Waterproof mobiles for fun & safety

Dear paddlers – Here’s a story about why I spent over £200 on a phone…
(the short of it being an internet-connected waterproof GPS with a 5MP camera
– that also makes phones calls)


As someone who joined the 21st century half-way through my three score years & ten, I’ve been a little slow on the uptake when it comes to these new-fangled mobile phones. I watched them evolve from the 1980’s ‘large luggables‘ (basically a yuppie-toy walkie-talkie attached to a lead-acid car battery); though the 1990’s Trigger Happy TV catch-phrase; then finally buying-into the digital age in 2000 with a 2G Alcatel, bought because it took AAA batteries; followed ten years later by a dinky 3G+Bluetooth Vodaphone candybar, small enough to fit in an waterproof case.

The “Oh no!” second

However, when it spent fours hours over 2m metres down at the bottom of Trentham Lake (don’t ask … but it IS best to do the float test in the bath) I got to thinking about whether modern phones were suitable paddling companions or just liabilities that have you swimming around in zero-visibility mud trying to retrieve them. Although the upside is that I can now recommend Aquapacs – they *really* work.

And that was the general response when I went looking in the High Street to buy something that would survive a wet weekend on a Welsh River. But I really didn’t want to just rely on an expensive plastic bag and I’ve heard too many stories of phones being dropped into the sink at home, so wanted something that wouldn’t mind being washed-up.


So to follow-up my 2009 mail, here’s my shortlist of IP67 water-resistant phones:

First up is JCB’s cheapest offering, the Tradesman Toughphone £65
– very low spec but it is the only one in the range that FLOATS

Next are two candy-bar cousins, each with nice chunky lanyard loops at the top:
Samsung C3350 £60~£80 available from Orange & Vodaphone shops but without 3G or GPS & bould be more expensive than…
Samsung B2710 (aka Xcover 271) ~£75 with 3G & GPS – but is only available online.

Their touch-screen relative is a step up in price:
Samsung S5690 Galaxy X-Cover £198 but not as well thought of.

Motorola Defy+ MB526 £214 lacks the lanyard loop but with a 3.7″ screen gets some good Amazon reviews:

Sony Ericsson Xperia Active £230 with only a 3″ screen but has a chunky lanyard loop built in & is well-liked by most users.

And then taking two giant leaps in price:
Sonim XP3.20 for £280 surprisingly disappoints
Pro-Smart at £335 it had better be top-of the range

Alternatively, just wait for LIQUIPEL to make it to the UK.

So what did I do?

Following a personal recommendation I went for the Defy+ and after a few weeks I can thoroughly recommend it. I can think of only a couple/three drawbacks:
– it doesn’t have a lanyard connection which means I want a tough case (Otterbox), although the touch-screen works through my Aquapac case
– it lacks a camera button so doesn’t allow still pictures to be taken in the water and videos have to start/stop out of the water
– battery life isn’t brilliant away from civilisation, so an Ecell 3.5Ah for £12 should give double battery life 3-4 days (hopefully)

What next?

I know the club has now acquired waterproof radios and Personal Locator Beacons for sea paddling, but I think phone technology has now got to somewhere useful (even if to my wife it that just means playing Angry Birds in the bath!)

It seems the recent air+sea rescue off Anglesey, where Richard Janes’ group helped out, was exacerbated by the couple in trouble trying to get a phone out of their sea kayaks’ hatch. Might it have been a lot less dramatic if it had been more accessible?

If anyone has any experience to add please just mail me, or get a site login and contribute your thoughts.

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