Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gear Closet: Catalyst iPhone 6/6S Waterproof Case

Okay, I'll admit it. For a very long time I was very resistant to putting a case on my iPhone. I always appreciated the sleek, thin lines that Apple had designed for the device, and adding a case usually changed that aesthetic drastically. On top of that, most cases I saw added weight and bulk that took away from the look and feel of the phone too. And some of the cases designed for use in the outdoors ended up impacting sound quality and ease of use as well. So, as a result, my iPhone went unprotected for years, and usually when I traveled to a remote location, I'd end up leaving it at home or somewhere safe where it couldn't be harmed.

But, as the speed and functionality of the device increased, and the camera continued to improve year in and year out, I've now started taking my iPhone with me pretty much everywhere. It serves as my mobile command center, allowing me to take notes, share images and impressions of the place I visit, snap amazing photos, keep in contact with friends and family, and navigate foreign cities with ease. And since the device is now a constant companion during my adventures, I found that I needed a case to help protect it from the elements too. Finding the right one however, took some time and plenty of trial and error. But finally, I've found what just might be the perfect match for my particular needs in the form of the Catalyst Case for iPhone 6S.

As mentioned, one of the things I have always disliked about most iPhone cases is that they change the look of the device, and add a lot of bulk as well. This is especially true of a case that has been designed for use in the outdoors, which typically brings a measure of protection from dust, accidental drops, and water. The Catalyst Case does all of that, but manages to do so without turning your elegant-looking device into a massive brick. That's because it has been unique designed to provide a high level of protection with the most minimal amount of material necessary. In fact, it is easily the thinnest and lightest protective armor I have ever seen for a smartphone.

That doesn't mean that Catalyst skimped on the specs however. This case can keep your iPhone safe from water down to a depth of 5 meters (16.4 ft). It is also dust, sand, and snow proof, and is rated to survive a drop of 2 meters (6.6 ft) onto a hard surface. In other words, it was built for use in rugged, demanding environments, and should be able to keep our precious devices from suffering an untimely demise.

The case is also comfortable to hold and provides users with a firm grip at all times, which makes it far less likely that the phone will slip out of your hand in the first place. It also comes with external buttons that allow you to adjust volume and power the device on and off as easily as you could without any type of case at all. At Catalyst has even integrated a special rotating crown that allows you to flip the mute switch just as easily as well. The case allows full access to the camera and flash, and even the Touch ID fingerprint scanner functions normally too. In short, once this suit of armor is in place, you won't lose any of your normal functionality.

Installing the case on your iPhone is about as easy as it could possibly be. Everything snaps precisely into place, and fits as snugly as you would expect. It took me just a couple of minutes to take the product out of its packaging and have it installed on my smartphone, which is not something that I can say about some of the competing products that I've tested over the years. Best of all, the case comes off easily too, for those of you who only want to use it when absolutely necessary.

One of the issues with many cases like this one is that the thick armor that is installed ends up having a detrimental effect on the sound quality from both the microphone and speaker of the device that it is installed upon. This can make it difficult for you to hear the person you're talking on the phone with, and it can muffle your voice for them too. Thankfully, that isn't the case here, as Catalyst has found a way to deliver a high level of protection without interfering with audio performance in any way.

Inside the box you'll find a couple of additional items that could come in handy. For instance, Catalyst includes a special adapter that allows headphone users to more easily access the standard 3.5mm audio jack. This port may be gone from the new iPhone 7, but it is still in use by many who haven't made the leap to Bluetooth wireless headphones just yet. But some earbuds have an tough time of locking securely into place when a case is on the phone. This adapter makes sure that that isn't a problem. There is also an included lanyard that can be used to further secure the device when carrying it around as well.

Catalyst sells this case for $69.99, which is actually quite competitive for something that turns your iPhone into a waterproof and durable gadget. Similar cases from the competition can cost nearly twice that, and often add a lot of bulk to the phone in the process. But considering how sleek, well built, and easy to install this product is, it is easy to recommend it to those of you who – like me – are reluctant to add a similar layer or protection to your phone as well. If you happen to fall into that category, or are simply looking for a great case to keep your iPhone safe during your travels, this is the option for you. Once you have it installed, you'll wonder why you ended up waiting so long.

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