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Waterproof Phones: Are They Really a Thing?

a cell phone submerged underwater

These days, practically every company advertises that its mobile phones are waterproof, or at least water resistant. But everyone knows that letting your phone fall into a lake just means you need to go buy a new one ASAP.

So, are waterproof phones a thing? Let’s answer this question and more.

What’s the Difference Between Waterproof and Water Resistant?

Waterproof and water-resistant sound like the same thing. But in reality, the two terms mean something different.

A waterproof smartphone is a device with an IP68 rating. Specifically, waterproof mobile devices can be submerged in more than one meter of water. Each waterproof mobile device’s exact submersion depth is specified by its manufacturer — for example, Android phones may be able to withstand a different depth than other cell phones. Furthermore, waterproof mobile devices can be submerged in water down to their specified depths for more than 30 minutes.

In contrast, a "water resistant" smartphone has an IPX7 rating. That means they can be submerged in water up to 1 m (but not beyond) and only for 30 minutes. So they’re still pretty resistant against water damage, but not as much as fully waterproof phones.

Is My Phone Waterproof?

Wondering if your phone is waterproof? Just check the IP rating. You can find that on the back on your phone. If you can't spot the IP rating, just check your phone's specs on the manufacturer website.

What Are IP Ratings?

Let’s break down IP ratings in more detail.

"IP" stands for "ingress protection." It's a rating that tells you how well a mobile device is protected from dust (or other solid debris) and water (or other liquid hazards).

The first number in an IP rating tells you how dust-resistant it is. A device with an IP5X rating is fully dust resistant and should never be damaged by solid debris. IP6X ratings are even better in this regard.

IPX8 ratings are required for a phone manufacturer to claim the device is waterproof. But some phones have phenomenal IPX9K ratings, which means they can resist high pressure and high-temperature water sprays, even at close range. Very few phones are tough enough to earn this rating.

How Do Waterproof Phones Work?

Waterproof phones essentially work by using special sealants or components, which protect their sensitive internal components from being damaged by water, or which prevent water from getting into a phone’s interior compartments in the first place. For example, headphone jacks and triple camera systems would need to somehow be secured and able to withstand a dunk in water.

Submersion is not the same as being exposed to high-pressure water sprays. For example, an IP8X phone might be fully waterproof. But if you were to spray it with a hose, some water droplets might still get into the phone and damage or destroy it.

Similarly, IP8X waterproof phones can’t be submerged in depths greater than what the manufacturer recommends. If they are, they could be damaged by water due to pressure or other factors affecting their defensive design elements.

Remember, waterproofing does not necessarily speak to the phone’s ability to resist other forms of damage. Even if your phone is waterproof, it could still be damaged if you put it in ice or other liquids (particularly anything acidic).

So while waterproofing or water resistance is an important part of phone durability, it’s not the end-all-be-all.

Note: While all the phones we mention here will have an IP68 rating, but the rating itself doesn’t have a standard “amount of water" in which the devices can be safely submerged. The conditions are agreed between the manufacturer and user, which means they can have different amounts and time and still have the same rating. That explains why you might see slightly different depths allowed on phones with the same rating.

What Are the Best Waterproof Phones?

Many manufacturers offer waterproof phones to draw buyers and to provide users with an extra level of durability. Check out Navi’s Phone Navigator page to discover excellent waterproof phones, or consider the four below, each known for their durability and waterproof functionality.

Samsung Galaxy S24 Series

The Samsung Galaxy S24 series, which includes the Galaxy S24 Ultra, already has a lot going for it, but these phones’ waterproof durability is just one more feather in the proverbial cap. As IP68-rated phones, they can withstand submersion in water down to 1.5 m or 5 feet for up to 30 minutes and are fully dust-proof.

Therefore, phones in this series are great for folks looking for durable mobile devices they can rely on for a long time. Other benefits, like a high-quality Snapdragon 8 Gen 3 CPU and an excellent display with a 120 Hz refresh rate, make this gadget a top choice regardless of your phone preferences or other needs.

iPhone 15 Series

Then there’s the highly regarded Apple iPhone 15 series. This series of phones, particularly the iPhone 15 Pro Max, is fantastic regarding waterproof functionality. Each phone is rated IP68, so they’re not only waterproof; they’re also dust resistant. Specifically, these phones can be submerged down to 6 meters of water (AKA about 20 feet) for 30 minutes. You can drop them in a pool and retrieve them to find them still functioning half an hour later!

The iPhone 15 series of phones is great, regardless. The phones boast features like high-quality CPUs, good battery life (even when taking a lot of video footage), and fantastic displays alongside wireless charging.

Of course, iPhones are also well known for their quality cameras. Thus, the iPhone 15 series could be a great choice if you want to take pictures in an aquatic environment, like at the beach or around the pool in your backyard, as both the front and rear camera setups are excellent.

Google Pixel 8

The Google Pixel 8 Series offers stellar devices from start to finish. The Google Pixel 8 smartphone is also waterproof and rated IP68: the same as the iPhone 15 series of devices. It's both waterproof and dust resistant, so it is highly durable and should last for a long time to come. The screen is also large, making it a popular choice for viewing media and playing some of the most popular mobile games.

Other excellent features include a Qualcomm chipset and an excellent OLED display that goes from edge to edge. Google’s virtual assistant and other features, like 6 GB of RAM and a quality dual camera system, make it one of the best phones in the modern market overall, not just for its waterproof durability.

Nokia XR20 Rugged

The Nokia XR20 Rugged smartphone is quite durable, as the name suggests. It’s IP68 rated, so it’s dust resistant and waterproof, and it can be submerged down to 1.5 m or 5 feet for up to one hour. Talk about waterproofing!

It’s a great phone aside from this fact, of course. The Rugged phone features a 5G compatible Snapdragon 4800 Octacore processor, so it's among the most powerful mobile devices on the market today. The 6.67-inch OLED display is great for playing games or viewing media, and storage choices from 64 to 128 GB mean this is perfect for taking photos or videos frequently.

Should I Get a Waterproof Phone Case?

If your phone has an IP68 rating, it's probably resistant to most kinds of water exposure that you might run into in your daily life. However, no phone manufacturer recommends soaking your phone. Getting a waterproof phone case can still be a smart move, especially if you're prone to pushing the boundaries—like taking your phone into deeper water or environments where it might be exposed to other elements like sand or mud.

In terms of recommendations, it really depends on your specific needs:

  1. Lifeproof FRĒ: This case is great for total protection. It not only reinforces water resistance but also adds a layer of drop and dust protection. It’s ideal for adventurers who might take their phone hiking, skiing, or to the beach.
  2. OtterBox Frē Series: This series is designed to be entirely waterproof, rather than water-resistant, while maintaining MagSafe compatibility and easy access to essential phone functions like volume controls. (We cover this one in more depth in our Otterbox Phone Case review.)
  3. Catalyst Waterproof Case: This is another excellent option, especially for those who want a balance of everyday use and protection. It offers good shock resistance and maintains the clarity of the phone's audio and camera functions even under water.
  4. Ghostek Nautical: This case is designed for deep-water adventures, offering protection up to 6 meters deep. It's also built to absorb shocks and bumps, which makes it ideal for more extreme activities.

The Bottom Line

All in all, waterproof phones technically exist, depending on how you quantify "waterproofing." At the bare minimum, waterproof or water-resistant phones should survive if they get a little wet. It's just another way to determine whether a phone's durable enough for your needs.

Looking for the best deals on phones, especially waterproof ones? Our free, unbiased Phone Deal Finder below can sort through thousands of the latest phone deals to find the top choices for you today.

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