Don’t let terms like ‘waterproof’ and ‘water resistant’ fool you when it comes to technology. Most tech gadgets sporting these features aren’t made up to the same standard — meaning that waterproofing isn’t created equally when it comes to these gadgets. But no worries, HOBI’s provided an overview on how to navigate the various classifications of water resistance in tech to help prevent your devices from dying an avoidable moist death.
Just a few years ago, those whose phones had an unfortunate tumble in water used methods like placing their phone in a bowl of uncooked rice in an attempt to dry the fragile electronic innards of any liquid. In fact, the internet was full of little home remedies to help quickly dry off mobile devices. But these days, the most high-end smartphones are sealed up tight enough that a brief dunking won’t really phase them much. The word “waterproof” attached to a gadget is comforting, but it’s worth knowing that all waterproofing isn’t created equal.
The IP scale
One of the most common ways to certify and quantify how resilient a gadget is when it comes to water is the Ingress Protection rating (IP), which is typically expressed as “IP” followed by two numbers. This scaling system derives from the international Electrotechnical commission, which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland.
The first number that appears in the formula represents a device’s resistance to solid particles. The scale ranges from one to six, with one representing a complete lack of protection and six indicating that the device is sealed up tight enough to completely prevent dust from settling inside the device. Most brands do not typically advertise this number unless the handset has been labeled with a five or six. And since you hardly see any advertisement on this front at all, it’s safe to say that most phones do not have very tight and containing designs.
However, the second number is the waterproof rating. This can be slightly confusing because the scale can refer to both a device’s ability to endure water jets and its capacity for surviving submergence in various depths of water. The most typical ratings you’ll see when it comes to waterproofing are IPX7 and IPX8 (where the ‘X’ is a variable to represent the solid ingress protection rating), both of which specifically relate to immersion, rather than spray from water jets.
For an example of these ratings: IPX7 devices can survive up to 30 minutes submerged in a meter of water without any liquid creeping inside. On the other hand, IPX8 devices have a more variable testing criteria, so the certification organization and the manufacturer must agree on the parameters of the test in terms of time and depth, which is always more durable than an IPX7. That said, the specs of a waterproof device will differ from device, you’ll want to conduct some research to see the exact parameters that your device falls under.
The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) is a North American organization that also rates electronics on their ability to prevent ingress of damaging materials. It’s important to mention that NEMA does not actually test the products they rate; it’s more of a handy guide for understanding how much protection your enclosure will have. These ratings, however, typically show up in industrial equipment and not on things like smartphones. Despite this, you’ll often see smartphones that have both an IP and NEMA rating.
The various terms that manufacturers use to describe the handsets relationship with water can often be tricky. Typically, “waterproof” means that your device can survive a full dip in the bathtub, but there are other classifications like “splash-proof,” “weather-proof,” and “water-resistant” that gets people confused over what their specific gadget can handle.
Water resistance has a specific meaning in the watch world (both traditional and wearable smartwatches), which has various levels of ingress protection outlined by a guideline called ISO 22810:2010.
However, outside of the watch world, the whole nomenclature about levels of water resistance isn’t as specific. In fact, while most people call most iPhone models “waterproof,” it’s IP67 rating means its sealed off from dust and can withstand a shallow drop in sink water, but it won’t last a drop to the bottom of a pool on either ends (both deep and shallow).
As a general rule, it’s safe to assume gadgets marketed as “water-resistant,” “weatherproof,” or anything other than “waterproof” should not be fully submerged in water ever — unless you’re just looking for a reason to upgrade your handset.