Can you go swimming with your mobile phone? #SwimmingWeek

Tom Pritchard Gadgets, Swimming Week Leave a Comment

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A few years ago the concept of anyone taking a dip with their mobile phone tucked in their budgie smugglers would seem ludicrous. But not any more. Both Samsung and Sony have made a huge deal out of their fact that their recent high-end smartphones are not only splashproof but will keep working when you take them for a dip. But seriously how waterproof are they and can you really take them to the pool?

Back in the day you knew a gadget was waterproof because it was sealed away in a block of plastic for protection. Nowadays that’s not as true, and devices that claim to be waterproof have no discernible features indicating that it’s the case. As handy as having a waterproof phone may be, the vast majority of them are not, making them susceptible to water damage. But how much water damage?

The consequences of water damage

Any amount of water can cause an issue with electronics, even a single rain drop. When water comes into contact with the circuit board it immediately starts corroding the metal, and the more water there is the worse the overall damage will be. What happens is that the water starts corroding the circuit boards, which will cause resistance to drop and solder connections to break down. If enough water damage occurs, pits and cracks will form along the circuits which could lead to the power shorting out.

Surprisingly there are varying degrees of damage water can do. Fresh water and alcohol, while bad on their own, is much worse for a circuit board than salt water or chlorinated waterwater that has added chlorine. Why is this? Quite simply because the latter two leave deposits on the circuit board after the water has dried, deposits that cause the corrosion to be significantly worse than it would have been with fresh water

Any opening in your phone, whether it be the headphone jack or the power slot, allows the possibility of letting water inside the device. If you can, open up your phone and have a look. Chances are there are multiple opening that you can see that lead directly into the phone’s innards. If you can see them, imagine how easily water could get in there.

It’s for this very reason that waterproof phones like Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Active have covers for any necessary openings in the phone’s case, and a rubber seal inside to block any water that was able to find its way in.

Small amounts of water every once in a while won’t do much damage, and the odd raindrop that gets might not even get to the bare circuits anyway. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful, since repeating even the smallest exposure multiple times will eventually cause some type or problem.

Can you take phones swimming?

The evidence appears to be that if you are daft enough to want to your mobile swimming, you can. The big reason for going for a dip with the waterproof Sony and Samsung models is that they can enable you to take some great video footage. Of course you need the water to be not too dark. Also don’t have any great expectations that the sound will be great shakes either. But the mobiles do let you record footage in places where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to go.

Of course before you take the plunge you need to 100% certain that the phone is sealed properly. If you’re not sure the Liquid Contact Indicator is a good place to look. It’s in a different place in each phone, but it is used for the purposes of phone warranty to determine water damage. It’s by no means foolproof, but if it shows your phone has been exposed to water you should go and have it checked out.

Can you do anything if you don’t have a waterproof phone?

Yes. If you’re paranoid about water damage there are measure you can take to prevent it from occurring. You could buy a large plastic case to seal it in, but this isn’t the ’90s any more and such a method is impractical and unnecessary. You can get your phone waterproofed by using a special substance that will coat your electronics and help to repel water. There are a number of companies out there who will do this for you, like Liquipel and Nanostate.

Which phones are waterproof

Of course if you’re in the market for a new phone, you can always just go out an buy one that’s waterproof. Here are five of some of the most popular phones available, and info on their waterproof status.

  1. Samsung Galaxy S5: The Galaxy S5 is certified to be water resistant in up to a metre of water for 30 minutes, which should protect it from a quick dunk. However, upon testing TechSmartt found that it was able to survive for an hour in the shallow end of the swimming pool as well as a 50 minute washing machine cycle.
  2. iPhone 5S: Despite unscrupulous rumours from people on the internet who claim that iOS 7 makes gadgets waterproof, the iPhone 5S is not waterproof. That means don’t take it swimming or it will break.
  3. HTC One M8: Like the iPhone, the current HTC One M8 is not waterproof . That being said, rumours of an HTC One M8 Prime that might be released later this year make note of a feature allowing underwater photography.
  4. Sony Xperia Z2: Sony states that the Xperia Z2 is waterproof up to 1.5m for 30 minutes provided all the covers are shut. PhoneDog tested it by submerging it in a drink and then running it under the kitchen tap for a number of minutes, with it still working perfectly aftwerwards. Sadly Sony recommends that you do not take it swimming in salt water (fresh and chlorinated is fine).
  5. Samsung Galaxy Note 3: The Galaxy Note 3 isn’t waterproof, but rumour has it that the Galaxy Note 4 will be. That mean’s it’s worth waiting for the announcement later this year.

Featured image from XperiaZSeries.com

By Tom Pritchard | July 15th, 2014