I've no sense of balance, I'm also paranoid. Those two things coupled with me wading up to my waist in rivers with a £400 phone in my pocket, are not a good combination. I could leave my phone in the car, but I like having it with me when venturing to some of the more remote stretches of the river, I also enjoy taking photos of the scenery, and of the fish I catch (mostly photos of scenery then).
I started carrying my phone in one of those zip lock sandwich bags. They may not be 100% waterproof, but I reccon it'd have saved the phone if I'd gone arse over tit, so long as I got up and out of the water pretty quickly.
What it didn't do however, was allow me to use my phone whilst it was in the bag. Every time I wanted to take a picture, or if I needed to take a call/answer a text I had to remove the phone from the bag. That saw me straight back into the land of paranoia, butter finger juggling only a moment away.
After looking for a more 'professional' solution to my phone drowning worries, including big plastic cases, floating bags, and even sprays that render the phone 'waterproof', I settled on the Aquapac Mini Whanganui.
Aquapac Mini Whanganui - Waterproof iPhone Case
The phone I have is an iPhone 4. The observant amongst you will notice that the Aquapac Mini Whanganui is designed for the iPhone 5 (it's the Micro Whanganui that fits the iPhone 4). I went for the Mini because I'm likely to change my handset at some point in the not to distant future, and didn't want to change the case as well. The very helpful people at Aquapac advised me that the iPhone 4 would fit in the Mini Whanganui ok.
How it works
From what I've seen, waterproof phone cases similar to this one work in one of two ways - they either roll the opening over a few times on itself then employ catches on either side to lock it down and keep it sealed - take a look at some of the Simms waterproof bags for an example of this one. Or the other way, and the way the Mini works, is to have two catches that rotate by 90° and clamp solid plastic bars closed over the 'bag' opening. Aquapac call this the Aquaclip sealing system.
This method results in the case having a fairly bulky solid plastic pieces along either side of the opening. It does make it easier to close than the other method, and to my mind is a far more reassuring way of ensuring the expensive contents are kept nice and dry. If you're feeling brave, Aquapac state your phone will be kept dry in water as deep as 5m. If you're feeling extra brave (and you can hold your breath for a REALLY long time) it can stay at 5m depth for up to 30 minutes too.
Below the clamps it's all Thermoplastic Polyurethane baby! Thermoplastic Polyurethane (or TPU) has excellent transparency, decent resistant to tears, good elasticity and most importantly, allows the capacitative screen of the iPhone to carry on working when the phone is INSIDE the case.
This means you can still work all the functions of your phone through the case - no need to remove it to update your Twitter status!
TPU is thin enough to allow sound to travel through without any issues. I've taken and received a number of calls whilst my phone was in the case, not once did the person on the other end complain about the sound. I don't recall them even mentioning it to be honest.
For the camera lens, Aquapac have welded a square of LENZFLEX on the back side of the case to act as a lens window. This provides as close to optical quality plastic as you're going to get on a product in this price range. You'll not quite be getting GoPro quality HD footage, but it's very impressive. On the side with the LENZFLEX window, the rest of the plastic is semi-opaque. Obvously this means you need to make sure you get the phone in the correct way round to line the lens up with the LENZFLEX panel.
All that floppy plastic means when your phone isn't in the case, it can be rolled up and kept in a small pocket on your fishing vest.
The only other component I've not mentioned is the lanyard. It's bright green and attached to the plastic Aquaclip at the top of the case. It has a plastic clamp at the other end holding it together, and a spring loaded slider in the middle to adjust the length of the hole available for you to put your head/arm/leg? through.
Great, all good so far, how do you find it?
Good question, glad you asked...
Bearing in mind I'm not using the Mini with quite the correct handset, I'm very pleased with it.
There is a knack to getting the phone in the case - I think this would be the same for either the iPhone 4 or 5, or probably any other phone for that matter. The problem (if you want to call it that) is with the way the phone sticks to the TPU. It's a very elastically/rubbery material and if you push the phone in the case the sides grip it, stopping you getting the phone in easily. The knack, and it works every time, is to open the top of the case and drop the phone in. Not drop it in from a great height - that'd be crazy - but get the phone into the top of the case and just let go. It slips effortlessly into the case all the way to the bottom.
When closing the plastic strips at the top, you need to ensure the TPU is not creased or there's anything caught in there. So long as there isn't the quarter turn on the two catches seals the case up drum tight.
The case is non-symentrical, on one side at the bottom (other end to the plastic Aquaclip catches) it's slightly lower than the other. My guess is that this allows any moisture that might get in to the case sit lower than where the phone ends. I can't say for sure that that's the reason for it, and I'm certainly not going to try it. Sounds convincing though doesn't it?
The 'iPhone 4 in an iPhone 5 case' issue only really comes to light when you use the camera function. I don't know the specific measurements, but it's pretty clear (ha! clear, camera lens, plastic, get it??) that the lens on the iPhone 4 is closer to the top of the phone that that of the iPhone 5. I know this because the camera lens doesn't quite line up with the LENZFLEX window, it gets covered over by the semi-opaque plastic around it. This really isn't a huge issue though, if you move the phone down in the case a little so the lens is in line with the lens window, the case grips it and it stays there without moving again.
What about quality of pictures/video when using the Aquapac Mini Whanganui?
I've put some sample photo's and video for you to see and draw your own opinions from, but for me, the quality is pretty damn good. They obviously aren't as good as they'd be if the phone wasn't in the case - but if you make sure the LENZFLEX lens window is clean it's very close. I purposely didn't do anything with the case I'd not normally do when taking the sample photos - so I didn't go berserk buffing it to a glass like finish, just cleared of any smegma that might have been on there at the time.
Some of the images are lacking a little contrast, you can see it on some of the video too. But this can easily be fixed using the filters in your favourite photo and video editing apps - on your phone or your computer. I didn't do this as I wanted to keep things as untouched as possible.
The little bit of underwater footage in there looks a bit murky. That's how the river was on the day, nothing to do with the Whanganui.
Come on then, all good so far, whats bad about it?
There very little wrong with it at all. Obviously the fit isn't 100%, but that's no fault of the case itself and everything to do with me using it with what could be called the wrong phone (this really isn't a biggie though).Some people have moaned about the stickyness of the case when putting their phone in/taking it out. If you employ the 'drop in' method, and do the same in reverse when taking it out you'll not have any issues.
Some phones will float if dropped in the drink when in the Aquapac Mini Whanganui, iPhones won't. I didn't buy this thinking it would gently bob up and down if I dropped it in the wet stuff - but if you did want it to do that, you might want to tie a big cork to the lanyard first.
I'm not sure how best to clean the thing, at the moment it's not a problem as it's fairly clean but I'm not sure what to do with it when it is dirty, or what type of cloth to use.
The cord gets wet through when you do take underwater footage - it's not all that nice putting it back round your neck again afterwards.
That's about it really, nothing of great importance, and most easily got around.
I will be using my Aquapac Mini Whanganui for some time to come, it's already been out on non-fishing trips too, when the weather wasn't a dry as I'd have hoped. Having it hanging around your neck is handy and saves unzipping all your pockets looking for you phone. It gets my seal of approval as a first class waterproof iPhone case.