wins on almost every category:

  • Better sound volume
  • Tighter fit
  • Easier to hold in my hand and slides in/out of pocket easier (subjective assessments, I know)
  • Seems “tougher” (more subjectivity)
  • Cheaper than LifeProof
  • Can see screen better in sunlight
  • Reviews on Amazon are much better and I’ve known of two people to have LifeProof cases crack.

NOTE: Seidio Obex also has a waterproof case for the iPhone (link below) for those unhappy with their iPhone LifeProof case.

The one place where the LifeProof may excel is that while they don’t current offer a “LifeJacket” to make the Galaxy cases float, they do for the iPhone cases and thus there’s hope that the may offer one in the future for the Galaxy cases. But that’s not a current benefit . . . just a future hope!

UPDATE: I just discovered that there’s a place on the lower left of the case where I can attach my camera float strap to make the phone float! And the strap has a quick release so that you can leave the one end attached but take the big floatie off when you want to carry the phone in your purse or pocket. Now this case is a TOTAL win!

Waterproof cases aren't confined to iPhones any more . . . and there's an alternative to LifeProof cases.

Links to look at and buy the case and strap —

Two recommendations:

(1) Don’t get a black case if you have dark upholstery or carpet in your boat or car, or a dark lining in a purse . . . it’s really easy to lose it against a black background!

(2) Although it says the case is waterproof at the surface indefinitely and for 30 minutes at 6′, I don’t recommend using this to take photos while snorkeling — it’s really not made for it (yes, I know some people do and I also know of several who have killed their phone by dropping it in deeper water when snorkeling). At the beach, in the dinghy, getting splashed in the cockpit, kayaking and the like where the phone is basically out of the water — that’s what these are designed for.

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Comments

  1. I just got mine. I’m looking for an easy hack to make it float. So that in the event it went overboard you can easily retrieve it.

  2. Post it if you find it!

  3. Life jackets for cell phones…we could be the next millionaires

  4. I have the LifeProof with this and love it, but of course it no longer fits in a pocket! I use the neck lanyard. http://m.lifeproof.com/shop/us_en/lifeproof-lifejacket-float-for-fre-iphone-5-case

  5. Does it float? I have (well, HAD) a phone that’s lying on the bottom under the Provincetown Courtesy dock right now….

  6. Thank you for the info. I have the galaxy s5 and I am not happy with the design of the lifeproof for it.

  7. Love my LifeProof but agree on the sound. I carry a Bluetooth device for really important calls. It did take good underwater pics in Grand cayman though!

  8. Love my LifeProof too! It was invaluable filming New England Boating TV the last two seasons. I was posting photos to social media while cruising through the Sebago Locks and while fishing off of Nantucket and posting videos. I don’t know what I’d do without it!

  9. I am frustrated at the moment. This is one of those issues constantly worrying in the back of the mind but hadn’t actually solved. When we originally read this article, we still had the Galaxy S3. We tried this brand of cases, and still weren’t happy with the sound, and being just weekend (or less) boaters at the time, keeping the case on was overkill. Then I got a fat extended battery for marathon safety (that’s a story for another time), and kept it for daily use, so cases were out.
    Finally time to upgrade, and we have moved to the lake and are kayaking and sailing more. So the waterproof S5 seemed perfect, and I opted ti trust the claim and no case.
    Still hadn’t worked out a flotation device. Kept meaning to try gluing a ring to the regular case I had on it. On the kayak, I did tie it to a line with ponytail holders around it. I like to use it to track courses and take photos of course.
    So…. It is now on the bottom of Old Hickory due to an unfortunate attention lapse. …
    The replacement from the insurance (which I have never before opted for) arrived and I had not taken it in the water again due to flotation and can’t find the floaty key ring things that I wanted to try to attach. I realized I could slice off a donut of pool noodle. Tested if I had enough to float it. Yep! Unfortunately, later that day, the touch screen totally stopped working. Sigh. Coincidence? No sign of water ingress, but I am now doubting the refurb replacement is tested for water resistance. So I am getting a THIRD phone today and not excited about getting it all set up again. And my new shell case just arrived that I was going to glue a ring to to attach flotation. Pretty bummed to be right back where we were with a NOT waterproof phone. (And I had dropped my S3 in water once, snatched it out, opened and dried the few drops off with paper towels and it was perfectly fine.)
    And reading online, apparently neither Samsung nor the insurance will honor any warranty on water damage even though it clearly says if the covers are closed, it would be covered. Because you can’t prove they were.

  10. I too returned my life proof case as everyone said I sounded like I was in a tin can or far away. Plus the screen distorted my phone, Life proof even sent me a replacement as they said they had a bad bunch but 2nd was no better. Otterbox defender series, water resistant, bought off Groupon for a great price.

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