Most premium smartphones claim to be waterproof. Take for instance, all the latest iPhone and Galaxy handsets. Convinced by the ads, a friend of mine bought the Galaxy S8, which is said to be waterproof. To his surprise, the phone stopped working a few weeks after the monsoons. It was followed by a rude awakening from Samsung making it clear that the company’s warranty policy does not cover water damage. Not just Samsung, almost every other smartphone brand including Apple, Sony LG, and Motorola wash their hands of water damage (get it?).

I’m sure many of you are wondering how these waterproof phones get damaged by water to begin with. The short answer is that IP (Ingress Protection) ratings are mostly misunderstood. Most people make a wrong assumption that higher IP ratings mean better waterproofing. But in reality, these ratings are far more complex. To truly understand what your device can withstand, here’s a what you need to know:

Ingress Protection refers to a device’s ability to stop foreign objects from entering the assembly. These ratings are mostly denoted by numbers such as IP56, IP57, or IP68. First digit represents a device’s effectiveness against the entry of solid objects. It is rated on the scale of 0 to 6, while X means that there’s no enough data to rate the product.

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0 – If a first digit of an IP rating reads 0, the device offers no protection against solid objects. 1 – This denotes that the gadget is protected against the entry of solid objects larger than 50 mm. 2 – Protected against solid objects larger than 12 mm. 3 – Protected against solid objects greater than 2.5 mm. 4 – Protected against solid objects greater than 1 mm. 5 – Protected against dust. 6 – Device is sealed to stop dust from entering.

0 – Not protected at all. 1 – Can withstand dripping water that simulates 1 mm rainfall for 10 mins. 2 – The device can brave dripping water equivalent to 3 mm rainfall at 15 degree angle. 3 – Can put up with a spray of water at an angle of up to 60 degrees. 4 – Protected against water splash from any angle. 5 – The device can cope with low powered water jets from any direction. The jet delivers 12.5-liter water per minute. 6 – The gadget can survive high powered water jets from any direction. The jet can spray a whopping 100 liters of liquid per minute. 7 – Protected against water immersion at 1 meter for 30 minutes. 8 – Can withstand water immersion at the depth of 1 to 3 meter for the duration of 30 minutes or more. 9K – Protected against high temperature water jets.

For better understanding, let’s get back to the Galaxy S8. It comes with IP68 rating, which means it is sealed for dust protection and can withstand water immersion at the depth of 1 meter or more for at least 30 minutes. When you buy a 4G smartphone, it is always compatible with 2G and 3G. Using the same logic, a phone with a water-resistance rating of 8 should also fulfill lower IP test requirements, right? Unfortunately, that’s not the case. An IP68 device that can withstand water immersion won’t survive water jets. For that, it will require an IP65 or IP66 rating. Such smartphones are hard to come by. Currently, only Sony’s Xperia 1 flagship phone offers protection against water jets and immersion. Its rating is specified as IP65/68. This explains why most of today’s IP68 smartphones protected against water immersion get damaged in Indian monsoons, which can be a lot like high-powered water jets.

Chandrakant is a sci-fi movie aficionado and wannabe space explorer. He writes about consumer technology for bread and butter. He has worked with some of the esteemed publications like PCMag, TechTree, Asian Age, Deccan Chronicle, NDTV Gadgets, and more.

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