An easy to use, fully protective waterproof case is one of the holy grails of iPhone accessories, and that’s exactly what driSuit sought to accomplish with Endurance for iPhone 4/4S ($60). Designed to keep water out of Apple’s latest phones at depths of up to five meters, it also helps prevent damage from drops while allowing full use of the device. Of the waterproof options we’ve tested over the years that are true cases — not just bags or pouches — this is one of the simplest to install, but does have factors that will limit its appeal when used in dry situations.
Endurance is mainly composed of hard black plastic and separates into two pieces. The bottom shell is held on with two tight wing-style latches, which separate to allow the device to be inserted inside the larger top shell. It’s easy to slide the iPhone in and out, and there’s room to store a single credit card behind the device. Two small pins jut out from the bottom of the case such that the cap can only be installed one way. Once in place, the iPhone’s entire body is covered by plastic or rubber, but all the buttons and both cameras are still usable. driSuit also includes a wrist strap that can be strung through a loop at the top of the case.
Two components make this case particularly well-suited for underwater use. A special adapter built into Endurance allows users to plug in their headphones, which obviously should also be of the waterproof variety if you’re looking to submerge them, too. It repositions the port horizontally, sealing it with a rubber stopper when not in use. Although it’s somewhat obtrusive, this pass-through design eliminates the need for external adapters, and doesn’t affect sound quality.
driSuit also claims Endurance offers the only fully functional underwater touchscreen. There’s a clear fluid membrane over the iPhone’s display, which is one of the most unusual elements of any case we’ve seen or felt—at all times, the iPhone’s screen looks as if there’s a thin, soft liquid layer above it. Touching through this surface feels somewhat strange, and creates a bulging visual effect, but does enable you to fully use the screen. Notably, the iPhone will require a few seconds following initial underwater submersion for the display to acclimate before it can be used. Typing and other activities that require small touch points are slowed down significantly, but driSuit has still come up with a better solution than some others we’ve seen; when underwater inside Endurance, the screen performs approximately 80% as well as it would without any coverage, which is around twice the sensitivity of rivals we’ve tried.
One thing Endurance forces the user to give up is audio quality through the iPhone’s integrated speakers and microphones. Although sound can travel in and out of the iPhone, it’s seriously muffled in both directions because the case is a sealed box. Yes, you can play music out of the speaker and place phone calls, but you’ll have a hard time clearly hearing either; callers will also find your speech to be at least a little less than totally intelligible. This isn’t a huge surprise given the waterproof case design, and headphones will make all the difference for those uses.
Rating Endurance is challenging in that its marketing, performance, and price are all considerations. Take driSuit’s sales pitch literally and you may be disappointed: while this case bests its rivals underwater, Endurance is less appealing when it’s not submerged, so you’ll really have to consider the specific reasons you’re looking for a waterproof case. Endurance is reasonably small and easy to use by submersible case standards, but the sacrifices it demands in service of its underwater functionality may bother people who hope to use it every day for mountain biking or other largely dry activities. Even if the audio quality issues don’t bother you, having to deal with the liquid-covered screen even when you’re not underwater is a compromise that many users won’t be willing to endure; the LifeProof case might make more sense. However, if underwater camera or app use is important to you, this case could be a good option—at $20 less than LifeProof, it’s a relatively inexpensive waterproof case, and strikes us as worth that cost for safe iPhone submersion. As such, Endurance earns our general recommendation.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 4/4S