Everything about the Incipio ATLAS ID rugged waterproof case for iPhone 5 and 5s screams quality. The fit and finish is excellent, the plastic precisely molded, and the seams all appear perfectly lined up. Better still, the sealed touchscreen cover is made out of tempered glass. It feels great.

Of course, the point of all this is that the ATLAS ID case is waterproof, dust proof, sand proof, mud proof, and margarita proof. If you’re clumsy with your smartphone — or just like to get outside in wet and wild places like me — you need a case to protect your iPhone. First, you want to protect the iPhone device itself and not fry hundreds of dollars by dropping your iPhone in the water. Second, when you’re busy snapping photos and taking video of the best vacation ever, you don’t want to lose all your great footage. And third, if you’re off the beaten path, you might actually need to use your iPhone to find your way back or call for help.

Or you like to read in the bathtub.

The Incipio ATLAS ID works great for all these things. Here’s a closer look:

Inside the Incipio ATLAS ID Ultra-Rugged Case

The ATLAS ID is compatible with the iPhone 5s and its Touch ID fingerprint reader security system. That’s handy, of course. The ingress protection is rated at IP68, and the case passed the U.S. Military standard MIL-STD-810G rating. All of this means that the case meets key third-party standards and is rated to be waterproof down to 6.5 feet for 30 minutes, is dust proof, and can handle vibration and the shock from some pretty solid drops.

This is important because Incipio does something rare in the rugged case world: Incipio offers its U.S. customers a warranty that not only includes the case — it also includes the device. That’s right, if your iPhone gets wet and dies while inside your registered Incipio ATLAS ID case, you get it repaired or replaced. The data will most likely be gone, of course, but still — this one-year warranty offers outstanding peace of mind. (To get the warranty, you’ll need to download a free ATLAS app and register and buy version created for sale in U.S. markets. The international version costs about $10 less and doesn’t have the warranty.)

incipio ATLAS case

The Incipio ATLAS ID uses a sheet of tempered glass as its sealed screen protector.

The glass cover offers an excellent look and feel, and the case comes in a front half and a back half that snap together. The back includes a rubber cushion, which the top portion snaps into to form a watertight seal. When you assemble the case, take care to inspect this seal for debris, sand, or hair, all of which could compromise the seal. The ATLAS comes with a microfiber cloth to clean your screen protector and phone, but you’ll want to use it all over the inside of the case. My case had a few small bits and pieces of cardboard or paper inside. I prefer not to see that, but it’s fairly common. Wipe it out and you’ll be fine.

The bottom of the case has a pop-off panel that covers up your Lightning port. Below the panel, the speaker and microphone is already protected by the main case. The headphone port includes a small rubber plug — to use the headphones, you’ll need to pop the plug out (it remains attached) and plug in a headphone adapter plug that includes rubber seals. (Adapters are par for the course among waterproof cases.)

The volume buttons are a little hard on the side of the case, but they work, as does the sleep/wake button. Photos and video look great through the glass lens covers — I didn’t detect any distortion.

As for long-term swimming or snorkeling, the ATLAS warranty should give you a bit more confidence — but I’m hard-pressed to recommend any serious swimming. For example, the bottom panel goes on snug, but if you’re roughhousing in the water with kids, a swimsuit or hard kick could snag it open and expose the Lightning port. (Consider a dedicated waterproof camera for roughhouse or hours-long swimming.) But shooting video in the rain? You bet. Wading in the water and taking photos above and just below the surface? You bet. Texting in the tub? Sure. Camping, backpacking, skiing? Definitely. Small kids around? No problem.

Of course, as with any waterproof case, your callers will sound slightly muffled to you, but most people report hearing clear audio on the other end. The speakers work but are somewhat muffled.

Minor Quibble

My own real quibble with the ATLAS ID case is that it’s not immediately easy to remove your iPhone. To install the iPhone, you tip the bottom slightly into the case, then snap it closed. Get it unsnapped isn’t so hard, but grabbing the half-covered iPhone to remove it from the top cover takes some care. The good news is that your iPhone has a snug, protected fit. The point is, if you want a waterproof case that you’ll take on and off frequently, I’d point you toward the OtterBox Preserver Series instead.

Some users have reported issues with the touch screen being responsive, but it worked great for me — the glass cover rested flat against my iPhone 5.

All-in-all, the ATLAS ID for iPhone 5/5s — especially with the device warranty — is damn hard to beat.

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About the author

Chris Maxcer

Twitter Website

I’ve been writing about the tech industry since the birth of the email newsletter, and I still remember the clacking Mac keyboards from high school — Apple’s seed-planting strategy at work. I’m a big fan of elegant gear and great tech, but there’s something to be said for turning it all off — or most of it — to go outside. Online I like to call out cool stuff on Wicked Cool Bite and blog with my buddies at Man Makes Fire. To catch me, take a “firstnamelastname” guess at the url of this site.