How waterproof is my phone? What do IP certifications mean?

IP ratings refer to the rating of International Protection Brands which is given after a series of tests performed to see how much dust and water can get into the phone and under what circumstances. Each number and letter represents a different level of protection, the full list of which follows below.


Tougher phones

Manufacturers are making Android phones more robust than they used to be. It is a great selling point. Phones Samsung, Huawei, LG, Motorola, and even Google now come with some degree of resistance to water and dust. What these numbers represent can be important or even a deciding factor when spending money on a new phone.

You will usually see “robustness” described with an IP rating or a MIL-STD rating or both. These are patterns that determine how something is resistant to the elements – things like water resistance, shock (electrical and physical), temperature, air pressure, and a host of other things that can damage your phone.

Classifications and certifications were developed long before the invention of smartphones – they cover things like valves and electrical boxes. And now they apply to phones and not just those that are built like tanks. We will detail each classification to know what they really mean.

Ingress protection / International Protection

Entry protection refers to the ability of a product to prevent foreign objects – specifically particles of liquid and dust – from entering. And although we generally think that the term IP means Ingress Protection, actually means International Protection, as an international protection certification.

The IP Code is designated by the initial IP, followed by two digits and possibly a letter. Most letter designations are something we will never find in small portable electronic devices; they are used in devices that can withstand high-pressure jets and high flow jets, such as a spray nozzle for washing cars.

Consumer electronics are not manufactured to withstand these conditions, but IP ratings cover more than consumer electronics, so they are included in IP certification.

Each digit represents a resistance rating. The first number represents the level of protection from solid particles (dust). The second number means protection from the ingress of liquids. A manufacturer does not need to test both, but if he does not, the number will be replaced by an X, we can see something like IPX7 or IP6X. see how the numbers pile up.

Solid particle protection

Solid waste IP numberHow effective is it?
IP numberdescription
0Not protected in any way from particles of any size.
1Protected against particles larger than 50 mm
2Protected against particles larger than 12.5 mm
3Protected against particles larger than 2.5 mm
4Protected against particles larger than 1 mm
5Protected against Dust: Dust cannot get in enough to affect normal operation.
6Total protection against dust: Dust cannot enter, even in a vacuum.

Liquid inlet protection

Net IP numberHow effective is it?
IP numberdescription
0It is not protected at all.
1Protected against dripping water.
2Protected against water drops when tilted to an angle of 15 degrees from its normal position.
3Protected against water spray when tilted to an angle of 60 degrees from its normal position.
4Protected against splashing water at any angle.
5Protected against spray water of 6.3 mm at 12.5 liters/minute and 30 kPa (pressure) at three meters distance for three minutes.
6Protected against water spray from a 12.5 mm nozzle at 100 liters/minute and 100 kPa (pressure) at three meters distance for three minutes.
6KProtected against water spray from a 6.3 mm nozzle at 75 liters/minute and at 1,000 kPa (pressure) at three meters distance for three minutes.
(1,000 kPa is a standard amount of water pressure).
7Protected against immersion in water up to one meter at normal pressure for 30 minutes.
8Protected against water immersion at one meter or more in the specifications detailed by the manufacturer.
9XProtection against water spray in high-pressure jets at high temperatures.
Water flows from 14 to 16 liters/minute
Water pressure from 80 to 100 bar (up to 1,451 Psi)
80-degree water temperature
Distance from 0.10 to 0.15 meters.

In addition, the IP Code has letter designations for additional protection. Like the K classification, we’ll never see that on a phone, but since we’re talking about the topic, here’s all the information:

Additional protection designation

Letter codeWhat does it mean
fOil resistant
HHigh voltage protection
MProtection against movement
sTotal motion protection

Yes, the “f” is not capitalized, and “weather resistant” says nothing. We didn’t write the specification, I don’t know why they call it that, and as I said, this type of certification is not applicable to phones.

Do we already know everything we need?

When you buy a phone that has an IP68 rating, you can put it in a vacuum and the dust won’t get in, or let it be immersed in more than a meter of water forever, right? Do not.

The dust protection rating leaves zero room for maneuver. IP68 means dust under any conditions that a human being may be in. The liquid inlet protection 8 is “specified by the manufacturer” and you will need to know what that specification is. Samsung, for example, says the certification covers submersion up to 1.5mts for up to 30 minutes.

Can we go play with the phone to the pool without risk?

It is not so. Samsung also says your device is not impervious to water damage in any situation, which is a total contradiction. But it is not the only one – almost all electronic devices include text in the warranty or in the user manual that says that the warranty does not cover against water damage, even if the device in question is classified with an IP rating.

This is because the devices used for testing and certification were able to withstand the invasion of dust under any circumstances up to and including vacuum, and immersion in water at a depth of 1.5 m for half an hour. Your phone may not survive.

The certification feature cannot test all phones. IP certification is additional protection and not an absolute certainty that the equipment can be immersed without damage.

MIL-STD certification

This is a US military standard that specifies how something will behave against the environment during its lifetime. Android phones, watches and other electronics can carry MIL-STD 810G certification, which means that they were tested in a laboratory under conditions that simulate a gigantic list of environmental variables and continued to work. Some of the things that are tested include extreme temperatures, altitude, thermal shock, fungal entry, and frozen solids. This one an exhaustive list.

If your phone model passed all the tests, does that mean you are free to do what you want?

Do not.

This certification seems to do little actually felt. To begin with, testing procedures clearly indicate that a manufacturer only needs to test simulated environments, which does not mean that it will withstand a real scenario. If that’s not enough to make you suspicious, the fact that the tester can decide how he wants to do the simulation says it all.

Dr. Conrad H. Blickenstorfer, Ph.D. explains perfectly when discussing MIL-SPEC standards for laptops.

MIL-STD-810G does not require standards or set minimum targets for the various tests; for the most part, it simply describes how the test should be conducted. This leaves considerable room for interpretation and it is therefore important that rugged notebook manufacturers provide detailed information on which tests were conducted, how exactly they were conducted, what the results were and what these results really mean. The claim that a product is “certified by MIL-STD-810G” is not sufficient, and prospective customers should ask for more details.

To say that a device is MIL-STD 810G certified without providing a copy of the test parameters and the results mean the same thing as “this smartphone is fast” or “it has an excellent camera”. Never think that your electronic device will withstand these types of conditions unless you have seen the parameters and test results.

Viewing IP ratings and military-grade certification assessments on a phone is usually a good thing. Not all devices will pass all real-life tests, but there is a significant likelihood of going well.

Having an IP certified phone is great protection against accidents like spilling water or using it in a dusty environment, and a MIL-STD 810G certified phone will have more protection than one without. Just be aware that taking your smartphone to dive or in more aggressive activities can go wrong and the guarantee will not save you.

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