Protection against water and dust in mobile devices is gradually becoming one of the key advantages that both technical reviewers and ordinary users pay attention to.
Most often, compact models with protection are expensive and considered flagships, but many budget models with thick bodies can withstand short dives in fresh water and even more severe tests. There are also protected tablets that cost a lot of money and are officially sold in Russia in very small quantities, but the protection in smartphones and tablets is about the same. How to implement such protection will be discussed in our article.
There are a lot of stories about how devices without special protection fell into the water, but subsequently worked without any unpleasant consequences. This is really possible. However, there are also opposite examples, when one drop was enough to disable the device. Therefore, it is better to choose smartphones and tablets with at least some protection - ideally, IP67 and higher. Most of all, such protection is appreciated in Japan: in this island country there are many exclusive protected models, including those from manufacturers who have not done anything similar for other markets.
You can accidentally spill water on the device even at home, and losing the main means of communication will be very disappointing, especially if it is a rare and / or expensive model. However, even the highest degrees of protection, despite the promises of manufacturers, do not guarantee anything.
As of May 2021, the highest protection standard is IP69 (K). Certification to this standard means that the device must be protected against high temperature water jets. The tables below explain the difference in protection levels in more detail. More detailed testing conditions are specified in the description of the GOST 14254 standard . Please note that even with the IP67 standard, the water temperature should not differ from the device temperature by more than 5 ° C, otherwise immersion even at a shallow depth may have unpleasant consequences.
If everything is transparent and clear with protection against dust, then the features of protection against IPx8 water are not clearly indicated in the standard. It only says that the tests should be more stringent than in the case of IPx7. This gives manufacturers some liberty, but a self-respecting brand indicates the exact depth and maximum duration of the device immersion. This data often differs depending on the model. So, the iPhone can dive to a depth of 6 meters, while the Samsung - up to 1.5 meters.
Some Chinese smartphone manufacturers have announced IP69 protection in recent years, but certificates of passing tests are far from always available in the public domain - moreover, they may not exist at all or turn out to be fake.
In reality, it is difficult for mobile devices to pass the IPx9 standard due to the fact that hot water under pressure is likely to negatively affect speakers, microphones and seals that protect against water. For this reason, even protected devices are not recommended to be used in a bath filled with hot water: hot steam can also overcome the protection.
All tests take place in fresh water. If you assume that your devices will often have to come into contact with salt water, you should take a closer look at Kyocera TORQUE devices, but they are not officially represented in Russia yet.
In addition to salt water, you cannot test the reliability of a smartphone with all kinds of drinks, flammable substances, etc., unless the manufacturer guarantees protection against them. For example, Apple promises that the manufacturer's smartphones will withstand if they are doused with drinks (coffee, soda or juice), but recommends immediately rinsing the device with water and then drying it.
Let's consider the implementation of protection in smartphones using the example of the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra and some other devices. Let's start with the look. A protected device cannot always be distinguished from a regular one. The same S21 Ultra has no rubberized casing, and there are no plugs on the connectors. The back cover is supported by glues and seals GH82-24597A, which will have to be changed after removing the cover: the original version will no longer be able to ensure the tightness of the case. The cover itself for removal will have to be warmed up by removing the glue with isopropyl alcohol. This is problematic to do at home.
In "classic" rugged smartphones, as a rule, the case is at least partially rubberized to protect it from shocks. To fasten the back cover and side faces in such smartphones, not glue, but several screws can be used. The main advantage of this solution is that the screws can be unscrewed while maintaining full protection from moisture. Of the minuses: the body of the device becomes much thicker and heavier, and the presence of screws affects the design of the device. Smartphones look more attractive without them, although this is a subjective point.
For protection, special holes on the body are used, behind which the valve and pressure equalization sensor are hidden. This solution does not allow liquid (condensate) to form inside the device, for example, when the atmospheric pressure changes abruptly. The holes can be on the back or on one of the side faces and are often mistaken for additional microphones.
Smartphones are becoming popular, which do not require plugs for the charging connector and 3.5 mm jack, if it is provided constructively. In case of water ingress, the connectors will simply switch to work until they dry completely, which eliminates the risk of a short circuit. This is convenient, but debris will settle inside the connectors. They can disable the ports of even the most expensive flagship devices. Therefore, for all their inconveniences, plugs remain the most reliable solution. Instead, magnetic cable connectors can be used, but this is only relevant if the port does not allow water to enter.
To prevent water and dust from getting inside the case, instead of or together with the plug, a seal is used, which in the image below has a burgundy color.
In the future, a complete transition to eSIM cards and abandonment of memory cards is possible, but so far physical cards remain in demand in flagships, which means that the card tray also needs protection. On Samsung S21 Ultra, it is implemented with a sealing gum, which does not significantly complicate the process of removing and inserting the tray.
Next to the tray there is a special hole for a needle and subsequent removal of cards. Its internal mechanism also includes a seal.
When the tray is removed, a message appears on the screen of some models stating that the tray must be closed to protect it from water.
Microphones and speakers are covered with special membranes. Separate seals can be provided for them in the housing. The water remaining on the membranes does not dry out immediately. This will temporarily make the sound quieter and the microphone sensitivity low.
If you disassemble the smartphone, you will notice additional seals on the power button, on the volume rocker, and, depending on the model, in other places. The board of the device, or rather the most important components, is coated with a polymer resin (compound), which does not allow them to oxidize.
A video with a disassembly of the Samsung S21 Ultra smartphone and detailed comments on the implementation of protection is available below:
With protected tablets, everything is the same: they do not allow water and dust to pass to the battery and the device board due to similar seals.
No matter how reliable the protection from water and dust is, devices often cannot withstand rapid immersion in water, especially if you drop them from a great height. Protection is weakened due to the accompanying mechanical damage, as well as too low or high water temperature.
Rugged smartphones and tablets, with the exception of a few unsuccessful models, provide sufficient protection against water and dust in most cases and can save you from unpleasant accidents associated with water ingress on the case.
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