Hydra by Ballistic — $80

Lifeproof phone cases have become extremely popular due to the high protection they offer from water. Ballistic hopes to catch some of that success with the Hydra, a slim, waterproof case that provides quality protection.

The obvious feature is the ability to use your phone underwater. Ballistic claims that you can submerge your handset for up to 30 minutes at a distance of 7 feet. I wasn’t that bold in my testing, but everything worked perfectly after being in a filled sink for five minutes.

The case keeps the ports uncovered enough for most accessories to work while enclosed, however, anything that has a bulky connector will likely not fit.

It’s easy to notice how similar the Lifeproof and Hydra cases look. Both feature a slim fit that won’t take up a lot of room in a pocket or bag. The cases are also available in multiple colors.

The Ballistic Hydra offers some of the best protection for your phone on land and in the water. It’s definitely recommended to anyone looking to take some underwater pictures with their phone. www.goballisticcase.com

Galaxy S4 by Samsung

The Galaxy line of smartphones has propelled itself to the top of the Android mountain with relative ease. This year’s incarnation is better in many ways, but is it worth the upgrade?

Samsung’s added Air Gestures have caught the eye of many consumers. You can now answer your phone simply by waving your hand across the screen. In theory it seems neat, and the implementation works fairly well. I have a hard time finding a use for it though.

Smart Scroll is a new feature that uses the front camera to perform certain tasks. For instance, you can scroll through an application by moving your head up and down. It takes a little time to get used to and it can be hard to use in dark areas. Support for Smart Scroll is the biggest disappointment, as some of Google’s own applications cannot utilize the feature.

A similar new feature called Smart Pause uses the camera to pause movies when you look away. I didn’t have much success with this feature outside of a video that was preloaded onto the phone.

Almost every aspect of the older S3 is upgraded in the new model. Battery life has once again improved in a big way. It took almost two days of regular use before charging was needed.

The design of the phone will be a little disappointing to owners of previous Galaxy phones. Samsung has yet to move to a metal body with their flagship handset. However, the addition of Gorilla Glass 3 for the screen makes it one of the hardest phones to break.

The Galaxy camera has received a mammoth upgrade this year and now boasts 13-megapixels of power for photos. You can also now shoot video and take pictures simultaneously with the front and back cameras.

Those that fell in love with Samsung’s previous Galaxy models will feel right at home with the S4. The handset is improved in almost all areas and remains the Android phone to beat. However, those that don’t care for the added motion features might want to wait until next year to upgrade.

Price varies among service providers. www.samsung.com/GalaxyS4

Contact Chris Pittman at cpittman@annistonstar.com.