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Review: Underwater Audio's waterproof iPod shuffle

post #1 of 15
Thread Starter 
Underwater Audio's special -- and expensive -- iPod shuffle treatment lets users listen to their tunes while swimming without the need for bulky cases or waterproof bags.

Underwater


It's pretty scary when your iPod goes for a swim, even when it's intentional.

Underwater Audio is one of several firms to offer waterproofing services for Apple most portable player, the iPod shuffle. Currently, users can buy a brand new, pre-treated shuffle from the company, or send in their own unit for waterproofing. Both options are expensive, however, with a new model coming in at $150 and the mail-in service priced at $120. That's without waterproof headphones.

For those who swim for exercise, the price of entry may be worth it, as case and bag solutions are bulky and cumbersome to wear in the water. Underwater Audio's waterproofing technique leaves the shuffle untouched, allowing for maximum in-water wearability while maintaining access to button controls.

We'll spare you the suspense: it works. But there are a few things you need to know before buying.

For the purposes of this test, we used a bundle including a new waterproofed shuffle and Underwater Audio's Swimbuds earbuds.

Design



This isn't the first iPod intended for underwater use. Other companies have done it dating back to around 2006. What makes this iPod special? There's no case. There's no special headphone cable with rubber gaskets, screw threads, or other traditional means of keeping water out.

Here, it's an iPod. That works. Under water.

Underwater


In exchange for a totally waterproof iPod, users need to be diligent with after-use maintenance. A key to this type of specialized treatment is to rinse the iPod off with tap water. You want to rinse away any chlorine, salt, or dirt that may have gotten on it while in use. Rinse out the headphone jack, too. If there's anything left on it, it could abrade away the waterproof coating.

You also don't want to use a case on it, as any dirt, grit or pocket lint could get trapped between the case and iPod and wear off the coating.

In use



In our tests, we found that the unit works best if you clip it to the headband on a pair of swim goggles. Swimming with a long cable or an iPod strapped to your arm for example, could be uncomfortable or pull the earbuds out of your ears. The original iPod clip is quite strong and offers enough for casual laps and pool scenarios. For rough-water swims and other activities, a more secure strap may be needed.

Underwater


The controls are a little stiff as a result of the waterproofing treatment and require a firm press to work. This doesn't detract from the experience, though. When you're swimming, you don't need to change tracks nearly as often as you might when you're above water. Out of water, we are easily distracted and prone to changing tracks before the music ends unless it's a really good song. Don't ask us why we have less than really good songs on our iPod.

You need a good seal for the earbuds to work well. This is true above water for noise isolation and good bass. Below water, this is important for all of the same reasons, but also for duty as an earplug. Underwater, the earbuds sounds really good. In order to get a good seal, we used a small amount of vaseline on the earbud tip.

The Swimpods consist of a short cable, ear hooks, and the sort of soft rubber three-barbed ear tip that you find on Etymotic headphones or swimming ear plugs. This design is effective for sound isolation and to keep water out of the ear canal.

Underwater


Conclusion



We've swam with the unit both indoors and out. We've listened to music and audiobooks. We once listened to all 3 hours and 32 minutes of the NPR radio dramatization of The Empire Strikes Back. And we did all this when we aren't avid swimmers. This is to say, the Underwater Audio iPod Shuffle works, works under different depths when I dove to the bottom of 15 feet, and works for long periods of exposure to water.

As mentioned above, a waterproof iPod shuffle does not come cheap. At $150 for the earbuds and iPod bundle, or $120 for waterproofing your own iPod and $30 for the Swimbuds earbuds separately, it probably makes sense to get the bundle if you swim a lot.

It's a good idea to charge the iPod occasionally, and rinse it off after use in the pool. Keeping it clean means the waterproof protection will last longer.

Score: 5 out of 5



ratings_hl_50.png

Pros:


  • Waterproof iPod
  • Music appears to have a beneficial effect on training / exercise

Cons:


  • Stiff controls take getting used to
  • Theoretically possible to wear out waterproof coating
post #2 of 15
It sounds like a great way to swim, though I think my pool is a little bit too crowded to not have audible feedback from other swimmers when each lane is being used by at least 5 swimmers.

SolipsimsX, I remember you use a waterproof iPod while swimming. Is this your setup?
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post #3 of 15
Has AI ever given a product 5 out of 5 stars before?

Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

It sounds like a great way to swim, though I think my pool is a little bit too crowded to not have audible feedback from other swimmers when each lane is being used by at least 5 swimmers.

SolipsimsX, I remember you use a waterproof iPod while swimming. Is this your setup?

I do, but it's a casing that goes over the iPod Shuffle. It's not the most elegant solution but good enough. Now if I had to buy a new iPod Shuffle for swimming I would probably pay the extra money for this waterproof solution but that doesn't seem very likely.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

Goodbyeee jragosta :: http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/160864/jragosta-joseph-michael-ragosta

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

Goodbyeee jragosta :: http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/160864/jragosta-joseph-michael-ragosta

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post #4 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by SolipsismX View Post

Has AI ever given a product 5 out of 5 stars before?

Stood out hey? nMP was the only one AFAIK.
Quote:
I do, but it's a casing that goes over the iPod Shuffle. It's not the most elegant solution but good enough. Now if I had to buy a new iPod Shuffle for swimming I would probably pay the extra money for this waterproof solution but that doesn't seem very likely.

Ah, ok. So a casing works, but this is 'a more elegant solution.
"See her this weekend. You hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her."
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"See her this weekend. You hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her."
- Roger Sterling
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post #5 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post

Ah, ok. So a casing works, but this is 'a more elegant solution.

It's really no comparison to this modern version.

"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

Goodbyeee jragosta :: http://forums.appleinsider.com/t/160864/jragosta-joseph-michael-ragosta

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"There is no rule that says the best phones must have the largest screen." ~RoundaboutNow

 

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post #6 of 15
I would have love these when I was swimming regularly.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of a rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #7 of 15

I have a salt water pool and got one of these expensive waterproofing treatments on a shuffle. I used Liquipel, but I suspect they're not very different. The order form included a place where I agreed that 1) they'd never claimed the device would be waterproof, and 2) I wouldn't intentionally submerge my device.

 

I swam once with the device. The next day it was dead. Granted, I hadn't rinsed it off afterward (no one told me to). I let it charge. Nada. Every now and then I would come back to see if it had somehow come back to life. And 2 weeks later, it did. I took it swimming a second time (that's the only thing I bought it for). By then, I'd already figured out that the salt had been a problems, so I planned to rinse it off afterward. I didn't get the chance. It failed while I was in the pool after maybe 10 minutes.

 

A month later, it came back to life, and I gave it to my assistant, who had non-swimming uses for it.

 

 

So my own personal experience is that in a salt-water pool, these fail. One and a quarter uses out of them was not worth the high price, in my book.

post #8 of 15
Ronbo,

Not a good consumer decision there. Liquipel is not intended to be a submersible process - as their warnings told you.

"Liquipel applies a preventative coating designed to aid in the event of accidental liquid exposure, and assumes no responsibility for water damaged devices. Liquipel does not recommend your device ever come in contact with liquid"

Underwater Audio's process is designed to be used UNDERWATER.

I think the problem was in you expectations.
post #9 of 15

I'm on my second waterproof iPod Shuffle:

 

The first was by a company called Swimman (https://www.swimman.com.au) now called Swimpod in the US. I bought the iPod secondhand off eBay, and used it in the pool on average about 40 minutes, 3 times a week, 7 months of the year, for 3 years before it started to intermittently not work, then finally failed. 

 

Swimming is my main fitness outlet (I hate running with a passion), so I was lost without the waterproofed Shuffle. So I bought another one, this time a newer version of the iPod Shuffle waterproofed by Waterfi (http://waterfi.com) – who also 'proof Nike Fuelbands and Amazon Kindles. Waterfi are slightly cheaper than Swimman and the company name-checked in this article, which is why I went with them. The new iPod is better than the Swimman one because it's a newer version of the Shuffle, and it's smaller too.

 

Contrary to what the article says, I don't think you need to do that much careful maintenance of the Shuffle after the swim. All of the waterproofing companies say this, but I think that's mainly to cover if you swim in saltwater (corrosive) – I only did this a dozen or so times with the first one I had. I've never really had a problem – just leave it to air dry upside down so any water comes out through gravity.

 

Personally I think the price that all these companies charge is a bit much for what they provide, and Swimman / Swimpod are particularly guilty of this, although having tried lots of different waterproof earphones, theirs are by the far the best and I'm now on my second pair (the first must've got water in and gave up the ghost before the first iPod did).

 

In conclusion: if you're an avid swimming I can't rate highly enough having a waterproof iPod to train with – whilst expensive for what it is, it's completely worth the money IMO. But they're all much of a muchness, so suggest you just go with the cheapest you can find, but get some decent headphones, same style as the Swimman ones, to get best use of underwater sound.

 

Enjoy!

post #10 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ronbo View Post

I swam once with the device. The next day it was dead.

A friend of mine left his iPhone out in the garden. Sure enough, massive rainfall which lasted all night. So he put it in the oven, yes oven. Set @ 50C with the door ajar. 2 hours later he took it out, let it cool down. Charged it and the damn thing just booted up like there was never a problem. His kid still uses it as an iPod aftr he upgraded the model.

I wonder if this can be done with a Samsung device. I would guess so, since they copy everything, right¿
"See her this weekend. You hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her."
- Roger Sterling
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"See her this weekend. You hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her."
- Roger Sterling
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post #11 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post


A friend of mine left his iPhone out in the garden. Sure enough, massive rainfall which lasted all night. So he put it in the oven, yes oven. Set @ 50C with the door ajar. 2 hours later he took it out, let it cool down. Charged it and the damn thing just booted up like there was never a problem. His kid still uses it as an iPod aftr he upgraded the model.

I wonder if this can be done with a Samsung device. I would guess so, since they copy everything, right¿

Wow. Was that an act of desperation or a "what the hell, might as well" kinda thing?

post #12 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post


A friend of mine left his iPhone out in the garden. Sure enough, massive rainfall which lasted all night. So he put it in the oven, yes oven. Set @ 50C with the door ajar. 2 hours later he took it out, let it cool down. Charged it and the damn thing just booted up like there was never a problem. His kid still uses it as an iPod aftr he upgraded the model.

I wonder if this can be done with a Samsung device. I would guess so, since they copy everything, right¿

 

I left my iPhone 4S outside on the table on our Deck (the phone was my grill-timer).  Left it overnight and it rained.

 

Water was threatening entry into the headphone jack (couldn't tell).

 

A drop was covering the home button and surrounding area (finger-oil and tight tolerances I think kept it out).

 

The camera lens was fogged up on the inside.

 

I was resigned to no more pictures, and accepted my own blame.

 

By midday the camera lens un-fogged itself and it's been fine ever since.

 

I started playing Clash of Clans when the phone was roughly 2 years old (roughly 1 year ago), and that game heats the phone up big time.  Battery life isn't great WHILE playing, but is still good overall.

 

It's been dropped about 3 or 4 times on pavement getting out of the car when I have it on the seat between my legs (dumb).

 

No case either.

 

I'm not even reckless with it.  The above is over 3 years (whenever 4S came out) of daily use.

 

It took 1 year to get 1-inch scratch#1 on the face, and another to get scratch#2.


It's been really awesome.

 

Edit:  iOS7 isn't great on it.  Contacts keep disappearing, and it stutters now and then, but that's small-potato's, as Don Corleone says.

post #13 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by aelegg View Post

^ post

I take it you won't be getting anything other than an iPhone for your next smartphone? Sorry, rhetorical question.
"See her this weekend. You hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her."
- Roger Sterling
Reply
"See her this weekend. You hit it off, come Turkey Day, maybe you can stuff her."
- Roger Sterling
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post #14 of 15
Quote:
Originally Posted by Homie View Post

Ronbo,

Not a good consumer decision there. Liquipel is not intended to be a submersible process - as their warnings told you.

"Liquipel applies a preventative coating designed to aid in the event of accidental liquid exposure, and assumes no responsibility for water damaged devices. Liquipel does not recommend your device ever come in contact with liquid"

Underwater Audio's process is designed to be used UNDERWATER.

I think the problem was in you expectations.

No doubt. However, it was an early product at the time, and there weren't any warnings like you describe—or if they were there, they were quite well hidden. What wasn't hidden was several videos where someone happily put an iPhone in water and showed it continuing to play.  The first I saw of this "Liquipel is not intended to be a submersible process" was at the time of the purchase. And I wasn't aware of any other company making stronger claims. One might expect a competing company to have shouted about precisely the distinction you're making, had there been one. My presumption (untested, since the device died so quickly) had been that the protection was designed for water, but not salt water.

 

But you're telling me that if I buy from Underwater Audio, there won't be any warnings about avoiding prolonged immersion? If so, I might look into their stuff.

post #15 of 15

Ronbo,

I can verify that the Underwater Audio waterproofing process is different than Liquipel!  I work for Underwater Audio doing customer service. They waterproof the iPod on the inside and then make sure that no water can get it.  So prolonged submersion is not a problem. We actually have PLENTY of customers who swim miles and daily with this product and love it.
As to whether the waterproofing process deteriorates? I haven't heard any complaints about that. I also can say that the extra care isn't required, but definitely suggested to keep it clean and free from corrosion.

The only extra care you give it is to keep an eye on that lithium battery. We don't change that out when we are waterproofing them so you have to give extra care for those like Apple recommends. Don't overcharge it and don't put it through temperature extremes.

Underwater Audio actually has a blog about what is required to get the longest life out of the waterproofed shuffle.

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