Waterproof Phones – The Technology behind it

Waterproof Phones are those that can tolerate a high level of exposure to water. Now, does that mean that you can dunk your phone into a jar of water—definitely not!

To clarify, when phone companies claim that phones are waterproof, they actually mean that the phone is water resistant. How resistant and how much of splatter it can tolerate before it stops working can be gauged from the IP number (called the International Protection Code) given to it (based on various tests carried out).
The higher the rating, greater is the resistance to water. If we were to explain further, the first number next to the IP number ranges from 0-6 and offers resistance to hazardous particles or entrance of solid particles (the lowest offering least resistance and the highest offering the greatest protection). Similarly, the next number (which indicates liquid ingress protection) offers resistance to water, with the numbering working in the same way as the first.

How does it work?

In order to be water resistant (please bear with me while I explain why I use the term water resistant and not waterproof), water should not affect the working parts of a phone. A phone with its many parts, like the ports, microphone holes, buttons, speaker etc is an open invitation for the water molecules to flood and short the phones in minutes. So, how does one actually make it resistant to water? What technology do they use? Seal it with Glue!

Manufacturers refer to it in a number of ways, gaskets, rubber adhesives etc but the purpose and the means are the same and that is to provide an airtight seal. Typically, this glue is used to stick the screen to the chassis of the phone. In addition, they use it at the back of the ports or even near the edges where the exposed circuits are. However, in order to preserve the design and the finish, gaskets or rings of rubber are used to secure areas, which are visible to the naked eye.

The same logic cannot be used where speakers and microphones are used. Here, a sealant will completely defeat the purpose of the phone. Hence, here a super fine mesh is added to the front of the speakers or microphones. Using Cohesion and surface tension (basic science where the liquid tends to attach to its own molecules rather than flow) they solve this tricky problem. Elsewhere, they use a water resistant, breathable fabric membrane that equalizes the pressure allowing the air to flow through completely.

What should be considered and understood is that all of the above just delays the inevitable! It is not possible to stop the water from entering the device. What the manufacturers have been successful in doing is to make it resistant for a while. They have been careful enough not to call them waterproof phones. What they claim is that these are water resistant phones and rate them with IP codes. What they do test (in a lab!) are:

  • endure droplets of water
  • surviving jets of water
  • enduring a dip in water for longer durations (for e.g. 30 minutes )

Having stated the above, it would be wise to see what damages the manufacturers actually cover. If you go through the warranties, you will see that none of them covers water damages. Hence, it will be wise to go through the fine print before getting experimental with our phone.

It means that you cannot swim with your phone, click pictures underwater and hope that your phone stays alive after your laps are complete!

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