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Episode 41: Underwater iPhones and rugged cameras

Join us in Hawaii as we compare underwater iPhone cases ranging from a veritable Zip-loc bag to a tricked-out dive housing. Two new rugged cameras get a dolphin-swim road test, and the Kindle Paperwhite has a bad day at the beach.

Now playing: Watch this: Episode 41: Swimming with iPhones in Hawaii

Most of you are probably just gearing up for your summer vacations, but we here at Always On have already had ours. It's all for you, dear viewers; it's all for you. On this week's episode, we visited Hawaii's Big Island to road-test gadgets meant for sun and water fun. And not to be all lowest-common-denominator, but that last sentence basically translates to an entire episode filmed in swimsuits. Just saying.

First up, we went snorkeling with three underwater cases for the iPhone: the $20 Proporta BeachBuoy, the $89 Hitcase, and the $329 iGills SE-35, to find out which one will let you swim and text at the same time. And here's a fun little behind-the-scenes note (by "fun" I mean "sob"): we got an e-mail a week after we'd gotten back from our snorkel guide/underwater cameraman saying that a tiger shark had been spotted just a few hundred yards from where we were happily snapping pics! At least we could have gotten great footage of our imminent demise!

Speaking of imminent demise, a beach trip isn't a beach trip without a Kindle along for the ride, so the Kindle Paperwhite got a sandy, salt-watery, lava-rock torture test on the beaches of Kona. It's not pretty, but I will say this, by way of spoilers: that thing can take the heat. Just the heat. Also a travel tip for anyone planning to visit the Big Island: there aren't a lot of sandy beaches, just lots of lava rock, so check out Hapuna Beach if you want to find a nice big expanse of sand. You're welcome.

And my favorite segment of all from this week compares two rugged digital cameras, in case you don't want to take your iPhone underwater. The Olympus Tough TG-2 and the Fujifilm FinePix XP200 went head-to-head in a dolphin swim and then two intrepid new friends dove them down deep just to see which one would really seize the "rugged" mantle. Let me put it this way: I ended up buying one of these cameras for my personal use, and I used it on the last night of the trip for pure recreational was, after all, my birthday. Here's a hint.

Night snorkeling with manta rays.
Night snorkeling with mantas. That is me! Manta Rays Hawaii - Martina Wing

All in all, I hope you find this episode fun, informative, and helpful as you plan your summer vacations. And special thanks to the good folks at Kona Ocean Adventures (who we went manta snorkeling with!) and Jack's Diving Locker for taking such good care of us, getting such amazing underwater footage, and not letting us get eaten by sharks. You guys are the best.