How water-resistant smartphones keep liquid out

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Nowadays, the majority of expensive smartphones are water-resistant, if not waterproof. However, what does this really mean? Can you confidently toss your phone into a pool? Given that water is one of the most frequent ways phones are destroyed, it’s critical to understand how these phones are designed to keep the liquid out. 

To keep liquid out, manufacturers achieve water resistance by gluing the phone’s exterior components together using a strong adhesive. Additionally, they usually utilize rubber gaskets to seal ports and detachable components, as well as little silicone boots to protect the buttons.

According to a representative from Robafoam, phones cannot be completely sealed, since this may result in issues with air pressure variations between the devices inside and outside. Additionally, speakers and microphones are not completely sealed, since they need air to generate vibrations. Rather than that, producers cover them with tiny mesh or a breathable membrane that repels water while allowing it to flow through.

Manufacturers identify a phone’s water resistance through the second number of an Ingress Protection — or IP — rating. For example, 0 indicates total lack of resistance to water, 3 indicates resistance to water spraying, and 8 indicates resistance to water to a depth of up to nine feet for the time indicated by the manufacturer.

In contrast to wearables, smartphones undergo rigorous water resistance testing. The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) establishes these standards, which are referred to as International Protection or Ingress Protection codes. IP, followed by two numbers, is a popular abbreviation for the codes.

For instance, the iPhone 12 has an IP68 certification. The first digit in the two digits relates to dust protection. For this, the maximum grade is 6, which is what the majority of smartphones nowadays attain. The second number indicates the level of water protection, with 9 being the greatest. However, the majority of smartphones provide a degree of water resistance of 7 or 8.

The following is a brief explanation of what each water resistance number means:

X: The gadget has not been tested for its ability to withstand water.

0: There is no protection against water.

1: No impact is produced by dripping water.

2: When the gadget is at a 15-degree angle, drips of water have no impact, even if they fall vertically from the top of the device.

3: Spraying water has no impact, even at a 60-degree angle from vertical.

4: Water sprayed in any direction has no impact.

5: No effect is produced by water jets from a 0.25-inch nozzle.

6: Increasing the force of the water jet from a 0.5-inch nozzle has no impact.

Water immersion up to one meter (3.25 feet) deep for 30 minutes had no impact on the condition.

8: Immersion in water exceeding one meter (3.25 ft) for more than 30 minutes has no impact.

9: Water sprays with elevated temperatures and pressure have little impact.

For consumer electronics, you’re unlikely to come across the last one. The majority of smartphones now provide seven or eight layers of water protection, but some older handsets may only offer four, five, or six.

Technically, simply because a gadget achieves a certain level of resistance does not indicate it has been tested for the subsequent numbers. Thus, some gadgets may have two IP classifications, although this is uncommon. Generally, any equipment that has a water protection rating of 7 or 8 is also resistant to other types of water incursion.

A water resistance rating of 8 varies according to the equipment. In other words, both the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 are certified to be protected against dust and water. Despite that, the iPhone 12’s water resistance certification page shows that the phone is protected to a depth of six meters (about 19.7 feet) for 30 minutes.

In a nutshell, the IPx7 and IPx8 certifications imply that a phone can withstand being submerged in water. As with ATM ratings, bear in mind that these tests are still conducted in perfectly calm water under ideal circumstances. Simply because your phone can withstand being submerged in a few feet of water does not mean it can be sprayed with a pressure washer. 

What Can a Water-Resistant Phone Do?

It’s important to realize that the majority of phone manufacturers’ warranties exclude coverage for water damage — even if the devices are labeled as water-resistant or waterproof. Having said that, you can expect your phone to resist fluids to the extent of its IP rating – whether it’s a strong waterjet at a carwash or complete submersion in a swimming pool. Nonetheless, it is generally prudent to avoid deliberately seeking out these kinds of situations.

Water Resistance’s Limitations

As previously shown, every gadget marketed as “waterproof” is really water-resistant. There are certain circumstances under which it provides such protection, although they are subject to restrictions.

To begin, water resistance is not a permanent characteristic. Water resistance of your phone may degrade over time, either due to natural wear and tear or through exposing it to adverse circumstances. Seals may deteriorate with time, and physical damage can provide an entrance site for water that would not have existed otherwise.

As a result, most warranties exclude coverage for water damage. If you put your phone in water and it stops functioning a few months after purchase, the business will not replace it.

You may also be unable to press the buttons on your smartphone when underwater, depending on its model. In certain instances, they may compromise seals, allowing water to enter. If you are using a water-resistant case for your phone, ensure that all flaps and other covers are securely fastened as well.

Bear in mind that water protection tests are conducted only in freshwater. Under no circumstances should you immerse your gadget in saltwater. The salt may cause irreversible harm.

Finally, IP protection may not always extend to other liquids such as coffee or dirty water. Apple claims that the iPhone XS and subsequent models are resistant against spillage from beverages such as soda and juice. Simply clean the spill with tap water and then wipe your iPhone dry.

Conclusion

It’s critical to remember that water-resistant features are intended to provide an additional layer of protection against water damage, not as a nice feature worth testing. If you have a water-resistant phone and drop it in the toilet, you generally won’t be too concerned. However, you should not take your gadget into the pool at every opportunity. We hope this article helped give you an understanding of how these smartphones keep liquid out.