Hands-on with Magellan's waterproof, shockproof ToughCase for iPhone

For many, Magellan's ToughCase may be too much protection for the iPhone 3G. For us, that's the coolest part!

Magellan's ToughCase for iPhone 3G and iPod Touch is many devices in one. It's also about the size of many devices in one. Antuan Goodwin/CNET

Consider for a moment that the upcoming iPhone 4 is like the Iron Man of the mobile phone world: sleek, sexy, and powerful. Then an iPhone 3GS wrapped in Magellan's ToughCase would be akin to Iron Man's buddy War Machine: based on slightly older, but still powerful, technology and substantially upgraded with third-party features. OK, so the ToughCase may not add guns to your iPhone or iPod Touch, but that doesn't make it any less ready to tackle almost anything you can throw at it.

Just looking at the ToughCase, it's obvious that this accessory adds considerable bulk and heft to the enclosed iPhone. At just less than 2 inches thick and weighing in at 7.5 ounces, you can all but forget about cramming this case into your pocket. Fortunately, Magellan will ship the ToughCase with a belt clip. There will also be an array of handlebar, windshield, and universal mounts available.

For the increased heft, the ToughCase adds weatherproofing, an extended battery, and--because this is a Magellan product--a more accurate GPS receiver to your iPhone. Starting with the shell itself, the ToughCase is shockproof and IPX-7 waterproof, which means it can be submerged in up to 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes without damage to the enclosed device. We tossed an iPhone encased in a preproduction example of the ToughCase down a flight of stairs and found no damage upon recovery. We were unable to test the waterproofing claim of the preproduction unit, but rest assured we'll be dunking the retail version when it becomes available.

There is a mini USB port for charging, and a headphone jack, both of which are protected by rubber seals. Rubber buttons give users access to volume controls, screen lock, and the home button, while the unit's design allows users to interact with the touch screen and make and receive calls from the sealed case. There are even clear openings over the ambient light and proximity sensors and a rear window that leaves the rear camera unobstructed.

Magellan claims that the extended battery is the same size and capacity as the iPhone's internal battery, so talk and standby time should ideally be double whatever the user usually experiences, based on individual usage. The ToughCase's battery also powers its internal SiRFstar III GPS receiver that adds GPS positioning to the iPod Touch and boosts the sensitivity of the iPhone 3G's weak GPS receiver to within 3 meters of accuracy. The ToughCase's GPS receiver works with any location-aware app for iPhone or iPod Touch, including Magellan's own RoadMate app .

This level of protection probably seems like overkill to most of you, but Magellan's hoping that enough users who want to use their iPhone while hiking, camping, sailing, cycling, or working outdoors will see enough value in bulletproofing their device to justify the ToughCase's $199 suggested retail price. The Magellan ToughCase works with the iPhone 3G, iPhone 3GS, and second- and third-generation iPod Touch, and will be available in July, pending Apple's approval.

 

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