By | November 13, 2023
Nothing earphones in a small puddle

Water resistance in a phone can be critical. Those of you who have ever spilled a drink on your device know that it can mean the difference between a quick wipe with a napkin and an expensive trip to the phone store. While waterproofing used to be a feature that was only on beefy, rubber-sealed rugged phones designed for construction workers or mountain bikers, you’ll now find some form of waterproofing in most mainstream phones, including the iPhone 15 Pro and Galaxy S23 Ultra. Even Google’s affordable Pixel 7A is waterproof.

This story is part of Focal Point iPhone 2023CNET’s collection of news, tips and advice on Apple’s most popular product.

However, not all phones can withstand a dunk in water, and some should not be near liquid at all. Almost no phones should be taken swimming in a pool, and ocean swimming is out of the question. If you’ve shopped for a phone recently, you’ve come across terms like “water resistant” as well as the now-common IP67, IP68 and IPX8 ratings. But what do these ratings really mean and, crucially, how waterproof is your expensive new phone?

Let’s break down the jargon and find out.

What do IP67, IP68 and IPX8 mean?

Intrusion Protection Ratings (aka International Protection Ratings) are a standard set by the International Electrotechnical Commission. According to the organization, the codes are designed as a “system for classifying the degrees of protection provided by electrical equipment enclosures.”

The first number in the classification code represents the amount of protection provided against the ingress of foreign solid objects, such as sand or dust. These protection levels range from a minimum of 0 to a maximum of 6.

The second number represents the degree of protection against ingress of moisture or liquid, with protection levels ranging from a low of 0 to a high of 8.

Nothing earphones in a small puddle

Nothing’s earbuds are IPX4 rated, which is enough to protect them from sweat during your workouts.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Sometimes you’ll see an IP rating with a number replaced by an X, such as IPX8. In this case, a company hasn’t provided test details so the rating number is replaced with an X. An IPX8-rated device can survive being submerged in water then, but it hasn’t been officially rated for any protection against dust or other particles.

The iPhone 15 Pro has an IP68 rating, which means it is protected from dust ingress and can withstand immersion in water. The Galaxy S23 Ultra is also IP68 rated. So they are equally water resistant, right? Well, no. That’s where it gets confusing.

For an 8 on the IP rating, the IEC requires that a device withstand immersion in least 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. Beyond that, it’s up to the manufacturer. The S23 Ultra can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes, while Apple says the iPhone 15 Pro is safe in up to 6 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. So while all IP68-rated phones must meet the minimum threshold of 1 meter-30 minutes, it’s important to check the fine print and see exactly what your phone offers.

For further information on all IP ratings, you can see the chart at the end of this article detailing the protection levels set by the IEC.

iPhone 12 Pro Max iPhone 12 Pro Max

iPhone 12 Pro Max can be submerged in water up to 6 meters deep for up to 30 minutes at a time.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

Can I swim with my iPhone?

While the iPhone 15 Pro’s advertised 6m water resistance might make it seem like you could pop one in your swim shorts and hit the pool, you’d be wise to leave it out of the water. The IP rating is tested under controlled conditions – in water without movement. Moving your phone into the water will increase the water pressure, making it more likely that water will seep in and cause irreparable damage to your phone.

The IP tests are also done using fresh water; most pools will have additional chemicals such as chlorine, which can make a difference to your phone’s resistance. And you should definitely keep your phone out of the ocean: Salt water can cause a lot of problems, including deterioration of the metal parts in your charging port.

Even if your phone has top-class IP68 resistance, it’s good to treat the feature as a backup in case of emergency. Your phone is not designed for snorkeling, so don’t try to use the camera to take pictures of starfish or whatever. You should also not attempt to record Tick ​​thanks videos of yourself jumping off the deep dive. It’s for accidents like spilling a drink or emergencies like making a call in pouring rain.

OnePlus Nord 2 OnePlus Nord 2

The OnePlus Nord 2 has no stated water resistance – keep phones like this extra safe when you’re around liquids.

Andrew Hoyle/CNET

My phone has no IP rating. Can it get wet?

For a company to even advertise that their product has an IP rating, it must have undergone rigorous testing to ensure it meets the requirements. These tests can be timely and costly, so it’s understandable that some companies just don’t want to spend the money, especially when it comes to budget-focused models.

Some phones instead use terms like “water-resistant” or “waterproof” without an official IP rating. These phones may use methods such as rubberized seals or water-repellent nano-coating to keep moisture out. While these phones may well survive an accidental knock, it’s worth keeping them safe from being fully submerged in water. But you shouldn’t have to worry too much about receiving calls in the rain.

If your phone doesn’t mention water resistance, it’s best to assume it doesn’t have one and you should be as careful as possible with liquids.

Solid protection

IP code Protection Object size
0 No protection. N/A
1 Protection against contact with any large surface of the body, for example the back of the hand. But no protection against intentional contact with a body part, such as a finger. Less than 50 mm
2 Protection against fingers or similar objects. Less than 12.5 mm
3 Protection against tools, thick wires or similar objects. Less than 2.5 mm
4 Protection against most wires, screws or similar objects. Less than 1 mm
5 Partial protection against contact with harmful dust. N/A
6 Protection against contact with harmful dust. N/A

Moisture protection

IP code Protection Duration of the test Using
0 No protection. N/A N/A
1 Protection against vertically dripping water. 10 minutes drizzle
2 Protection against vertically dripping water when the device is tilted at an angle of up to 15 degrees. 10 minutes drizzle
3 Protection against direct water splashes when the device is tilted at an angle of up to 60 degrees. 5 minutes Rain and spray
4 Protection against splashes and splashes of water in all directions. 5 minutes Rain, splash and splash
5 Protection against low pressure water projected from a nozzle with an opening of 6.3 mm in diameter in any direction. 3 minutes from a distance of 3 meters Rain, splashes and direct contact with most kitchen and bathroom faucets
6 Protection against water projected in powerful jets from a nozzle with an opening of 12.5 mm in any direction. 3 minutes from a distance of 3 meters Rain, splashes, direct contact with kitchen and bathroom faucets, outdoor use in tough sea conditions
7 Protected from immersion in water up to 1 meter (or 3.3 feet) deep for up to 30 minutes. 30 minutes Rain, splashes and accidental immersion
8 Protected against immersion in water with a depth of more than 1 meter (the manufacturer must specify the exact depth). At least 30 min Rain, splashes and accidental immersion

This article is updated regularly to include new devices.

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