What to know about IP ratings before you get your phone wet

End of our smartphones in unexpected places, whether it’s a quick dip in the toilet or a trip behind the couch where only dust bunnies roam. How rugged is your device? Ingress Protection Ratings, developed by the International commission in electrical engineering and first released in 1976, are intended to highlight the level of dust and water resistance of a device.

IP ratings are a useful standard for comparing the general resistance of new smartphones to dust and water. Keep in mind, however, that IP rating tests are performed in the lab on brand new devices. So protections could be significantly reduced if you throw away your phone and scratch it or buy a refurbished device. If you’re reading this because your smartphone is currently soaking wet, check out WIRED’s guide to saving wet phones before you throw it in any bag of dry rice.

What are IP ratings?

In 2022, one of the most common IP ratings for smartphones is IP68. Let’s break it down.

After the first two letters of the rating, the next character is the level of resistance to dust and external objects. This scale goes from zero to six. According to IEC Rating Guidea five means “dustproof” and a six means “dustproof”.

The last character of the IP rating indicates water resistance, and this scale runs from zero to nine. A smartphone that earns a seven can be completely submerged in shallow water for a short time. Devices with a rating of eight are certified to go a few meters deeper than those with a rating of seven, although the increase in depth is variable. For example, even though the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro are both IP68 rated, the maximum depth for the iPhone 11 is 2 meters and 4 meters for the 11 Pro. The rating of nine for water protection can be largely ignored, as it’s about withstanding hot, high-pressure currents, not submersion.

Using the iPhone 13 as an example, its IP68 rating means the phone is insulated from dust and can be submerged in water. To look at Apple’s webpage which states its IP ratings, the iPhone 13 can be submerged up to 6 meters deep for up to half an hour.

If an IP rating uses an “X”, it means the device is rated for protection against water or dust, but not both. Companies opt for the rating process, and it is important to understand that the “X” does not constitute a rating failure, just no rating.

How water and dust resistant is my smartphone?

Curious about the level of water and dust resistance of your current device? Here are the IP ratings for popular smartphones.

As it concerns Apple devices go, iPhone 7, 7 Plus, 8, 8 Plus, X, XR and the second generation SE all got IP67 rating. iPhone XS, XS Max and newer models are IP68. In Apple’s IP68 rating choices, the older options are only rated for a maximum depth of 2 meters. You can submerge newer peaks up to 6 meters.

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