Trendy Digital makes a full line of soft, flexible waterproof cases sized to fit smartphones, midsize tablets like the Kindle and Nook, and the iPad. Anyone who takes such a device on a boat definitely needs some form of protection against unexpected water - whether by immersion or spray - and these inexpensive cases, if cared for properly, are an effective solution.
Model tested: WaterGuard Plus Waterproof Case with Padding for Kindle (tested using Lenovo A1 7-inch Android tablet with capacitive touchscreen (see photo), running MX Mariner and other sailing apps. About $20.
The Trendy Digital cases are actually more like fancy, rugged, thick ziplock pouches than hard-shell waterproof case alternatives. You slip your device into the sleeve-like opening, snap closed the heavy-duty double-ziplocking, fold over the protective top seal and snap it in place, and you're set. The padded cases include a thin pad at the back, behind your device, that helps maintain the pouch's shape when empty and provides added protection for the device if it gets bounced around on the boat.
- The pouch front-face plastic is thick enough to offer strength but still allows good contact through it with a touch screen.
- All controls and buttons easily reached through the case.
- The rear surface of nonskid plastic helps prevent the case from sliding around on smooth surfaces - handy on a moving boat.
- Built-in grommets and the included adjustable strap help secure the case to your person or the boat.
- The plastic is said to be UV-stabilized and unaffected by sunlight. (My test lasted only one summer - with no apparent changes.)
- Available in many different sizes for different devices.
- Some models include additional features such as an armband (for phones) or waterproof ports for headphone wires.
I first looked into Trendy Digital cases when I began testing Android boating apps on my 7-inch tablet and wanted something more rugged than a grocery-store ziplock. I admit to being skeptical at first about how easily a flexible case might be damaged, having become used to a rugged Magellan ToughCase for my iPod Touch running sailing apps, and, long before that, using a more expensive Otter case for my original iPod (on long cruises across oceans). The Trendy Digital just didn't seem all that heavy-duty. But after a year of use, I'm happy to report it still looks brand new and is as water- and dust-proof as ever.
I especially like how the case resists sliding around on fiberglass surfaces, compared to a hard case.
Disclaimer. Any waterproof case, hard or soft, is only as good as its seal, and you have to take care of that. Grains of sand in the ziplock mechanism of a Trendy Digital case may cause a leak, but the same is true of sand on the rubber gasket of the most expensive hard case or waterproof camera. If you take care of your stuff, and keep it away from sharp objects, this case should last you a long time.
The Trendy Digital case is a good buy for its low price, but don't expect absolute perfection. You have to press more firmly than usual to get the right screen response, and some functions that involve pinching or swiping may not be as smooth as normal - though these are not much of a price to pay for protecting your device when boating. The front cover is also shiny and reflects back a lot of sky and sun light, but unless you've applied a nonglare film to your device, you're already used to glare like this when outdoors and have learned to live with it. (I'd like to see a manufacturer develop a case like this without glare.)
I just wish they didn't have that "Trendy" stamped on the cover - kind of an embarrassing teenagey name my old salt sailing friends like to poke fun at!