There’s no shortage of waterproof cases out there, but when it comes to affordable options, the crop is more limited. Catalyst’s Waterproof Case for iPhone 5/5s ($65) is one of the few in its price range; it’s about $25 cheaper than we usually see. The easy-to-install case offers complete protection that waterproofs the handset to depths of up to five meters. It offers pretty much everything that Lifeproof’s Frē does, albeit in a different, and possibly more attractive, package. No accessories are included, although the company did send along an optional floating lanyard.
Because they need to offer all-around protection, waterproof cases almost always split into two pieces, and Catalyst’s is no exception. Using a coin, you can separate the clear back panel from the front frame by prying at the tab in the bottom left corner of the back of the case. Unlike some other cases, this is the only point at which you have to pry, which makes the process easier.
We like the clear plastic back, as it allows the iPhone’s color to show through. The only disruption is at the top right corner, where there’s a block of black plastic around the camera and flash. A rubber O-ring runs around the perimeter, and if anything gave us a problem with this case, that was it. During installation and removal it can pop out of place. It’s only a minor inconvenience though, as it easily fits back in.
The front half of the case is a tray that’s primarily made of rigid plastic. This material makes up the sides and comes around to the front, over the iPhone’s bezel.
There are rubber protectors for the buttons along the edge, and a dial for using the side switch. Down along the bottom, the ports are protected by a single rubber strip with stoppers for both the headphone and Lightning openings. The microphone is left exposed at all times, although it’s protected by a membrane that allows sound to travel through. Despite the speaker being fully blocked, audio output is only mildly diminished compared to that of a bare iPhone. The same can be said of the microphone; it’s still totally acceptable.
Inside the plastic border is a clear plastic film that protects the iPhone’s screen, a common feature of these cases. There’s a mild prismatic effect, with colorful specks especially noticeable on white and other light colors.