What to Know About IP Ratings Before Getting Your Phone Wet

Our smartphones are running out in unexpected places, whether it’s a quick dip in the toilet or a trip behind the sofa to where only the dust bunnies pass. How rugged is your device? Ingress protection ratings, developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission and first published in 1976, are intended to highlight a device’s level of resistance to dust and water.

IP ratings are a useful standard for comparing the general resistance of new smartphones to dust and water. Note, however, that IP rating tests are performed in the lab setting on new devices. Therefore, protections could be significantly reduced if you throw the phone away and break it or buy a refurbished device. If you’re reading this article because your smartphone is currently soaked, check out WIRED’s guide to saving wet phones before you toss it in any bag of dry rice.

What are IP ratings?

In 2022, one of the most common IP ratings for smartphones is IP68. Let’s break it down.

After the first two letters of the classification, the next character is the level of resistance to dust and external objects. This scale goes from zero to six. According to the IEC rating guide, a five means ‘dust protected’ and a six means ‘dust tight’.

The last character of the IP rating indicates water resistance, and this scale ranges from zero to nine. A smartphone that earns a thirst can be completely submerged in shallow water for a short period of time. Devices with a rating of eight are certified to go a few meters deeper than those rated seven, although the increase in depth is variable. For example, although the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are IP68 rated, the maximum depth for the iPhone 11 is 2 meters and it is 4 meters for the 11 Pro. Again the rating for water protection can be largely ignored as it is about resisting hot currents and high pressure, not submersion.

Using the iPhone 13 as an example, its IP68 rating means the phone is sealed from dust and can be submerged in water. Looking at Apple’s website that lays out its IP ratings, the iPhone 13 can be submerged up to 6 meters deep for half an hour at most.

If an IP rating uses an “X,” it means the device is rated for either water or dust protection, but not both. Companies opt into the rating process, and it’s important to understand that the “X” does not constitute a failed rating, just the absence of a rating.

How water and dust resistant is my smartphone?

Curious about the water and dust resistance level of your current device? Here are IP ratings for popular smartphones.

As for Apple devices, the iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, XR, and the second generation SE were rated IP67. The iPhone XS, XS Max and newer models are IP68. Within Apple’s IP68 rated options, the older options are only rated for a maximum depth of 2 meters. You can submerge newer heads up to 6 meters.

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