iPhone 5(s) and SE

Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 / 5S

“The perfect case for the water-loving vacation taker who doesn’t plan on taking many calls while on vacation”

The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 / iPhone 5S is fully a waterproof case. This case is quite a bit different than the other Griffin cases that we’ve used (the full Survivor Series for all iOS devices as well as the Protector Series) as it doesn’t include the usual thick rubber bumper around the entire case.
Based on our usage, we give this case an Eh? Rating score of 3.7 Eh?’s out of 5.

Despite the fact that we’ve rated this case lower than some of the other rugged cases that we’ve reviewed, we do recommend this case for people who are active around bodies of water. This case is submergible to 9 feet and the transparent polycarbonate casing mimics the look of other waterproof devices such as the casing on the GoPro’s. Just be prepared, you won’t be able to hear many calls but you’re note really talking to anybody when you’re snorkelling with sea turtles.

– Good screen accessibility
– Great waterproofing
– Easy to install

– Case quickly shows wear and tear
– Audio quality is below par
– Substantial glare from screen protector


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Griffin is a case manufacturer that makes several different classes of cases for a multitude of devices including both iOS, Android and Windows devices. In fact, calling them a case manufacturer is an understatement as they make several different types of accessories for cars, different types of cables, stand/mounts and styluses.


Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 – Unboxing and Installation

This case comes in 2 pieces with the front of the case being the largest piece. One of the neat things that you will notice about this case is that it is made out of transparent polycarbonate but the color of the case changes when you look at it sideways as it looks like a solid black case.

The screen protector of the case is integrated tightly with the front panel. It’s a bit misleading when you first look at it as it seems like it is a rigid piece of plastic but it does have some give. The screen protector does extend past the screen at the top of the case. At the bottom of the touch screen (by the home button), the screen protector ends where the touch screen ends.

The main feature inside the front piece is the rubber bumper that wraps around the edge of the iPhone tightly. Also on the front of the case there are several strips of foam that are taped to the front of the screen protector. The latch that covers the lightning port connector also resides on the front portion of the case.


The back panel is fairly simple as it contains the latches that snap to the front portion of the case and the o-ring that provides the waterproof seal between the 2 pieces of the case.

Griffin did include some accessories with the case, namely a wrist strap and a waterproof adapter for your headphones.

In general, the Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S is well designed. There isn’t one problematic feature that stands out above the rest but with that being said, there isn’t anything spectacular about this case either.

The size of the Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S is a bit deceiving since it adds about ½ inch around the entire device but the polycarbonate casing is very lightweight. With that being said, the case will double the thickness of your device making it a bit unwieldy to some users.


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Installing the case is quite simple once you figure out how to do so. Our first crack at installing this case was frustrating as we tried to pull on both latches but realized that you only need to pull on one latch to pull the case apart after going through the 50+ page manual.

The only thing to note about installing the case is to ensure that the o-ring fits within the ridges on the back panel and doesn’t get caught outside of the case.

When we first installed the Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S, we were initially impressed at the build quality of the case. The thick bumper around the device was solid and the latches and buttons were all usable but as we started our tests, it seemed like the case became a magnet for nicks, scratches and dings.

The drop test was particularly tough on the case as some of the corner drops permanently deformed the corners.

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The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S is pretty tough in general but it’s one of the few cases that would probably begin to fail after prolonged usage given that the case actually absorbs the impact of a fall through the deformation of the case.

Again, as we mentioned above, we feel that this iPhone case is really meant for people who are active around the ocean and/or lake.

Drop Test – Griffion Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 / 5S

As you can tell, this case survived a plethora of drops and still kept the iPhone 5 intact. We do note that in the last drop, the case did come apart but the iPhone was unharmed.

Now the score for this case would be higher but as we mentioned before, the drops that we put this case through are very evident as the corners have been permanently deformed.

Waterproof Test – Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for the iPhone 5

The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S is more like a waterproof case than a rugged case. Everything about this case screams “Put me in water!”

Griffin claims that this case is waterproof to 3m (9ft) and its one of the very few cases that claims this depth, making it a great case for those who want to take it snorkelling. Now, we don’t have access to a 3m pool so the next best thing we could do was to toss it into the dirtiest puddle that we could find and as you see from the video above, it survived.

The screen protector generally works well but similar to the affinity of the case for scratches and nicks, the screen protector seems to pull the oil off your fingers. Fingerprints smudges were a very common occurrence on this screen protector and gets even worse with face grease. Eeww…


In terms of actual protection, during our drop tests, there were impacts on the screen protector that actually scratched the protector but left the iPhone unscathed.

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The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 /5S has a couple of fatal flaws in terms of functionality but redeems itself in other categories. The biggest complaint we have is that the sound quality coming from the iPhone is incredibly poor.

The case does not get in the way of any functionality regarding ports and buttons. Access to the lightning port connector is done through a simple latch with the headphone jack allowing for the use of Apple headphones (we did try an end that was slightly larger than Apple’s headphone jack and it didn’t fit)


All the buttons were easily accessible and the mute/ringer switch was controlled by turning a little knob rather than a reversed switch which is always nice since it minimizes the chance that you might embarrass yourself in a movie or quiet meeting.


On the audio side, this case is quite awful. The instructions do tell you to improve the audio quality of your phone calls by equalizing the pressure by popping the lightning port connector (this was in the instruction manual) but we found that this did not help and that the only way for us to be heard was to pop the lightning port latch every time we made/took a call. For us, this is an unnecessary step and that’s the primary reason why this iPhone case scored a bit lower.

The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S allows for above average access to the touchscreen due to the extension of the screen protector at the top of the case. What this means to the user is that app buttons that are located above the home button could be accessed by rotating the phone.

The interaction with the screen protector was nice and didn’t require many double taps to access the device’s front screen.

The glare on this screen protector is pretty bad as it seems to scatter light everywhere. It was fairly annoying in broad sunlight but glare is a relative thing as you’ll automatically adjust the device so that you can see the front screen.

The screen protector doesn’t allow for any diffusion of the Retina screen.

The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst case for iPhone 5 / 5S is definitely built for the water-faring adventurer given that it comes with a waterproof headphone jack and wrist strap. This case with the attached enhancements along with a set of waterproof headphones would make it an amateurs snorkelers dream.


Griffion Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 / 5S

We gave the Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 / 5S an Eh? Rating Score of 3.7 Eh?’s out of 5. From our usage and reviews, is not meant to be an everyday case but meant for those specific times where you’re by a body of water and plan on using your iPhone in the water since the this iPhone case gives you the ability to submerge it up to 3m (9 ft). We’ll call this case a “vacation” case since it is easy to install/uninstall and you’re not going to be able to answer many calls due to the poor audio output from the case.

You should definitely get this case if you find it on sale and are planning on going on vacation near a body of water.

Comperable Case: LifeProof Fre

We compared The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5 / 5S to the Lifeproof Fre case.

iPhone 5 Cases – Comparison Griffen Survivor + Catalyst vs Lifeproof Fre

– LifeProof Fre – Eh Rating 4.3 Eh? out of 5
– Price: $80 ($10 more then the The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst Case for iPhone 5) at the time.
– Lifeproof is a little bit lighter and less bulky
– The material is a bit tougher, does not show as much damage from the drops tests that we have done
– Lifeproof can be taken to a depth of 2m vs Griffin up to 3 m
– Lifeproof provided better sound quality
– Lifeproof provides full access to the front screen
Both cases are great in terms of protection and durability, we still recommend the Griffin for swimming and snorkelling.

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