Most ads for new high-end phones show phones running under sink taps and slipping into pools. Some even show people diving off cliffs into lakes or the ocean.
So you’d think these new phones could stand up to water with no problems…
But that’s not always the case. Worse still, most manufacturers don’t cover water damage even if their phone is rated for water-resistance despite was the ads might show.
So how can you know what your phone can handle or which new water-resistant phone to choose?
This guide will show you the truth about popular misconceptions about waterproof phones, help you decode water-resistance ratings, and provide phone recommendations that can take a splash or two.
Waterproof vs Water-Resistant
In reality, most phone marketing make cell phones appear more waterproof than they actually are...
In fact, very few phones are fully waterproof.
Most are merely water-resistant.
Whether your phone survives doesn’t just depend on if it gets wet. How and where your phone gets wet is also important.
For example, just because your phone can take a dunk in the sink doesn’t mean it can withstand the jets of water from a showerhead or hose.
And all ratings are based on fairly clean water. So the saltwater at the beach or that cup of coffee on your desk could cause problems.
Because of this, we recommend thinking of water resistance more like an insurance policy than an actual feature. You don’t really want to use it unless you have to, but it is nice knowing it’s there.
How Waterproof Is Your Phone?
IP -- or Ingress Protection -- ratings are the best way for you to tell just how water-resistant your phone is. Manufacturers have to meet certain requirements to earn a rating for their phones. So they’re trustworthy.
When looking at an IP rating, the first number describes solids protection while the second describes liquids protection -- or water resistance.
But what’s odd about the system is that higher numbers don’t always mean better resistance. Also, just because a phone is rated at a higher number doesn’t mean it offers the resistance of lower numbers either.
In almost all cases, resistance numbers will start with an IP6. It’s the number that follows which is most important for understanding water resistance.
While there are more rating specifications, the most common you’ll find in phones are:
- 5: “Protection against water sprayed directly from a low-pressure nozzle measuring 6.3mm, from any direction.”
- 6: “Protection from high-powered water jets with a 12.5mm nozzle, from any direction, such as a shower.”
- 7: “Protected for up to 1m of immersion for up to 30 minutes, including splashing from a shower or an accidental (and brief) dunking.”
- 8: “Protection against submersion beyond 1m. May mean that device is hermetically sealed or merely that any water that can get inside will cause no damage.”
If you’re looking for protection from shooting or spraying water -- such as water from a shower -- IP65 and IP66 are ideal.
If you’re looking for protection from puddles, splashes, and total submersion, IP67 and IP68 are required.
Want to know more about how IP ratings work and what the various numbers mean? Our guide to IP ratings has you covered.
Best Waterproof Phones
Featuring IP67 water-resistance, the phone is rated for submersion in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes. It also features an excellent blend of performance and price making it a great pick for anyone looking for a solid mobile device.
Samsung Galaxy S10
With an IP68 rating, the Galaxy S10 can handle submersion in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes. Pair this with best-in-class performance, one of the best displays on the mobile market, and a sleek design and you have a great option for anyone looking for the best waterproof Android phone available.
Google Pixel 3
Google’s Pixel phones continue to score at or near the top of mobile photography benchmarks. The Pixel 3 is also IP68-rated allowing for submersion in up to 6.5 feet of water for 30 minutes.
Samsung Galaxy Note9
With its large display and handy S-Pen, the Note9 is a popular choice for creatives and those looking for a productivity-focused phone. If you’re planning to sketch or take notes poolside, the IP68-rating should keep you safe, allowing for full submersion in up to 5 feet of water for 30 minutes.
While waterproofing is more common, it’s mostly limited to high-end phones. The Moto X4 bucks this trend offering an affordable choice for those looking for a phone that can take a splash or a quick dip. Its IP67 rating allows for full submersion in up to 3 feet of water for 30 minutes.
If you need more than just waterproofing, the CAT S61 provides excellent shock resistance, a FLIR infrared camera, and one of the highest waterproofing ratings available. Its IP68 rating is good for full submersion in up to 16 feet of water for an hour.
1. Is my phone waterproof?
In most cases, no. It’s simply water-resistant. While there are many waterproof cases available which can provide near-perfect waterproofing, most phones will still fail if left underwater for too long or if the water is too deep without an additional case.
You’ll need to check your phone’s specifications to see if it has an IP rating. If you no longer have the manual or box, you can use our phone comparison tool to search for your model as well.
There’s also the issue of what's in your water…
Soda, coffee, pool water, and ocean water all include impurities that might cause your water-resistance to fail.
If you’re curious about how to tell just what your phone can -- and can’t -- withstand, be sure to check out our guide on IP ratings.
2. What should I do if my phone gets wet?
Timing is everything when it comes to saving a phone from water damage.
Whether you spilled your coffee, dropped your phone in the sink, or were pushed into the pool with your phone in your pocket, the first step is to turn off the phone.
While the feature is less common on today’s phones, remove your battery if you can.
From here, you have a few options…
The most easily accessible for most people is to shove the phone in a bag full of rice and leave it somewhere warm like a window sill for a few days.
However, if you like to be prepared -- or just have some lying around -- silica gel offers much faster, more thorough results.
Whatever you don't break out the hair dryer to try to speed things up.
For one, you might overheat your mobile's sensitive internals. Also, pushing air into the ports at high-speeds is more likely to move water deeper into your mobile than dry it out.
While waiting for your phone to dry, resist the urge to turn it on and check if it works. Each time you turn on the phone, you’re gambling with irreversibly damaging it.
Instead, be patient and wait a few days. Three to five should do.
Then if you turn it on, you’ll know it was good and dry. If it doesn’t work then, it’s probably time to call your carrier, file an insurance claim, or start comparing replacement phone options.
Want more information? Our guide to drying out your phone fast covers additional options in greater detail.
3. Are waterproof cases any good?
A high-quality waterproof case can definitely improve the water-resistance of your phone -- even if it’s already IP-rated.
Third-party manufacturers make waterproof cases specifically designed to fit many top-end phones.
However, universal waterproof cases are also available. These pouch-like cases work much like a dry bag and fit virtually any phone on the market. Better still, most offer IP8 resistance ratings -- a higher rating than you’ll find on any phone available.
You can consult our waterproof phone cases roundup for recommended models and tips.
4. What about waterproofing treatments?
Waterproofing treatments are showing up on more phones -- especially in the budget and mid-tier markets. But in most cases, they’re still limited to IP67 resistance. So they’re not quite as good as a phone designed from the ground up to offer water resistance.
However, for quick splashes or talking on the phone in the rain, they’re likely enough to keep things dry and safe.
A waterproofing treatment, however, is not something you can buy and add to your phone yourself.
Even if you own the tools to disassemble your phone and apply the treatment, it would likely void your warranty, defeating much of the purpose.
While the marketing surrounding waterproof phones might seem a bit misleading, many feature enough protection to avoid damage from the common accidents and surprises of an active lifestyle.
But unless you want to use something like a universal waterproof phone case, we don’t recommend testing how water-resistant your phone is often. Think of water-resistance more like emergency protection and not a feature to be tested regularly.
Still, if you’re looking for a phone that can take a quick splash or a drop in the sink, many of today’s high-end phones will do so with no problems -- at least once or twice.
Don’t like the phones listed in this guide? Our comparison tool makes it easy to find the best waterproof phones and best ruggedized phones available and see how they differ.
P.S. If you're looking for a waterproof phone to listen to your favorite tunes in the shower or at the pool, you might be better off with a decent waterproof Bluetooth speaker. Not only are they likely cheaper to replace should the waterproofing fail, but they'll probably sound WAY better than your phone's tiny speakers too!
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 Tech Advisor UK: Best Waterproof Phone 2019
 Android Central: Best Waterproof Phones in 2019
 Tom's Guide: Best Waterproof and Water-Resistant Phones
 Tech.co: Top 10 Best Waterproof Phones for 2019
 Digital Trends: The Best Waterproof Phones of 2019
 The Wall Street Journal: Your Phone Isn’t Actually Waterproof—But These Other Devices Are