There are companies that have made their names producing waterproof cases, and others that have built up rich product lines before diving into ultra-protective options. Today, we’re looking at two manufacturers without deep track records, both of which are offering relatively low-priced entrants to the market. Concord Keystone has its SealCase for iPhone 5/5s ($70), and from Naztech’s there’s the Vault Ultra-Slim Cover ($50), which will fit either handset, but has limitations that make it somewhat better-suited to the iPhone 5.
Of the two, it’s SealCase that looks more like the waterproof cases we’re used to, and those that we trust. Instead of splitting apart into two totally distinct pieces, the front and back segments are attached together with a hinge at the top. The back is a simple plastic plate, with a diamond texture and a camera window designed to allow the dual flash on the iPhone 5s to function properly. It snaps into place against the front tray, easily creating an airtight seal. This portion incorporates rubber along with the plastic, particularly around the edges where it helps with shock absorption and button protection. Concord Keystone got the button coverage just right, as they’re covered without feeling squishy. The vibrate switch is also protected, and it moves back and forth readily, unlike some other cases we’ve tested.
Moving down, the Home Button is completely covered, ruling out the ability to use the Touch ID sensor on the iPhone 5s. Directly below that, there’s a plastic clip to keeps the Lightning port sealed, and adds a level of protection over the speaker and microphone. A separate flap does the same for the headphone port; both ports are too tight to allow any plugs other than Apple’s.
SealCase’s built-in screen protector has both positive and negative attributes. It recognizes all but the absolute lightest touches, so during normal use, most users won’t notice any differences. Visually, however, it’s not perfect. A grid of prismatic dots covers the entire surface, and it can be rather distracting, especially against white backgrounds. In terms of audio performance, our testing found massive voice distortion at the beginning of the call, but once the iPhone acclimated, there was only a small difference in quality compared to a bare handset. As for audio coming from the earpiece, there was a slight robotic resonance. Most importantly, SealCase kept water out during full submersion.
Vault is a significantly different style of case, and it’s unlike any waterproof options we’ve evaluated in the past. Instead of a clip system, an O-ring, or anything like that, it’s simply a hard plastic front with a rubber backing that fits around it, and into a ridge running along the edge. This makes it one of the least complex cases of the style we’ve seen, and gave us pause before testing. It almost doesn’t seem like it should work, but it does. Dunked for the same period of time as SealCase, it stayed equally dry on the inside.
The button coverage, at least for the volume and Sleep/Wake buttons, is equally well-executed; they’re just as clicky. However, the vibrate switch is rendered unusable, and the Home Button has a higher level of resistance. Despite the speaker and microphone being totally covered by the rubber, our testing showed phone call quality to barely be effected, another surprising result. Port access is equally limited, permitting only the smallest plugs to be used.
We did find a few real issues with this case. Two are with the flash. The opening is cut to the shape of the iPhone 5 camera array, not leaving room for the two flashes on the iPhone 5s. Even for the iPhone 5 though, the design is a problem. The cutout is so tight that there’s significant distortion when the flash is used. Our other issue is with the screen cover. While it actually works pretty well, with almost no visual distortion, the physical sizing is just a bit off. We were able to pull down Notification Center, but not pull up Control Center, no matter how hard we tried.
Despite the price differences, we’d recommend SealCase over Vault. It allows for greater access to the iPhone’s controls and camera, and looks better, too. That’s not to say Vault is a total loss; it’s a worthwhile solution for someone looking to spend as little as possible on a full case with waterproof capabilities. That makes it deserving of a limited recommendation, while SealCase comes in a notch higher.
Company and Price
Compatible: iPhone 5/5s