Tech21 Evo Xplorer iPhone Case Review: Waterproof, But At What Cost?

Tech21 Evo Xplorer iPhone Case Review: Waterproof, But At What Cost?

A waterproof phone sounds awesome and there are cases out there that provide that kind of extra protection. Tech21’s has just released the Evo Xplorer iPhone 6/6s case that touts some impressive waterproofing capabilities. It looks good on paper, but how does it perform in real life? We find out.

First, The Specs

Dimensions 1.53 x 8.1 x 1.1 cm
Weight 58g
Material FlexShock
Ratings  Waterproof: 3m for one hour  Shock-proof: Can withstand drop from 2m
Price $139.95 RRP
Availability JB Hi Fi, Vodafone, Optus, Telstra, Officeworks, Network Communcations

Design & Handling

The Evo Xplorer uses a two-piece clam shell design with an opaque backing and matte black plastic lining a clear front screen. The design is fit for purpose and I really like how slim the whole thing is. It feels good in my hands and the surface is neither too slippery or grippy.

The first thing I did was test the cover’s waterproofing capabilities since that’s the major selling point. The Evo Xplorer boasts that it is completely waterproof up to 3m for one hour. I did drop it in a sink full of water and left it there for a while. No water leaked in so I’d say the waterproofing works.

The case is also meant to be dust-proof, snow-proof and shock-proof. I couldn’t take it to the snow and there wasn’t enough time for me to put it somewhere to accumulate dust. Instead, I tested the shock-proof claim by dropping it onto a tiled floor. Much to my relief, the case and my phone didn’t break.

It’s not hard to remove the case but it does require a bit of effort thanks to the SecureClip locking system. That’s a good thing. I felt like the Evo Xplorer wouldn’t come apart on its own. Use coin in dedicated opening slot at one corner to crack the seal. Then the case can be peeled apart.

There is a dip on the front cover so you can use the iPhone’s fingerprint reader function but in practice this only worked 50 per cent of the time which, to me, was an expected trade-off.

However, the dip that lets you use the fingerprint reader ended up impeding the swipe up feature. I found my thumb was caught in on the ridge when I tried to swipe up as it stops the detection of the motion on the screen.

Since it’s a waterproof case, all the ports and buttons are sealed in to prevent water from getting in. Tech21 has built in different mechanisms on the Evo Xplorer so users can still use those ports and buttons. The knob used for toggling the mute button on the side of the iPhone works a treat and can be triggered with one fluid motion.

The same can’t be said for the headphone jack, which is sealed in with a screw. The case comes with a headphone jack adaptor which is meant to act as a conduit between the audio port and the headphone plug to keep water out. You can’t use the headphones with the case without the adaptor. Unfortunately, the adaptor failed on the first day of use. The metal screw lets you plug in your headphones detached from the housing.

You might think, “Oh well, at least I can still use my speakers with this case”. You’d be wrong. At the bottom of the case, there is some trumpet-like mechanism which is meant to compensate for the fact that the speakers are sealed. Trouble is, the speakers sounded muffled. I tried to have a conversation over the phone and the sound quality was terrible and the person at the other end couldn’t hear me.

The nature of the screen protector means the plastic sits just above the surface of the screen, not directly on it. This meant I had to push down harder for the screen to register my touch, not unlike old Palm Pilots from the late 90s. This drove me crazy for a few hours until I became used to it.

There is a transparent window on the back of the case for the camera and flash. It didn’t noticeably affect the camera’s performance (my photos were still terrible due to my lack of photography skills).


Would I buy or recommend this case for full-time use? No. The inconvenience and poor quality of the headphone adaptor killed it for me since being able to listen to music is critical for me. I can see tradies using this case if they’re okay with sacrificing call quality.

For a full-time case, there are better products out there. Because of all the reasons I’ve already mentioned, I found myself unable to use the case for more than a day without becoming completely frustrated and removing it.

I will have to say, the slimness of the case should be commended, especially compared with competitor offerings with the same level of protection. It may also be suitable for people who only need to waterproof their iPhone every now and then.

The pricing is an issue for me. At $139.95, I would consider the Evo Xplorer overpriced. The only situation I could recommend it is for occasional waterproofing use.

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