Joy Factory RainBallet
The Joy Factory’s $50 RainBallet is an especially rugged case that also aims to keep your iPhone safe from water.
The RainBallet forms a sturdy, plastic shell around your iPhone 4. The review unit arrived sealed up, and at first I couldn’t even pop it open. That’s probably a good sign, since the case aims to offer waterproof protection. (The company stresses that you should initially verify the case’s waterproof seal without your phone inside.) To open the RainBallet, you must twist three screws a quarter turn each. The case comes with an attachable wrist strap that sports a metal disc perfectly shaped to to twist these screws. (I could consistently twist two of them with a fingernail, but the third needed a little more power than my nail could provide.) With the nails turned to their unlocked positions, the front of the case flips down on a hinge on the bottom of the case. Actually popping your iPhone 4 out of the open RainBallet takes some effort, but I was never afraid that I’d break my phone or the case.
With your iPhone snugly ensconced in the RainBallet, both of the iPhone 4’s cameras remain unobscured, and you operate the Home button by pushing—notably more firmly than you normally would—on a rubbery button cover on the case. However, you can’t access the volume or Sleep/Wake buttons, the headphone jack, the Ring/Silent switch, or the dock-connector port. Every other rugged case I tested leaves those buttons accessible in some way, although none offers the RainBallet’s level of water protection.
On the plus side, you can hear the iPhone’s speakers just fine with the case on thanks to what Joy Factory calls Intelli-filter technology—the RainBallet covers the phone’s speakers while still allowing significant amounts of sound to pass through the case. The iPhone’s touchscreen also worked fine through the RainBallet’s plastic cover.
Because the RainBallet renders so many buttons and ports inaccessible, while adding considerable bulk to your phone, I recommend it only to folks who need a waterproof case. But be warned: It's unclear exactly how waterproof the case is. According to the case's packaging, the RainBallet is IPX5-rated, which means it protects against “water jets,” but isn’t meant to protect against water submersion. But according to Joy Factory's website, the RainBallet is IPX7-rated, which means it can handle being submerged in one meter of water for 30 minutes. (There's also an unintentionally amusing promotional video on the website that shows the case keeping an iPhone safe as its owner falls into a pool, phone in hand.) I decided against doing my own IPX7 testing, and I'd suggest you avoid doing so, too.
Joy Factory RainBallet
The RainBallet offers true waterproof protection, although to get that level of shelter, you gain bulk and lose access to several ports and buttons.