PSA: your phone is not waterproof and won't be water resistant forever

PSA: your phone is not waterproof and won't be water resistant forever
Several weeks ago, I noticed something odd about a phone I had been using for a while: tiny bits of dust and pocket lint were stuck in a gap between its metal frame and glass back plate. I tried to push the particles out of the crevice and – to my surprise – a gap opened between the glass and the frame it was supposed to be glued to. The adhesive in that particular area had become loose, apparently.

This wasn't a good thing. Although the phone still looked fine to the naked eye, it had most likely lost its water-resistant properties. Its out-of-the-box IP68 rating couldn't be trusted anymore. This is what inspired me to write this quick post explaining why today's phones are not completely waterproof, and even those IP68 water-resistant ones won't be immune to water damage forever.

Waterproof vs water resistant: what's the difference?


If you look at the specs sheets of today's top smartphones, you'll notice that most of them have a water and dust resistance rating of some kind, most commonly IP67 or IP68 (pronounced "IP six seven" or "IP six eight"). This is also known as an International Protection Marking code. The first digit indicates a level of dust ingress protection, while the second digit tells us how hard it is for water to get inside. The higher the digit, the better protected that device is.

What you're less likely to notice is that none of these phones are advertised as waterproof. They're merely water resistant, not entirely immune to liquids. In other words, even a phone with a rating of IP68 – the highest you'll find on a typical phone – may incur water damage under certain conditions. It will survive a drop in the toilet, but probably not being sprayed by a jet of hot water (a requirement for obtaining an IP69 rating, by the way). 

The Galaxy S10 on Samsung's web site is presented as 'water resistant', not as 'waterproof'

The Galaxy S10 on Samsung's web site is presented as 'water resistant', not as 'waterproof'



And why may water protection fail?


If you go to the Apple web site and scroll down to the very bottom of the iPhone XS product page, you'll find the following disclaimer: "iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max are splash, water, and dust resistant and were tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP68 under IEC standard 60529 (maximum depth of 2 meters up to 30 minutes). Splash, water, and dust resistance are not permanent conditions and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear."

This applies to not only iPhones. Practically every water-resistant phone may lose its ingress protection over time, simply because it is being actively used. Accidental drops, exposure to extreme temperatures, and contact with salt water may cause adhesives to loosen. Dust particles that end up behind your speaker grill may penetrate the speaker driver's membrane and insulation. And if you crack your phone's screen or glass back, its water resistance is pretty much done with. Currently, no major brand will honor your phone's warranty if evidence of water damage is present.

What can I do to keep my phone safe?


Your phone is protected against water not because its maker wants you to go scuba diving with it. Its IP rating is there to ensure that rain droplets or accidental spills won't damage your 1000-dollar gadget. That said, not submerging your phone underwater would be a good idea (although I do admit that I've done it several times – while taking the necessary precautions). And if it does get seriously wet, be sure to promptly wipe all moisture off with a dry towel. Do not use a hairdryer. Needless to say, never attempt to charge a wet phone as droplets in the charging port may cause all sorts of damage. And be sure that the protective rubber seal on its SIM card tray is in good condition.

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15 Comments

1. Valdomero

Posts: 622; Member since: Nov 13, 2012

Since I bought my phone I've never even tried to submerge the thing in any body of water, only raindrops have touched the phone. Ain't risking $1k investment.

4. notfair

Posts: 681; Member since: Jan 30, 2017

i am washing with soap my phone every other week. no issues at all.

11. eausa

Posts: 67; Member since: Feb 28, 2019

I have the Note 9 now but when I had the S7 Edge, I took it too the pool constantly to get underwater shots. Worked great and ended up trading it in for 300 bucks for the Note 9. No issues whatsoever.

2. Jrod99

Posts: 694; Member since: Jan 15, 2016

I just like it for piece of mind but never intentionally submerge my phone in water.

3. Knownhost

Posts: 71; Member since: Nov 13, 2017

This article explains perfectly the problem with the iPhone 11 (XI?) underwater mode.

5. Crispin_Gatieza

Posts: 3082; Member since: Jan 23, 2014

In other “duh” news.......

6. Demo-jay

Posts: 23; Member since: Feb 13, 2018

My iphone 7 plus no longer vibrates due to water damage..used to take it for a swim though

7. superguy

Posts: 372; Member since: Jul 15, 2011

Never mind Samsung advertising the S8 with taking pictures underwater ...

9. iloveapps

Posts: 369; Member since: Mar 21, 2019

They usually had bad advertising. All they need is to bundle new phones with dusted accessories stock in the drawer.

12. Tipus

Posts: 782; Member since: Sep 30, 2016

He meant Samsung not Apple, dummy :)))

8. AustinPaul

Posts: 150; Member since: Dec 13, 2011

Add me to the list of people who has washed my phones (5 Galaxys since S7 up to S10) with soap and water to get them perfectly clean.

10. caryhedges

Posts: 1; Member since: Apr 25, 2019

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for this article!!! I have ALWAYS expressed how these phones are waterRESISTANT, not waterPROOF. Also of note, I just checked and phoneArena's product description section shows most newer phones as being waterproof, even though they only have the IP68 rating.

13. jacky899

Posts: 347; Member since: May 16, 2017

I think some water got in my Note 8 after washing it once and the voice input creates severe echos that the party on the other end hears. Either that or the Note 8 went bad after about 9 months from purchase. I had the same problem on ATT and T mobile with the Note 8 but it's fine with my iPhone and P30 pro.

15. NarutoKage14

Posts: 1293; Member since: Aug 31, 2016

It is temperature changes, vibrations and soft materials "drying" out(I'm not sure of the correct term). All these things contribute to parts slowly coming apart or cracking.

17. propov

Posts: 4; Member since: Dec 06, 2018

IP XX (65,67,68..) are industrial standart Certifikate for ingres and fluid durability. When one device, for example light or vacuum cleaner or Mobile Phone have that, than must be durablle. Some of this devices have used with 220, 360 and more volts and no place for mistake. IP rating is serious and this is not only comercial for sales. When light (220V) waterproof fails, can killed workers. When mobile phone IP fails, 2 year warranty must cover this. I had one water damaged Xperia Z5 and had warranty change with new device.

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