The Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The Sony Xperia Z Ultra
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

Durban - Anyone who’s ever lost a beloved gadget to water damage knows you don’t have to lead a particularly active lifestyle to fall victim. A slip of the fingers while texting on the loo or taking a call in the rain can be as deadly as a drop off the side of a jetski or into a ravine while bungee jumping.

I’ve long been amazed, given the consumer demand for water resistant gizmos, that more companies aren’t making them.

Thankfully that’s starting to change, with forward thinking manufacturers like Sony having built this quality into their flagship Z range of devices for the past few years, prompting competitors to up their game.

The world’s biggest smartphone maker, Samsung, recently unveiled its new poster child, the Galaxy S5, which boasts imperviousness to the wet stuff among its long list of killer features.

The S5 and Sony’s latest batch of Z2 devices will only land here in several weeks at the earliest, but you can get your hands on a device with duck’s-back-like properties right now.


Samsung Galaxy S4 Active

The S4 is a superb phone, so when Samsung announced a water resistant “Active” version I was thrilled. But would it live up to the hype? After spending a couple of weeks with it, the Active has more than exceeded my expectations.

Although slightly chunkier than its non-dunkable sibling, the Active doesn’t feel bulky. In fact I prefer it’s subtly ruggedised looks to the original, including the gunmetal polycarbonate back and rivets.

Inside, there’s the same quad-core 1.9GHz processor and 2GB of RAM as the S4, so you won’t sacrifice any performance in going active. Like the S4 it runs Android Jelly Bean and should get the upgrade to the latest Kit Kat incarnation whenever the Korean multi-national gets round to rolling it out locally.

To keep it the same price as the original, Samsung has had to make some sacrifices – an 8 MP instead of 13 MP camera and a slightly less brilliant TFT instead of Super Amoled display – but both are worthwhile compromises in my opinion for a phone you can take into the surf or toss to your kids in the pool to shoot underwater selfies with. While it may be water resistant, it doesn’t float so drop it in deep or murky water, it’s probably gone for good.


Sony Xperia Z Ultra

If a 5-inch screen doesn’t float your boat any more, meet the supertanker of smartphones. The Sony Xperia Z Ultra sports a jaw-dropping, hand-stretching 6.4 inch screen, placing it at the top of that class of devices dubbed “phablets” – too small to be called tablets, but too big to be phones.

I love large screened phones – I carry the 5.7 inch Galaxy Note 3 – but even I was initially taken aback by the sheer size of the aptly named Ultra. While it feels substantial, thanks in large part to it’s aluminium and glass construction, it’s surprisingly slim to slip into a pocket or bag.

There’s nothing lumbering about its performance, I can assure you, with the a quad core Spadragon 800 chip sneering at any of the multi-tasking tests I tossed its way. This zero-lag experience coupled with the huge screen made for near perfect web browsing and video watching.

And for the business minded you can edit documents or answer mails using either the touchscreen keyboard or, as I did quite often, an after-market Bluetooth keyboard, turning the Ultra into a mini PC.

If I had to find a gripe it would be the lack of flash on the 8 MP camera. Also, although it’s genuinely water-proof rather than merely water resistant, the Ultra is a little slick and, let’s face it expensive, to risk taking into any truly active environment. I used it to snap pictures chest deep in the surf a few times, but did worry it would slip out of my grip.

For taking that important call in the shower or bath though, it’s just the ticket. Just be careful you don’t activate the video call feature by accident. - Sunday Tribune

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