You don't have to be a hard-core rock climber or surfer to reap the benefits of water- and dust-resistant smartphones. In fact, our most precious handheld computers could all benefit from designs that protect their delicate electronic innards from the wet and grime.
These recent smartphones all have waterproofing characteristics in common -- to a limit. You shouldn't have to worry about them falling into a puddle, but neither should you plan on taking them into the hot tub for a nice, long soak.
Samsung's Galaxy S4 Active makes waves
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active (AT&T)
Samsung's Galaxy S4 Active is packed with Android 4.2.2 features, including a very fast processor and a bright, 5-inch display. Yet it's the sporty design, waterproof and dustproof characteristics, and underwater camera mode that are really meant to draw people in. The IP67 rating means that the Active, like the other phones in this list, can withstand a dunk to the depth of a meter (about 3 feet) for up to 30 minutes.
That is, of course, just as long as the rubber gasket underneath the back panel is completely sealed and the Micro-USB port is fully plugged. Beyond that, there have been reports of phones with faulty seals, so buyer, always beware.
There is some fallback, though. AT&T has said that it will let you trade in a water-damaged S4 Active for a new model. Read the full review of the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active.
Sony Xperia Z: waterproof and chocolate-proof?
Sony Xperia Z (T-Mobile)
The attractive Xperia Z is T-Mobile's answer to AT&T's S4 Active, and its completely sealed chassis means it'll be much harder for water to slip in through the fused back panel. On the other hand, you won't be able to swap out the battery either.
Unfortunately, the Android 4.1 Xperia Z, which at full retail price sells for $99 down with T-Mobile and $580 once all the payments are in, falls short of the $199 on-contract S4 Active when it comes to camera performance, processing speed, and battery life. It isn't a bad phone all in all, but the Z also isn't our top pick. However, the current T-Mobile price of $0 down makes it more appealing. Read the full Sony Xperia Z review.
Dive in with the Kyocera Hydro Edge
Kyocera Hydro Edge (Sprint, Boost Mobile)
Like others in Kyocera's Hydro family of smartphones, the Kyocera Hydro Edge is a waterproof, dustproof device. A little smaller than others in this category, the Edge is a thicker, grippier handset with a 4-inch display that also makes it easier to hold when wet or dry.
Specs for this Android 4.1 Jelly Bean smartphone are a little on the lower end, especially in terms of processor and camera prowess, but so is the price -- only $20 oncontract after a two-year service agreement. Read our hands-on with the Kyocera Hydro Edge.
The Casio G'zOne Commando 4G LTE is a Hulk of a handset
Casio Gz'One Commando 4G LTE (Verizon)
The next generation in Verizon and Casio's tough phone relationship, the Commando 4G LTE, tweaks the rugged phone's design with no-slip rubberized edges, sharp peaks, and red accents for flair. Inside, an older version of Android -- 4.0 instead of 4.2 -- is somewhat disappointing, but it meets military standards for shock, water, dust, vibration, salt fog, humidity, solar radiation, low pressure, and high and low temperatures. Read our Casio Gz'One Commando 4G LTE review.
AT&T's tenacious NEC Terrain
NEC Terrain (AT&T)
A ruggedized offering from AT&T and little-known smartphone maker NEC, the Terrain ($99 on-contract) has midrange Android features, a portrait QWERTY keyboard, and push-to-talk features. It's certainly among the most legitimately rugged phones of the bunch, at least on paper. You better believe we'll give the Terrain a thorough dunking in the coming weeks. Read our NEC Terrain review.
ZTE Reef (Virgin Mobile)
Water-resistant for up to 3 feet and for 30 minutes, Virgin Mobile's Reef is an otherwise entry-level Android smartphone that runs on version 4.1 of Google's OS. The big draw here? The 3G phone's $150 price tag...and that's about it. Read our ZTE Reef review.