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

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Several weeks ago, I noticed something strange about a phone I had been using for a while: tiny pieces of dust and pocket mold stuck in a gap between the metal frame and the glass plate. I tried to push the particles out of the crack and – to my surprise – opened a gap between the glass and the frame it was to be glued on. The adhesive in the particular area had apparently been loosened.

This was not a good thing. Although the phone still looked good to the naked eye, it had probably lost its water-repellent properties. Its IP68 out-of-the-box rating could not be trusted anymore. This inspired me to write this quick post that explained why today’s phones are not completely waterproof and even the IP68 waterproof will not be immune to water damage forever.

Waterproof vs. Waterproof: What’s the Difference?

If you look at the specification sheets for today’s top smartphones, you will notice that most of them have a water and dust resistance class of some sort, most often 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 intrusion protection, while the second digit tells us how difficult it is for water to enter. The higher the digit, the better protected the device is.

What you are less likely to notice is that none of these phones are advertised as waterproof. They are only waterproof and not completely immune to liquids. In other words, even a phone with a rating of IP68 – the highest you find on a typical phone – can cause water damage under certain conditions. It will survive a fall in the toilet, but is unlikely to be sprayed by a jet of hot water (a requirement to get an IP69 rating, by the way).

And why can water protection fail?

If you go to the Apple website and scroll down to the bottom iPhone XS product page you will find the following disclaimer: “iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max is spray, water and dust resistant and was tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP68 below IEC standard 60529 (maximum depth of 2 meters for up to 30 minutes). Resistance to splashes, water and dust are not permanent conditions and the resistance may decrease as a result of normal wear and tear. “

This does not only apply to iPhones. Almost every waterproof phone can lose its intrusion protection over time, simply because it is used actively. Accidental drops, exposure to extreme temperatures and contact with salt water can cause adhesives to come loose. Dust particles that end up behind your speaker grill can penetrate the speaker driver’s diaphragm and insulation. And if you break your phone’s screen or glass back, its water resistance is pretty much done. At the moment, no major brand meets your phone’s warranty if there are signs of water damage.

What can I do to protect my phone?

Your phone is protected from water, not because its manufacturer wants you to dive with it. Its IP rating is there to ensure that raindrops or accidental spills do not damage your $ 1000 gadget. That said, it would not be a good idea to immerse your phone in water (though I admit that I have done so several times – while taking the necessary precautions). And if it gets seriously wet, wipe off all moisture immediately with a dry towel. Do not use a hair dryer. Needless to say, never attempt to charge a wet phone as drops in the charging port can cause all sorts of damage. And make sure that the protective rubber seal on the SIM card tray is in good condition.

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