The Galaxy S7 is waterproof with an IP68 rating

A waterproof Samsung Galaxy S7 is officially a thing. And that's good, since it's one of the features you were hoping to see in this year's flagship smartphone. But just how waterproof is "waterproof"? And should you really let your GS7 roll around in your board shorts on the beach?

Let's get into what the Galaxy S7's IP68 rating really means, and what you should realistically expect from a waterproof smartphone.

What is an IP68 rating?

When you talk about a smartphone being waterproof, you'll almost certainly be giving some sort of "IP" rating. That's short for "Ingress Protection," and the numbers that follow it give you a general idea of just how much protection a phone really has.

The Galaxy S7 is rated IP68. The first number refers to the level of protection against dust. And 6 is as good as it gets, meaning the Galaxy S7 (and the Galaxy S7 edge) should be completely sealed against any sort of dust getting inside. Dust obviously is not good. You don't want to see specs on the screen — but under the glass would be impossible to clean off. Likewise, you absolutely do not want to have dust inside the camera lens or on the sensor. That would give you permanent spots on your photos. (If either of these things is apparent on a new phone, you should immediately return it.)

The 8 in the Galaxy S7's IP68 rating has to do with protection against water. And, again, this rating is a good one. The 8 means the phone's internals are able to stay dry beyond one meter for a specific amount of time. The exact numbers can vary a little depending on product and manufacturer, but we've got a pretty good idea of Samsung's standards here. The Gear S2 smartwatch is rated IP68, as is the Galaxy S6 Active. Each of those devices is rated at 1.5 meters (that's just shy of 5 feet) for 30 minutes.

More: Waterproofing needs to be standard on every phone

Don't go swimming with the Galaxy S7

We shouldn't have to say this. But we'll say it anyway: you shouldn't take your smartphone swimming on purpose. Not the Galaxy S7 — waterproof rating or not — and not any other phone. These things are expensive and full of things that don't mix well with water. Keep them on land.

But where this sort of waterproof rating really matters is when the phone accidentally takes a drink. When you drop your new Galaxy S7 in a pool. In the bath. In a toilet. (You know someone's going to do it.) What you get with this sort of waterproof rating is piece of mind that you probably won't kill your phone should it accidentally be dunked or spilled on.

Or when you're asked to try it out in a little indoor water feature. The point is you'll be able to get your Galaxy S7 wet without it dying.

There's going to be some fine print here, however. There always is. If you've banged up your phone, it might not be completely IP68 compliant anymore. And there have been instances with other phones in the past in which there was confusion about a waterproof phone actually being covered for water immersion when it comes to warranty returns.

So in any event you're better off not getting your Galaxy S7 wet if you can avoid it. But if you do, that IP68 rating should help keep it alive until you can grab a towel.

Phil Nickinson