Liquid damage is the second-largest cause of damaged smart phones in the world with an estimated 900,000 smart phones affected by such damage each day. Increasingly, water resistance has become a prominent design feature on high-end smart phones and, according to Digital Trends, is available on 95% of phones costing more than USD 600.
But phrases like waterproof or water resistant sound vague. It is for this reason that an International Standard, IEC 60529, has been developed to rate the resistance of an enclosure used for such products as smart phones, tablets and cameras, against the intrusion of dust and liquids. This Standard, prepared by Technical Committee (TC) 70, rates the degrees of protection offered by the enclosure using the Ingress Protection (IP) Rating code.
The IP code is composed of two numbers presented in the format such as IP69. The first number refers to the protection against sold objects and is rated on a scale from 0 (no protection) to 6 (no ingress of dust). The second number rates the enclosure’s protection against liquids and uses a scale from 0 (no protection) to 9 (high-pressure hot water from different angles).
However, for most smart phones, the most relevant attribution is an ‘8’ since it offers water protection against long periods of immersion but does not require it to function should any water have penetrated into the interior of the phone. The IP rating of ‘8’ is specified by a test designed by the manufacturer and can vary. Some manufacturers may offer a protection against immersion for at least 30 minutes while others may offer protection after 1 hour of immersion. At a minimum, however, the enclosure must be able to withstand a submersion up to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes with no harmful effects.
Smart phones may not yet be ready for swimming in the pool. However, manufacturers, backed by International Standards, can offer a level of protection that is clearly defined and tested. For consumers, this protection is a verifiable assurance rather than just a vague marketing term.