Explained: Just how water resistant is your smartphone?

With devices on the market today such as the Galaxy S7 and iPhone 7 bringing water resistance to the table, it’s important to know what they can really handle. Smartphones that are water resistant aren’t perfect, they have their limits. Most of the time OEMs will give you a pretty basic explanation of their limits, but not every device gets that.

For example, with the iPhone 7, Apple just says that it’s water-resistant and doesn’t really give consumers any more information. So let’s take a closer look at water resistant smartphones.



What Are IP Ratings And Why Do They Matter?

The “IP Rating” or, Ingress Protection Marking, on a device can give you a basic idea of how well a device can handle not only water, but also dust. Common IP ratings are IP67 and IP68, but what does that mean? To determine what one of these codes means, you have to look at the two digits following the IP marking.

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The first digit stands for protection against solid particles, such as dust or sand. This rating ranges between 0 and 6. Anything between 1 and 4 is resistance to larger particles between 1mm and 50mm. When it comes to mobile devices, you won’t see this rating in place. Instead you’ll find something between a 5 and a 6. A 5 means that the device is dust resistant, keeping most dust out, but not everything. 6 means that the device is completely sealed off from dust. To attain this rating devices must be tested in a vacuum for up to 8 hours to ensure no air flows through.

The second digit stands for water resistance. This rating goes between 1 and 9K, covering everything from dripping water to powerful jets. With most smartphones we generally find a rating between 3 and 8, so we’ll focus on those.

  • 3 – Spraying Water
    • A rating of 3 will protect a device against small spills, being kept in a wet pocket, or a few minutes out in the rain.
  • 4 – Splashing Water
    • A rating of 4 will protect a device against spills, being used in light rain, or a brief drop in shallow water such as puddle (Note: the device will not handle depth).
  • 5 – Water Jets
    • A rating of 5 protects a device against spills, a drop in shallow water, or heavy rain.
  • 6 – Powerful Water Jets
    • A rating of 6 protects a device against spills, drops in shallow water, heavy rain, etc.
  • 7 – Immersion Up To 1M
    • A rating of 7 allows the device to be immersed in water up to 1M in depth for at least 30 minutes. Swimming not recommended.
  • 8 – Immersion Over 1M
    • A rating of 8 allows the device to be immersed in water over 1M, generally up to 3M for 30 minutes. Varies by manufacturer.

The last standard to talk about is ATM water resistance. This is measured by water pressure and higher ATM ratings generally mean that the device is almost completely waterproof. You won’t find this on smartphones, at least not yet, but we are seeing this rating pop up on some smartwatches. Here’s the breakdown.

  • 1 ATM
    • A device with a rating of 1 ATM can withstand pressure equivalent to up to 10 meters in depth, but swimming/showering is not acceptable.
  • 3 ATM
    • A device with a rating of 3 ATM can withstand pressure equivalent to up to 30 meters in depth. Rain and splashes are acceptable, but swimming or submersion is not recommended.
  • 5 ATM
    • A device with a rating of 5 ATM can withstand pressure equivalent to up to 50 meters in depth. Resistant to water in most cases, including swimming, but only in depths similar to shallow snorkeling or a pool.
  • 10 ATM
    • A device with a rating of 5 ATM can withstand pressure equivalent to up to 100 meters in depth. Resistant to water in most cases except in depths similar to deep scuba diving or high-speed water sports.
  • 20 ATM
    • A device with a rating of 20 ATM can withstand pressure equivalent to up to 200 meters in depth. Resistant to water in most cases except in deep water diving.

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What Rating Does My Device Have?

Most water resistant devices make their water resistance rating clear, but again, not everyone does. Below is a small list of common devices and their IP ratings.

  • iPhone 7/iPhone 7 Plus: IP67
  • Samsung Galaxy S7/S7 Edge: IP68
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 7: IP68
  • HTC 10:  IP53
  • Apple Watch Series 2: 5ATM
  • Apple Watch Series 1: IPX7
  • Moto 360 2015: IP67
  • Huawei Watch: IP67
  • Samsung Gear S2: IP68
  • Pebble Time: 5ATM

So as you can see, not every device is created equally. Some devices are built to handle water, but others are only able to handle a quick splash. As technology moves forward we’ll likely see more devices that can handle more and more in terms of water resistance, but for now, this is where we stand. So, how water resistant is your phone?