Catalyst Mobile Accessories Review
Quick, think of the most expensive thing you have on you right now… Is it your phone? Is it your watch? What is it? I am often left dumbstruck, observing people wandering around with their shiny new devices unprotected. I am aware that Apple offers Apple care + and that there are other insurance plans through carriers. Maybe it is just me. I want pristine, I want protected, I want mint. Maybe it’s the father in me who wants nice things? Alas, I have 3 minions who are bent on the destruction of everything nice. What if you can have the best of both worlds? What if you can have shiny and nice and protected? I give you Catalyst.
The word catalyst (yes from chemistry) is any substance that can increase a reaction without any permanent change in itself. Interestingly, this is exactly what happened at CES 2016. While at CES 2016 my colleague, Brian Wharton, really wanted to eat at the buffet at the Bellagio. I will not lie, this was the best buffet I have seen, the most wide spread, diverse and also most expensive. While standing in line at the sushi area I was approached by a gentleman who asked me what kind of phone I had. I was taken aback and told him “this is an iPhone 6s Plus.” He said it’s just an iPhone? Then I realized that I had, just that day, put my phone and my Apple Watch into their protective Catalyst cases. My watch was resting on my left wrist and my phone was sitting inside of the Clip/stand on my right hip. I wanted to be sarcastic, to state something like “this is the iPhone 7 prototype,” but I played nice. He and I struck up a conversation. I discussed that this was a Catalyst case for both my Apple Watch and iPhone 6s Plus and he was impressed and wanted to learn more. I gave a brief PR presentation while standing there in line. Who knows, perhaps he is now a proud Catalyst owner as well.
Even before I received my Apple Watch (Christmas 2015), I had searched for cases and reviews and had come across Catalyst. I was really interested in their products, specifically their iPhone cases. Their watch case was not yet released when I was doing my research, having released November 2015. I already had my iPhone 6s Plus in an Otterbox Defender and really thought nothing more about cases. However, touring around the Digital Experience Showstoppers, I came upon Catalyst and was immediately reconnected. Their cases were beautiful, waterproof and they did not detract from the beauty of the iPhone. I struck up conversation with the Catalyst team and discussed my interest in their products.
The team at Catalyst saw that I had my Otterbox Defender, Black, attached to the shoulder strap of my backpack. They noted that I had a great idea, placing my phone on the strap instead of on my belt. I offered to switch out my phone and to put their case in the same spot. They graciously gave me a case for my iPhone 6s Plus and the belt clip to demo through CES. As noted above, this was a good choice. That night, I opened the packaging and read the instructions. Yes, I read the instructions before using the product.
The case is easy to assemble and the instructions are pretty straight forward. First you need to prove that the case is waterproof. I did this by placing a piece of paper towel into the case. Make sure that the O-ring is not twisted. Compress the two halves of the case together, closing 2 cross corners and then repeating this step with the other corners. I then rubbed around the entire case. The instructions then want you to push into the center of the case, which was completed. Close the charge port and audio jack, making sure that there is no dirt. If the O-ring is pinched or twisted in any way, repeat the above steps. To open the case place a coin between the layers and twist and pry the case back open. Repeat until the 0 Ring is well fitted. Next fill a container or sink about half full and submerge the case observing for air bubbles. If you see any air bubbles there is likely a leak in the case and you need to repeat the steps. Leave this under water for 30 minutes. The case without a phone inside of it will not stay at the bottom for this test. I had to place a coffee cup onto the case to keep it submerged. When the 30 minute time frame was up, I separated the layers and the inside and toilet paper were dry. This was easy, straight forward and quite reassuring.
Next, when installing the case onto the phone, it is recommended to remove any screen protector from your phone. I have a KRISTALL Liquid Screen protector, which does not leave any film, and does not have any type of visible product overlying the screen. Clean the screen of your phone, clean the inside of the case. Take the phone and insert it at an angle base first screen side down. Reattach the back in the same fashion as above cross corner style making sure that the O ring is centered, and not kinked or twisted. Again depress the charging port/audio jack port. The case is now ready. It is important to note that the company will not, under any circumstance replace or repair a damaged device. You expose your device to any hazards at your own risk. Finally, there is no warranty that the case will protect the phone under all circumstances.
I trust my initial waterproof test of the phone case. More than this, I trust the countless reviews I have read on Amazon and on other tech sites. Regardless, I am too chicken to submerge my phone blatantly. I did however set it on the edge of the jacuzzi and did not think twice about the device. This is a huge change. I could see myself using this on a boat, at a water park, while at a pool. The case really is designed to be the most protective case for everyday usage. The phone with case is IP-68 waterproof down to 16.4 feet (5 meters) and is 100% tested and waterproof according to Catalyst. They rate the case as drop proof up to 6.6 feet (2 meters). In fact, this was tested with the military standard and found to be 810G certified. I have personally tested this, by accident, at CES. I missed the belt clip and had approximately three drops of my phone from about waist height (I am 5’9″). Each time, I undid the case rechecked the O ring and reattached the case. After the third drop I also retested the device for waterproofing and it appeared that after 30 minutes, the case remained dry. It still looks amazing, no screen damage, no phone damage. I am super pleased.
Initial impression: The clear front and back of the case allow you to see the full splendor of your phone. This is unlike many of the other cases, which cover the back of the phone. The device has a patented mute toggle that turns clockwise/counterclockwise. This works amazingly well. The case weighs in at 0.11lb (48 Grams) at 15 cm x 7.7xm x 1.1 cm, and I hardly notice it. I find it is more pleasing and feels lighter than my previous Otterbox Defender. The case comes in 4 colors, Black and Space Gray, White Mist Gray, Rescue Ranger (black with red accent) and Green pop. I personally am a fan of the black/space gray and white mist gray options. The case retails for $69.99 for iPhone 6/s and $74.99 for 6 Plus/6s Plus and comes with the case and an anti drop lanyard, which attaches to the base of the case. This helped, while filming at CES 2016, to prevent additional drops and to have a point of contact with my body at all times. The fingerprint scanner works just fine inside of the case. The camera is not inhibited in any way by this case. I was able to take good quality pictures, without any noticeable decrease in quality, or clarity of the image.
Cons: The speaker/acoustics are not as good as the naked phone or with those observed with my Otterbox Defender. I found that the speakerphone seems to be average but the phone speaker is weaker inside of the device and makes it a little harder to hear. The microphone, touchpad and speakers are coated in an acoustic membrane. I must not be alone in this concern, as there is a special troubleshooting acoustics section inside of the instructions. I found by accident that holding the back of the phone or pinching the phone between my ear and shoulder made a marked difference in the sound quality. Reading the troubleshooting, they note that as pressure inside the case increases, the quality of sound decreases. Thus, opening the port at the bottom, holding the phone on the sides and not pinching the phone between ear and shoulder are supposed to help. I found this independently, as stated above, and can honestly say that I had this experience. The airplane flight back from CES really messed up the acoustics, opening the port at the headphone jack and closing it again fixed this. Another issue with the case is the lightning port itself. The packaging states that the case fits most charger cables. Unfortunately the lightning port is recessed and is rounded. Boxy style lightning cables will not fit the device. To be honest, cheaper cables will likely not fit. Apple made cables seem to fit nicely, specifically as they are cables designed with narrow lightning tip. This seems more an issue for the quality of the cables instead of the case, but remains an issue nonetheless. Finally, I wish that the case included a clip/belt system. The clip/stand option is available but for additional cost of $29.99.
In Summary of the phone case, I am content and really do feel more reassured about the safety of my device. I do not plan to purposefully try to submerge my phone or to hold it at 6.7 feet to see if it fails. I am content to know that this is designed to succeed in average everyday life situations. I really enjoy the clear front and back. This is a stunning feature and it actually drew in the gentleman at Bellagio for discussion. As a former Otterbox Defender snob, having trusted my last 3 phones to Otterbox, this is a huge change for me. I really like the look, feel and waterproof nature of this case. The Otterbox is dry land protective, but not waterproof like their sister company LifeProof. I rate this case at 4.5/5 stars and am truly impressed. I do wish that the acoustics were a little better. However, this is nothing a set of Bluetooth speakers or headphones cannot fix.
I did obtain a Black & Catalyst Blue Clip/Stand for my iPhone 6s Plus, as I like to clip my phone to my belt, appendix carry style. While at CES, I clipped it to the shoulder strap of my backpack. The clip/stand is called the “clip/stand” due to the kickstand feature built into the device. By opening the clip until you hear an audible “click,” you can create a kickstand. This will allow you to view in landscape mode. You can fire lock (name for the piece that latches the phone into the clip)the phone into the case with screen facing towards you or away from you. The clip rotates 360 degrees and is very secure. I am a big fan of the lock system. There is a blue cylinder that you can push in to lock the clasp in place. Depress the cylinder the other way and open and close the latch flawlessly. I have been through so many Otterbox Defender belt clips as the plastic clip piece breaks too easily.
This fire lock feels much more secure. I like that this is a separate movable piece instead of plastic molded. Again it does not feel like it is going to break as easily as my Otterbox Defender belt clips. I am pleased that all the ports, all of the buttons are easily accessible through the belt clip system. I would rate this clip 5/5. It can be purchased separately from the phone case at $29.99 MSRP for both iPhone 6/6s and 6 Plus/6s Plus in the single color. It would be nice if the belt clip matched the other colors available for the phone cases. I would recommend this for anyone who purchases a catalyst case.
Apple Watch Case
As of November 2015 Catalyst also began to offer a waterproof option for the 42″ Apple Watch. The Apple Watch is touted at being IPX7 rated by itself. There are stories of people swimming in their watches, of people showering with their watch. Personally, I am not going to purposefully submerge or soak the watch. I have had a Casio G shock for as long as I can remember, with my most recent watch the AWG101 (Solar, Atomic) with rating down to 200 m. This watch nearly never left my arm. It is different wearing the Apple Watch, taking it off at night to charge, leaving it off in the shower, or outside. I never worried about rain or snow. Now, however, is a different story. Catalyst has invented/created the first of its kind, fully functional water case of the Apple Watch. This is a CES 2016 Honoree taking the IPX7 to IP-68 (5atm). This has been tested and found to be waterproof down to 165 feet (50 m). The company states it is the “essential accessory that allows you to take your Apple Watch with you everywhere.” It is available in the same colors as the iPhone cases, stealth black, Green Pop and Rescue Ranger (Red Accent). I was given the stealth black case at CES to try and demo.
I had a Joto bezel guard on my watch and a Glass screen protector. While at CES my glass broke and I opted to try a KRISTALL Liquid protector, which proved to be a quality choice. The Catalyst case is easy to install. Before installation, water test the device similarly to the iPhone with 30min submersion test. Initially use the included screwdriver to remove the single screw in the back of the Catalyst case. There is no risk of scratching your watch as this is on the case itself. Using both thumbs press upwards on the sensor area. Remove the case front and gently unwrap the silicone off the included case dummy (included fake plastic watch). On your Apple Watch, remove any attached bands. Insert the Apple Watch into the silicone sleeve button side first. Make sure that the device is fully covered. Squeeze out any trapped air. Then add the case front overlying the silicone wrap. Make sure you can see a white rim (O ring seal) around the entire face. If not, reset the top cover until you see this. I had to reset this once. It seemed to work quite well. Once completed, place watch back into strap assess boy and reinstall the screw.
You are now ready to enjoy the same military grade impact protection, waterproofing as the iPhone case but without any obstruction to touch screen access. The silicone wristband is nice, although it does show increased debris. You still have access to the charging features, Heart rate features/sensors on the back of the watch. The weight of the case is hardly noticeable at (0.08 lb.) 35 Grams. The case is big/bulky, however, and does add size to the edges of the watch 53mmx44.4mmx13.5mm. I found the covering of the dial to be a little sluggish at first, but this also improved and became more responsive as I used the watch. The dial spins freely similarly to the dial on the watch, but less mechanical and precise.
I had a handful of people ask me about my watch while at CES. The case really does add protection to the watch. I have hit this on edges of displays, door frames, doorknobs and other people. The mildly raised bezel does a great job at deflecting potential falling objects from the screen. I really do wear my watch just about everywhere now. If only I was brave enough to wear it into the shower. Alas, I am not brave enough for this yet. I rate this case as 5/5 for innovation. It is a little bulky, but does not really add much to the weight (especially if trading from a link chain/metal band system). I highly encourage this case system for anyone who is active, or for anyone who is regularly around water. The one aspect of this case I do not like is that there is no option for the 38″ Watch. This may be coming in the future, but for now it is only for the 42.”
This is another accessory for the Catalyst Case system. This system is designed to allow you to adapt for use with any mounting system and virtually with any sporting venue. This case/clip system provides a ball/socket joint allowing 360 degree rotation. You can place your case in any orientation for that perfect photograph. This is the perfect system to adapt your phone/case to a GoPro mounting system or standard 17 mm to 32 mm bicycle attachment system. I do not yet have this system to test, but look forward to obtaining this when the weather warms up in the spring. I would love to be able to attach my phone to my handlebars and get it off my hip. I love that the multi sport mount is essentially the clip/stand but has a different back feature allowing it to connect to other systems. Pull the phone right out of your holster and place it into this one. This retails for $44.99 for both 6/6s and 6 Plus/6s Plus. This also can hold the Catalyst case facing forwards or backwards. You can access all buttons (volume, power, etc) similarly to the belt Clip/stand. You can screw it into standard tripods, adjusts through a full 360 degree rotation and can be used with camera to video/photograph. This is a must-have for any sports/outdoor enthusiast. At this price point, it is a very reasonable phone mounting accessory.
Catalyst Floating Lanyard
As stated above, the case, with phone inside, sinks. Catalyst thought about this and created a durable rip stop nylon flotation device that will keep an object >350 grams afloat. The accessory is available in 2 colors, Stealth Black (Sleek and stealthy) and Reflective Orange (much easier to see in the ocean/lake/pool). This is designed to fit onto your wrist, any wrist size. The reflective coloration is smart, in that it allows you to find your object should you be separated from your gear. It does have a quick access clasp to attach to our case. The stealth black flotation device MSRP for $19.99 and the Reflective orange device MSRP for $24.99. In my opinion, it is definitely worth the extra $5 as the coloration and reflective nature are much more obvious/noticeable. I do not yet have this device to test/review. I feel that anyone having their phone/case near water would benefit from this system.
Additional Catalyst Offerings
Catalyst also makes a case for iPad Pro (MSRP TBD) and for iPad Mini 4 (MSRP $89.99). The case provides the same IP-68 waterproof rating as that afforded to the phone via the Catalyst case. It provides the same drop proof Military Standard Mil-STD 810G. You have full function of the device as with the phone case with similar True Acoustics with similar minimalist case approach. I do not yet have an iPad Pro or mini. However, Catalyst has thought of this as well. They also provide Catalyst Waterproof sleeves. These Padded, waterproof sleeves turn any case you have into a waterproof option. The case offers protection for those objects you place inside of the sleep, whether this is your laptop, tablet or documents. You can safely store the bag inside of a pack/purse or you can attach the included straps to use this as a backpack/sling pack. Catalyst truly wants you to be able to go anywhere in any weather without fear that water will negatively affect you. This is available in 3 sizes: A sleeve for Laptops 13″-15″ MSRP $54.99, Tablets and Laptops 9″-11″ MSRP $49.99 and Sleeve for Tablets 7″-8″ MSRP $39.99. I like the option to add the protection of Catalyst to any device, although the sleeves are more for transportation/protection than use. My phone case, the listed iPad case really do add protection without losing functionality. There are yet additional offerings such as a Catalyst Audio Adaptor to more easily use the headphone jack. Unfortunately, this takes the waterproof rating down to IP66. Searching their website provides a few extra colors for the iPhone 6 case and for iPhone 5/5s.
With trendy packaging, stylish and sleek cases, secure mounting options, you can be as wild and adventurous as you can imagine. This company truly is a Catalyst of adventure.
You can learn more through catalystlifestyle.com, which will redirect you to catalyst case.myshopify.com. Here you can purchase products, watch tech demos learn about new products and learn their story.