I took the iPhone 15 Pro diving and it helped in more ways than one – TechRadar

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Using the Oceanic+ Dive Housing underwater

(Image credit: Craig Hale/Mark Gosling)

So far, I’ve been impressed with the Oceanic+ app on my Apple Watch Ultra to the point that I’m now using it as my secondary dive computer, alongside a Suunto D5.

While I’m happy with my computer setup, my search for a suitable camera has been less fruitful. I’ve been through a small handful and have so far been disappointed with them all, for various reasons, including low quality and poor battery performance.

When Huish Outdoors – the same firm that designed the Oceanic+ watch app – announced that they would be building a phone housing designed to take care of my iPhone down to 60 meters (far beyond where most recreational divers would ever find themselves), I couldn’t have been more pleased. After all, I’ve stopped using my DSLR on terra firma because my best cameraphone now fits into my pocket. 

Fortunately for me, the Oceanic+ Dive Housing arrived just days before my iPhone 15 Pro, just as the diving season here in the UK is coming to a close.

What can the Oceanic+ Dive Housing do that my camera cannot?

Oceanic+ Dive Housing on-screen display

(Image credit: Huish Outdoors/Oceanic+)

After quite a lengthy setup process (more on my experience with that below), you’ll be met with a full-screen camera view where you can switch between taking photos and videos, or enter a smart mode that takes a photo periodically (you can define this) while filming.

You can also fiddle around with things like contrast, white balance, quality, video stabilization, focus mode, which of the lenses you wish to use (including ultrawide), and file type (including RAW), all of which can be changed on the go underwater via the keypad, which connects to the phone via Bluetooth.

Because the Dive Housing also has its own temperature, depth, and pressure sensors, it serves as its own independent dive computer, separate from any Apple Watch Ultra that may also be running the Oceanic+ app (or just the preinstalled Depth app). Bluetooth signals don’t travel well underwater, so it makes sense for both to be independent. 

The current depth and no deco time are overlaid in the top right, but you can press the keypad to enlarge this view to give you all the same sort of information you would expect from the watch app, including dive time, ascent rate, a compass, and more.

The housing itself is fairly large and has a chunky grip, but you can also choose to attach a lanyard or use one of the three mounting threads. This is really important, because in my case, the entire setup including the titanium iPhone weighs 1,162g, and sinks to the bottom at a pretty alarming rate when dropped. This is a common flaw of most underwater phone housings, but attaching a buoyant light arm or mounting the kit on a tray can counter this.

Once you’re done, photos and videos go straight into the app alongside the dive log, and you can pinpoint exactly when you shot something, along with your depth and the temperature. They’re also saved to the phone’s Photos app.

It’s worth mentioning that it charges with a USB-C connector, which made things really simple because, with the iPhone 15 Pro’s new USB-C connection, I only have to carry one cable.

Like other dive computers, the Oceanic+ watch app and Dive Housing both use the Bühlmann ZHL-16 decompression algorithm, which means it should be just as safe as purpose-built dive watches.

In terms of accuracy, I found that the Oceanic+ app on my watch, the app on my phone, and the Suunto D5 were always within 0.1m of each other.

My dive with the Oceanic+ Dive Housing

Using the Oceanic+ Dive Housing underwater

(Image credit: Craig Hale/Mark Gosling)

With summer drawing to an end in the UK and conditions far from exotic, my nearest dive site at a disused quarry became the testing ground for the Dive Housing.

Once kitted up, my next step was to use the iPhone 15 Pro’s Action button to kick off a routine that I set up using the Shortcuts app. For me, this meant opening the Oceanic+ app, enabling Airplane Mode and Do Not Disturb as per the app’s requirements, and remotely locking my car.

The setup process takes some getting used to and involves multiple on-screen steps before the iPhone is finally placed inside the housing. This is when the device creates a vacuum and a three-minute pressure check is carried out to make sure your phone is safe before you can dive.

I made the mistake of gloving up before setting up the phone, which meant I had to remove the watches from over my gloves in order to take them off so that I could initiate the setup. It was all a bit of a faff, but with a little practice – and much like the entire gearing up process for any dive – it becomes a perfectly choreographed routine.

For the purpose of taking photos with the device, my buddies and I stuck near to the surface where visibility was reasonable and the light had not faded.

Although I was sporting 5mm gloves during the dive, I was still able to use the four-button keypad to switch camera modes and check a more detailed view of my dive. My only gripe about the physical interface is that there’s little feedback from the buttons, so while it’s easy enough to press them, it can sometimes be unclear if you actually have.

Once the photo shoot was over, we headed deeper to where the light had almost faded and visibility was a meter at best. Normally, conditions like these suck the fun out of recreational diving, and having any sense of bearing becomes a real headache.

I found that the iPhone 15 Pro’s camera was able to see more than my own eyes could as the 6.1-inch display turned into a television in front of my face. You’ll see from my photos that the stirred-up sediment from other activity in the quarry-turned-lake did nothing to aid visibility. Navigating through this extra pair of eyes was a refreshing experience, and the on-screen compass could not have been more welcome.

I’m far from a pro photographer, so I ditched the RAW format and stuck to Apple’s HEIF, which allows the software to automatically color-correct photos and videos. I was pleased to be able to use the iPhone’s full 4K 60fps functionality – the higher frame rate allows divers to take stills of anything interesting during a video with much more accuracy. The whole time, I stuck to using the 12MP 0.5x ultrawide lens, and didn’t notice a major drop in vision from the 120-degree field of view compared with my DJI Osmo Action 3’s 155-degree field of view. 

I did notice that, in shallower waters and where sunlight is particularly strong, a reflection can sometimes appear mid-shot because the iPhone’s lenses sit a few millimeters away from the outer case of the Dive Housing. However, conditions were poor and even the professional camera being used to photograph me with dazzling 20,000-lumen lights was struggling. It’s also not a unique problem to the Oceanic+ kit, and many other phone housings suffer from this too. Huish Outdoors told me that adjusting the position of the iPhone can help eliminate this, particularly moving it to the left.

Having a good sense of your surroundings, conditions, and dive parameters at all times is key to a successful dive, and while staring through a screen is definitely not recommended, having that extra tool in my hands was a game-changer. A regular underwater camera or action camera would not be able to put all of this information in one place.

Will I continue to use the Oceanic+ Dive Housing?

Oceanic+ Dive Housing in protective case with parts and spares

(Image credit: Huish Outdoors/Oceanic+)

Let’s get the price out of the way, because at nearly $500 it’s an incredibly expensive piece of kit. Add that to the iPhone 15 Pro’s $999 / £999 / AU$1,849 price tag, and another $799 / £799 / AU$1,399 if you’re after the latest Apple Watch Ultra 2, and it becomes expensive very quickly.

Despite this, I think the Oceanic+ Dive Housing is still good value for money. That’s because you can easily spend over $300 / £300 / AU$500 on a DJI Osmo Action 3 or GoPro Hero 12 before adding dive-specific accessories, and that’s a device that you’ll likely want to replace fairly regularly as camera technology improves.

I replace my iPhone every year – or most years – anyway, which means I can have the latest camera technology inside the same Dive Housing several years later.

If reading about my success with the Oceanic+ Dive Housing has got you wanting one, you can order the device from $490 in the US, £519 in the UK, and AU$979 in Aus. 

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With several years’ experience freelancing in tech and automotive circles, Craig’s specific interests lie in technology that is designed to better our lives, including AI and ML, productivity aids, and smart fitness. He is also passionate about cars and the decarbonisation of personal transportation. As an avid bargain-hunter, you can be sure that any deal Craig finds is top value!

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