The best waterproof phones

If you’re a fan of browsing in the bath or photography by the pool, a water-resistant phone can help to give you peace of mind that your phone has been designed to survive the odd spill, splash or dunk. It might also offer protection against bad weather.

The first thing to know is that many smartphones these days are classed as water resistant - phones aren't designed to be underwater, but water resistance is a protective feature in case they do end up being submerged. There will be limitations to how long a device is able to withstand being submerged in water or exposed to other elements, so it’s always best to check the manufacturer’s site for a device’s water resistance protection. It’s worth bearing in mind that water resistance is not a permanent condition and may be compromised due to normal wear and tear, damage or any repairs.

What's the difference between waterproof and water-resistant phones?

Water-resistant


Water-resistant phones have been designed to resist water penetration to some degree. They’re designed to make it hard for water to get inside, and they may be coated with a water-resistant substance which helps to keep water out. Water-resistant phones may be able to cope with splashes, light rain, showers, or a very quick submersion in fresh water.

Waterproof


Waterproof phones could be submerged in water for a period of time - but there’s no such thing as a totally waterproof phone which will survive being in water indefinitely.

If you want a phone with the highest level of waterproofing, choose one with an IP67 or IP68 rating. IP67 means the phone is designed to withstand being in water 1 metre deep for 30 minutes, and while IP68 doesn’t have an exact universal depth guide, phones given this rating have been tested at depths more than 1 metre.

IP68 rated phones

Examples of phones with an IP68 rating include:

  • Samsung Galaxy S21 series can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. This is based on test conditions for submersion in up to 1.5 meters of freshwater for up to 30 minutes. The Galaxy S21 series is not advised for beach or pool use.
  • Samsung Galaxy S20 FE series can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. This is based on test conditions for submersion in up to 1.5 meters of freshwater for up to 30 minutes. The Galaxy S20 FE series is not advised for beach or pool use.
  • Google Pixel 5 5G can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. Pixel 5 has a water-protection rating of IPX8 under IEC standard 60529. Google Pixel chargers and accessories are not water-resistant. 
  • OPPO Find X3 Pro can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. The IP68 rating means that the product has passed the test under the following conditions: (1) immersed in still fresh water with a depth of 1.5 meters; (2) tested for 30 minutes; (3) no more than 5°C of difference between the water temperature and product temperature.
  • OPPO Find X2 Pro can be submerged to a depth of 1.5 metres for up to 30 minutes. The IP68 rating means that the product has passed the test under the following conditions: (1) immersed in still fresh water with a depth of 1.5 meters; (2) tested for 30 minutes; (3) no more than 5°C of difference between the water temperature and product temperature.
  • Sony Xperia 1 II 5G has an IP65/68 rating – it’s water resistant and protected against dust, but all ports and attached covers should be firmly closed for full protection. It also shouldn’t be put completely underwater. The device has been tested under Ingress Protection rating IP65/68.

IP67 rated phones

An example of an IP67 rated smartphone is the Samsung Galaxy A52 5G. This rating is based on test conditions of submersion in up to 1 metre of freshwater for up to 30 minutes - which differs to the 1.5 metre freshwater depth testing of IP68 rated devices.

Samsung also advises to rinse off any water residue or dry your device if it gets wet. Samsung devices are not advised for beach or pool use and may not be water resistant if submerged in soapy water.

Samsung Galaxy A52 5G water resistance

What are IP ratings?

IP stands for International Protection or Ingress Protection, and it’s an international standard followed by manufacturers. An IP rating starts with ‘IP’, and is followed by two numbers.

The first number of an IP rating shows how resistant the device is to solids, such as dust. The number ranges from 0 to 6 - the higher the number, the better the protection. A device with a 6 as the first number is completely protected against contact with dust.

The second number refers to freshwater resistance, with numbers that range from 0-9. The higher the number, the better the level of water protection.

IP rating

Definition for solids

Definition for liquids

0No protectionNo protection
1Protection from solid objects over 50mm (e.g. accidental touch)Protection from falling water, such as rain
2Protection from solid objects over 12mm (e.g. fingers)Protection from direct sprays up to 15° from vertical
3Protection from solid objects over 2.5mm (e.g. tools)Protection from direct sprays up to 60° from vertical
4Protection from solid objects over 1mm (e.g. wires)Protection from spray from all directions
5Protection against dust - dust cannot easily enterProtection from low-pressure water jets
6Total dust protection – dust cannot enter the deviceProtection from high pressure water jets
7n/aCan be immersed between 15cm - 1m for 30 minutes
8n/aProtected against long periods underwater
9n/aProtection from close-range high pressure, high-temperature water jets

Source: http://www.controlandinstrumentation.com/resources/ipratings.html

Budget water resistant phones

Most budget phones currently in the market are unlikely to offer protection if they were to be submerged in water. The motorola moto g 5g plus, for example, is designed to be water repellent against the odd surface splash, spill or light rain, but it does not offer the water resistance protection of a higher end device with an IP67 or IP68 rating.

Rugged phones

Rugged phones are water resistant, and they’re designed to withstand shocks, challenging terrain and extreme weather conditions. Phones with a MIL-STD-810G rating are guaranteed to have a very high level of durability - they’ve been through a rigorous series of tests in hostile environments, including heat, cold, shock and humidity. They also tend to have a high IP rating - for example, the Cat B35 has been given an IP68 rating as it’s water-resistant in up to 1.2 metres of freshwater for up to 35 minutes.

The Cat B35 is a rugged phone

What’s the difference between water resistance and dust resistance?

A device can be totally dust resistant - any phone with an IP rating which starts with a 6 is totally protected against dust. However, even phones with an IP68 rating - the highest current rating for a smartphone - can be damaged by water if submerged for long enough.

Can waterproof phones be submerged in seawater or pool water?

No - phones given the highest IP rating are only tested in fresh water in lab conditions. That means you’re not guaranteed protection from submersion in other liquids, such as alcoholic or soft drinks, chlorinated water or seawater.

Can I take underwater pictures with a waterproof phone?

We wouldn’t recommend using your phone to take underwater pictures in pools, the sea, or fresh water. If you want to take underwater pictures, you need to buy a protective pouch or a hard shell case with a watertight seal for your phone.

Even waterproof phones with an IP68 rating have a limit to the time they can spend underwater and the depths they can manage, so a case can help provide added protection.