Smart phones and water

Yle news wrote a few days ago in Ei tippa tapa – paitsi älypuhelimen article that sweating or wet hair can easily destroy an expensive smart phone worth of hundreds of Euros. Most smart phones withstand poorly water and moisture, but consumers rarely put any effort in protecting their devices on many every day situations. When the phone gets damaged by the moisture, the guarantee does not cover that, because water inside phone is most often considered to be usage error. The manuals often tell that the phone can’t withstand water, but users rarely read the instructions and often think that phone can withstand some amount of moisture without problems. Smart phone manufacturers have put sensors inside their phones to detect if water has entered the phone. Each year millions of phones are damaged by water.

Is water damage a death sentence for smartphones? article tells that cell phones damaged by liquid are becoming more and more common these days since we bring such devices pretty much everywhere with us. The beach, pool, and even the bar can wreak havoc on an unsuspecting iPhone, Droid, or iPad when exposed to liquid. 

What happens when water covers a circuit board? Why does liquid cause such problems for your device?

Is water damage a death sentence for smartphones? tries to describe than in details. In short electronics and water don’t mix. Components begin to fail, things stop functioning properly, and eventually, your device will die if not properly taken care of. 

Water on circuit boards causes corrosion, which is oxidation: a circuit board corrode just like a car rusts and eventually dies. The type of liquid plays a significant role in how quickly corrosion will spread. Fresh water and alcohol are your friends when it comes to liquid damage. They contain the least amount of corrosion accelerators when compared to other types of liquids. Salt water and chlorine are two of the worst types of liquid you can drop your device in.
 When salt water/chlorine dry up, they will leave minerals and deposits on the circuit board. 

These minerals will eat up circuits in a matter of hours. In addition to rust the minerals can cause short circuits between different parts of circuits.

Basically almost all electronics components on the circuit are not damaged by pure water (some exception to some speakers and microphones). Water is even used on some manufacturing processes for cleaning, and electronics components are generally designed to be washable with water and some chemicals. So most of the components as such would not be damaged by pure water when there is no electricity on the circuit. Things get different when there power is applied and the water is not perfectly clean, in those cases corrosion and short circuits happen easily damaging the device. In some cases washing electronics with pure water is used to help saving electronics that has been exposed to to some not so pure water (lots of that not so pure water has got inside device) prior to drying (I have done that to some other electronics devices but not to smart phones).

Can a wet smartphone be saved? In some cases yes and sometimes no. How to Save a Wet Cell Phone article gives some tips. How to dry a wet phone that has been submerged in water article has some more tips. If your phone gets wet with fresh water, those ideas could be helpful. How to dry out a wet smartphone video gives you clear description of one method to try out a wet cell phone:

There are also other ways that could be even better. Wet Cell Phone Rescue Tool That’s Better Than Rice article tells about Dry-All product that is claimed to be very fast dehumidifier. The company claims that the Dry-All has a 100% success rate when drying out phones that have been submerged in water less than 30 seconds (if you follow their directions). The faster drying speed is needed especially with phones where you can’t remove the battery (for example iPhone).

When there is damages caused by water there are also inventions that try to fight against it. Galaxy S3 Dropped in Water!!! – Winner Skin Review video shows one idea to protect smart phone against water.

Some phone manufacturers have also seen market for water resistant smart phones and started making them. There has been earlier some special ruggedized and sport basic phones, but I remember reading that some smart phones are also made in water resistant versions. A waterproof smartphone is a nice idea, but they’ve always been kind of terrible. Outside of the Japanese market, where every smartphone is waterproof, you had to make a choice as a consumer: buy a top of the line smartphone and deal with getting a clunky or cumbersome case (and the constant fear of dropping or soaking your phone), or buy a subpar smartphone that’s ready for the elements. Battle of the waterproof phones: Samsung Galaxy S4 Active vs. Sony Xperia Z article says market has now changed that decent smart phones are available in waterproof versions.

I saw more than week ago one boy taking photos of himself on pool with a smart phone. The boy said he wanted to test the underwater photo mode of the smart phone camera. That smart phone that was successfully underwater was made by Samsung and looked quite new.

After some web searching it turned out that this phone most probably was Samsung Galaxy S4 Active. Sporty, splashy fun, but not truly rugged article tells that there are quite a few smartphones these days can claim to be waterproof, but you have to hand it to Samsung’s Galaxy S4 Active for turning that characteristic into a camera feature: 8-megapixel shooter’s underwater aqua mode. S4 Active’s IP67 ratings clear it for dives up to a meter under the surface up to 30 minutes. S4 Active gets away with just a flap door on the charging port, leaving the headphone jack easily accessible. Having to fiddle with a flap every time you need to charge your phone is annoying.

Having water protected phone is a good idea that can save a day when you drop your phone to water, but it might not be always a good idea to take it for a swim as described in Sorry Samsung, we killed your waterproof phone – with water article: some pool water had managed to seep into the battery compartment – not a lot but clearly enough. Also Samsung Galaxy S4 Active waterproof phone isn’t so waterproof after all article tells a story that the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active, a hardier IP67 certified variant of the Galaxy S4, has become quite the source of embarrassment for Samsung after reports from users that the phone is getting damaged on being submerged in water under conditions that the phone should have been able to handle. Bizarrely the Galaxy S4 Active’s warranty doesn’t actually cover water damage, despite tonnes of promotional videos showing off its dedicated Aqua Mode.

IP67 certification means that the phone should survive after being submerged in 3 feet of water for half an hour, so the warranty not covering ‘liquid damage’ makes no sense. Water-damaged Galaxy S 4 Active phones getting replaced, one-time swap policy is confirmed article tells that AT&T would be willing to replace a water-damaged Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active as part of a one-time replacement program and Samsung confirms one-time swap for water damaged Galaxy S4 Active.


  1. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Video: This is Sony’s new water-resistant flagship phone

    Sony Xperia Z1 is an enhanced version of the previous flagship model Xperia Z.

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  4. Tomi Engdahl says:

    Dunked your mobile in water? Using rice ISN’T the best way to dry it out

    Ancient geek wisdom has it that the best way to deal with a mobile phone that’s been dunked in water is to dry it out overnight in a bowl of rice.

    Ask any self-respecting nerd for their tips on what to do with a waterlogged phone, and they’ll usually regale you with rice stories – possibly for hours.

    But science magazine BBC Focus suggests that while using rice DOES work – especially if you put the phone in a sealed plastic bag – using pure alcohol might be better.

    BBC Focus says, ‘Rice will draw out the moisture, but that doesn’t necessarily mean your phone will work properly afterwards.

    ‘The water may already have fused the phone’s circuits or left behind traces of minerals that corrode the electronics. Also, rice may get stuck in the headphone socket.

    ‘Soaking the phone in pure alcohol may be a better bet. The alcohol drives water out and removes any mineral deposits. But pure alcohol is highly flammable and must be treated with the utmost care.

  5. santosh says:

    Wonderful demonstration of samsung smart phones. i agree with your experiment. samsung is waterproof cell phone.


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