What does waterproof or water resistant mean?

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Aina Prat Blasi
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What is the difference between waterproof and water resistant? And how waterproof is your device? Here's everything you need to know. Most premium smartphones today are advertised as being water resistant, or perhaps even waterproof. But what does this really mean? Can you throw your phone in a swimming pool without worrying?


Since one of the most common ways phones get damaged is water, it's important to know what your phone can withstand. Let's take a look at what you should know about waterproof and water resistant smartphones and other electronic devices.



Waterproof versus water resistant

In short words, waterproof it means that it is impossible for water to enter a device under any circumstances. While some companies may use it as a marketing term, no device is truly waterproof. Even though your device can last for a few minutes in the rain, you can't dive deep water. At some point, all water-repellent measures will fail and water will enter the device.

This is the reason why waterproof is the more accurate term. It indicates that while the device has some protection against liquid intrusion, water can still get inside under certain conditions. It is a subtle but important difference.


But once you know your device isn't completely waterproof, how do you know how long it can last? Let's delve into water resistance and the main standards used to indicate how a device protects against water.

ATM resistance: mainly used for wearable devices

TMJ is going to atmosphere. An atmosphere is approximately equal to the pressure exerted on an object when it is on the surface of the water at sea level. Every 10 meters (about 33 feet) of depth increases the pressure of an additional ATM.



Smartwatches and fitness bands usually mark their water resistance in ATM. For example, if your smartwatch has 5 ATM water resistance, it is likely safe to use in recreational pools and will survive the rain.


There is no standardized test for determining the ATM of a wearable device, although some watches adopt the ISO: 22810 standard used by traditional wristwatches. While a wearable device's ATM marks its water resistance, there's a lot more to it than just depth.

ATM tests are performed under static pressure, which means they test the device at a certain level of pressure. This is very different from many real world conditions. For example, while your fitness tracker might withstand a drop into a water-filled sink, it could break if you splash it with a heavy-duty hose or slam into the water while jet-skiing.

These situations can put more pressure on the watch than it can handle.


What does waterproof or water resistant mean let's see it with the IP codes

Unlike wearables, smartphones have standardized water resistance tests. These are established by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and are called international protection or ingress protection codes. Codes are commonly referred to as IP, followed by two digits.

For example, the iPhone 12 has a grade of IP68 protection. In these two numbers, the first digit refers to dust protection. Because of this, 6 is the highest score, which most smartphones reach today. The second digit refers to the protection of water, in which 9 is the highest score. However, most smartphones offer a level of water resistance 7 o 8.



How to dry cell phone dropped into water

Here is a quick list of what each water resistance number indicates:

  • X: The device has not been tested for water resistance.
  • 0: No protection against water.
  • 1: Dripping water has no effect.
  • 2: Dripping water has no effect even when it falls vertically when the device is at an angle of 15 degrees.
  • 3: The sprayed water has no effect, even when it comes at an angle of 60 degrees to the vertical.
  • 4: Splashing water from any direction has no effect.
  • 5: Jets of water from a 0,25 inch nozzle have no effect.
  • 6: More powerful water jets from a 0,5 inch nozzle have no effect.
  • 7: Immersion in water up to one meter (3,25 feet) for 30 minutes has no effect.
  • 8: Immersion in more than one meter (3,25 feet) of water for more than 30 minutes has no effect.
  • 9: High temperature and high pressure water splashes have no effect.

Of these, you'll probably never meet the last one for consumer electronics. Most smartphones today offer 7 or 8 water protection, while some older devices may have 4, 5 or 6.

Technically, just because a device has hit a resistance level doesn't mean it's been tested for the other numbers below. Some devices will therefore boast two IP ratings, but this is rare. In general, any device rated 7 or 8 for water protection will also be safe against other forms of water infiltration.


A water resistance rating of 8 can have a different meaning depending on the device. For example, the iPhone 12 and iPhone 11 are both IP68 rated. However, according to Apple's iPhone water resistance page, the iPhone 12 is rated for protection at six meters (19,7 feet) deep for up to 30 minutes, while the iPhone 11 is rated only for a depth of two meters (6,6 feet) at 30 minutes ..


In short, the IPx7 and IPx8 ratings mean that a phone can survive immersion in water. As mentioned with the ATM ratings, please note that these assessment tests are still performed in still water in perfect condition. Just because your phone can stand in a few feet of water doesn't mean you can spray it with a pressure washer.

The limits of water resistance

As we've seen, any device that the manufacturer claims is “waterproof” is actually water resistant. There are specific conditions under which it gives you that protection, but these have some limitations.

The first is that water resistance is not a permanent feature. Over time, due to normal wear or deterioration of the phone, the water resistance of the phone may decrease. Seals can wear out over time, and physical damage can provide the water with an entry point that it otherwise would not have.

For this reason, water damage is not covered by most warranties. If you drop your phone in water a few months after purchase and it stops working, the company won't replace it.

Depending on the device, you may not be able to press its buttons even while submerged. In some cases, these can break the seals and allow water to enter. If you're using a water-resistant case for your phone, make sure you've secured all flaps and other covers as well.

Note that water protection tests are only performed in fresh water. You shouldn't take your device into salt water under any conditions. Salt can damage it irreparably.

Finally, the IP resistance does not necessarily protect against other liquids such as coffee or muddy water. For the iPhone XS line and later, Apple claims the devices are resistant to spills from beverages such as sodas and juices. You simply need to rinse the spill with tap water, then wipe your iPhone and let it dry.

For other devices, the recommended procedure should be checked with the manufacturer.

Water resistance is for protection, not for fun

It is important to remember that the water resistance features are designed as a bonus level of protection from water damage, not as an interesting feature that you should put to the test. If you have a water resistant phone and accidentally drop it down the toilet, you probably don't need to worry too much. But you shouldn't take your device to the pool whenever you get the chance.

If you want to know how water resistant your device really is, read the manufacturer's fine print about it. Don't trust marketing claims like "swim proof" - you should never intentionally expose a device to water unless you're sure what it's meant to handle.

Water resistance is not perfect and depends on a number of conditions. If your phone gets wet and you fear it may be damaged, you should know how to save a wet device.

Further Reading:

  • What does IP68 mean
  • Is your smartphone water resistant? Differences between IP67 and IP68
  • How To Dry Cell Phone Dropped Into Water - Simple Methods
  • Sonos Roam vs JBL Flip 5
  • How to deal with your Samsung Galaxy A5 that keeps showing the "moisture detected" error
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