5 Waterproof Phone Cases to Protect Your Device This Summer

Keep your phone dry while kayaking, on beach days, and by the pool.
looking down on crystal clear waters with surfers coastline Australia
Vicki Smith/Getty

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A few years back, I convinced a couple of friends to go on a road trip to a Pennsylvania casino for some frivolous birthday fun. I figured I’d celebrate by taking a gamble and moving up from my normal penny slots, so I took a quick bathroom break to mentally prep. Cut to: a splash, and the visual of my phone swimming in the toilet bowl. Sure enough, I had left my phone in my back pocket.

Eventually, after hurrying back to New York City to use Staples’ TekDry machine, which could zap liquid out of tech devices, I was able to save all my yet-to-be-downloaded pictures and my phone went (somewhat) back to normal. But that one careless moment ruined the entire trip. So instead of further testing my luck, I invested in a waterproof phone case. Once I snapped it on, my water-logged worries were history.

What to look for in a water-resistant phone case

“Phone wipeouts are the worst,” Izzy Tihanyi, founder of a San Diego–based surf school, Surf Diva, says. “Especially while traveling, your phone is your concierge, travel agent, and tour guide all in one.”

During surf lessons, she doubles up with a hard plastic waterproof case inside a plastic pouch lanyard that she tucks in her rash guard. And she advises not to skimp on quality. “The hard case must be from a reputable brand or it won’t function properly with the touch screen,” Tihanyi explains, adding that “the cheap ones won’t hold up the waterproof seal.”

Gary Pitts, an innovation lab technologist with Asurion, points out that no two phones are created equal, so it’s essential to first find out how waterproof your phone is. For instance, iPhone models 12s and up have an IP68 rating, which means they can survive being submerged in 19 feet of water for up to 30 minutes, while older phones that are IP65 can only be splashed gently. And even with this capability, Apple recommends customers not swim with their phone, take it into a sauna, or use it while engaging in water sports to avoid water damage.

“If you’ve had a screen or battery replaced, be aware that after being disassembled, the waterproofing is no longer fully effective due to the protective coating seal being broken,” Pitts says. He adds that cracked screens can also be sensitive to water.

Whether you’re looking to waterproof your phone around the clock or only for specific water sports or activities, here are the best waterproof phone cases to ensure nothing’s ever left out to dry on your travels.

This article has been updated with new information since its original publish date.

Best all-around waterproof phone case

Otterbox LifeProof Frē phone case

Whether it’s for daily use or adventurous outings into the snow or water, the Lifeproof Frē has you covered. While the brand's older versions were a bit bulky, the new, sleeker design is like a thin second skin and the screen protector was barely noticeable—if you frequently carry around a small purse or hold your phone in your pocket, this case will work for you. With five color choices and the ability to stay waterproof in three feet of water for an hour and drop-proof from three feet, this is the perfect case for everyday life. Plus, its customer service is top notch when it comes to the warranty. 

Compatible with: iPhones, Samsung Galaxy

Most accident proof case

Catalyst Total Protection waterproof case

If you’re adventurously spirited or accident prone, the Catalyst Waterproof Case’s durability is guaranteed to have your back. It can be submerged in up to 33 feet of water (about the height of a telephone pole), so that you can take it underwater on snorkeling trips and comes with a wrist lanyard so it doesn’t drift away. On land, it can survive drops of 6.6 feet (think the height of Michael Jordan) without a scratch. Plus, while many cases muffle the speaker and blur the camera lens, the True Sound Acoustic Technology keeps calls and music crisp and the hard-coated optics ensure photos stay sharp. 

Compatible with: iPhones

Best floating case

Aquavault floating smart phone case

According to Pitts, one thing many people don’t consider when looking for a waterproof phone case is its ability to stay afloat. “If you’re going to be spending time in deeper bodies of water, like a lake or river, this is a feature you will want to consider,” he advises. Hands down, the most durable on the market is the AquaVault, a Shark Tank success story. The universal pouch fits any phone and the seal, roll, and velcro design gives three layers of protection against any droplets entering. Available in three colors, the case comes with a neck strap and the crystal clear plastic allows for underwater photography. Especially impressive is how quickly it resurfaces after being dunked. 

Compatible with: All phones

Shop more waterproof phone pouches and phone accessories.

Best for underwater photography

AquaTech AxisGo waterproof case

For something more heavy duty and rugged, the AxisGO Underwater Cell Phone System from Aquatech is a must. It is designed for iPhones, so no third-party apps are required to sync the controls to your device. The only setup required is to place your phone into the grooved slots and click the lock. The glass lens port is scratch resistant, and the touchscreen is flexible and touch-sensitive, making it work flawlessly no matter where you are—in the swimming pool with your family, riding the waves in Hawaii, or scuba diving in the Maldives. As the front of your phone is left unblocked, this kit lets you use all the photography features of the iPhone to unlock your creativity underwater. I’ve used it while snorkeling in the Great Barrier Reef and diving in the Maldives, and found it easy to navigate in water to capture images of coral, reef sharks, and even sea turtles. 

You can level up the basic kit with accessories like a glass dome port (for better split-shot photos where you see above and below the surface), Bluetooth-activated hand grip, and a sports leash for hands-free water photography. Karthika Gupta

Compatible with: iPhones

Best case for extreme conditions

Otterbox 3250 Series waterproof drybox

If you’re heading into the unknown—whether it’s a multi-day hiking trip or extreme weather conditions—and don’t want to risk damaging your phone at any cost, lock it away in the Otterbox DryBox, which can outlast a deep dive at 90 feet (the distance between baseball diamonds) for 30 minutes thanks to a pressure release slot design, and survive quite an impact thanks to its inner foam layer and tough polycarbonate shell. Plus, it can fit either two standard phones or a phone and a flat backup battery to ensure you stay powered up and connected. 

Compatible with: All phones