Review: Griffin Survivor + Catalyst waterproof iPhone 5 case

The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst waterproof case (US$69.99) is said to keep your iPhone dry up to 3 meters deep in water and protect your iPhone from drops from a height of 2 meters or less.

On a day-to-day basis I don't use a case for my iPhone. However, there have been plenty of occasions when I've wished I did use one, so as not to worry about protecting and shielding it in certain situations, like when I'm at the beach, hiking or camping etc.


The Griffin Survivor + Catalyst (GSC) case has TPE shock-absorbing bumpers, a PET-integrated screen cover, a silicone O-ring to seal the case together and keep water out, and a polycarbonate frame. Though light, it feels sturdy -- especially with an iPhone inside it. Two nylon latches lock the case together, there's a charge port door as well as volume control, home button and power button. It also comes with a lanyard to attach to the case.

On the back panel of the GSC are two latches that release the back panel from the rest of the case. The silicon O-ring seal wraps around the edges of the back panel.

The GSC comes with two large-print A3 pages of instructions and a bright red alert card placed within the case that tells you to follow the instructions precisely or there will be "damage to your device."


I've never used a waterproof case before, so I read the instructions through very carefully. Griffin tells you to do a test on the case every time you use it to make sure the seal is intact and the case isn't damaged in anyway. This involves checking for damage or dust within the case, its latches and buttons, and assembling it without the iPhone inside and submerging it in water for 30 minutes. If you see water bubbles coming from the case straight away there's a problem with the seal or the case is damaged. If there are no air bubbles and after 30 minutes you remove the case and there's no water present inside, you're good to go at placing your iPhone in the case. Of course once you've inserted your iPhone you need to make sure the seal is flush with the case again and check it all fits snugly together.

I did the test and found no air bubbles or signs of water in the case after 30 minutes. So I took the plunge and put my iPhone 5 into the case exactly as prescribed in the instructions. It's always a little frightening to place expensive gear in harms way, but I took a deep breathe (for me and my iPhone) and placed it in my basin of water. I was reluctant to leave the phone submerged for too long, so I gave it 30 seconds, scrolled through the lock screen to the home screen, swiped through a few pages of apps. and pulled it out again. Thankfully, after opening up the GSC I found no water on my iPhone, though I did find the experience a little nerve wracking.

I decided to repeat the experiment again, but this time use some tissue paper instead of my iPhone, and leave the case in water for much longer than 30 seconds. Unfortunately, after about 40 minutes I did notice there were some small droplets of water within the case and parts of the tissue paper were damp. I can only assume that this time round I didn't quite get the assembly of the case right. If you're ever in doubt, Griffin has an extensive range of support articles and videos on how to test and look after the GSC


In terms of protection against the elements and accidental drops, the GSC really stands up and I can't fault it. If my iPhone were to fall in water, it would be protected well on a bad day if not entirely on any other. The case obviously adds some bulk to your iPhone, but I've seen and used bulkier cases. It's not unattractive and Griffin says it will be releasing some more adventurous colors next year. The lanyard attachment is a practical addition, too.


  • Good to excellent protection from drops and the elements, including dust, sand and water.

  • Protects your iPhone in submerged water

  • Good looking and functional for a case of this design

  • Light weight


  • Somewhat laborious process to ensure the case is entirely waterproof

  • There are still times when some water may get through if the case isn't assembled and tested properly.

Who's it for?

Those who use their iPhone in extreme environments and don't want to worry about damage from the elements.