Samsung sued over misleading water resistance claims on Galaxy phones

Samsung Galaxy S8 Active in water
Samsung Galaxy S8 Active in water (Image credit: Android Central)

What you need to know

  • An Australian regulator is suing Samsung for making false claims regarding the water resistance on Galaxy devices.
  • Samsung advertised Galaxy devices near water bodies, leading customers to think the phones were resistant to the elements.
  • The IP68 rating is for fresh water, and it doesn't hold up at the beach or a swimming pool.

Samsung is at the forefront of water ingress protection on its devices, with several generations of Galaxy S flagships offering IP68 dust and water resistance. IP68 is the industry standard these days, with everyone from Apple and Huawei offering the same level of protection on their flagships.

The IP68 rating allows devices to be submerged in water up to 1.5 meters for 30 minutes, as Samsung states here (opens in new tab). However, what most manufacturers don't mention is that these claims are usually for fresh water, and don't really hold up near a beach or a swimming pool.

Rugged phone ratings: Everything you need to know

That hasn't prevented brands from advertising the phones near a pool or at the ocean, and Samsung has now gotten into hot water over it. The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is suing Samsung for misleading Galaxy owners over water resistance claims:

The ACCC alleges Samsung's advertisements falsely and misleadingly represented Galaxy phones would be suitable for use in, or for exposure to, all types of water, including in ocean water and swimming pools, and would not be affected by such exposure to water for the life of the phone, when this was not the case.Samsung showed the Galaxy phones used in situations they shouldn't be to attract customers.Samsung's advertisements, we believe, denied consumers an informed choice and gave Samsung an unfair competitive advantage.

Samsung does mention that the IP68 rating is for submersion in fresh water, but the ACCC is taking issue with the fact that the brand misled customers about its products' capabilities by advertising Galaxy devices at beaches or pools. Devices with water damage aren't covered under warranty, and routine immersion in water will break any device. Just because a phone is advertised as water resistant, it's not immune to all liquids.

The ACCC is focusing its attention on all water-resistant phones Samsung released after 2016, including the Galaxy S10 series, Note 9 and S9 series, S8, S7, and a few Galaxy A devices. Samsung, for its part, has stated that it will fight the case:

Samsung stands by its marketing and advertising of the water resistancy of its smartphones. We are also confident that we provide customers with free-of-charge remedies in a manner consistent with Samsung's obligations under its manufacturer warranty and the Australian Consumer Law. Customer satisfaction is a top priority for Samsung and we are committed to acting in the best interest of our customers.

Harish Jonnalagadda
Senior Editor - Asia

Harish Jonnalagadda is a Senior Editor overseeing Asia at Android Central. He leads the site's coverage of Chinese phone brands, contributing to reviews, features, and buying guides. He also writes about storage servers, audio products, and the semiconductor industry. Contact him on Twitter at @chunkynerd.

  • Why can't they just make one that actually is waterproof? Also in the pool and at the beach. Obviously not when scuba-diving, but snorkling and such should be fine.
  • They probably will eventually. I'm guessing that's pretty difficult right now with all the ports and such.
  • Spoken by someone with zero engineering background.
  • The salt builds up on the connectors and corrodes. Also the paint, glass coating, etc
  • Samsung has never claimed their phones are water proof. In addition they don't pay for damages due to water ingress and said they wouldn't in the warranty. I think Samsung will end up getting a mild "rebuke"which will alter their future adverts a bit. C'est fini.
  • My S8 was fine in a swimming pool.. obviously don't take it under and keep it there for ages, but it was perfectly capable of coming in with me for photos and such without thinking twice. Never had a problem.
  • This is the point, you obviously thought it was safe to use around a pool because of Samsung advertising. You apparently have been lucky because salt water or oil chemicals can damage the phone.
  • Phone reviews on here crucifying phones that aren't certified. The certification is worthless unless your warranty covers water damage.
  • ☝️This. While I've never had any problems using the S8+, Note 8, or Note 9 underwater, I've always known I was taking a risk because no company stands behind its IP rating. The rating is pretty worthless in real-world use anyway, if you look closely at the test conditions under which it's earned.
  • You really can't do that because you will never know how long the device was in the water or how deep it was. They would have a warranty rush everytime a new device was released. Submerge phone, get it replaced, trade it in. Pretty sure it's in the fine print somewhere about the limits of liability.
  • Used my s9+ in swimming pools on holiday no problems, just have to dry out usb port before charging takes about an hour.
  • Please be careful. The Chlorine in pool water will ruin the olephobic coating on the front and rear glass. You may not notice it as it happens gradually but this will make the glass look oily and dirty very easily. Then there is other corrosive damage that gradually takes its toll on your device depending on duration and nature of exposure. These IP6 and other ratings are meant to protect devices from accidental spills and exposures. Frequent and intentional exposure should be done knowing the risk involved.
  • Every so often, I'll take my phone and run it under the sink to clean it off. Also sometimes, if I'm watching something live (sports game of TV show etc.) I'll prop the phone up in the shower. Are either of these activities dangerous for the phone?
  • Potentially, but it's a risk you would have to consider yourself. I have never submerged my Note8 under any liquid, but I do dampen a cloth with water to wipe it down every night. I want to believe I'm safe doing so, but it's a risk I am willing to take.
  • From my experience my S9+ felt like it was waterproof. I think Samsung did a pretty good job with that.
    I took it various times inside the pool and to the river with me. worst thing that happen was my speaker
    didnt work for the entire day. They cannot warranty water damage and that is very undertandable. There is no way they can prove how deep in the water or how long you kept it there.
  • I've owned the S5, S7, S8, Note 8 and now the s10 plus. I've never had an issue with water. Each of these phones has survived an all day in my pocket under water (in pool water) at wet & wild. 90% of the time submerged in the wave pool or lazy river under water. I've even done under water filming. Samsung should cover it under warranty. But I've had no issues ever throughout the years.
  • The real problem is, people confuse water resistance with being water proof. Anything with holes and moving parts that are used multiple times daily is very difficult to make water proof. Unfortunately, many people simply don't understand this and confuse the two. I had a watch which was 100m water proof, but the manual also recommended not to push the buttons while under water. There's a perfectly good reason for this.
  • I tried arguing this exact point on Instagram, unsuccessfully. People just can't be reasoned with.
  • Basically this. Until our devices are completely portless, there's always going to be risk with water. IP ratings are fine for accidental exposure, but things like dive watches usually have an ATM rating which IIRC works fine for pool and salt water as long as you don't take it deeper than the rating and rinse/dry it afterwards, although I'm still not certain on the details with that, I've been trying to find out but getting a consistent answer is difficult. EDIT: my bad, diving watches have a separate specification, whereas things like smart watches have ATM rating
  • Just one more reason why I didn't care that my OP7Plus lacks IP certification. It's as meaningless as first-person waterpark stories if/when you get water damage and try to get relief from the manufacturer. Just about any modern flagship-to-midtier phone can withstand splashes to quick (or even sustained) dunks, but none offer guarantees, regardless of IP cert. Any reasonable knows they can be confident around splashes, etc, but they also know to take basic precautions. If you want to impress me with a paper certification, make it be a guarantee, otherwise... Meh, not impressed.
  • Is anybody surprised that Samsung did this? Not really. Then again, they are hardly the only ones... As a general rule of thumb, keep your freaking phones away from godamn lakes, rivers, seas and oceans and your toilette. The water resistance on these devices is meant to be a feature useful in case of an accident...not if you take a shower with it. Water resistant is NOT waterproof...
  • I have submerged my phone in water tons of times and my phone is fine. So i dont know what people are doing. Its ip68. 5ft 30mins. I bet people are taking it deeper than that and leave it for longer period of time.
  • So much for IP rating. I get it that despite those ratings, manufacturers won't include them in the warranty. Glad Oneplus dodged that bullet.