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IP67 vs IP68: Waterproof IP ratings explained

IP67 vs IP68: We explain how they’re different and why you should care

IP67, IP68 and waterproofing are terms that are bound to surface when researching a smartphone – or even a smartwatch, for that matter. With MWC 2019 and the likely release of the Samsung Galaxy S10, Sony Xperia XZ4 and LG G8, it’s important to understand just waterproof your new phone actually is.

IP67 vs IP68: What do IP ratings mean?

Firstly it’s worth noting that there’s a difference between being waterproof and water-resistant. Waterproof means something is impervious to water regardless of how long it is submerged, water-resistant means a product can stop water entering it to some degree, but not entirely. When we’re talking about smartphones and smartwatch it’s almost always about how water-resistant they are. They can’t survive in water indefinitely.

IP is the name of the standard that was drawn up by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) to determine how resistant an electrical device is to fresh water and common raw materials – like dirt, dust and sand.

The first digit after IP is the rating the IEC assigned a unit for its resistance to solids. In this case, it’s six – which means no “harmful” dust or dirt seeped into the unit after being in direct contact with the matter eight-hours.

Solid Protection
IP Code Protection
1 Protection from contact with any large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand, but no protection against deliberate contact with a body part
2 Protection from fingers or similar objects
3 Protection from tools, thick wires or similar objects
4 Protection from most wires, screws or similar objects
5 Partial protection from contact with harmful dust
6 Protection from contact with harmful dust

Next, we have the water resistance rating.

There are two leading ratings at present – seven and eight, with the former meaning that the device can be submerged in up to one meter of fresh water for half an hour, and the latter up to 1.5 meters for half an hour.

Moisture Protection
IP Code Protection
1 Protection against vertically dripping water
2 Protection against vertically dripping water when device is tilted at an angle up to 15 degrees
3 Protection against direct sprays of water when device is tilted at an angle up to 60 degrees
4 Protection from sprays and splashing of water in all directions.
5 Protection from low-pressure water projected from a nozzle with a 6.3mm diameter opening in any direction
6 Protection from water projected in powerful jets from a nozzle with a 12.5mm diameter opening in any direction
7 Protected from immersion in water with a depth of up to 1 meter (or 3.3 feet) for up to 30 mins
8 Protected from immersion in water with a depth of more than 1 meter (manufacturer must specify exact depth)

And that’s how IP ratings are formed.

To recap: IP67 means the unit can be dropped into a body of water up to a meter deep for half an hour, while IP68 guarantees protection in water up to 1.5m deep for the same period of time. Both are resistant to dust.

IP67 vs IP68: But what about other liquids?

Let’s be clear here: the rating the International Electrotechnical Commission assigns is strictly for fresh water. That means it doesn’t guarantee protection from submersion in other liquids – beer, coffee, salt water and soda, to name but a few.

So if you spill a pint of your favourite lager on an IP67 or IP68-rated handset and quickly shake it off, it should be fine, albeit a little smelly and sticky. But if you leave it to rest in the goop for a prolonged amount of time, it could break… for good.

IP67 vs IP68: Can I swim with my smartphone?

We certainly wouldn’t recommend swimming with your phone. When the IEC tests a smartphone it’s done under lab conditions, with the handset in standby mode – not in a swimming pool full of various chemicals used to cleanse the water.

The same applies to the ocean. Seawater is full of salt, a mineral device-makers stress isn’t tested when the unit is being put through its paces for an IP rating, so we’d also strongly suggest steering clear of that.

In 2015, Sony released promotional photos showing a new IP68-certified Xperia handset being used to take a picture underwater. It later controversially altered its stance, warning buyers not to use the device underwater.

sony waterproof

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“Remember not to use the device underwater,” the firm said in a statement issued to customers. “The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater,” it added.

An HTC advert featuring the HTC U11 in a swimming pool was actually banned by the UK’s advertising authority for suggesting the phone could safely be used in a pool.

IP67 vs IP68: What else do I need to know?

It’s always worth checking the documentation on a manufacturer’s website to see what, if any, exceptions to the rating it’s drawn up. Apple, for example, has some strict caveats for the Apple Watch’s water resistance, with different versions having different ratings.

On its website, it writes:

Is my Apple Watch waterproof?
Your Apple Watch is water resistant, but not waterproof.* For example, you may wear and use your Apple Watch during exercise (exposure to sweat is OK), in the rain, and while washing your hands.

Can I go swimming or take a shower with my Apple Watch?
Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch (1st generation) are splash and water resistant, but submerging Apple Watch Series 1 and Apple Watch (1st generation) isn’t recommended. Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 3 may be used for shallow water activities like swimming in a pool or ocean. However, Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 3 shouldn’t be used for scuba diving, water skiing, or other activities involving high velocity water or submersion below shallow depth.

Showering with Apple Watch Series 2 and Apple Watch Series 3 is ok, but we recommend not exposing Apple Watch to soaps, shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and perfumes as they can negatively affect water seals and acoustic membranes. Apple Watch should be cleaned with fresh water and dried with a lint free-cloth if it comes in contact with anything other than fresh water.

Water resistance isn’t a permanent condition and may diminish over time. 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 Apple Watch or subjecting it to other impacts.
Exposing Apple Watch to soap or soapy water, for example while showering or bathing.
Exposing Apple Watch to perfume, solvents, detergent, acids or acidic foods, insect repellent, lotions, sunscreen, oil, or hair dye.
Exposing Apple Watch to high velocity water, for example while water skiing.
Wearing Apple Watch in the sauna or steam room.
Not all bands are appropriate for water use. For example, the stainless steel and leather bands aren’t water resistant and shouldn’t be exposed to liquids.

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This just goes to show that when a product is promoted as water-resistant there are caveats to keep it working in perfect order. Always check the manufacturer’s fine print if you’re not sure and be careful if you’ve dropped your phone or smartwatch as this might have compromised the water-resistant seals, even if it’s not obvious by looking at it.

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