Waterproof cases aren’t really something that iPhone users need to buy anymore. Newer iPhones offers water resistance as a feature (The iPhone XS is completely waterproof!). Not to mention, since the dawn of the smartphone, waterproof cases are really hard to use on day to day usage.
But if you are person who is near a body of water or just like taking pictures or videos underwater, we suggest the Catalyst Waterproof among these three cases. Why? Find out in our Catalyst Waterproof vs. Ghostek Nautical vs. LifeProof Fre comparison!
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Waterproof cases are going to be larger than the average case. The extra protection comes at the expense of handling but that shouldnʼt be a surprise.
Out of the three cases, the largest case is the Ghostek Nautical. Itʼs a beast of a case. However, Ghostek Nautical is designed in a way that the extra size doesnʼt degrade the handling of the iPhone too much. The slimmest case is the Catalyst Waterproof proof but the LifeProof Fre is close if you just ignore itʼs fat bottom.
When it comes to build quality, we didnʼt have any issues with the cases being flimsy. In fact, all cases fit quite well together. The only case that we were worried about was the Catalyst Waterproof since our iPhone 5s popped out of the case years ago.
All three cases wonʼt slide around easily on a flat surface. The case thatʼs going to slide around the least is going to be the Catalyst Waterproof. The edges and back of the Catalyst Waterproof case are covered in tackier rubber.
When it comes to overall wear and tear, the Ghostek Nautical is going to show the least amount of damage over time. The Catalyst Waterproof case has a clear back which will scratch over time and the rubber edge doesnʼt look pretty after a couple of sidewalk drops.
The LifeProof Freʼs back will also suffer for minor scratches and the corners of the case will still show a bit of damage after a sidewalk drop.
The Ghostek Nautical has a matte back which is raised, This means scratches wonʼt be as noticeable however a bad corner drop might deform part of the polycarbonate.
When it comes to overall texture, we have to give the hat tip to the Catalyst Waterproof. We love the mild rubber feel of the bumper. We’re also quite glad that they moved away from the hard polycarbonate that they used to have when they first came out. The rubberized edges are also beneficial to the sound.
Between the LifeProof Fre and Ghostek Nautical, weʼd go with the Ghostek Nautical because the oversized corners make it easier to use the iPhone in one hand.
When it comes to their waterproof design, Catalyst Waterproof comes out on top, followed by the Ghostek Nautical and then the LifeProof Fre. Relatively, we were surprised at how slick the LifeProof Fre felt between the three cases.
In general, it seems like Catalyst Waterproof has made incremental improvements over the last 4 years to their cases compared to the constant rehash of the LifeProof Fre.
The LIfeProof Fre is $90, the Catalyst Waterproof is $80 and the Ghostek Nautical is a paltry $35.
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Accessing your iPhone inside a waterproof case is horrible. It’s the thing that annoy us the most.
In general, the performance of the iPhone is going to suffer a bit with any waterproof case. The plastic screen protectors are going to mess with the iPhone Xʼs OLED screen. The buttons are going to be tougher to use and sound is going to be muted. These are all downers but thatʼs the cost of protection.
Between the three cases, the Catalyst Waterproof muted the sound the most with the Ghostek Nautical being the loudest. The sound of the iPhone in each case actually sounds louder than a naked iPhone since the cases project sound through the back of the case as well. This means youʼll always hear your iPhone. All three cases offers a wrist strap attachment point which is handy if youʼre planning on using your iPhone in any body of water.
When it comes to using the buttons on your iPhone, the case that offers the best access is the Catalyst Waterproof. The buttons on the Catalyst Waterproof are the easiest to use and are easy to find despite being the smallest out of the three cases. The rotary switch on the Catalyst Waterproof is just a joy to use.
Itʼs actually funny because we find ourselves using the rotary switch more with the Catalyst Waterproof because we can easily access it. The rotary switch on the Ghostek Nautical is tougher to use and nothing is worse than LifeProofʼs lever switch.
Between the Ghostek Nautical and LifeProof Fre, our preference would be for the Ghostek Nautical because the buttons are easier to use.
When it comes to using the iPhone Xʼs screen, none are decent. However, the usability of the screen is actually better in general on the iPhone X than other iPhoneʼs. That’s because case manufacturers need to take into account all the gestures you do on the iPhone X. The edges on the iPhone X cases are almost non-existent when compared to the other iPhone models which makes the iPhone less of a hassle to use on a daily basis.
We also didnʼt have any issues with accessing ports with any of the cases. The camera on the iPhone X performed normally as each case had separate lenses for each camera and foam to prevent light leaking in the lens during flash photography. We will note that the Catalyst Waterproofʼs flash opening is quite small and will reduce the flash along the edges of your photos.
One of the issues with waterproof cases is that the case acts like an echo chamber for the microphone during videos. The texture on the LifeProof Fre and Ghostek Nautical is rougher and the friction caused by the texture can be easily heard during videos. But the rubberized edges of the Catalyst Waterproof were beneficial to the sound of the iPhone. The sound doesnʼt go away on the Catalyst Waterproof but isnʼt as noticeable.
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The LifeProof Fre will only offer what we consider an average protection for your iPhone at 6.6ft for both drop and water. 6.6 ft protection might have been amazing 5 years ago but now 6.6ft for water and drop is the bare minimum for waterproof cases in our opinion. The LifeProof Fre from our perspective is going to be like your day-to-day jacket. Itʼs the thing youʼre going to grab every time you go out. Itʼs going to work well in 75% of the situations you find yourself in.
If you want to go a little more extreme, youʼll need to consider the Catalyst Waterproof or the Ghostek Nautical. When it comes to drop protection, the Catalyst Waterproof is going to offer the same level of drop protection as the LifeProof Fre. But from our perspective itʼs going to be a little tougher because the case of Catalyst Waterproof snaps together on the back of the case rather than the middle. There is going to be a greater chance that your LifeProof Fre is going to split apart than the Catalyst Waterproof.
The Ghostek Nautical is going to offer the most drop protection with 10-12 ft protection. In general, the bigger the case, the more materials to absorb shock with.
When it comes to water protection, the Catalyst Waterproof is the clear winner with 33ft of water protection.
If swimming with your iPhone is in your near future consider getting a floating wrist strap as the iPhone in any of these cases is going to sink.
At the end of the day, the Catalyst Waterproof is the best case out of this three cases. If I were to extend and compare relatively to all the other waterproof cases weʼve used for the iPhone 8ʼs, itʼs still going to be the case to get if you need a bit of water protection.
The Ghostek Nautical is an attractive product only in terms of price. If you need something that can take a hit and donʼt want to pony up close to a hundred bucks, go with the Ghostek Nautical. If youʼre a person who runs multiple cases for a device like any normal person does with socks, the Ghostek Nautical is going to be a decent addition. Ghostek Nautical wonʼt break the bank but youʼll get a bit of water and a decent amount of drop protection.
LifeProof Fre is the most expensive between the three cases. LifeProof has a warranty where they will pretty much replace the entire case if you pay for the shipping of the product. If you know that you go through cases like nobodyʼs business, despite having the lowest score, the LifeProof Fre might be worth it.
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Do you really need a waterproof case?
This is a question that weʼve been really struggling with over the last two years. When we first started case reviews, waterproof cases were a dime a dozen. And they were not good. Most of them hamstrung the functionality of the iPhone as you couldnʼt access certain buttons. Most of them also had extremely poor drop and water protection. We’re talking 4 ft of water and drop protection. This actually made the LifeProof Fre one of the tougher cases at the time.
However. that was before Apple made the iPhoneʼs water resistant. The iPhone is rated to iP67 which is great. But itʼs not waterproof despite what everybody thinks. Every case in this review is rated to IP68 which means it can provide water protection at 6ft for iPhone sized devices for at least 30 mins. That extra level of protection thatʼs baked into your iPhone is going to eliminate the paranoia of ruining your iPhone if you accidentally drop it in the toilet.
The reasons to actually get a waterproof case is significantly less than what it was compared to a couple of years ago. Thereʼs no need to get a waterproof case because youʼre afraid of getting your iPhone moist. Youʼd be just as protected if you got a smaller, tougher slim case, like a Mous Limitless 2.0 or a Catalyst Impact Protection and a screen protector. With those cases, you wonʼt have to deal with all the silly functionality issues we just talked about.
With the removal of the home button on the iPhone, Apple has made their flagship product that much better to use. Weʼve thoroughly enjoyed going from the iPhone 8ʼs to the Xʼs because of the gestures. The average waterproof case takes that enjoyment away.
Personally, the key part of a waterproof case is the water part. Youʼre going to need a waterproof case if youʼre planning on doing stuff IN water. We’re thinking more along the lines of being active in the type of protection youʼre providing your iPhone rather than being reactive. If you know youʼre going to take videos and photos at the pool or in a lake or body of salty water, go with the Catalyst Waterproof. Spend the money on that product because you know youʼre going to get the most out of it. Don’t spend the money thinking that you might need the water protection if you accidentally drop your device in a puddle. Appleʼs got you covered in the respect.
If you need more protection or want to make your time near the ocean even more memorable, consider checking out the HitCase Pro or the ProShot line of cases. Those products offer the maximum amount of water protection. These products also allows you to mount your iPhone in ways that the Catalyst wonʼt allow you to.
There might be still some of you that will definitely need the protection of a waterproof case. Anybody who works outdoors in the elements would benefit from the protection a product like the Catalyst Waterproof would offer your device.
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