Man vs Tech: can these gadgets stick it underwater?

When Britain floods, will we be able to keep calm and carry on, underwater? More importantly, will we be able to send emails and update our social media?

Our parents lived in fear during the Cold War, but now climate change is the hot topic. As the ice sheets and glaciers melt, so the seas are rising. Low-lying islands in the Pacific are already being submerged, while bits of East Anglia are crumbling into the sea.

How long before the whole of Blighty is plunged into the drink? How long before we complete the evolutionary circle and return to living underwater? I checked the internet and the answer is: not nearly as long as you might think. Myriad further questions need answering.

Assuming we don’t instantly revolve back to growing gills and other useful fishy bits, how will we function day to day? How will we earn the income to support our gadget-obsessed lives? How the hell will we update Facebook?

These are big, scary and pressing questions. But fear not. Presumably, key technology companies have received the tip-off, because many gadgets are already conditioned for underwater use in our imminently subaqueous world.

But are they actually any good? I’m here to find out for you. I’m going to spend a whole working day underwater (apart from when I need to breathe and wee).

On the case

As a journalist, long gone are the days of pen, paper and frantically pretending you can do shorthand. From smartphones to tablets to, erm, wiretapping devices, the media, like many industries, has become heavily reliant on technology and gadgets. But is the technology now advanced enough that I can do a whole day’s work underwater? Let’s see.

First up is checking Faceb..., er, work emails. No problem. My iPad is tucked safely into an Aquapac Waterproof Case for iPad and works brilliantly – I can swipe and tap away almost as normal. I reply succinctly to a couple of my more urgent emails (but not the one from the T3 editor demanding a cup of tea), update social media (of course) and even view a short video clip (kittens wearing KKK hats – who knew racism could be soooo cuuuutee!).

Half an hour later, I suppose I’d better do some real work. Sigh. I start writing up a T3 review of – why not? – the Aquapac Waterproof Case for iPad. While using the Aquapac Waterproof Case for iPad. It feels beautifully post-modern. Or something. I’m right in the zone when I’m rudely interrupted by a call, on my waterproof Sony Xperia Z3 smartphone, from the T3 editor.

He must really want that tea. I can hear some warped, distant shouting sounds but, when I try to answer, my mouth fills with water. I hang up, burp quite a lot, then text him back – which is easily done – reminding him that he’s asked me to work underwater all day, and that renders tea-making problematic. Ironically, I could kill for a cuppa myself (now there’s an idea, gadget makers). He doesn’t text back. Tyrant (too right – Ed).

While I’ve got my smartphone in hand, I take a selfie (cos I is down with the kidz, innit) and post it online. Social-media updates aren’t strictly in my journalist job description, but then neither is spending a day in a swimming pool dressed in a suit.

Snappy behaviour

Us journalists increasingly need to be multimedia hacks, able to take photos and record video – all of which smartphones are very useful for. But they still rarely beat hardware that’s dedicated to a specific task, such as the humble stalwart, the camera.

I often have to do my own photography, for reviews, crime-scene visits and, er, a higher standard of selfie. Many smartphones take very capable shots nowadays, but you often can’t fine-tune settings like you can on a proper camera.

Luckily, the rugged Panasonic LUMIX DMC-FT30 is perfectly suited for underwater work, so I snap away. If a crime happens here, I’m all over it! After a while, it becomes obvious that, unless I mug myself, that’s unlikely to happen. Swimming pools don’t offer a great deal of shot variety, either, so I soon resort to taking pics of my own ugly mug again. Which soon becomes pretty wearisome.

Though both the smartphone and camera will take video, you can’t beat a dedicated device. GoPros promise high-quality, high-resolution footage from an impressively tiny box. And having a camera strapped to my forehead means I have two hands free for, er... high-fiving octopi when I take this set-up into the big blue. Or typing, I suppose. After I’ve messed about with it for a while – and realised that recording sound might be an issue – I make some review notes on the iPad. But, wayyydaminute! I check my waterproof GPS watch to find that it’s my lunch break. Time to eat (umm...), while kicking back and listening to some choons. What, even underwater? Yarp! The Sony Waterproof Walkman has a tiny MP3 player built into the ears and works up to two metres beneath the surface, so I can get the Roxette fix I not only badly need but fully deserve.

Sure, the voice-command feature is ineffective on the Sony SmartWatch 3, but during lunch I can still keep track of incoming messages on my wrist. And I can swipe through screens just as I used to in the long-gone pre-flooded world. Plus, if I did fancy a bit of a lunchtime workout – the only real option here being a swim – the watch has GPS tracking and all sorts of enviable fitness geekery.

After lunch, I carry on. Typing and, more crucially, social-media use are easily done, photos and film-footage-gathering are fairly straightforward,
while exchanging messages in a variety of formats is disappointingly easy (I thought I’d have escaped the T3 editor’s tyrannical rule for the day).
Of course, tech manufacturers have yet to provide underwater phones that you can talk into – but then, our bodies haven’t adapted to that concept yet, either. Burp. And who does talking any more, anyway?

Tech also can’t do much about my ears filling with water (except when I had my earphones in), or my fingers going all crinkly. My soggy sandwiches weren’t the tastiest lunch I’ve ever had, and if I want two dollops of chlorine in my tea, I’ll ask for it. Other than that, though, I pretty much got a full working day in underwater. We may be able to survive the impending flood armageddon yet.

Dive into underwater tech

Aquapac waterproof case for iPad

This case is fastened by an Aquaclip, a rustproof seal that’s claimed to keep water out, while TPU material means tapping is almost as normal. You can plug in headphones and use a shoulder strap – ideal for dashing off to vital underwater meetings.


Sony Xperia Z3

Sony claims that the Z3 is one of the most waterproof and dust-resistant phones around. It can stay up to two metres underwater for 60 minutes, and will withstand jets of water, too (so it shouldn’t be a problem if it’s urinated on. Phew).


Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT30

This camera is waterproof to eight metres for up to 60 minutes, shockproof from up to 1.5 metres and freezeproof down to -10Ëš Celsius. That is, as long as its seal lid is securely closed. A silicone case prevents the battery compartment opening in water.


GoPro Hero+ LCD

For a tiny box, the new GoPro Hero+ LCD packs a lot of tech. It can take 1080p60/720p60 video and 8MP photos, it’ll connect via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth to your device for checking live composition, and it’s waterproof to three metres.


Sony Smartwatch 3 SWR50

512MB of RAM and a 2GHz quad-core processor mean this watch is roaring with power. It packs a 1.6-inch 320 x 320 transflective display, and is IP68-certified water- and dustproof. It also responds to voice commands (above water, at least).


Sony Waterproof Walkman NWZ-W273

This is a surprisingly comfortable ear-hugging jukebox, offering 4GB or 8GB of capacity, up to eight hours of battery life, and access to a shuffle function and playlists. We’re also a fan of the three-minute quick- charging function.


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