Whether you’re considering buying a new smartphone or a protective case for a smartphone, there’s a good chance water resistance is a key feature you’re seeking out. But with so many companies claiming water resistance at different levels, it can be confusing trying to figure out exactly what level of protection you’ll really have during real-world use.
You may have seen phone and phone case companies market their products as adhering to certain water resistance standards such as IP68 or IP67 ratings. While the objectivity of these standards is helpful for informing consumers that a product meets a certain level of performance, they don’t make it obvious what performance to expect. When using our phones in daily life, strange industrial jargon like “IP68” doesn’t help us quickly know if we can safely drop our phone in a bucket of water or a pool. Normal folks don’t want to spend their time studying a bunch of arcane terms—they want simple pass/fail information for making decisions.
With simplicity and real-life usefulness as our main objective, we’ve written this article to help you understand how water-resistant ratings are measured so you can avoid exposing your iPhone or Android to more water than it can handle.
What’s the difference between water-resistant and water-proof?
First, let’s clear up any misunderstandings about the terms “water-resistant” and “water-proof.” At first glance, they seem alike, but they have significant differences. Waterproof means a device can withstand water exposure at virtually any depth. There aren’t any smartphones currently on the market that are truly water-proof. True waterproofness would provide protection against high-velocity water, and the IP68 standard does not offer that level of protection.
Water-resistant simply means a device can be exposed or gently submerged in a still body of water up to a specified depth. The water-resistant ratings on smartphones currently on the market can’t handle more than 30 minutes of submersion in water up to 6 feet deep, and they can’t be exposed to high-pressure water exposure, such as direct sprays or drops into the water from significant heights.
Some phones claim to be water-repellant, not water-resistant
Another confusing term phone marketers like to use is “water-repellant.” Water-repellant is a low level of protection and only really protects the phone’s surfaces from very light spills. It’s essential to keep in mind that if your phone is only water-repellant, you can never let it be submerged in water and should really do your best to never allow it to get wet.
How do IP68 and IP67 ratings translate to real-world use?
The most important thing to keep in mind when it comes to water-resistant ratings like IP68 is that they are all temporary exposure ratings. For example, IP68 has a maximum time frame of 30 minutes of water submersion at a depth of 2 meters.
Also note, just because a smartphone clears the bar for meeting IP68 standards doesn’t mean it can’t exceed them, and sometimes by a massive amount. One case of this is the iPhone 12 Pro Max that doesn’t just meet the IP68 standard—it crushes it by providing water resistance of 6 meters for 30 minutes, which is triple the depth of the minimum IP68 requirement.
Remember, when water-resistant rating tests are performed, they’re done in a lab with a tightly controlled environment that hardly mimics the true possibilities for water exposure. These tests aren’t dropping phones into hot tubs or toilets—they’re gently placed into precisely measured containers of water and left still for a specific amount of time.
After the water exposure segment of the tests, the devices are tested for only general operations like powering on and screen response to give a pass/fail rating. In water-resistant testing, devices are first set to standby mode, and after the test, devices aren’t used to take pictures or playback music at full volume through the external speaker.
All of this means there is the potential for issues arising from water exposure amounts that technically pass rating standards. So, it’s not a good idea to perform any home experiments of your own to see if the rating claims are valid, as your device may experience issues afterward that won’t be covered under the manufacturer warranty.
Who tests devices for water-resistant ratings?
One thing to note about water-resistant testing is that these tests are primarily performed by the manufacturers and not any governing entity that maintains complete objectivity. There’s also no government department tasked with independently testing manufacturer claims for accuracy. Essentially, water-resistant claims are made on an honor system, which isn’t even backed by a warranty in most cases.
The reality is, instances of phones being exposed to water have so many variables it’s impossible to offer a warranty based on specific ratings like IP68. Typically, manufacturers place a water exposure indicator like a sticker that turns pink somewhere within the phone to help technicians determine if the device has been exposed to water at all. Whether the water was 8 inches or 8 feet can’t be known by these indicators, so manufacturers can’t know enough to offer warranty coverage based on lab test standards.
Keep your iPhone or Android safe in every environment
While IP68 water-resistance may keep your phone safe from some impressive water submersions, the rating doesn’t mean your phone is protected from shocks, drops, and abrasions that can happen throughout the day’s adventures.
When you want the ultimate protection for your investment in a new phone, pairing an IP68-rated Android or iPhone with a Rokform Rugged Case is the way to go. The Rugged Case exceeds military drop-test standards MIL-STD 801G-516.6, making it our most protective case. Aside from high-grade protection from dust, dirt, and drops, the Rugged Case features the RokLock mounting system along with a powerful magnet. Easily attach your Android or iPhone to bikes, car dashboards, car windshields, motorcycles, golf carts, and just about any magnetic surface.