FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
Star-Bulletin reporter Katherine Nichols tested a waterproof cell phone in the ocean off Kaimana Beach recently. The phone, newly available in Hawaii, can be immersed in shallow water for up to half an hour. It also is shock- and dust-resistant. CLICK FOR LARGE
Waterproof cell phone passes muster in waters off Waikiki
A reporter swims out about a half-mile with the device and then makes some calls
Earlier this week, a woman stared at me as she paddled by on her kayak.
"You talking on the phone?" she laughed.
She had reason to be surprised, as I was, indeed, chatting away on a cell phone while treading water in the bobbing swells beyond the windsock off Kaimana Beach.
» What's unique: Designed to survive immersion in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes. Also dust- and shock-resistant.
» Other features: Mobile Web, e-mail, IM, video and picture messaging, V Cast video streaming, VZ Navigator (maps in real time with audible turn-by-turn directions via GPS technology), 2.0 megapixel camera, 2.2 LCD, hearing aid compatibility.
» Cost: $199 with two-year service contract and $50 rebate
» Online: www.verizonwireless.com
Watersports enthusiasts will be pleased to know that a durable, water resistant mobile phone has hit the market. The Verizon Wireless
G'zOne is perfect for anyone who needs a phone that may get wet, including kayakers and outrigger canoe paddlers, sailors and lifeguards. It's bigger and bulkier than your typical sleek model. But it's also a lot more rugged. Construction workers and others who toil outdoors will appreciate the fact that the $199 cell (with a service contract and rebate) easily withstands dirt, sand, dust and the accidental fumble that sends it bouncing across the cement.
When testing the device, I hooked it onto the side of my bathing suit and swam about a half-mile. In and out of the water, calls were clear, the GPS navigation system pinpointed my location flawlessly (it also will give you verbal directions to where you need to go, though I didn't try that feature in the ocean), and I was able to video stream sports highlights, news updates, clips from David Letterman, and top views on YouTube on the 2.2-inch LCD. In addition, it has a 2.0 megapixel camera.
Before the phone gets wet, the jacks need to be sealed off, an effort that involved a quick check and less than five seconds of my time. Dazzling technology, to be sure. But it's new, and has a few caveats.
Georgia Taylor, the Verizon Wireless spokesperson for Hawaii, was careful to explain that her company is not marketing it as a waterproof phone.
"It's not like you can go diving with it," she said. "But as we go down the road, I think we'll be seeing that."
FL MORRIS / FMORRIS@STARBULLETIN.COM
A new cell phone designed to survive getting dunked was tested recently in waters off Waikiki by Star-Bulletin reporter Katherine Nichols whose conclusion was that the device worked pretty well -- within limits. CLICK FOR LARGE
A PHONE THAT TAKES A DUNKING
Who has not ruined a cell phone with an inadvertent drenching -- ocean, pool or restroom -- or a fumble that sends the precious device bouncing across the cement?
New technology offers a solution. The Verizon Wireless G'zOne ($199 with a service contract and rebate) is seriously water, sweat, sand and dust resistant, and more durable than its sleeker counterparts. Though not fully waterproof, a test run found the mobile phone functional in seawater for up to 30 minutes -- just in case you can't live without sports highlights, YouTube picks, e-mail and phone calls while you're swimming or paddling your outrigger canoe.
The gadget also features a GPS system and a 2.0 megapixel camera.
Demand for increased durability prompted an early model.
Before I experimented with the phone, Verizon Wireless representative Paul Dickey told me not to go deeper than 10 feet -- the manual says 3 feet -- or submerge it for more than 30 minutes. When I asked if I could surf, he shook his head. Though nobody knows for sure, waves might cause a problem. Wet is okay, pressure is not. Hence the limit with depth, time and turbulence.
Obviously, if you're on the open ocean, you don't want the phone to drop accidentally to the bottom (yes, it will sink). A rubberized protective device at the base of the phone provides a perfect place to strap on a buoyant keychain. Problem solved.
When the photographer and I paddled out on surfboards for an underwater photo session, people on the beach took note.
"Your phone is waterproof?" they asked, half expecting to save me from an expensive error.
It was all good, I replied, momentarily basking in the attention the latest toys tend to attract. During this session, however, I felt a little like Cinderella at the ball, worried that my up-to-the-minute gadget might fail me if I took too long to pose for underwater pictures. What if we were out longer than 30 minutes? I had forgotten to set my watch, and the fun suddenly turned into apprehension about pushing the phone's capabilities too far.
Despite its limitations, this new model is a significant improvement over the cell phones most of us have destroyed at one point or another.
Possibly the best news of all is that you won't need to worry about those dreaded, frequent, undisclosed phone casualties in the restroom.