Even for budget smartphones, standards are increasing faster than ever as the major brands compete to make their next flagship model cheaper, better and more attractive than its rivals. A whole host of features we never knew we needed are being added to high-end models all the time – just look at the Galaxy S6 Edge with it’s revolutionary (and infamously useless) curved screen.
So what about waterproof phones? This is a feature that’s becoming increasingly common, but we have to ask a couple of important questions. Firstly, does waterproofing even work properly? Even if it does, did anyone actually ask for this?
To answer the second question first, many people could probably benefit from the protection. Many of us have been in a state of panic after dropping a new contract phone in water, or spilling a drink over a handset with an ill-timed sudden movement. Even rain can be a problem! When you’re trying to save money on mobile phones, the last thing you need is to damage your new investment and pay for a replacement. Since we tend to have our phones with us at all times now, it’s more likely than ever they might come a little too close to dangerously wet conditions.
We might not all be willing to pay a lot for this protection, but it’s starting to become common in many reasonably priced models, like most of Sony’s Xperia range for example. So if we can get this bonus feature without much extra cost, if any, what’s the issue?
Unfortunately this comes back to our earlier question: does waterproofing actually work? The answer isn’t so clear with this one. Going with the Sony Xperia example again, the waterproof function relies on the outer casing of the phone being completely sealed. Sadly, on models like the Z3 Compact, it’s disappointingly easy to break the casing at the sides, especially the cover flap for the main port – we managed to damage this within a few weeks of testing one of these handsets, so there’s now a small chunk missing and it’s certainly no longer waterproof. How do you know if you’ve accidentally compromised your waterproof seal somewhere else? In most cases, you won’t be able to tell.
According to manufacturers, the IP rating of a phone should give an indication of the level of protection it has from water and dust. IP stands for Ingress Protection and is assigned based on guidelines set by an independent commission, the IEC (International Electrotechnical Commission). An IP rating is simply two digits in most cases – a rating from 0 to 6 for dust resistance, and a rating from 0 to 9 for how waterproof the device is. Samsung and Sony now have a few flagship models that are reaching IP ratings of IP67 and higher, while Apple hasn’t made an attempt to waterproof any of its iPhones yet.
In theory this sounds like there are plenty of options around if you feel like a waterproof phone will pay off for you. As we mentioned, however, you should really bear in mind a few other factors before making your commitment – if the casing is easy to damage and you’re planning to put your new phone through some tough challenges, don’t assume it will stay as water resistant as it is when it’s fresh out of the box.
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