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IP67 vs IP68: Waterproof IP ratings explained

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Years after rivals like Sony and Samsung began protecting users against water damage, Apple may finally have a smartphone that’ll offer some resistance against the wet stuff.

The iPhone 7 is IP67 certified, which is similar to the original Apple Watch. The Samsung Galaxy S7, meanwhile, is IP68 certified. What do these things mean, and which is best?

Let's start with the iPhone 7. Will iPhone 7 owners be able to go swimming, take underwater photos or just rest assured knowing a quick dousing with a glass of water won’t require a trip to the Genius Bar?

For the Apple Watch, which is IPX7 certified, Cupertino says: “Apple Watch is splash and water resistant but not waterproof. You can, for example, wear and use Apple Watch during exercise, in the rain, and while washing your hands, but submerging Apple Watch is not recommended.”

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Based on the certification, this instruction errs on the side of caution. Many users say they've used the Apple Watch in the shower, for example. Let’s break down the IP67 and IP68 ratings to establish the parameters:

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What do IP67 and IP68 actually mean?

Most modern smartphones have these certifications attached depending on how resistant they are to the elements; dust particles and water, but what do the ratings stand for?

IP – This stands for the International Protection marking, a standard drawn up by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC).

6 – The first digit stands for its resistance to dust, but also general dirt and sand. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S7 earned a ‘6’ rating for “No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust tight)” following an 8-hour test.

The iPhone 7 has the same rating for dust resistance.

7 – The second digit provides certification for water resistance. For our purposes, this is the important bit.

A 7 rating ensures “ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1m of submersion)” according to the IEC.

While a 7 rating guarantees protection for up to 30 minutes. The Samsung Galaxy S7 received an 8 certification for water resistance, meaning it can be underwater for 30 minutes at depths of up to 1.5m.

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What does this mean in real life?

In theory, the iPhone 7 can be submerged in depths of under 1m for 30 minutes and not sustain any permanent damage.

So, in essence, if you drop it down the toilet or into the bathtub while tweeting, you'll probably be OK. If some careless beer criminal spills a full pint over it, it may be smelly and sticky for a while, but ultimately it’ll work just fine. If you jump in the pool with it still in your pocket (as I did last summer, killing my iPhone 6) there's a much greater chance it'll survive.

The same applied for the IP68-rated S7.

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Can I swim with it?

Now here’s the tricky part. The IP67 certification allows for 1m submersion for 30 minutes. So, in theory taking the iPhone 7 for a quick dip, perhaps to take underwater photos shouldn’t be a problem, right?

Well that's not really the case. The IP tests were conducted under lab conditions while the phone was in standby mode, so there's a much greater chance it won't stand up as well as you attempt to take pictures of swimming pool shenanigans.

Also do you really want to chance your iPhone or Galaxy S7 with the nasty chemicals they use to mask the pee in swimming pools? Or contend with salt water in the ocean?

Back in 2015 Sony sent out promotional photos (below) of new IP68-certified Xperia handsets being used to take photos underwater. It later controversially altered its stance to advise buyers not to use them under water.

“Remember not to use the device underwater," the firm said. “The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures.”

With that in mind, you're probably best following the manufacturers' warnings and not swimming with the phone exposed.

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sony waterproofSony's infamous promo photo

In any case, definitely don't go scuba diving with it, unless you have a specially designed case, like the iGills 5X case that’s rated to a depth of 200ft and wraps the iPhone in a sealed, locked, waterproof housing.

What else to avoid

When it comes to the Apple Watch, the company sets out a number of caveats to the water resistance.

On its website, it writes:

Submerging your Apple Watch isn't recommended. Water resistance isn't a permanent condition, and your Apple Watch can't be rechecked or resealed for water resistance. The following may affect the water resistance of your Apple Watch and should be avoided:

  • Dropping your Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
  • Submerging your Apple Watch in water for long periods of time.
  • Swimming or bathing with your Apple Watch.
  • Exposing your Apple Watch to pressurized water or high velocity water, for example, showering, water skiing, wake boarding, surfing, jet skiing, and so on.
  • Wearing your Apple Watch in a sauna or steam room.”

It's safe to assume Apple will follow similar advice for the iPhone 7. As for the comparison with the Samsung Galaxy S7, it can go half a metre deeper than the iPhone 7, so the two have very similar protection.

Damon Hill

February 23, 2016, 7:59 pm

An IP rating is incredibly important for a smartphone! I have ruined 3 previous devices due to accidental water-immersion. As we all know. We now pretty much carry our entire lives in our smartphones nowadays. Losing access to that information, even temporarily, is a huge hassle. Not to mention the cost of replacing the device. So yes! An IP rating is necessary. Hopefully all manufacturers will reengineer their devices to make them more robust.

toboev

February 24, 2016, 6:13 pm

Samsung says that it can withstand "Up to 30 minutes or 1.5 meters under (water)".

"Or"? So not both.Either 30 minutes, or 1.5m under water. I'm struggling to make any sense out of that.

Tim Kelly

February 27, 2016, 5:10 pm

I was wondering about that as well

Bruno

February 28, 2016, 11:11 pm

Hi Jon, what about listen to music trough speaker and answer calls in the shower? Could high temperatures and steam damage in this case Ssmsung S7?

Lexster

March 1, 2016, 6:19 pm

Does anyone know why the 30 minutes matters? I see that often, but why would the time make a difference? If the phone can keep water out for 30 minutes, why couldn't it keep it out for an hour at the same depth ? Or a day? Is that time limit just how long they tested for, essentially? So they know it can last for at least 30 minutes?

Erwin Anciano

March 9, 2016, 8:41 am

It'll last up to 30 minutes guaranteed. Any longer than that and the water can start to leak. Not that it necessarily will, but staying in water for prolonged periods of time means more pressure is exerted on to it than usual, and that can cause failure in the waterproofing seals.

Erwin Anciano

March 9, 2016, 8:42 am

Ip68 is dust and water proof, not temperature proof. High temperatures and steam will damage the phone.

The speaker and answering calls will work in the shower, though.

Erwin Anciano

March 9, 2016, 8:43 am

No they mean both. It can withstand up to 30 minutes at a 1.5m depth. Any more than that and the pressure will probably cause leaks.

Rose baird

March 19, 2016, 5:35 pm

I am a kayaker. Would I be able to carry this phone on trips. Is it completely water proof when out of the water e.g. kept in buoyancy aid pocket while kayaking. It would be in a damp pocket as I get splashed in the rapids. If I capsized it would only be under the water for seconds before I rolled up.

andy b

April 8, 2016, 12:15 pm

youll be fine. just dont under the water more than 1.5 meters or longer than 30 minutes any depth.

Juan Navarrete

May 6, 2016, 8:48 pm

Having an IP68 rating was a huge factor in determining whether I was going to get an iphone 6 or a Samsung Galaxy S7. It was an easy choice after having a Galaxy S3 go underwater several times while turned on and never having any issues.

Diana Lie

May 15, 2016, 12:33 pm

I wonder if it just means water, pure water. How about other liquid like alcohol, wine, or soap?

Henrè

June 1, 2016, 5:22 pm

IP68 means dust poof and water resistant for moe than 1m and prolonged time. 30min is not a long time.

Jens Hansen

June 2, 2016, 10:46 am

The object in question seems relevant for deciding what constitutes "a long time". For phones, that generally aren't submerged for longer than it takes to say "oh, crap!" and fish it out of whatever you dropped it into, 30 minutes is close to forever.

Henrè

June 2, 2016, 10:51 am

That is true I guess. I wantedto take underwater videos of my kid learning to swim, it will now have to be short videos.

Henrè

June 2, 2016, 10:52 am

Heat will also let the watertight seal (glue) come loose

Henrè

June 2, 2016, 10:53 am

What about soapy water? Like a bathtub?

Lionheartwolf

June 2, 2016, 11:43 pm

You are probably not going to find yourself in a situation where your phone will be submerged in a liquid less viscous than water unless you are literally the absent minded professor...

Lionheartwolf

June 2, 2016, 11:44 pm

Because water is very good at penetrating any surface given enough time. For example the grand canyon was water resistant for up to about 6 million years.

Diana Lie

June 3, 2016, 12:01 am

Well, i imagine if i use the phone while i'm in bath tub with water n soap filled and then it drops, will it survive. And also for a clean freak like me who wish to soak the phone in alcohol after i go outside which of course it will contaminated by many bacteria. Phone is the most dirty things, if u ever read article about it and its true. I'm disappointed that even the highest ip rate still can not fulfill my need. My old phone goes along with music playing on my ears, put it on my pocket jeans while I'm walking down the pouring heavy rain several times, no need ip rate for that...

Jens Hansen

June 3, 2016, 10:39 am

If it were me, I'd get a GoPro for that.

Hopefully we will end up in a place where phones are as sturdy, but for now I'd assume that any phone that states its waterproof, really just means it'll survive water related accidents.

Having said that, if your kid is underwater for 30 consecutive minutes while learning to swim, you have bigger issues at hand than a broken phone. :p

John Bucci

June 18, 2016, 9:53 pm

My LG V10 lasted from November 2015 to June 2016. a drop of water destroyed the phone. Now I have the S7 Edge and I have ran it by an open tap running water.
a small pop up window detects the moisture and warns you to wait until you attempt to charge it. the reason it is 30 minutes is because there is a water resistant cloth protecting the charge port and speaker area. like some running shoes, the water gets through eventually. the S7 Edge is pretty awesome. as is the wireless fast charger.

bassel mabsout

June 19, 2016, 4:15 pm

i think alcohol is an insulator so even if it gets anywhere it wont cause damage

Diana Lie

June 21, 2016, 4:39 am

hmm... I think it's true. it is an insulator and if the material ain't plastic, alcohol should not react to glass and aluminium, but I honestly have worries if even the store doesn't dare to do any demo. Thank you Bassel mabsout.

Prince Vasquez

June 23, 2016, 6:41 am

Today 6/23/2016 2:40PM +8 GMT, we will be going back to Samsung service center for the SECOND time due to phone malfunction after it was submerged under water (not even deeper than 1 foot) (and not even longer than 2minutes) ... first time, the charging port was broken... we let it pass and have it repaired under warranty.. the second time around, the water came in to the system, shutting it down and you can see the moist on the front camera... so we demanded a REPLACEMENT from SAMSUNG PHILIPPINES. But they don't want to replace, since they claim it is repairable. So here is the BIG QUESTION, why is it advertised that the S7 is IP68 then this happened to us, not once but TWICE... Samsung wont even replace our UNIT which makes me furious. The unit is with us for about 3 months only. As I understand, this is their flagship mobile phone, but why did they let this happen to us? It is kind of funny because I was demonstrating the "power of s7" to my friends by dipping it to the water... then suddenly these things happened (instant humiliation, thanks to Samsung). I will have the repair receipts later with all their diagnostics...if you want a copy just let me know. I am just a concerned "EARTHLING" sending this to all people who are planning to get the "TOP OF THE LINE" Samsung S7.

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