You’ve had that feeling before, or at least know someone who has had it happen to them…
That pristine expensive smartphone that has been dry as a bone its whole life has just been dropped in water.
You (or that person you saw) furiously scrambles to get the phone out and dry it off in classic fashion by burying it in a bowl of rice. But are there smartphones that are waterproof?
Most modern smartphones are rated as water-resistant and not waterproof, with some models that can be submerged under fresh clean water for up to 30 minutes. The original rating, time, and type of liquid all affect a smartphones resistance to water.
Since different smartphones have various water-resistant performance, it is important to determine how well it can handle that accidental dunk in the water in case it ever happens to you.
I dive in more detail below and outline the factors that can impact the spill protection of these expensive devices.
Your Smartphone is Only as Water Resistant as it’s Approved Rating
You may have seen a string of letters and numbers on a product or its packaging that starts with an IP.
This is a rating that is approved by the International Electrotechnical Commission and tells how tough an electronic device can handle mother nature’s elements.
These ratings usually contain two numbers. The first, on a scale of 1 to 6, determines a device’s protection against solid objects, such as dust, dirt, and sand. The second is on a scale of 1 to 8 and shows a device’s ability to keep moisture out.
This Wikipedia article has easy to read charts for the IP code and what each number represents along both scales.
If you do not have you product packaging lying around for your smartphone, you can also go to the manufacturer’s website to find your IP code and determine its water-resistance rating.
Most newer smartphones, like the iPhone XS and Samsung Galaxy S10, have IP68 ratings – which are highly dust and water resistant.
For these smartphones in particular Apple only recommends a submersion of up to 2 meters of water for a half hour and Samsung recommends submersion up to 1.5 meters and also a half hour.
Although today’s smartphones are highly rated for water and dust resistance, both manufacturers strongly encourage customers to leave their devices out of the water. Any liquid damage will void the manufacturer warranty.
Water Resistance Gets Worse As Time Goes On
Imagine you are driving a brand new car off the dealer parking lot. Crisp button presses, good seals around the doors, and no water leaks.
Smartphones are built similarly to vehicles since they contain rubber gaskets and seals that allow them to repel dust, dirt, and water.
Over time as these devices are continually exposed to the elements and varying ranges of temperature and humidity. This degrades the effectiveness of the rubber to seal these devices and will create openings for objects and moisture.
So even if two devices have the same IP rating, the newer phone will be able to protect from solids and liquids better than the older unit.
If you have owned your smartphone for longer than a few months, it is best to assume that the device has lost its original rating to water resistance since the rubber is worn.
In this case, extra care should be taken to avoid dunks and spills. And you should definitely keep a bowl of rice handy in the kitchen.
If you own an older smartphone or find yourself around water often, consider investing in a waterproof case, like this top-rated case on Amazon, or this waterproof pouch under $8 that’s also on Amazon handy when you need it in a pinch.
Waterproof cases and pouches are nice because they provide an extra layer of protection between liquids and the smartphone. In addition, they can be replaced at a fraction the price that is required to repair a water-damaged phone.
Smartphone Water Resistance Does Not Mean “Pool or Ocean Resistance”
This one even surprised me when I conducted my in depth research for this article.
The IP rating that is approved for smartphones only refers to liquids that are pure and clean, meaning fresh water only.
Coffee and Coke spills are a much worse story than drinking water spills.
The extra chemicals that are inside these other drinks can dry as a sticky or corrosive substance that can harm the internal components of smartphones.
So is hot versus cold water. Hot water can negatively impact the material around and inside smartphones, and it’s moisture can get into areas of the device that can’t be reached.
Manufacturers strongly recommend against keeping smartphones around pools. The additional chemical like chlorine that is added to pools are very harmful to these devices. One drop could mean the difference between a screen that taps away and one that stops completely in its tracks.
Oceans are equally dangerous to smartphones like the iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, and Google Pixel because of its higher concentration of salt.
Even in older electronics like flash cameras and CD players, salt has been known to blur and corrode lenses, screens, and buttons.
If you accidentally drop your phone in one of these liquids, be sure to read this article I previously wrote about how to deep clean your iPhone so that it always performs at its best.
For Ultimate Peace of Mind, Get Extra Warranty
Avoiding water with your smartphone is not always the easiest thing to do. Especially since these devices are enjoyed every single day.
A device that is so expensive yet around solids and liquids all the time calls for that dreaded extra cost word: warranty.
Wait hang on a minute before you disregard this advice.
Warranties allow smartphone owners not just the peace of mind, but the ability to repair or replace phones at just a fraction of the cost it would require to purchase a new device.
Take for example Apple’s extra warranty coverage called AppleCare+. Yes it costs more, but screen replacements under the program only cost $99 instead of $200 or more normally.
Everyone knows someone who is still walking around with a cracked screen on their smartphone because they don’t want the burden of the expensive fix.
It is easy in this moment to say that your smartphone will never be dropped or spilled on with water (or worse, something with chemicals).
But I have heard horror stories. Even recently of an Apple store employee that is a friend of mine who took their phone out of its super bulky case to replace their US SIM card with an international one…
Then dropped it because it slipped out of their hand.
It is stories like these that I hear over and over again that drives home the point that warranty on such an expensive and not-as-tough-as-you-thought electronic unit is not an afterthought, but crucial.
Alternatives To Using a Smartphone Around the Water
There is absolutely no shortage of reasons to want to use smartphones around the water. They are great for jamming to music, taking pictures, and calling friends.
Since the smartphone can accomplish all of these jobs in one device, it is easy to want to carry it around no matter where, including bodies of water.
But by now hopefully you have learned from this article that not even the top solid and liquid IP rating on new smartphones still don’t guarantee that their waterproof. Not even close.
Instead, consider purchasing cameras and speakers that are built for being around water. There are a whole host of brands that make both and are tough enough to withstand spills, kicks, and dunks.
These waterproof accessories have special seals that are not yet found on smartphones, and most can be repaired or even replaced at a slice the cost of a water-logged phone.
The Go Pro Hero 7 Black (aff. link), for example, can take photo and video in virtually any environment and wirelessly upload that footage to your smartphone with wi-fi so that your phone can stay clean and dry away from water.
If music is your go-to, the JBL Charge 4 (aff. link) can connect up to two smartphones and play your jams for up to 20 hours with its generous battery life. It can even make and answer phone calls even if your smartphone is bundled up in a beach bag or a towel.
It’s great to know that smartphones are built to withstand the occasional drop or spill. But more important is to know that they are still sensitive electronic devices that are not made to be submerged in pools or oceans.
Like a rain-resistant jacket that can still get drenched in a heavy downpour, smartphones can still get damaged easily if they are treated like waterproof devices.