Waterproof gadgets are getting more and more common lately. How will this addition affect us? Read more to find out!
Why It Matters?
Most electronics devices are vulnerable to water damage, so keeping them dry is a no brainer. However, occasional spill or getting wet by rain are sometime unavoidable. So isn’t it nice if your phone can survive water attack? Having the ability to resist water means that our gadgets are more durable and thus having longer lifetime. Drop your phone into the water? Just pick it up, dry it and you are free to go. We also have the flexibility to use it in water when swimming or in a pool party without any worries. It also can resist the sweat when we are using them during exercises.
Since it is so nice, it seems that manufacturers are stupid enough to exclude this feature in the design of gadgets from the beginning right? Well, waterproofing is not as easy as we thought.
To achieve waterproof status, all the ports have to be redesigned. To achieve waterproofing, flaps are needed to close them or the material used in the ports must not be corroded by water and conducts no current in water. However, these will lead to a phone with an unappealing appearance and the bill of materials will be costly.
When Sony announced their first waterproof smartphone, the Xperia Z in early 2013, its waterproof status was attracting lots of attention. Sony Xperia Z was not the first waterproof phone (not the first waterproof smartphone either) but it came with something special. Sony managed to do it with Xperia Z which looks a “normal” smartphone. However, the feature was largely ignored as people saw it as a gimmick. “Who uses phone in the shower?“, people said.
However, its introduction has changed the smartphone industry. Almost every Sony smartphone after that are waterproof and Sony had became the advocate for waterproof gadgets. When we think of waterproof phones, Sony will come in our mind first. But there are other players in the market too, not letting Sony to have all the fun. Samsung launches Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, which is a waterproof Galaxy S4 variant. This year they step up the game in waterproof phone market where their 2014 flagship, Samsung Galaxy S5 is waterproof. Even budget devices like Moto G had water-resistant nano coating which have some protection against spill albeit immersion is not advisable. It seems that slowly waterproofing has became a standard, which is a good thing in my opinion.
When we talk about water resistance (along with dust resistance) we will come across terms like IP58 or IP67 to describe the ability of the phone under water and dust. But what does it mean actually?
IP Code is Ingress Protection Marking is a standard to classified products according to their degree of protection against physical item and water. The presence of the standard is to let users know how well the product they buy can perform against water and dust when they are labeled as waterproof and dustproof.
The code is made up of two letters ‘IP’ and followed by two digits. The two digits in the standard carries separated meaning. The first one will be the ability of the product against physical intrusion and the second digit is how well the thing can deal with water under safe condition for users. When there is totally no protection, the digit will be replaced by X. You can refer to the table above for the details of what each number means. For example, Samsung Galaxy S5 is rated at IP67 so the ‘6’ means that it is totally protected against ingress of dust and the ‘7’ means that it can be immersed in water with depth less than 1m up to 30 minutes.
One thing we need to take note that some devices such as Sony Xperia Z2 has IP55 and IP58 ratings. Both ratings suggest that it is dust protected but what about water protection where it has ‘5’ and ‘8’ at the same time? Immersion and water sprays are different cases so the two numbers simply means that the phone can handle low pressure water jet spray at any direction and also continuous immersion at depth larger than 1m.
Precaution for Waterproof Smartphones
For current technology, waterproof gadgets are only protected against fresh water. This means that salt water from sea and other liquid still might damage the device as these liquids are more corrosive than fresh water. Make sure you wash your device with clean water if you happen to make contact with other liquid, including your sweat.
Before making contact with water be very sure that the flaps are closed properly. If your devices is spoilt due to unclosed flaps, it is very common that your warranty will not cover the repair cost. The other thing is that make sure you dry your device after getting it wet. If your gadget has removable part such as removable back, you are advised to open it can dry the inside too.
Want Water Protection for Non-waterproof Gadgets?
If you happen to have non-waterproof gadgets like Apple iPhone and you want some protection against water? Well you can certainly do that. Of course the simplest ways are wrapping your device in waterproof plastic bags or buy a waterproof case like the one below for it. But they are not neat solution right?
A more elegant way to give your phone a watersafe treatment. Liquipel Technology is a company in US that provide watersafe treatment to your electronics gadgets at a quite hefty price. What they do is to place your device in a vacuum chamber and their Liquipel formulation is pumped into the chamber. Due to the low pressure inside the chamber the formulation will evaporate immediately. Plasma will be introduce to decompose the formulation so that they will polymerize on the surface of your gadget and now it is water-resistant.
The other way is to apply NeverWet spray on your devices. The spray will actually give a hydrophobic (anti-water) coating on your device. The coating will change the contact angle of liquid droplets on the coating to almost 180 degrees. To make it simple, the coating can make liquid stays as spheres when it drops on the surface and slip away without entering the surface, hence granting your device water resistance.
However, these solutions will not make your device in par with those waterproof devices which are IP rated. Reviews show they can only handle spill and short, shallow submersion only.The coating might be rubbed of after sometime. Don’t ever try to proof to your friends that your iPhone or HTC One is waterproof.
There are a few sacrifices to make for devices to be waterproof. Ugly and inconvenient flaps have to be added to ports and the phone will not be as compact. Nevertheless I feel that waterproofing is a nice and useful addition to electronics devices to enhance the durability. The sacrifices will be all well worth it. Sony created a nice infographic (shown after the break) on why they feel waterproof devices are useful.
Stay tune for more Know The Tech series. Cheers!