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More and more of the flagship phones these days boast impressive sounding water resistance ratings, with some even claiming to be completely water proof - but what do these water resistance rating actually mean? Is there truly such a thing as a fully water-proof phone? Does having a high IP rating mean that you can FaceTime in the shower and snap chat in the sea?

First of, let's clear up exactly what is mean't by the IP rating. The IP rating (standing for "International Protection") is actually a huge body of ratings that apply to most electrical equipment, measuring resistance to accidental contact, and intrusion of water and dust particles.

Some typical IP ratings you'll see in smartphone specs include:

  • IP67
  • IP68

So what does the number mean?

Well actually the number should be read as two separate digits. The first number refers to the dust resistance rating (rated from 1 to 6) while the second number refers to the water resistance rating (from 1 to 8).

Here's a chart detailing what you can expect from each level of rating:

IP rating table

Dust resistence rating Water resistence rating
1 - Protected against solid objects greater than 50mm (i.e your hand) 1 - Protected against vertical falling drops of water. Limited ingress permitted.
2 - Protected against solid objects greater than 12.5mm (i.e your finger) 2 - Protected against vertical falling drops of water with the enclosure tilted up to up to 15 degrees from vertical. Limited ingress permitted.
3 - Protected against a solid object greater than 2.5mm such as a screw driver or a pencil 3 - Protected against vertical falling drops of water with the enclosure tilted up to 60 degrees from vertical. Limited ingress permitted.
4 - Protected against a solid object greater than 1mm, such as wires and screws. 4 - Protected against water splashes from all directions. Limited ingress permitted
5 - Dust protected. Dust ingression is not entirely prevented, but it doesn't occur in such quantities so as to affect the operation of the device. 5 - Protected against low pressure jets of water. Limited ingress permitted.
6 - Dust tight. No ingress of dust with complete protection against contact. 6 - Protected against strong, high pressure jets of water from all directions. Limited ingress permitted.
7 - Water tight against the effects of immersion in water between 15cm and 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
8 - Water tight against the effects of immersion for long periods up to the pressure level specified.

IP67 vs IP68

As you can see from the table, when a device is certified with a water resistance of 7, this means the device was tested in fresh water to the depth of 1 meter or a period of 30 minutes.

For a device to achieve a water resistance rating of 8, this means that the device is deemed as more water resistant that at level 7, but according to the manufactures standards. As such, there can be much variation in water resistance of devices certified level 8, according to the specific model and manufacturer.

Technically, a device that was tested at a depth of one meter for 31 minutes, could be classed as a level 8, as could a device tested for 1hr

Things to remember about the IP test

  • Firstly, the IP test for water resistance is carried out assuming you phone is exposed to clean water. So dropping your phone in the sea, swimming pool or toilet may yield different results. The chemicals found in swimming pools and the salt from sea water may still corrode the internals of your device and cause problems in performance later on down the line.
  • Secondly, what many people don't realise is that a phone's IP rating can decrease over time. As your phone is exposed to fluctuating temperatures and levels of humidity, the sealing that protects the internals can begin to weaken and compromise the water-resistance of your device.
  • Thirdly, just because a phone as a rating of IP68, this does't automatically mean that the phone has been tested with all the levels of testing. For example, at IP levels 5 and 6, the phone is tested against strong blasts of water from all angles. Whereas at IP levels 7 and 8, it is only tested by being submerged at depths of 3 meters in clear water. To be sure that your phone has been tested under both conditions, look for the rating IP65/68 in the specifications.
  • Finally, most manufacturers don't actually provide cover for liquid damage to IP certified devices in the device warranty. Since even IP certified devices have the potential to be affected by water damage, it's a good idea to keep your phone away from water as much as you can, and rely on that IP rating for accidental exposure.
  • If you are planning a trip abroad soon, then it's a good idea to make sure your device is properly insured against accidental damage, loss and theft even if your phone is IP68 certified. Here at Holiday Extras, we offer reliable gadget cover which you can add to your existing travel insurance policy, meaning you can use your devices abroad with peace of mind. Check out our gadget travel insurance page for more information.


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