Smartphone protection standards
Waterproof phones: With this certification, smartphones survive water
If a smartphone gets wet, this means certain death in electronic waste for most devices. But how do consumers recognize waterproof mobile phones, what do the different IP certifications mean and what should be considered when the iPhone & Co. have already fallen into the well?
Water has always been the nemesis of sensitive electronics such as those built into smartphones or cell phones. If the inside of the small computer came into contact with the element, it was their death sentence – at least when the electronics were switched on. Apple, Samsung & Co. only watched the death of smartphones for a short time without doing anything. Then the engineers developed more resistant housings, which should protect the electronics from a water mishap of their owner.
The international protection standard “International Protection” (IP for short) reveals how waterproof these shells really are. One thing in advance: Of course, no waterproof smartphone will survive extensive and deep dives. In the swimming pool, pool, sea and lake you never want to go swimming with your smartphone without a protective cover. Let’s get back to IP certification.
IP certification: what do the two numbers mean?
It results from two digits of the DIN EN 60529 standard for foreign bodies and liquids. A classic example is the IP69 certification. Each number has its own meaning: the first indicates how a device is protected against foreign objects (e.g. dust or dirt particles) and touch, and the second how resistant it is to liquids.
In the specific example of IP69, the “6” means that no dust can penetrate the smartphone or mobile phone. In addition, there is complete protection of the interior against contact. The engineers who worked out the protective standard mean that such “contact” means, for example, penetrating the interior with a small wire.
As explained, the second digit provides information about how well a smartphone or mobile phone is protected against liquids. The “9” says that a technical device is protected against a targeted jet of water, such as from a high-pressure cleaner. If the device were IP68 certified, the “8” would point out to consumers that the smartphone or mobile phone would survive being submerged to a depth of 1.5 meters for a maximum of 30 minutes.
A technical device can be IP68 and IP69 certified at the same time – but it doesn’t have to be. The table below provides an overview of which number means what.
The individual DIN EN 60529 digits in the overview
code number 1
code number 2
Protection against foreign bodies from 50 mm
Protection against drops
” ” from 12.5 mm and finger access
Protection against falling dripping water
” ” from 2.5 mm and access with tools
Protection against falling spray water
” ” from 1 mm and access with wire
Protection against splash water from all sides
” ” from 1 mm and access with wire
Protection against water jets from all directions
Dustproof and protection against contact
Protection against powerful water jets from all directions
Protection against temporary immersion (1 meter, max. 30 min.)
Protection against permanent submersion (from 1.5 meters, max. 30 minutes)
Protection against water during high-pressure or steam cleaning
That’s how waterproof iPhones are
For premium smartphones in 2021, an IP68 certificate is de rigueur. iPhones are no exception. The iPhone 12 Pro Max, iPhone 12 Pro, iphone 12 and iPhone 12 mini are all waterproof to IP68 and survive up to 30 minutes at a depth of up to six meters, according to Apple.
They are also waterproof according to IP68 iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max. According to the manufacturer, however, they only survive a depth of four meters for up to 30 minutes. That’s a little weaker iPhone 11, which only lasts two meters for 30 minutes. The same applies to iPhone XS and iPhone XS Max.
The cheaper iPhone SE however, is “only” certified according to IP67. The same applies to iPhone XR, iPhone X, iPhone 8, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. They survive at a depth of one meter for up to 30 minutes.
This is how waterproof the top models from Samsung are
Competitor Samsung is in no way inferior to Apple in terms of water resistance. The new generation of its Galaxy S smartphones are all IP68 certified. This includes Galaxy S21, S21Plus and S21 Ultra. And even the previous models offer certified protection against liquids.
Namely, these devices are that Galaxy Note 20, Note 20 Ultra as well as Galaxy S20, S20Plus, S20 Ultra and S20 FE. And even their predecessors Galaxy Note10, Note10 Plus and Galaxy S10e, S10 and S10 Plus are IP68 certified. Probably the most robust smartphone from the South Koreans is the Samsung XCover Pro be, which is even IP69 certified.
The folding smartphones from Samsung are an exception. For example, the Samsung Galaxy Fold 2 does not offer certified protection against liquids. You want to keep it away from water in any form.
Underwater photography with the smartphone?
No matter how nice the certified water protection of a smartphone may be, none of the devices are suitable for underwater photography. An additional protective cover is required for this. One thing should be said in advance about underwater photography with a smartphone: Compared to a compact camera, the sensor of a smartphone camera is many times smaller. And that means that smartphones usually need a lot of light to take nice pictures. And light is known to be scarce underwater.
The market for cheap protective covers for mobile phones is relatively large. However, the cases are more of an additional protection when you are on the go or want to snap underwater pictures in the pool. Most models among them are only sufficient for a depth of up to 15 meters. They are therefore not suitable for long and deeper dives. If you want to take underwater pictures of extensive dives with your smartphone, you have to bring out the bigger guns and dig deeper into your pockets. A suitable protective cover for the endeavor would be the SeaLife SportDiver Pro 2500 Set.
The housing communicates with the smartphone via Bluetooth. However, a special app is required for this. In addition, not all smartphones fit into the SeaLife SportDiver Pro 2500 set. The equipment is not cheap either: The set consisting of cover and light costs almost 700 euros. According to the manufacturer, it is waterproof up to 40 meters. Every diver has to decide for himself whether such an investment for the smartphone makes sense at all. Especially when you consider that there are action cams with a waterproof housing for a similar price.
Note: This article was first published in May 2021.
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