It was only a decade ago that you could harmlessly push a friend into a swimming pool on a hot summer day and have everyone laugh it off as a prank. However, thanks to the invention of the smartphone, the idea of a surprise plunge into water is nightmarish; after all, most of us have the phone in our pocket that we paid close to a grand for, if not more!
Luckily, we’ve entered a technological era of smartphone technology where most modern phones, including the iPhone, are either waterproof or water-resistant. In short, they’re rated to withstand at least some degree of contact with water and liquid. However, waterproof and water-resistant are not the same thing, and your iPhone is not impervious to liquid damage.
Which Models of the iPhone are Waterproof?
The iPhone has been resistant to liquid damage for some time now. The first model to feature this attribute was the iPhone 7, which is one of the reasons Apple decided to remove the headphone jack. The more openings there are on a phone, the more potential entrances there are for liquid.
The iPhone 7 and every iPhone made by Apple since is listed as water-resistant with an IP67 rating. When rating water-resistance, IP stands for “International Protection Marking” and stands in as a de facto way to universally rate the water resistance and dust resistance of an electronic device.
The IP system is easy to understand when you break it down. The first digit rates a device’s resistant to solid particles (dust), the second digit rates its resistance to liquid (typically water). You might think that these digits work off of a scaled rating system, which they kind of do, but it’s not as intuitive as you’d think. Wikipedia breaks down the digit system for both solid particles and liquid. Here’s the particle protection:
And you can view the liquid protection ratings by clicking here.
In the case of iPhone models from the iPhone 7 and onward, you have a rating of IP67. What does that mean? A particle rating of 6 means, “No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust-tight). A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on airflow.”
A liquid rating of 7 means, “Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1 m of submersion).”
Waterproof vs. Water-Resistant
What do companies mean when they advertise a smartphone as either waterproof or water-resistant? You may assume they are arbitrary labels describing the same thing—imperviousness to water. However, they’re carefully labelling their product based on immersion testing and its subsequently prescribed IP rating. To put it simply, there is one key difference between the two labels and that’s time.
Water-Resistant Smartphones are impervious to liquid damage when completely submerged for some time. The modern iPhones are rated IP67 and is thus able to be completely submerged in water for up to 30 minutes.
Waterproof smartphones are impervious to liquid damage for an indeterminate amount of time. In theory, there is no limit on the amount of time a waterproof phone can stay submerged.
However, as stringent as IP testing is, the terms waterproof and water-resistant are sometimes used interchangeably even if they should not be. Whatever the case is, chances are that if a manufacturer states that their smartphone is water-resistant that phone is typically rated IP67. However, there are a few phones on the market with a higher rating.
How to Check for Liquid Damage
The easiest way to know you have liquid damage is to think back on your iPhone usage. Were you recently caught in a rainstorm? Did you take a trip to the water park? Vacation at the beach? Causation is a simple way to extrapolate liquid damage from your iPhone’s symptoms such as a non-working connector, no power, or non-working speakers. However, you can check for liquid damage on your iPhone through the use of liquid indicators. Just bear in mind that these are not always tripped and sometimes maybe tripped without real cause. They are the equivalent of colour-changing stickers.
Older Generation iPhones
iPhones leading up to the iPhone 7 have liquid indicators inside the headphone jack, inside the lightning connector, and inside the sim tray. If the liquid indicator has been tripped, then it will go from white to various shades of pink. The more vibrant the pink, the more liquid has come in contact with the indicator.
iPhone 7 and Onward
Due to the iPhone 7’s (and subsequent models’) water-resistant IP rating Apple has reduced the number of liquid indicators to only 1, which is visible on the sim try on the side of your device. Using a sim card tool, pop out the tray and inspect the liquid indicator. White means dry, pink means wet.
Note: try not to use a paper clip to pop out your sim—they are a tad too large and will wear out the sim popping mechanism.
Can You Repair Liquid Damage?
Liquid damage can be a fickle thing to repair. Technically, the damage is done to your device in the nano-second that liquid comes into contact with it. That’s because the liquid entering your device is causing your electronic components to fry themselves.
Why Is Liquid Harmful to Electronics?
Liquid damage is a bit of a misnomer when you break down what is happening to your iPhone when liquid gets into it. It’s not the liquid itself that is frying your electronics, it’s what’s being carried within the liquid.
Water isn’t just water—it’s a substance carrying with it a multitude of metals and minerals. And along those same lines, every liquid is a carrier for metals and minerals, which are what fry electronics. We all know what happens when you stick a fork into a wall outlet even if we haven’t done it ourselves. When the liquid comes in contact with your iPhone, think of it as getting prodded by millions of microscopic forks, which wreak havoc on its electronic components. In the case of beer, soda, and ocean water, you’re not only introducing minerals and metals—you’re inviting in nasty stuff like sugar, salt, and sand; none of which have any place inside your phone.
In theory, perfectly distilled water (water with all metals. Minerals and foreign substances other than hydrogen and oxygen removed) would have absolutely no effect on electronic components. But in real life, the liquid that gets into our iPhone isn’t clean by any means.
So Liquid Damage is Hopeless to Repair?
Liquid damage isn’t always hopeless. It all depends on which component was affected if any. The liquid will always follow the path of least resistance. There’s a chance that, even though it entered your iPhone, it didn’t land of any electronics. There’s a lot of plastic inside your iPhone, which can sometimes get in the way of that water.
If your iPhone has had contact with water in a way that it wasn’t rated for, the first thing you should do is the power it off. Allow your iPhone to dry out for a day or more—throw it in some rice if you think that works. Once your internal components are thoroughly dry you can power your iPhone on and check for damage.
What Other Repair Options Do I Have?
If your iPhone is liquid damaged but the damage is isolated, then there are avenues for repairing that specific component. Check the Apple Store to see what type of repairs they’ll do for you. Bear in mind Apple will more than likely want to replace your iPhone rather than repair it. However, if you’ve invested in AppleCare+ then you shouldn’t have to spend too much on a new iPhone.
If Apple turns you away, then check our your local, reputable third-party repair shop. They have access to off-market components, such as cameras, speakers, microphones, and a bunch of other stuff Apple will refuse to service. For less than $100 you could get a new microphone or camera and completely forget that you dropped your iPhone in the toilet.
What if My iPhone is (Literally) a Wash?
If your iPhone is too badly damaged by liquid or too old to feasibly repair, then it may be time to suck it up and buy a new iPhone. However, don’t just toss your old (damaged) iPhone into the trash. Use Buyback Boss to get an instant offer on your iPhone. You might even be surprised to receive some money for your damaged iPhone.
Even if your iPhone is too far gone to exchange for cash, Buyback Boss will responsibly recycle your device for you, so you don’t have to feel guilty. With that said, it’s worth a shot—we’ll do what we can to get you some cash in exchange for your damaged iPhone!