I often joked that if a specific item can’t do the one thing it’s supposed to do well, all of the other features and accessories don’t mean a thing. So if a smartphone can do a myriad of different tasks but fails at being a telephone it’s little more than a pocket computer. That is why I’m so critical of newfangled technologies. Few actually succeed at the task at hand and try to distract the buyer with other albeit flashier bits and pieces. I suppose that’s why I enjoyed Hitcase’s waterproof Splash case for the iPhone 7/8 so much. Heck, I even listed Hitcase as a video sponsor for most of 2020 although I paid for the case out-of-pocket.
It did exactly as advertised; it protected my smartphone from water intrusion, dirt, and dust flawlessly. And it did so without muffling speaker sound, interrupting phone calls or stifling its touchscreen. Frankly, the Splash case was one of the best I had ever reviewed for The Watercraft Journal, and I mean that with zero hyperbole. The biggest concern also proved correct in that it was the only item to fail: the rubberized charging port plug. After a year and a half of use, the stiff rubber plug cracked and tore off, leaving my once waterproof phone case effectively useless.
Finding myself newly loyal to the Hitcase brand, I sought to replace it posthaste. Unfortunately, the Splash appeared discontinued so I sought out its replacement. That appeared in the form of the Hitcase Shield Link case. Meeting my primary requirement – that being waterproof – the Shield Link also offered a bevy of other features: mainly, a slim-but-rigid “drop-proof” aluminum frame, and its compatibility with TrueLUX camera lenses. It also came with a rubberized “Air Shield” if I chose not to use the Aqua Shield screen cover (which, I wouldn’t).
At first blush, the redesigned two-piece case appeared…underwhelming. The aluminum frame was stout enough, but the thin Aqua Shield felt thin and flimsy. After properly cleaning and prepping both my iPhone 8 and the case, the two sealed up rather nicely. Yet, almost immediately I was struck with the challenge of prying open the redesigned power port plug. Swinging on a hinge, the plug is much softer than before, and even despite its extended ear, was impossible to grasp between my fingers. Even after a month of use, it often requires using anything nearby to pry it open.
Thankfully yes, the Hitcase Shield Link is waterproof and its chromed knob and buttons are far easier and tactile to use than the outgoing rubberized Splash case. Yet, that is pretty much where my praise ends. Almost all calls not set on “speaker” are muffled, particularly for those on the receiving end. This has required me to extract my phone from the case multiple times just to complete a call – an equally frustrating task. Most curious though is the Link Mount System for which gives the Shield Link its name.
The Link Mount is an adhesive-backed metal plate designed to stick to the inside of the clear plastic shielding on the phone’s back. This plate is intended to act as a conduit for wireless charging the phone. Interestingly though, the plate did exactly the opposite, literally blocking my phone from receiving a charge from both my desk top wireless charging puck as well as my truck’s wireless dock. Curious, I opened up the case yet again, peeled off the plate, reassembled the case, and viola my phone was charging again.
In a little over a month’s time, the signs of wear and tear showed far sooner than the previous Splash. The black paint covering the aluminum frame began to show chips and scratches (again, I’m pretty tough on phone cases). The thin waterproof shield gathers quite a bit of dust in its seams, requiring a good cleaning with some alcohol and a Q-tip prior to this photoshoot. Thankfully, the slick film on the rubberized port plug has gone away, making opening it only half as difficult. (*sigh*)
Priced at $69.99 on Hitcase’s own website, the Shield Link case for iPhone 7/8 can be found for half of that cost (if not more) on both Amazon and through other online retailers. Of course, given that it hampers your smartphone’s primary function so badly that it’ll spend half of its time removed, it’s really not worth the money. For a brand that hit it so far out of the park with an old design, it’s disappointing that its replacement is so flawed. So until I can find a new-in-box discontinued Hitcase Splash case, I’ll be living with this one for a while.