Falling Short: Thule Atmos 5X iPhone 6/6s Case Review

Lisa Schell Accessories, Gear Leave a Comment

Thule Atmos 5X iPhone 6/6s Case

It’s inevitable. Some day, somewhere, somehow, you are going to destroy your smartphone.

Maybe you flood it in some sort of yard sale fall on the Maliko downwind run, or you leave it on top of your car as you check your tie-downs and drive off. (“Hey Lisa, what was that sound??”) Or, your rugged, outdoor, impervious case just flat out fails.

It will happen.

To all of us.

There is no such thing as an impervious case.

Any so-called waterproof protective device WILL EVENTUALLY WEAR OUT. There is no such thing as an impervious case. As water people and consumers, the sooner we accept this, the happier and less frustrating our high-tech, connected lives will be. Seals and o-rings degrade over time, dry bags get holes in them, soft sided cases rip or tear. Nothing last forever. Phone companies have started to realize this, and are starting to offer better insurance and replacement plans. Manufactures are starting to build in better water resistance in their products as well. (Check out this interesting article in Wired Magazine: http://www.wired.com/2015/10/waterproof-iphone-6s/ )

That said, s#*^ is always going to happen.

Ever since it hit the market, the Lifeproof case has been my go-to for day to day use. But, I routinely check it’s o-ring and seals on the charging and headphone ports. At the first sign of wear and tear, it goes into a plastic sleeve and into the dry bag. Or into the trash and I get a new one. That gets pricey. After a recent experience, I am suddenly more interested in good drop protection, not just water tightness. Even though I know that nothing is going to keep my phone safe from a 6 foot plus fall on to concrete aggregate at 50 miles per hour.

In the interest of full disclosure, I work for REI. So, I went to my store to get a case for my new iPhone 6s. None in stock. But we did have the new Thule Atmos 5x case. (Thule. Rhymes with Julie, not drool.) The Swedish folks who make car racks.
Thule Atmos 5X iPhone 6/6s Case Review

No, the Atmos 5X case does not mount on to your crossbars auto-magically, thus saving it from those 50 mph free falls. Thule has recently started making some pretty cool non-rack gear, including fantastic backpacks, messengers bags and now phone cases.


Here was the chance to try a new case from a company I have confidence in.

I so wanted to love this case. It is rugged yet stylish. It fits nicely in my hand. And most importantly, the design is totally form following function. The two pieces of the case lock together with clamps or snaps on all four sides. It has the high IP68 rating and it’s ports promised to work with third party headphones and power cords.

But a co-worker warned me that the Touch ID pad functionality is compromised and he returned his for that reason.


I don’t really depend on the Touch ID fingerprint recognition all that much.

First off, I was impressed with how snugly the Atmos 5X cradles the phone. Super solid. Almost too solid. It is hard to get the phone out. To the point where I worry I am going to compromise its water tightness. But, that’s a part of its drop protection.

To my surprise, the Touch ID function worked just fine for me. No issue there.

Accessing the drop down screens from the top and bottom of the iPhone screen was a bit tricky but not too annoying.


Then I took my first call… Oh dear.

My caller could hear me just fine, but she sounded like she was calling from the Delta Quadrant, where she was trapped in a tin can.

I decided to re-seat the phone in the case. Maybe I just installed it wrong. Nope. No change in sound quality and now my Touch ID is not working nearly as well.

Full screen functionality is always going to be compromised to some extent the more rugged and beefy the case. That I can accept. I can even tolerate a modicum of sound quality degradation.

But this is ridiculous. My incoming callers should not sound like Doctor Who calling from deep inside the Pandorica Box.

I really don’t want to return this case, but unfortunately that’s probably the way this is going to go.

And that’s really a shame. So much potential, Thule, so much potential.

Rated: 1 out of 10 Mullets