Your Android phone may be water resistant, but that doesn't mean you should go swimming with it

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

Every so often, we have to be reminded of a harsh reality — phones just shouldn't be used in water, even if they're built to. The advent of water-resistant smartphones has paved the way for swimming with your phone and potentially dropping it in the pool without having to be immediately stressed out about an insurance claim. Yay!

Or not. Although companies are increasingly making smartphones with IP68 water resistance, they're not exactly advertising a day in the pool with them anymore. There's a reason for that: they really don't want you to ruin your phone.

IP Ratings Explained

Yes, the phones are water resistant, but there are many ways you can still suffer water damage. The most commonly listed disclaimer is that sitting submerged in a certain amount of water for a certain amount of time (usually varies by phone and manufacturer) is enough for the phone to potentially take on water damage.

But here are all the things they don't tell you:

  • Those figures are estimates. A phone could survive longer, and it can also take damage in a matter of minutes.
  • The claims these companies make are more often than not based on tests which are done with fresh water.
  • You'd be surprised just how much water you encounter on a daily basis is actually pure. The water in your swimming pool has chemicals. Your juice or soda has lots of bad stuff for electronics. And even water from your sink may have trace amounts of harmful bits. And don't even think about using your phone in a sea of salt water, a deadly combo that'll eat right through the strongest adhesives and sealants.
  • Even with pure water, there's no guarantee that the seals used inside the phone won't wear over time.
  • Even steam could be enough to damage a phone (though that's probably only in the most extreme cases).

Just take a look at Sony's page on the matter to see what we're talking about. Despite extolling the virtues of water resistance and explaining exactly what their devices are rated for, they still have a long list of guidelines and a recommendation that you should generally be looking to avoid wet conditions whenever possible.

I come to all of you with this on a random Friday afternoon because I'm a victim of my own brand of carelessness. My Samsung Galaxy S9+ is usually good to sit inside of a 20-minute shower, with it resting up on a shelf that doesn't come into direct contact with the shower stream. It sits in a case that protects the charging port and headphone jack, but nothing more.

And for months it's been problem-free… until the one time it wasn't. I suddenly began experiencing problems with my speaker that I'd never had before. It wasn't the usual waterlogged speaker sputtering until the water dried up or worked its way out. It was dying, and there was no amount of drying or waiting that could bring it back. I took the thing back to AT&T to be slapped with a big old deductible for water damage.

Granted, the phone wasn't totally useless. I could still use apps, make calls, and all that good stuff, and I was probably really unlucky as I'd never come across any issues using my previous IP68-rated phone in this manner. But when you're buying a product that has IP68 water resistance, know that resistance is not equivalent to invulnerability. Do yourself a favor and treat the phone like the fragile little $1,000 baby it is.

44 Comments
  • Quote (I come to all of you with this on a random Friday afternoon because I'm a victim of my own brand of carelessness. My Samsung Galaxy S9+ is usually good to sit inside of a 20-minute shower, with it resting up on a shelf that doesn't come into direct contact with the shower stream. It sits in a case that protects the charging port and headphone jack, but nothing more.) 2 question's.
    Why take a phone in the shower in the first place?
    Who the hell takes a 20 Minute shower?
  • I can answer these questions, and provide a pedantic and unsolicited grammar lesson to boot! 1. To listen to podcasts or music. 2. People who enjoy showers. Your bonus content: when quoting someone, you should use quotation marks, not parentheses. Quotation marks look like "this".
  • Het spijt mij. Maar mijn moedertaal is Nederlands.
    English is not my first language.
  • That's cool, you just learned something new about it! I had you pegged for a Dutch speaking North Belgian... The name gives you away lol.
  • Why risk damaging the phone? Will he declare now that listening to that "podcast or a few tracks of music" was worth more than the money he spent repairing his phone? I don't think so.
  • Probably because people don't think it is a risk... They incorrectly believe it's something their phone is designed to do. I blame marketing.
  • Given that Samsung advertised the feature showing a rapper continually pouring champagne all over it, you would think that some humidity or the occasional splash would be survivable.
  • " Who takes 20 min showers" Have you ever see the first 5 min of the movie American Beauty?
  • Ha! Good explanation.
  • I take my note 8 in the shower everyday to watch comedy news without corrupting my toddlers. And a 20min shower is the closest a father will ever get to a vacation 😁
  • To watch YouTube!
  • I've got some great footage with my pixel 2xl under water. If it's under warranty it's going in the pool with me, lol.
  • You should probably be aware that water damage is pretty much never covered by warranty... And chlorine is very bad, and definitely never covered.
  • I don't think there's a phone manufacturer out there that will warranty a water damaged phone, even if it has a good IP rating.
  • HTC did.
  • I treat all my phone's like fragile little babies no matter if it costs $ or $$$. And even it has an IP rating they get treated the same as one that is not. So essentially, I take "some" claims by manufacturers with a grain of salt doing my own do diligence in making sure our devices stay pristine and functional.
  • Same here. I cringe when someone throws their phone on a table.
  • I remember seeing an article awhile ago on Android Central where the author said something about taking a phone into the shower. I thought it was idiotic. And remember, there are "sensors" inside the phone that detect water damage which the phone companies and manufacturers will use to determine whether you will get your repair for free or for a price or at all.
  • This is good advice. That no one will listen to.
  • Bluetooth shower speaker ftw.
  • I thought common sense should prevail here... Why would you bring an electronic device anywhere near water?
  • Well, hopefully someone isn't running a extension cord charging their phone while in the shower.
  • I maybe nuts, but my Note 8 worked great taken underwater pics of stingrays in the clear waters of the oceans. but only 1 foot underwater, still works great 5 months later.
  • Dude, that's even worse. That's salt water.
  • Samsungs phones are definitely phones you can go swimming with. I do it all the time.
  • Steam is one of the worse things As a diver I have an array of electronic devices (watches, dive computers, cameras) that have no issues with 40m of salt water or training in a chlorine pool (as long as they are rinced off afterwards) but they all state to avoid steam (no showers and saunas)
  • Steam is bad because of the heat. When you take a mostly sealed system and heat it, you end up pressurizing it. Since the seals on these things aren't perfect, they'll leak the pressure out. Once the device cools, you've formed a vacuum inside. If there is any moisture left around any of the places the pressure leaked out, it will then be drawn back in through the leak path. I've seen this failure mode on other "sealed" electronics that get exposed to heat and moisture
  • This is not true for every case... I have had 4 Sony Xperia devices that are water resistant... Acro S (ip57), Z1 Compact, Z3 Compact and XZ (ip68)...
    The later Xperias come with a pressure equalization valve and a pressure sensor inside, and you can go into the engineering testing menu and check if the phone is properly hermetic AND is the pressure equalizes after testing. I never had issues with the Acro S, and I took it several times to the pool, shower and beach for snorkeling. I had a sealing issue with the Z3C at the magnetic charge port so I stopped exposing it to water... And i baby the XZ, though I have used it in the shower for music. Heat is never good for a phone but it was never the issue when dealing with water protection
  • I had a faulty Note8 which I sent in for repair and was reviewed by Samsung as water damage however they replaced the phone no questions asked. After looking at the warranty in more detail it states that the phone is not covered for water ingress unless it has an IP rating, which the Note8 does. This is in Aus other regions may be different.
  • Thank you for telling people. It's Ann Ying when e thinls they are perfect y fine showering or taking a bath with their phone. Don't, it will probably survive but you shouldn't risk the damage. It's not designed to be underwater on y design to withstand it.
  • Please buy a shower speaker. You won't have issues with water then
  • I think it's more to do with phones being able to withstand rain, a short dunk in water and splashes. Nothing more.
  • Of course a Bluetooth shower speaker is the best way to go, but putting your phone in a Ziploc bag works great, too. I've done that many times with my past phones that had no water resistance. Doesn't impact sound quality either, that I could tell.
  • I took my Xperia XZ Premium swimming with me on a lake for an hour and a half and record some footage underwater in February this year, and nothing goes wrong right now. I do took precaution of not submerging my phone for too long and too deep though, so i raise my phone while swimming and use it just for recording some fishes XD
  • Hm, I always go swimming with my Sony XZ Premium in my hand in swimming pools around Thailand. If it dies, so be it. Time to buy its successor and try with it, maybe better. But so far, so good. I don't need any case and sh.it also, thing I have to throw it full force against a wall to make my XZ Premium die.
  • What the hell do you do in a 20 minute shower? Oh eew forget I asked...
  • A staff member of the website that bashed the HTC U12's 100% leak-proof buttons, now bemoaning the death of his $1,000.00 Samsung that leaked. The irony! Anyways, I don't take my phones in the shower, but I do keep it on the counter nearby, and depending on who's calling, I will take the call in the shower. I started doing that with the HTC M8, which was rated at IPx3. And before you scoff at IPx3, know that IPx7 and 8 are tested for submersion in still water, but IPx3 is for pressurized spray up to 150 kPa (21.7 PSI). I've used the HTC U11 in pouring rain for 6 hours, and wash it when needed. No problems with that one either.
  • "... I don't take my phones in the shower, but I do keep it on the counter nearby, and depending on who's calling, I will take the call in the shower." God, you must be totally insecure and desperate for any attention.
  • No, I'm on call 24/7 for a medical center with 5 hospitals. It's better to glance out of the shower and see who's calling, than rush the shower wondering if it's an emergency. It's rare that I do pick up, but I have. Also, my second best friend just started college and she sometimes needs a ride, and I often read for a few minutes before the shower. PS: Lots of times I wish I'd get less attention, like when a co-worker's daughter lays her head on my shoulder and asks for my phone number right in front of her dad, or when a pair of teenage girls follow me to the car, or when someone grabs my phone to put her number in it after I didn't. I feel like I have a bull's-eye on my back sometimes, so I'm definitely not looking for more attention...
  • Nope I have never taken a phone in the shower and never will. I can't imagine why anyone would go swimming with one either. From the way some guys smell I'd say a lot more of them should be taking 20 min showers or even longer. Sans the phone.
  • This highlights why it is totally dumb for Android phones to hardwire batteries like iPhone while abandoning field replaceable batteries. Just trendy stoooopid dumb!
  • I'll just repeat what DeBrug said.... 2 question's.
    Why take a phone in the shower in the first place?
    Who the hell takes a 20 Minute shower? 2 question's.
    Why take a phone in the shower in the first place?
    Who the hell takes a 20 Minute shower? 2 question's.
    Why take a phone in the shower in the first place?
    Who the hell takes a 20 Minute shower? (ok wait...yeah I take a long shower myself) ...so, ok on that one. 1 question.
    Why take a phone in the shower in the first place?
  • I submerged my S7 edge in a hot tub for video! Dont ask... And it worked fine no issues!!
  • I went to get my "30 minute submerged water resistant S8+" charging port fixed (moisture detected) and they had to make sure the moisture sensors hadn't gotten wet or my warranty would be void... Why say it's h2o resistant if the warranty is void if your phone gets wet!!!!! #bs