Review: Aquapac 100% Waterproof MP3 Player Case
Pros: A one-size-fits-most waterproof sack capable of holding most third- through fifth-generation iPods, minis, and nanos, protecting them from both splashes and full submersion at maximum depths for safe underwater listening with earphones. Pack now includes necklace, belt hook, and armband in addition to case, a good value for the dollar.
Cons: Doesn’t fit any specific iPod model as well as specifically-tailored waterproof options from competitors, some of which are priced the same as these, but with fewer pack-ins. Current iPods and nanos either experience screen clipping or odd placement angles inside. Not as visually appealing for out-of-water use as competitors, thanks to generic, baggy look.
Over the last few years, we’ve tested a handful of “waterproof,” submersible iPod cases, most of them made from hard plastic, and some proving not truly waterproof despite marketing claims to the contrary. The genre is dominated by relatively expensive, aggressively engineered products - Otter Products’ OtterBoxes and H2O Audio’s Waterproof Cases - while smaller companies have, at least briefly, offered less expensive, less designed cases that almost invariably leak when submerged in water. Consequently, most companies now tout their semi-water-safe cases as “water-resistant” rather than “waterproof,” a distinction we take pains to underscore for curious first-time readers.
Aquapac’s 100% Waterproof MP3 Player Case (originally $50, now $40) is a newer option, marketed towards iPod owners as one of a larger series of electronic device-ready waterproof cases. Bundled with a carabiner hook and a fabric, adjustable necklace, 100% is the opposite of an Otter or H2O Audio design in that it’s neither iPod-specific nor ultra-engineered. Somewhat like ifrogz’ water-resistant bagz cases, it’s essentially a plastic bag with a clamp at one end and a pass-through headphone port plug on the other, each designed to keep water out of the full-sized iPod compartment in the center. You open the clamp, insert your iPod, and connect the headphone extension cable to your iPod’s top port. Then you shut the clamp’s two hard plastic locks, sealing the iPod inside - once headphones are connected, Aquapac guarantees that no water will get in. Its only design frills are gold plated headphone connectors, which by contrast with other metals show no corrosion after numerous water exposures and submersions.
Besides the pricing - you can get the Aquapac case and separate earphones for a total of $80, versus $80-90 for a similar combination from Otter and $120-130 from H2O Audio - the lure here is versatility. In addition to the lanyard necklace and hook, the company has recently started to bundle an armband with the case, enabling you to wear 100% on your arm, neck, or belt loop without making any additional purchase. Otter’s cases come with belt clips and sometimes necklaces, but not armbands, while H2O’s cases come with armbands but neither necklaces nor belt clips. None of the companies includes waterproof earphones - you’ll have to buy them separately for $40 - but for the price, Aquapac’s bundle is a reasonable deal.
[Editor’s Note: We haven’t received Aquapac’s armband for testing, and as such do not evaluate its quality or utility. We are waiting to test the company’s 100% Waterproof Earphones, as well, and instead tested the case with Fire Fox Technologies’ $40 Liquid Frequency Waterproof Headphones, reviewed separately here.]
The obvious trade-offs when buying the 100% Waterproof Case over its competitors are style, strength, and iPod specific tailoring. Made mostly from soft black plastic with a thin clear window at its center, the baggy 100% doesn’t look anywhere near as nice or absorb the same punishment as its hard plastic alternatives, and it’s not designed to fit any specific iPod perfectly. Some will view the latter point as a good thing: Aquapac’s case has the ability to work at least decently with multiple iPods, which its competitors don’t - but users of late 2005 to present-day iPods might not be as happy. Though Aquapac says the case “fits” all minis, nanos, shuffles, and all third- to fifth-generation iPods save the 60GB fourth-generation model, 100%‘s central window isn’t sized properly for fifth-generation iPods, and cuts off the sides of their screens; minis, shuffles, and nanos sit quite awkwardly inside.
So, if you can accept compromised access to the 5G iPod’s screen, or uneven mounting of a nano, you’ll find that 100% works pretty well. We had no issues using our iPod’s Click Wheels through the clear plastic face, or seeing their screens inside while under water. Additionally, we found that the case did pretty well when submerged for extended periods. Even after several months, the case’s twin locks didn’t let water in or air out, which we were honestly surprised by given the apparent simplicity of the clamping system. A small pack of desiccant is also included to absorb moisture, preventing the front screen from fogging up and the iPod’s Dock Connector from getting moist.
One additional point worth noting is that Aquapac touts the case as “guaranteed submersible to 15 feet/5 meters” - a higher depth rating than both H2O Audio’s cases (10 feet/3 meters) and Otter’s (now 3 feet/1 meter). We haven’t tested it at the maximum depth, and neither should you, as Aquapac notes that underwater listening becomes dangerous to your ears below 10 feet. For most water sports - swimming, surfing, and jetskiing - all three cases will be fine.
Overall, the 100% Waterproof Case is - pun intended - a mixed bag, but generally a good one. Though it costs more than ifrogz’ similar bagz cases, it offers pack-ins and a degree of water protection ifrogz can’t handle, both placing it in the same league with truly waterproof cases rather than merely water-resistant ones. Users of iPod nanos won’t find it to be nearly as well-designed for their specific models as equally-priced waterproof hard cases from Otter, or more expensive cases from H2O Audio, but they’ll get at least one extra wearable option in the package, and still benefit from very similar waterproof functionality. Full-sized iPod users will find it both a better match to their models, and a better value on core features relative to more expensive Otter and H2O offerings, though even they will find that its fit and looks aren’t quite up to snuff with what you’d get by paying a bit more. On value, features, and quality, we think that 100% is a pretty good option by waterproof case standards, and we’re comfortable recommending it to our readers.