Waterproofing is a family affair. One side of our family has a waterproofing business, specially building and home foundations. Another side of our family works in the cable and conduit industry, specifically on waterproofing installations.
My husband works for a company which specializes in waterproofing electronics, so he understand the issues Apple faces when it comes to waterproofing the iPhone. Both Samsung’s recent Galaxy models and the iPhone are somewhat water resistant, but not waterproof, and not even water-resistant, but probably quite water repellant.
What’s the difference? Check these three basic definitions.
- Water-resistent: able to resist the penetration of water to some degree, but not entirely.
- Water-repellent: not easily penetrated by water, especially as a result of being treated for such a purpose with a surface coating (think hydrophobic).
- Waterproof: impervious to water.
For example, you might have a spring coat (here in Chicago we have seasonal clothing; by season) which is water-repellent but not waterproof. An iPhone might be so tight as to be water-repellent, perhaps a bit water-resistant, but it’s definitely not waterproof, either. And, there are standards and certifications which manufacturers of various products may attempt to achieve.
What about the iPhone? Is it waterproof? No. Will it every be waterproof? Probably not. What about Samsung’s claims of a water-resistant Galaxy S7? Samsung might want to pull those TV commercials highlighting just how water resistant the phone is.
Commercials for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge showed hip-hop’s Lil Wayne pouring Champagne over the phone and dunking it in a fish tank. The Active version of the S7, which is available to AT&T customers for $800 and up, is being marketed as equally water-resistant. While Consumer Reports generally doesn’t evaluate phones for this feature, we do perform an immersion test when a manufacturer claims that its product is water-resistant. When we recently evaluated the Galaxy S7 Active, it failed this test.
Uh oh. What happened?
The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified. There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be.
Consumer Reports performed the test on two Samsung phones with the same result. They failed.
The Active is one of three versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7, and it was the only one to fail our water-immersion test. The standard Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge claim the same level of water-resistance, and both of those models passed. Those two phones currently top our smartphone Ratings, with Excellent scores for their displays, battery life, cameras, and other attributes.
Waterproofing is difficult, but the situation is made worse when claims are made on devices that then fail frequently in public use.
Why doesn’t Apple waterproof the iPhone?
Again, those in the business of waterproofing electronics, especially those devices with buttons and holes, will tell you the same thing. It’s difficult to make something waterproof– even according to specified immersion standards– and keep it that way.
Apple could make a fully waterproof iPhone but at what cost? If you must go scuba diving then do what professional photographers and videographers do. Use a waterproof case. Otherwise, all the iPhone needs is to be somewhere close to water-resistant and water repellent so an occasional splash or spill doesn’t render the device to brick status.
Can’t Apple make a foolproof waterproof iPhone? Not at a price we’d be willing to pay. Besides, fools are so ingenious.