Water-proof or water-resistant? Can your new Galaxy S5 or Xperia Z2 truly swim, or is secretly afraid of the water?


Yesterday, Archos CEO Loic Poirier gave us an entertaining, but unfortunate example of how imprecise information can deceive smartphone owners. You, too, might be boasting left and right that your phone is "dust-resistant" and "water-proof". But, are you aware of how much protection your phone really has? If you are, good for you. Otherwise, you are in danger of being misled by the liberal use that both smartphone ads and journalists make of such classifications.

Marketing 101


See, what ads usually do is simply state that the phone is dust and water-resistant or -proof. They also specify which IP-rating the device complies to - often in small print, and in a place you won't be necessarily looking at. We presume this information is included out of courtesy to legal obligations, otherwise smartphone ads practically assume that consumers can instantly decode what "IP57" stands for.

Of course, user manuals usually specify the exact usage scenarios and conditions you should avoid if you want to keep your phone alive. Alas, this is done only after you purchased a “waterproof” phone that actually might be afraid of the water. And besides, user manuals are anecdotal for going over people's heads for some reason.

Yet, with more and more of today's flagship smartphones gaining attention for their toughness, we fear this misinformation could result in many “drowned" devices. If Archos' CEO himself couldn't figure out how much he can push his company's IP54-certified phone, what chance does the average user have?

Obviously, we can't make marketing people change the way they present information. Their task is to sell, not educate. Also, we are not an authority that can "coin" the difference between "water-proof" and "water-resistant", because that's something the International Electrotechnical Comission, which published the IP standard, should do. For some reason, it still hasn't, and that's growing into a problem. 

The problem


See, although the IP standard provides a clear system for rating the toughness of electronics, it is essentially left open to interpretation. For example, let's say a marketer is writing copy for a phone that's IP54-compliant. This translates to "ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it doesn't interfere with the operation" and "water splashing against the enclosure shall have no harmful effect". Although the IP54 certification isn't entirely immune to dust, and is completely helpless against immersion in water, its presence and the lack of regulation lets the marketer boldly call the phone "dust and water-proof". Or “-resistant”. Or "-tight". Whatever!

Likewise, here's a real-life example: last year's Sony Xperia Z, which is rated IP57, is known as "waterproof". But, according to the IP standard guidelines, the “7” in “57” means the Xperia Z is good to survive 30 minutes immersed in up to 1m of water. Anything beyond this doesn't guarantee an outcome in which you won't be better off feeding your dead phone to the fishes.

The solution


To help you be absolutely sure that your new extra-tough smartphone is really up for the challenge, we'll introduce you to how the IPxx code works. Don't worry, it's actually very simple:

  • IP stands for Ingress Protection
  • The first digit indicates the level of dust protection
  • The second digit indicates the level of water protection
  • If there's an "x" in place of the left digit, this means no dust protection, only water protection
  • If there's an "x" in place of the right digit, this means no water protection, only dust protection

Use this scheme with the information from the tables below, and you will know exactly how much your phone is protected. For example, you can figure out that the new Samsung Galaxy S5, which is rated IP67, is "dust-tight" and good for "immersion of up to 1m". Likewise, the Sony Xperia Z2 is rated IP58, which stands for "dust-protected" and "immersion beyond 1m" with no time limits. Turns out this one's a tough swimmer!

Dust protection levels


LevelObject size protection againstEffective against
0No protection against contact and ingress of objects
1>50 mmAny large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand, but no protection against deliberate contact with a body part
2>12.5 mmFingers or similar objects
3>2.5 mmTools, thick wires, etc
4>1 mmMost wires, screws, etc.
5Dust protectedIngress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment; complete protection against contact (dust proof)
6Dust tightNo ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust tight)

Water protection levels


LevelProtected againstTesting forDetails
0
1Dripping waterDripping water (vertically falling drops) shall have no harmful effect.Test duration: 10 minutes
Water equivalent to 1 mm rainfall per minute
2Dripping water when tilted up to 15°Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect when the enclosure is tilted at an angle up to 15° from its normal position.Test duration: 10 minutes
Water equivalent to 3 mm rainfall per minute
3Spraying waterWater falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical shall have no harmful effect.Test duration: 5 minutes
Water volume: 0.7 litres per minute
Pressure: 80–100 kPa
4Splashing of waterWater splashing against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effect.Test duration: 5 minutes
Water volume: 10 litres per minute
Pressure: 80–100 kPa
5Water jetsWater projected by a nozzle (6.3 mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.Test duration: at least 15 minutes
Water volume: 12.5 litres per minute
Pressure: 30 kPa at distance of 3 m
6Water jetsWater projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.Test duration: at least 3 minutes
Water volume: 100 litres per minute
Pressure: 100 kPa at distance of 3 m
6KPowerful water jets with increased pressureWater projected in powerful jets (12.5 mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction, under elevated pressure, shall have no harmful effects.Test duration: at least 3 minutes
Water volume: 75 litres per minute
Pressure: 1000 kPa at distance of 3 m
7Immersion up to 1mIngress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion).Test duration: 30 minutes
Immersion at depth of at least 1 m measured at bottom of device, and at least 15 cm measured at top of device
8Immersion beyond 1mThe equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer. Normally, this will mean that the equipment is hermetically sealed. It can also mean that water can enter, but only in non-harmful ways.Test duration: continuous immersion in water
Depth specified by manufacturer, generally up to 3 m
9KPowerful high temperature water jetsProtected against close-range high pressure, high temperature spray downs.

Related phones

Galaxy S5
  • Display 5.1" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 16 MP / 2.1 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2500 MHz
  • Storage 32 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 2800 mAh(21h 3G talk time)
Xperia Z2
  • Display 5.2" 1080 x 1920 pixels
  • Camera 20.7 MP / 2.2 MP front
  • Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801, Quad-core, 2300 MHz
  • Storage 16 GB + microSDXC
  • Battery 3200 mAh(19h 3G talk time)

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38 Comments

1. alterecho

Posts: 1106; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

4. xperiaDROID

Posts: 5629; Member since: Mar 08, 2013

Moto G isn't waterproof, but you still can consider it as water-resistant...sort of.

10. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Oh that girl, do you guys remember in Z article.

11. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Erica has great videos! But what article, I'm curious :)?

25. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

29. ArtSim98

Posts: 3535; Member since: Dec 21, 2012

Oh you mean that one lol! I thought you were talking about Erica Griffin (in the link posted by alterecho)

36. KingDingaLing

Posts: 324; Member since: Oct 11, 2013

Great link until I got to pic 8 of 8!

14. fireblade

Posts: 717; Member since: Dec 27, 2013

what's wrong with that girl?

26. akki20892

Posts: 3902; Member since: Feb 04, 2013

Oh that girl.....I mean oh that girl is hottt.

31. williamdroid

Posts: 125; Member since: Jan 19, 2014

Im glad that even though most of us may disagree on OSes and OEMs and whatnot, we can all agree that the girl is indeed hot

2. Dthawk

Posts: 42; Member since: Feb 11, 2014

Scratch resistance > water resistance

3. alterecho

Posts: 1106; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

Come on Sony. Aim for 9K next round.

5. luis.d

Posts: 354; Member since: Dec 04, 2013

Do you work on a volcano? :D

17. alterecho

Posts: 1106; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

Planning to :P

6. spiderpig2894

Posts: 597; Member since: Jan 10, 2012

Sony might be needing more and stronger adhesives if they want to achieve 9K.

7. jaytai0106

Posts: 1888; Member since: Mar 30, 2011

9K on a phone? That would be overkilled XD. At that point, you should just find a life proof box and put the phone in.

8. istitch

Posts: 181; Member since: Mar 19, 2013

that would be impractical i think making the device unbreakable is better, shockproof, scratchproof..

19. alterecho

Posts: 1106; Member since: Feb 23, 2012

It was a light hearted suggestion.

9. mokhtar

Posts: 405; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

sony is the only company professionel in term of waterproof and dustproof , and i except this year many people will cry about there s5 because a lot of them don't know the difference between waterproof and water resistance .. so take your s5 and my z1 in pool and make the fun begin :D :)

15. buccob

Posts: 2980; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

Well I think IP57 is also very good... I have used my Acro S in a pool many times... and also going a little beyond the 1 meter depth test... I have used it in the sea, and for over 30 minutes at a time.... What you really need to keep in mind is to wash salt water off with tap water... and every now and then I apply rubber vaseline to the flaps to keep them from drying out and crack... It has been over a year with my phone and it still takes showers and dunks in a pool very nicely. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F11K2IkI2y0&list=UUaaAgsVrvs7IfWH3aSmR1TA&feature=share&index=1 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7iDIRpWmMAY&feature=c4-overview&list=UUaaAgsVrvs7IfWH3aSmR1TA

16. mokhtar

Posts: 405; Member since: Jan 06, 2014

i know i have the z before , THE GSG5 IS IP67 NOT even IP57

30. williamdroid

Posts: 125; Member since: Jan 19, 2014

Last i heard the Galaxy S5 is IP67-certified. The 6 means it's dust proof, while the 7 means it can be immersed in water (up to 1 meter) for 30 minutes. That said, Sony's design is way better.

12. MrTzr unregistered

My first Xperia Z died when I submerged it into water. I did NOT exceed the IP57 limits. Sony didn't give a f*ck, but I was lucky enough to get my faulty Z replaced by my retailer. My second Z still works, after being submerged a hundred times.

13. N-fanboy

Posts: 543; Member since: Jan 12, 2013

What sort of rating should a phone have in order for it to work after spending an hour or two inside a v@gina?

18. buccob

Posts: 2980; Member since: Jun 19, 2012

NC-17 rating

21. pwnarena

Posts: 1129; Member since: Feb 15, 2013

it's called I P3N15

24. PapaSmurf

Posts: 10457; Member since: May 14, 2012

... Of all the comments in the world, you chose this one? Congrats.

20. MarkArigayo

Posts: 240; Member since: Dec 18, 2013

That girl is water assistant. Lol.

22. InspectorGadget80 unregistered

We all know the Z1 have the best design and water proof capablities in a phone than the GSV with it's failure design.

23. mianhae445

Posts: 9; Member since: Sep 01, 2013

From most water tests, most phones are pretty much IPx4 ...

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