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How water-resistant are your gadgets?


By Charles Paw

I got a call from a friend of mine, she was nearly in tears. In a shaky voice, she recounted the story of how her iPhone 7 died after it was accidentally submerged in water.

“How could this happen? I thought the iPhone 7 was water-proof?!” A straightforward question which one would assume there was a clear-cut answer to right? Well, not exactly. That question led to a 20-minute conversation which I will now painstakingly condense into this article.

To become aware and informed as to the extent of water-proofness our gadgets are, one has to understand the industry rating system that are placed on our favorite gadget. This rating is called the IP code, commonly referred to as International Protection Rating or sometimes referred to as Ingress Protection. As the term Ingress would suggest, the IP rating refers to how the gadget in question is able to prevent foreign bodies like hair, dirt and water inadvertently entering the chassis of the device and causing harm. Now, most of the gadgets we use like smartwatches, smartphones and portable speakers are often tagged with an IP rating.

Like the iPhone 7 and the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8 for example, comes with an IP rating of IP67 and IP68 respectively.

I’ve already explained what “IP” means, but what does the last 2 digits actually mean? The first and second digit are separate ratings in and of itself. The first digit ranges from 0 to 6, while the second digit ranges from 0 to 8. Now the first digit refers to the level of protection the device has against small foreign objects like dust. So a device with a rating of IP6 means that it impervious from being entered by dust, consequently a device with an IP1 rating means that it hardly has only a small amount of protection from being ingressed by dust and whatnot. So the higher the number, the better the protection. Got it? Right.

The second digit on the other hand refers to the level of protection the device has against liquid substances. The max level of protection is 8, so if a gadget manages to get that rating means that it was the best possible protection against water. So technically, the highest rating a gadget can get is IP68. IP68 means that the gadget in question is not only dust-proof, but is also water-proof. But do take note that I use the term “water-proof” loosely.

The water protection rating that ranges from 0 to 8 has a lot of technicality, but for the sake of simplicity, let’s just focus on 7 and 8. The 7 rating means that the gadget can withstand a powerful stream of water and can be submerged in water at a depth not exceeding 1 meter. The rating of 8 is the same as the 7 rating but with the difference that an 8-rated device can be submerged at a depth exceeding 1 meter. So the iPhone 7 that has a rating of IP67 means that it is dust-proof and submersible in water NOT exceeding 1 meter, the Samsung Galaxy S8 on the other hand has an IP68 rating which makes it dust-proof and capable of being submerged in depths more than 1 meter. So, my friend with the busted iPhone 7 quite possibly had her phone submerged in water far beyond the capability of an IP67 rated device and sad to say, her warranty has most likely been voided as a result.

But do remember, there is no such thing as a device that’s completely water-proof. The IP rating system is a point of reference to know how much water your gadget can withstand, but always remember to not abuse your gadget. Because in reality, there only so much punishment technology can take.

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