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Magellan ToughCase Review


  • Makes iPhone waterproof and shock resistant
  • Built-in power cells double iPhone battery life
  • Built-in high accuracy GPS chipset


  • iPhone 3 generation only
  • Expensive
  • No software included

Key Specifications

  • Review Price: £175.00
  • Rugged shockproof chassis
  • Waterproof to IPX7 standard
  • Built-in SiRFstarIII GPS chipset
  • Built-in 1,840mAh battery
  • Belt clip supplied

A dedicated hiking GPS is a special breed of device – rugged and functional, but not necessary that user friendly. Compared to a top-grade smartphone, it can be a pretty clunky experience. Wouldn’t it be great if you could have the best of both worlds? If you’re an iPhone owner, Magellan has a solution for you. It’s called the ToughCase, and it has everything you need to take your phone out in the elements.

Well, that is, if it’s an iPhone 3, iPhone 3GS, or an iPod Touch. If you have any of these, the ToughCase will totally encase your device and protect it. The phone slots in and connects at the bottom. You then close the glass-fronted door and secure the catches. A rubber washer seals the door shut, and Magellan has thoughtfully provided an extra in the box. Once closed, the ToughCase meets the IPX 7 standard. This means it will resist being submerged in up to 1m of water for half an hour. It’s also shock resistant, although in this case Magellan doesn’t quote a particular international standard. So if you accidentally drop it in a puddle, or get caught in a rainstorm, your phone should be just fine.

The phone will mostly be usable as normal, as virtually all ports and switches have been passed through to the ToughCase exterior. There are power buttons positioned on the top, one for the iPhone and one for the iPod Touch. Volume controls are available on the side. The ear speaker at the top and the microphone and main speaker on the bottom are covered by rubber membranes which let the audio out, so you can still use the iPhone as a phone. The camera also has a window cut out on the rear of the ToughCase, so you can continue to take snaps of your location when out hiking.

Key ports have been passed through, too. There’s a USB 2 connection, although this can only be used for charging, and a headphone jack on the side, although this doesn’t support the microphone portion of an iPhone headset. Both are covered by rubber doors, so the ToughCase won’t be waterproof when they are in use. The big omission is the proprietary iPhone connection. So if you happen to have an iPhone-specific car charger, you will have to switch this for a standard USB-based one. You will also need to remove the iPhone from the ToughCase should you want to sync it with a desktop system. There’s no way of accessing the mute button, either.
Magellan ToughCase
Most importantly of all, though, the capacitive touch screen is fully operational, because the window covering it lets the minute electrical field around your fingers through. It’s not entirely business as usual here, though, as the bezel round the edge of the screen is about 5mm deep, making it hard to access things right at the edge of the display. This makes typing with the onscreen keyboard rather less seamless than it was. At this point, it also becomes fairly obvious why Magellan hasn’t quoted any specifics on the shock resistance. Most of the casing is exceptionally solid, and looks like you could probably run it over without mishap. But the thin plastic required to allow the capacitive screen to remain usable is unlikely to survive a direct hit from something hard and sharp travelling at speed.
Magellan ToughCase
The ToughCase is more than just rugged protection for your iPhone, too. It’s large and heavy for other reasons as well. Inside there’s a 1,840mAh battery and SiRFstarIII GPS receiver. The battery effectively doubles the usable life of your iPhone, so it will be much more useful for extensive hiking trips. The GPS is more accurate and locks more quickly than the one built into an iPhone, giving your position to within 3-5m. The GPS receiver also means you can use the ToughCase to provide an iPod Touch with location-finding facilities. There’s a cradle in the box for use with an iPod Touch, to make up for the thinner chassis. Rubber buttons on the bottom let you check the current battery level, and turn both the latter and the built-in GPS receiver on and off as required. There’s also a master switch inside the case, which disengages the battery entirely to preserve charge and when the ToughCase is in transit.

Although the ToughCase is pretty bulky for a trouser pocket, there are other options. The rear of the unit has a connection for a lanyard, and there’s a slot to attach a windscreen mount or belt clip, with the latter included in the package. This isn’t something you would wear in the city, but it’s definitely an option when out hiking, where having a fat gadget attached to your midriff would not be out of place.
Magellan ToughCase
The one thing that isn’t included is any software, and Magellan doesn’t offer anything of its own to go with the ToughCase. So here you’re on your own. We tried the ToughCase with a range of GPS-enabled apps, including sat-nav software aimed at vehicular use, Google Maps, and more hiking-oriented software such as Gaia GPS. Everything we used appeared to be compatible with the ToughCase GPS chip, and although it wasn’t obvious in most cases thatt this was providing more accuracy than the built-in iPhone chipset, it did appear to benefit the app. This is the high-tech treasure hunt we’ve explained in detail before. The ToughCase took us closer to the geocache location than the iPhone on its own, making discovery that little bit easier.


The Magellan ToughCase performs its duties with aplomb, but it has a couple of major problems. Although only just released in the UK, it arrived in the US about a year ago. Whilst its limitation to the iPhone 3 generation and iPod Touch wouldn’t have been such an issue back then, this makes it a bit more outmoded now. It’s also surprisingly expensive, costing £175, which is close to the price of an entry-level standalone hiking sat-nav such as Garmin’s Dakota 20. But these issues aside, if you are an iPhone 3 or iPod Touch owner hoping to take advantage of the wealth of outdoor-oriented GPS apps available, it does the job well.

Trusted Score

Score in detail

  • Battery Life 9
  • Value 6
  • Features 7
  • Performance 10
  • Design 8
  • Usability 7


General Features 1,840mAh battery, SiRFstarIII GPS chipset

Physical Specifications

Height (Millimeter) 149mm
Width (Millimeter) 76.5mm
Depth (Millimeter) 33mm
Weight (Gram) 0.2123g

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