The Galaxy S7 Active is supposed to be able to withstand up to a half hour in water about 5 feet deep. It failed Consumer Reports' test. Twice. Here's what that means.
Nothing. That's what it means to me that the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active twice failed Consumer Reports' water immersion test. While that will come across as apologetic, it's simply the case. It matters not to me that Consumer Reports is a longstanding independent publication with the public's interest in mind. It matters not to me that it killed not one, but two phones.
Here's the gist:
Consumer Reports technicians placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurized to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When we removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen wasn't responsive.
Following our standard procedure when a sample fails an immersion test, we submitted a second Galaxy S7 Active to the same test. That phone failed as well. After we removed it from the tank, the screen cycled on and off every few seconds, and moisture could be seen in the front and back camera lenses. We also noticed water in the slot holding the SIM card.
For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality.
That's obviously not good. But two phones does not a proper sample size make. And there's simply not enough information in CR's blog post to determine that there's some sort of manufacturing issue (which would be my guess, so long as we're making assumptions) or, worse, a design issue. Where did the phones come from? Were they manufactured and assembled at the same time, at the same facility? Why stop at two? Were all the other instructions followed?
As long as we're here, though, let's take another look at the legalese that we never bother to read when opening up our phones.
From Page i (which comes before Page 1) of the Galaxy S7 Active manual (pdf):
Note: Water-resistant and dustproof based on IP68 rating, which tests submersion up to 5.0 feet for up to 30 minutes.
From Page 5:
Despite this classification, your device is not impervious to water damage in any situation. It is important that all compartments are closed tightly.
That's an important (and unfortunately necessary) piece of legalese that's not unique to the GS7 Active. This "waterproof" phone isn't necessarily waterproof. There are other caveats as well, such as exposing it to salt water or ionized water.
That certainly flies in the face of the perceived intent of the Galaxy S7 Active. Why have an underwater camera mode if you might kill the phone by taking it underwater, right? Why show it being used underwater? Why advertise it? Why have a water-resistant phone that might die if you use it in water?
Those are real questions to be asked. And real concerns when buying this phone. And, in fact, they're questions we asked in our testing of the GS7 Active.
Our biggest concern has to do with where the glass meets the body. We got a good bit of sand lodged in there, and that worries us when it comes to future water resistance. There also were a few grains of sand around the physical buttons.
We also had a few instances after getting the phone wet in which the power button was misbehaving. But after thoroughly drying the phone, all is well. (That sort of thing isn't uncommon for IP68 devices, actually. And to be fair, skipping a phone across a tide pool isn't exactly intended use.)
You shouldn't actively torture the Galaxy S7 Active. That's a quick way to have something bad happen to your phone. But we have pretty good amount of confidence that this phone will stand up to anything stupid that someone might do to it. Basic falls and such. Quick dunks in water.
In any event, what we saw in our one phone is just that. What we saw in our single phone. And if we were to test a second phone, the results would be just that — the results from a second phone. Even if we were to test the exact same way both times, it still wouldn't be statistically significant, or even really scientific.
If a proper sample of Samsung Galaxy S7 Actives don't survive at the upper (or lower) end of the IP68 rating, then that's a bigger issue. But two tests just isn't enough to make that claim. At least not with any certainty.
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