The value of water-resistance on a phone is clear to anyone who’s ever spilled a pint of beer on a shiny new phone: It can mean the difference between a quick wipe down with a napkin and a trip to the Apple Store.
While waterproofing used to be only found on those beefy, rubber-sealed rugged phones designed for construction workers or downhill mountain bikers, you’ll now find it built into most mainstream phones — including the iPhone 13 Pro — to varying extents. , Galaxy S21 Ultra and the new Pixel 6 and Pixel 6 Pro.
But not all phones can withstand dunking, and some should avoid being near water altogether.
If you’ve recently shopped for a phone you’ll find words like “water-resistant” as well as the now common IP67, IP68 or IPX8 ratings. But what do those ratings really mean and, just as importantly, how waterproof is your expensive new phone?
What do IP67, IP68 and IPX8 mean?
IP, or ingress protection ratings (also known as international safety ratings), are standards set by the International Electrotechnical Commission. According to the organization, the codes are designed as a “system for classifying the degree of protection provided by enclosures of electrical equipment.”
The first number in the rating code represents the degree of protection provided against the ingress of foreign solid objects, such as fingers or dust. These protection levels range from a low of 0 to a high of 6.
The second number represents the degree of protection against the ingress of moisture or liquid, with protection levels ranging from 0 to as high as 8.
Sometimes you’ll see an IP rating with a number replaced by an X, such as IPX8. In this example, a company did not provide test details, so the rating number is replaced with an X. An IPX8-rated device can then survive being submerged in water, but it is not officially rated for any protection against dust.
For example, the iPhone 13 Pro has an IP68 rating, which means it’s protected from inhaling dust and can withstand being submerged in water. The Galaxy S21 Ultra has also got an IP68 rating. So they’re equally water resistant, right? OK, no, that’s where it gets confusing.
For an IP rating of 8, the IEC demands that a device can withstand being submerged in at least 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Also, it is up to the manufacturer.
The S21 Ultra can stay submerged in 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes, while Apple says the iPhone 12 Pro Max is safe in up to 6 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. So while any phone with an IP rating will have to reach the minimum, it’s important to check the fine print and see what your phone offers.
For more details on all IP ratings, you can view the chart at the end of this article that outlines all the protection levels set by the IEC.
Can I go swimming with my iPhone?
While the iPhone 13 Pro’s advertised 6 meters of water-resistance might make it seem like you could slip one in your swim shorts and hit the pool, you’d be well advised to leave it out of the water. The IP rating is tested under controlled conditions, in water with no movement. Taking your phone in water will increase the water pressure, increasing the chances of water getting inside and causing irreparable damage to your phone.
IP tests are also performed using fresh water. Most pools will have added chemicals like chlorine, which can make a difference in your phone’s resistance. And you absolutely should keep your phone out of the sea.
That salty water can cause a lot of trouble, including deforming the metal parts in your charging port.
Even if your phone has a top-notch IP68 resistance rating, it is still a good practice to take the feature as a backup in case of an emergency. Your phone isn’t designed for snorkeling, so don’t try to use the camera to take pictures of starfish or anything else. Nor should you try to record TikTok videos of yourself jumping from high dives to deep ends. It’s there for accidents like spilling a drink or for emergencies like calling in the rain.
My phone does not have an IP rating. Could it be wet?
For a company to advertise that their product has an IP rating at all, it needs to undergo rigorous testing to make sure it meets the requirements. These tests can be both timely and expensive, so it’s understandable that some companies just don’t want to spend cash, especially when it comes to more budget-focused models.
Some phones — including Motorola’s Moto G50 — use terms like “water-repellent” or “water-resistant” without an official IP rating. These handsets can use methods such as rubberized seals or water-repellent nano coatings to keep moisture out. While these phones can survive an accidental sting, it is advisable to keep them safe from being completely submerged in water. But you don’t need to worry much about taking calls in the rain.