How Waterproof Is Your iPhone (and Will a Waterproof Case Help)?

by John Mortensen

How Waterproof Is Your iPhone (and Will a Waterproof Case Help)?

How Waterproof Is Your iPhone (and Will a Waterproof Case Help)?

Repairing an iPhone is expensive. Unfortunately, smartphones get dropped. Most of the time, repairs are needed to fix a broken or cracked screen. But what if you dropped your iPhone in water? How waterproof are iPhones?

Unfortunately, damage from water or other liquids is a common reason a smartphone needs to be repaired, even for newer models that have more water resistance. Damage occurs when a liquid interacts with your phone’s water-sensitive components. You might be able to fix it. But, there are times when a phone is beyond repair. The best approach is to minimize your phone’s exposure to liquids.

Repairing an iPhone is expensive

This can be challenging when you enjoy going to the beach, taking boat rides, or going swimming. How do you keep your iPhone safe while you’re enjoying water activities? 

The good news is that there are a variety of smartphone accessories that help protect your iPhone from water damage. But, since newer iPhones have some level of water resistance, are these smartphones waterproof? Are waterproof smartphone accessories necessary to protect newer models?

Are Newer iPhone Models Waterproof?

Newer iPhones, starting with iPhone 7, are designed to resist water. There’s no need to panic if a glass of water spills on your phone or you get caught in the rain while texting. 

For newer models, your iPhone may even survive an accidental dunking into a sink of water or a hot tub, thanks to innovations in how phones are made. Does this mean you can take these newer iPhone models, especially the iPhone 11 models, with you for a swim?

The short answer is no your iPhone is not waterproof.

 iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have the highest water resistance

Apple’s iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max have the highest water resistance rating of any iPhone to date. According to Apple, these iPhones can withstand being submerged in 4 meters of water for up to 30 minutes under testing conditions. The iPhone 11 can handle being in 2 meters of water for up to 30 minutes under testing conditions. 

While these models have a high level of water resistance, you should not purposely take them into swimming pools, the ocean, hot tubs, or in the shower. Intentionally submerging your smartphone in water is not a good idea. 

Even Apple has a specific disclaimer on their website stating you should not take your phone with you when swimming, bathing, jet skiing, surfing, and more.  

If this is the case, then what is the purpose of testing how long the iPhone can last underwater at different depths without taking damage? And why can’t you take your iPhone swimming or on other water adventures if testing has shown these devices were able to stay underwater for up to 30 minutes?

Understanding the IP Rating

We have a great article with the following link that explains IP and IPX ratings called IP & IPX Ratings For Dust And Waterproof Cell Phone Accessories.

Apple and other smartphone companies complete water resistance tests to obtain an IP rating. An IP (Ingress Protection) rating is a measure of how well a case or object resists letting items like dust and liquid inside.    

All iPhone 11 models have a rating of IP68, although the Pro versions can go deeper underwater than the iPhone 11 base model. But what does the IP number mean? The first number of this two-digit IP code indicates how well the item resists foreign objects like dust. The second number refers to how well it resists moisture. 

IP & IPX Ratings For Dust And Waterproof Cell Phone Accessories

While the iPhone 11’s performance is impressive, this doesn’t mean the phone is waterproof. The IP testing itself doesn’t fully simulate real-world settings. The test shows that under controlled situations, an iPhone can withstand being submerged for up to a 30-minute time-frame, often while the phone is in standby mode. 

But we don’t use our phones under testing conditions. For instance, taking your iPhone into a swimming pool exposes it to more than water. Your smartphone will come into prolonged contact with chlorine or salt. These corrosive substances can weaken your iPhone and the materials used to help make it water-resistant. 

What is the Difference Between Water Resistant and Waterproof?

When something is waterproof, it’s completely impervious to water. While newer smartphones can resist some water, these devices are not designed to keep all water out indefinitely.

What is the Difference Between Water Resistant and Waterproof

That said, these newer smartphones are water-resistant. They can prevent water from entering to a certain degree, which is useful against accidental spills or when you’re caught in the rain. It also means your iPhone might survive an unexpected drop into a sink or pool. But, anytime your phone comes into contact with water or other liquids, there is a risk the water-resistant materials might not fully protect your phone’s sensitive interior electronic components.

What Can Reduce Your iPhone’s Water Resistance?

Newer iPhone models are water-resistant, but some conditions can negatively impact your iPhone’s water resistance capabilities. This is because smartphones rely on materials such as rubber gaskets, glues, and adhesives to add water resistance. With normal wear and tear on your phone, these materials can get worn down and not keep dust and liquids out as effectively as when they were new. 

Here are three other situations that can negatively impact your iPhone’s water-resistant ability.

  1. Repairs by a third-party service instead of an Apple-approved service.

Anytime your iPhone is opened up, the water-resistance seal is compromised. To work on your phone, the technician will have to undo some of the materials keeping your phone water-resistant. This includes if you need your battery replaced.

If you’re having your phone serviced by an Apple-approved service technician, you should be okay. They should reapply the water-resistant adhesive strips correctly. So while having your phone serviced through Apple is more expensive, your iPhone will likely remain water-resistant after having a battery or screen replaced or other damage repaired.

If you use a third-party technician that’s not Apple-approved, your repair costs will be less. However, you’ll want to ask whether the water-resistant adhesive strips will be replaced properly as a part of the service. Unfortunately, you’ll have to take the technician at their word.    

Damage to your phone

  1. Damage to your phone.

Anytime your iPhone takes a hard fall, there’s a chance the adhesive seals might get compromised, even if there’s no visible damage. Fortunately, this is less likely to happen if you have a protective case for your smartphone.   

If your iPhone does take on damage, such as a cracked screen or dent, you should treat your phone as if it isn’t water-resistant anymore until it’s repaired. In this situation, be careful not to use your phone in the rain or snow and try to avoid spilling liquids on it.

  1. Not cleaning your iPhone correctly.

Apple recommends using a soft cloth to keep your iPhone clean. Using water, harsh chemicals, or pressurized air to clean your smartphone isn’t recommended. These methods of cleaning could compromise your iPhone’s water resistance over time. 

Is Water Damage Covered Under Your iPhone’s Warranty?

Is Water Damage Covered Under Your iPhone’s Warranty?

Despite newer iPhone models having water resistance, your one-year limited warranty through Apple does not cover damage due to water or liquids. Your iPhone has a Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI), which helps show if your device came into contact with a liquid. 

The LCI is located in different places, depending on your model. Apple has a chart to show the LCI location for each iPhone model. The LCI will change color from a white or silver color to red if it’s been exposed to water. Humidity and other environmental conditions don’t impact the indicator.  

Waterproof Smartphone Accessories That Protect Your iPhone

Since your iPhone is water-resistant but not waterproof, what can you do to protect your iPhone when you’re enjoying water activities and need your phone with you?

Fortunately, there are smartphone accessories that help waterproof your iPhone. Two popular accessories to keep your device safe while at the beach, pool, or other water activity are waterproof phone cases and waterproof phone pouches

Waterproof phone cases

Waterproof phone cases

A waterproof phone case typically is designed to protect your iPhone from falls and accidental scratches like your normal protective case, but it also adds additional water protection. The benefit of a waterproof phone case is that you’ll have all the normal functioning of your iPhone.

That said, when shopping for a waterproof phone case, pay attention to the IP rating. Waterproof cases add an additional level of water protection, but they have limits. Be sure to fully understand what level of water resistance the case is applying to your smartphone.

Waterproof phone pouches

Waterproof phone pouches are popular smartphone accessories for people who are going boating, going to the beach, or other water activities. To use these smartphone accessories, you’ll slip your phone into the pouch, and then close and seal the top. The idea is that your phone will be safely encased in the protective pouch while you’re in the water. 

Many pouches come with some additional helpful features. Most pouches come with a lanyard or strap so you can attach the pouch around your neck, allowing you to keep your phone accessible while also being hands-free.

Waterproof Pouch

Typically, you can still use your iPhone while it’s in the pouch to take pictures, but you may not have the full functioning like you would with a case. Lastly, some phone pouches are also designed to float. This is perfect if you’re on a boat and drop your phone into the water. Instead of watching your iPhone sink to the bottom of the lake, you’ll be able to retrieve your device as it floats on top of the water.

When using a phone pouch, it can be a good idea first to test the pouch to ensure it’s sealing correctly before using it with your iPhone. Take a tissue and place it in the pouch. Follow the instructions for sealing the pouch and then submerge it into water. You’ll be able to tell if any water leaked inside the pouch after your test.

Lastly, remember, phone pouches have water resistance limits, just like waterproof cases do. Be sure to follow instructions carefully and know what level of water resistance the pouch can handle before using it.

iPhones Are Not Waterproof, But Newer Models Do Have Some Level of Water Resistance

Smartphone technology is not fully able to waterproof your phone. Ideally, you’ll want to make sure that your device stays dry and isn’t exposed to water or other liquids as much as possible.

iPhones Are Not Waterproof, But Newer Models Do Have Some Level of Water Resistance

That said, you don’t need to panic if water spills on your iPhone or you get caught in the rain, as long as you’re using an iPhone 7 or newer model. Your smartphone’s built-in water resistance typically can handle these accidental water exposures under normal circumstances, and if your phone is in good condition. 

However, if you need more waterproof protection, consider buying a waterproof smartphone accessory to provide additional protection against water or other liquids.


The Story of the Smartphone

The story of the Smartphone is so amazing and interesting it would be hard to make this entire narrative up. It is so intricately entwined in the ingenuity of humanity and the necessity to continue to discover and grow as a species. There is always hope!

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