While many phones boast that you can drop them in the sink, toilet, or pool and they'll come out
unscathed, most phones are merely water-resistant, not waterproof.
The IP67 or IP68 rating -- found on nearly all "waterproof" models -- only covers you for brief exposure and limited depth. So diving into the pool for the afternoon, going kayaking, or a day at the beach is probably a risky endeavour.
If you're going to be near water, waterproof phone cases are an excellent way to drastically increase your phone's protection without losing any functionality.
But which case should you pick?
We're covering all the important considerations, showing you what picks receive high marks from reviewers, and answering common questions so you can use your phone virtually anywhere without worry.
Editor’s Note: This post has been updated for 2020
Case Designs Explained
In general, there are two types of waterproof cases for you to consider. We'll be covering both types in our picks below.
The first is a regular waterproof case. These look and function much like the case you probably already have on your phone, but they go a bit further and provide airtight seals, plug ports, and generally provide a much greater level of protection.
The other type of "case" is more like a dry bag and is often called a waterproof phone pouch or universal case. You simply slip your phone into the protective pocket, close up the seal, and enjoy your day with no worries.
Both approaches offer unique benefits.
Keep reading to see which waterproof cases are best to keep your phone safe and dry.
Best Waterproof Cases for Newer iPhones and Android Devices
As a sub-brand of the popular OtterBox series of protective phone cases, Lifeproof FRE cases offer excellent IP68 water protection, MIL-STD 810G shock protection, and high resistance ratings against dust and snow.
Just be sure to follow the instructions carefully when you put the case on your phone to avoid any complications and ensure optimal protection.
They also claim to water test every case before shipping to ensure they offer leak-free protection for up to an hour in up to 6.6-feet or 2-meters of water.
If you're looking to get out and explore with your phone, Lifeproof's cases are ready.
Get one from: Amazon
Best Waterproof Cases for Deep Dives with an iPhone
While they are more expensive than many competing cases, Catalyst's cases go above and beyond by offering IP68-rated water resistance down to a whopping 33-feet or 10 meters. They also feature MIL-STD 810G shock proof ratings and excellent snow and dust resistance.
All of this is available in a case that is likely not much larger or heavier than the case you're already using.
If you own an iPhone 7 or newer, Catalyst has a case to protect your phone from the perils of an active lifestyle.
Get one from: Amazon
Best Budget-Friendly Waterproof Cases for Older iPhones
Just because your phone is a few generations old doesn't mean it is not worth protecting.
OUNNE makes a full line of cases designed for the iPhone 8 Plus and older to keep things safe when you're out exploring or enjoying a family holiday. They offer the same protection you'll find in the latest cases for new phones -- including IP68 water resistance up to 6.6-feet or 2-meters, MIL-STD 810G shock resistance, and excellent snow and dust resistance.
All of this comes with a sleek design which won't make your phone super heavy or too bulky to enjoy.
Get one from: Amazon
Best Budget-Friendly Universal Waterproof Case
Capable of fitting phones of up to 6-inch diagonal size, the JOTO Universal Waterproof case offers protection for just about every smartphone out there at an affordable price.
The durable plastic pocket includes clear windows on both sides to let you interact with your phone while it's in the waterproof pouch. This means you can use it to snap photos, take calls, or even stream a video if you have mobile data -- all at up to 100 feet underwater.
The locking seal design makes the pouch easy to operate while a lanyard and anchoring loop makes it easy to keep your phone accessible and secure without having to actually keep it in your hands.
Get it from: Amazon
Best Overall Universal Waterproof Case
While most dry bag style waterproof cases are effective, they're not the most durable accessories out there. That's because manufacturers tend to use thin, single-ply vinyl, plastic, or PVC to keep costs down.
The CaliCase uses a dual-layer design made with high-quality PVC. This not only provides better protection but it ensures that the case will withstand a bit more abuse whether you're at the beach, pool, or river.
Available in a wide range of colors, it's easy to personalize the case to match your phone or your own personal tastes.
The case also floats -- something you won't find with every model. This could save you from having to fish your phone off the bottom of the lake. After all, protecting your phone from the water doesn't help much if you can't retrieve it.
Get it from: Amazon
Best Universal Waterproof Case for Audio Lovers
Most waterproof "pouch" style cases are pretty similar. That's because the design works as long as you get a good seal on the pouch itself.
But the Vansky Floatable Waterproof Phone Case adds a unique feature to the mix -- a waterproof 3.5mm headphone jack. This makes the case an excellent pick for those looking to enjoy their favorite tunes near the water.
Of course, if you're planning on using the feature underwater, you'd need waterproof headphones too which might be harder to come by. But if you're looking to relax with your favorite podcast by the pool or enjoy your favorite tracks while kayaking, the headphone jack is a cool addition.
Get it from: Amazon
1. Are waterproof phones really waterproof?
In most cases, no. They're simply water-resistant. In fact, some phone makers don't even cover water damage in their warranties.
The majority of "waterproof" phones are rated either IP67 or IP68, this means they're good for complete submersion for a short period. While exact specifications vary, most are only covered for shallow depths up to about 6.5 feet.
If in doubt, call your manufacturer as ask them specifically what the phone is capable of and what -- if anything -- they cover in terms of water damage should their waterproofing not work.
2. Can a waterproof case help me if my phone is already waterproof?
This will depend on the type of case you're looking at.
Most fitted cases, such as the first few picks in our round-up, might add some extra reassurance and another layer of protection between your phone and the elements, but it isn't necessarily going to go above and beyond what your phone already offers.
Dry bag, pouch, or universal underwater case designs, however, typically offer better protection than even ruggedized phones can provide. Many provide IP8-rated resistance, allowing for submersion in up to 100-feet of water for 30 minutes.
3. How can I know my waterproof case will work?
Most companies recommend testing the case while empty a few times first. This helps you check that the case is functioning properly and that you've properly assembled or sealed any required parts without putting your phone at risk.
Steps are simple:
- Fill up a container with water
- Assemble the case without inserting your phone
- Drop the case in.
- Retrieve the case after 30 minutes
- Check to be sure the inside of the case is dry
If it's not, verify you've assembled or sealed the case properly according to the manufacturer instructions and try again. Should it fail, you might want to contact the manufacturer or vendor to arrange a refund or check if they have further testing recommendations and remedies.
4. Which case type is better?
This will mostly depend on personal preference and which model of phone you own.
If you have a mid-tier or entry-level Android, a pouch-style underwater phone case is likely your only option.
However, this isn't a bad thing. These cases tend to offer the most comprehensive protection available. You can also slip other items into the case -- such as your identification cards, money, or credit and debit cards -- to protect everything from moisture and avoid leaving important items on the beach, by the pool, or around your campsite.
The only time that custom cases win hands-down is when you want something with a slim profile or stylish looks. No pouch-style case can top the fit and finish of a case designed specifically for your phone.
Recap: Top Waterproof Cases
- Best Waterproof Cases for Newer iPhones and Android Devices: Lifeproof FRE Cases
- Best Waterproof Cases for Deep Dives with an iPhone: Catalyst Cases
- Best Budget-Friendly Waterproof Cases for Older iPhones: OUNNE Cases
- Best Budget-Friendly Universal Waterproof Case: JOTO Universal Waterproof Case
- Best Overall Universal Waterproof Case: CaliCase Universal Waterproof Floating Case
- Best Universal Waterproof Case for Audio Lovers: Vansky Floatable Waterproof Phone Case
A waterproof case is an excellent way to protect your phone from the elements. Most are simple to use or assemble and cost far less than an insurance deductible or having to replace your phone.
However, if you have an older phone, a lesser-known model, or you're simply looking to save a little money, universal waterproof phone cases are extremely effective and often cost less than the custom-designed options for higher-end phones.
Just be sure to test the case before trusting it with your phone and you should be good to hit the beach, load up the kayak, or explore the great outdoors with no worries.
Disclosure: You should know that in some cases, we may receive a referral fee (at no additional cost to you) for products purchased through the links on our site. These links help support our work but they do not influence our content. Our editorial recommendations are always genuine and we try to feature only the best products and services. Why trust us?
 iMore: Best Waterproof Cases for iPhone X in 2019
 Lifewire: The 7 Best Waterproof Phone Cases of 2019
 Globo Surf: 10 Best Waterproof Phone Cases In 2019
 Mac World: The Best Waterproof iPhone Cases
 Insider: 10 Phone Cases That Are Actually Waterproof
 Bicycling Magazine: Best Waterproof Phone Cases for Cyclists
 ReviewGeek: The Best Floating iPhone Cases (To Keep Your Phone Off The Lake Bottom)