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Water resistant phones are not invincible, learn what water resistance actually means for your cell phone

ByinTips & Guides | April 8, 2016

Water resistant phones are not invincible

According to statistics, the vast majority of damaged phones have fallen victim to water ingression because like other devices packed to the fullest with electronic components, they are extremely sensitive to moisture. To make smartphones more durable, many manufacturers add at least some degree of water resistance. However, even water-resistant phones are not invincible. That’s why before you go for a swim with your handset in your pocket, you should learn what water resistance actually means for your cell phone.

More and more smartphones launched these days offer a certain degree of water-resistance. However, in some cases even a water-resistant phone can get damaged when in contact with water.

What water resistance actually means for your cell phone

Water-resistant versus waterproof

These two terms, water-resistant and waterproof, are often used interchangeably and it’s a huge mistake because their meaning is very different, though both imply that a device shouldn’t suffer any damage when it gets wet. “Waterproof” usually applies to materials and it means that water won’t pose any danger to that material due to its special properties. “Water-resistant”, on the other hand, means that the inside of a device is protected from water ingression by seals.

Under certain conditions, however, these seals can fail. Water-resistant phones can survive a splash or even a dive in fresh water, but chlorinated or salted water certainly won’t do your phone any good. Of course, the device probably won’t die after one or two swims in a pool, but repeated exposure can significantly damage rubber gaskets and seals and start letting water inside. Moreover, in real life we are surrounded by a number of other liquids that can come in contact with the phone, such as coffee, juice, soft drinks or alcohol. Any of these liquids can be potentially lethal to your phone.

Also, don’t forget that not only the type of the liquid matters but also its depth. A bathtub is not deep enough to pose any danger to a decent water-resistant smartphone but a dive to the bottom of a lake is a different story. In such case there is a huge risk the phone wouldn’t survive due to high pressure.

IP rating

Different phones offer different degrees of protection against water. To let customers know what they can do with their phones without risking damage, manufacturers use IP rating. IP (short for Ingress Protection) is a widely used rating system which was developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission. The rating consists of two numbers – the first one refers to solid materials such as dust, while the second refers to water.

Rating between X0 and X4 means that basically no extra measures were used and the device is protected only against vertically falling drops and condensation or direct sprays of water from different angles. Rating X5 and X6 means that the phone is protected against low-pressure and strong jets of water from all directions for at least 3 minutes, respectively. A device rated X7 is protected against temporary immersion between 15cm and 1m for up to 30 minutes, while X8 rating implies protection against long periods of immersion over 1m and under pressure, though exact conditions are specified by the manufacturer.

It’s clear that only devices with IPX7 and IPX8 rating can be submerged in water without risking damage. However, submersion can last only for a limited time and only to a certain depth. Otherwise, the seals may not hold and let water inside causing short circuit.

How to take care of water-resistant phone

Phone with high IP rating can take more rough treatment than regular handsets, but even water-resistant devices require some extra care and love. First of all, before you take your phone for a swim, check if all ports and slots, such as SIM, microSD or USB are closed. If the phone was submerged in chlorinated water, rinse it with fresh water but don’s use soap or any chemicals. Don’t let the phone come in contact with dirty, hot or salted water. Make sure that the phone is completely dry before plugging other devices. This includes not only charger but also headphones, etc. When drying your phone, use a microfiber cloth and never a hairdryer to avoid forcing droplets of water inside. Finally, keep all ports and covers clean because even a small particle of dirt can damage connectors and prevent seals from closing properly.

Summing up, even if you have a water-resistant phone with high IP rating, it doesn’t mean that under certain conditions it won’t die after contact with water. For this reason, you probably shouldn’t test the limits of your phone just for fun. However, if you follow manufacturer’s guidelines, your water-resistant phone should easily survive a dive in the bathtub or other similar accidents.

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