In the past, mobile phone users have always been worried about water damage, and we’re not talking about the phones’ paint job being stained by water. We’re talking about the actual electronics inside the phone being shorted out by moisture. Even the best mobile phone cases still can’t make a waterproof mobile phone a reality, as a watertight case means that you’ll have trouble fiddling with the controls and will affect the phone’s ability to get a signal. What’s worse, the sheer power under the hood of modern smartphones means that a water-sealed thick casing will introduce heating problems later on.
Water Accidents and Consumer Electronics Don’t Mix
With the advent of portable electronic devices, such as tablets, laptops, and smartphones, the possibility of water-related accidents has increased. This is further exacerbated by the continued push for smaller and smaller form factors. The smaller an electronic device becomes, the more susceptible it gets to water damage. Additionally, the smaller it is, the easier it gets to accidentally lose your grip or to drop it somewhere that is wet.
In the past, repairing a soaked phone would have cost almost as much as buying a new one in repairs, which ended in a lot of users simply choosing to buy new phones instead of going through the hassle of having the old one repaired. But now, technology has caught up and manufacturers are now able to produce examples of a true waterproof mobile phone, which doesn’t rely on water-sealed cases nor “rugged” case designs intended to withstand rough conditions. The true water-resistant phones these days are stylish, sleek phones that are simply designed to be capable of functioning even when wet.
Examples of Waterproof Mobile Phone
At the recent CES (Consumer Electronics Show), electronics giant Sony has unveiled a true water-resistant phone called the Sony Xperia Z, which features Sony’s usual repertoire of stylish design and functionality, with a new feature: the ability to function even when wet.
According to Sony product manager Sharath Muddaiah, the Sony Xperia Z is not a bunch of electronic components being protected by a water-tight case. Rather, the electronics themselves along with the casing were designed to be water resistant, to the point that you don’t have to worry about accidentally dropping it into a bath tub, as the phone will continue to function. No short circuits, no burn outs – you can start using the phone even without waiting for it to dry. The design, which allows the phone to be immersed in up to 3 feet of water for up to 30 minutes without getting damaged.
Sony’s patented waterproofing techniques is said to be in the process of being rolled out to many of their portable devices, with some of their newer smartphones like the Acro S and Advance already containing the design feature.
The Achilles heel of Sony’s waterproof phones is the ports. According to Muddaiah, the spaces behind the micro-SIM, junior USB, and headphone connectors are not water-resistant. To compensate, Sony has designed the ports with a material that serves as a water stopper.
Sony is far from being alone in the quest to introduce truly water-resistant mobile phones to consumers, with China’s Huawei also taking a dip in the proverbial pool by introducing their Ascend D2 phone at the recent Mobile World Congress, where they demonstrated the phone’s waterproof capabilities by submerging it in water in front of the audience. Last summer also saw Kyocera introducing the ironically named Hydro smartphone as an example of a waterproof mobile phone.
Motorola also has offerings for thse who insist on waterproof, via their RAZR M, RAZR HD, and RAZR Maxx HD phones. Their approach differs from Sony’s, though. Instead of using water resistant components and water sealed cases, they simply use a splash guard coating on their phones, which is enough to prevent damage from accidental coffee spills or during heavy rain. Their representative refers to the coating as a “hydrophobic nano-coating,” and reveals that it gives the device water-repelling properties. While the hydrophobic nano-coating prevents damage from accidental spills, they warned that the phone is not designed to be submerged in water, unlike the Sony Xperia Z.
Alternative Means of Waterproofing a Phone
If your phone is an old one or doesn’t have a water-resistant design, you’re not completely out of luck, as a startup company called Liquipel has started offering a patented liquid-repellent coating, which can encase electronics in order to keep them dry. The company claims that the coating can make any electronics capable of resisting heavy rain or a quick dunk into water. It’s not a cheap DIY method, though. It costs at least $60, and you need to send your phone to Liquipel and wait for a few days while they apply the coating and ship it back to you.
Unlike Liquipel, which offers waterproofing to consumers after the fact, there are companies like P2i and HzO that have waterproofing technologies targeted towards manufacturers, which are meant to incorporate the technology into their products before releasing them into the market.
Currently, P2i’s technology is already used on Alcatel’s One Touch 997, while HzO has just finalized an Atelier Haute Communication partnership, which will see their technology used on the upcoming elite model of TAG Heuer Android phone.
The Future of Water-Resistant Phones
One thing to keep in mind about the water-proofing technologies employed by these companies is that they are meant to prevent damage in the case of accidents. They are not meant to make the phone usable during scuba diving and it most definitely isn’t an encouragement to start using your phone in the tub. It’s the key lesson in the whole waterproofing debacle: technology can only do so much. Half of the equation still requires you to be careful and observe proper usage of your mobile phone.