Top 5 Best Waterproof Phones for 2018

August 3, 2018

11:52 am

Waterproof phones have become the latest trend for a wide range of manufacturers. There’s a big difference between waterproof and water-resistant, however, and knowing which phones provide the most protection from liquid damage could mean the difference between a working smartphone and a useless hunk of plastic inside of a bag of rice.

A spilled glass of water, a slip in the restroom, or a kayak flipping over unexpectedly – there are all sorts of reasons why your phone may take an unexpected dunk. Liquid damage can render a several-hundred-dollar smartphone little more than a brick, and it can happen in moments. Plus – let’s be honest – since the dawn of humanity, it’s been funny to push people into water. Do it to a friend with their phone in their pocket, however, and you’ve just lost a friend.

A new breed of waterproof phones means that consumers can snap away on their camera at the beach, or breathe a sigh of relief if a phone slips out of hand over the (gross) toilet.

Not all phones are waterproof yet though – it’s generally a feature of higher end models. But the big manufacturers are prioritizing waterproofing for their premium lines, and that generally means the more affordable ranges will follow soon enough. If you’re after a waterproof phone right now, the models below are the best around.

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Best Waterproof Phones to Choose

For a more in-depth look at a few waterproof phones on the market today, check out our comprehensive guide below:

Verdict Waterproof Rating Maximum Depth Maximum Time
Samsung Galaxy S9 Killer features, plus one of the only waterproof phones that’s IP68 rated. IP68 30ft 30 mins
Apple iPhone X The iPhone is great for a light swim or accidental splash, but not deeper dives. IP67 3ft 30 mins
Google Pixel 2 As with the iPhone X, this is good for quick, shallow water exposure. IP67 3ft 30 mins
Motorola Moto X4 An affordable waterproof phone, perfect for spills or paddles. IP67 3ft 30 mins
LG V30 The LG phone is IP68 rated, so it’s built to survive swimming. IP68 30ft 30 mins

When choosing a waterproof phone, it’s important to understand what conditions the phone will survive:

  • Splashes and spills – any of the phones we’ve listed below will survive accidental liquid spillage
  • Light swimming – a quick dip in the pool should be no problem for the phones below, but most aren’t built to survive the pressures of deep water (anything beyond 3ft is a risk for all but two)
  • Deeper dives – only phones rated as IP68 (the Samsung S9 and LG V30) are safe to take into waters deeper than 3ft

Samsung Galaxy S9 – $690

waterproof phones samsung

If you’re looking for the latest smartphone with all the new features, a curved screen, and the highest level of waterproof technology available, Samsung has you covered. Its latest smartphone, the Galaxy S9, remains one of the most sought after smartphones on the market today. And with specs like these, there is no wondering why.

  • 12-megapixel camera (rear); 8-megapixel camera (front)
  • 4GB of RAM
  • 5.8-inch Super AMOLED screen
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
  • Runs Android 8.0 Oreo with Samsung Interface

As for the S9’s water-resistance, it can survive in 30 feet of water for around 30 minutes, giving it IP68 certification, the highest rating on this list (shared only by the LG V30).

Samsung Galaxy S9 prices and deals on Amazon

Apple iPhone X – $950

waterproof phones appleYes, it’s expensive, but it’s for a good reason. Between the incredible design, the seamless interface, and overwhelmingly popular iOS, there’s really no denying that you get what you pay for when it comes to the iPhone X. Plus, when a smartphone unlocks when it recognizes your face, the last thing you want is to lose it to a glass of water.

  • Dual 12 mega pixel camera (rear); 7 megapixel FaceTime HD (front)
  • 3GB of RAM
  • 5.8-inch Super Retina AMOLED display
  • A11 Bionic with 64-bit architecture, M11 motion co-processor
  • Runs iOS 11

The iPhone X boasts quite impressive waterproof technology, landing itself an IP67 certification. Yes, that’s less than the Samsung Galaxy S9, but it can still survive a drop in the 3 feet of stable water for up to 30 minutes. However, if you were hoping to take your expensive new smartphone on that white water rafting trip you have planned for next week, maybe consider investing in a plastic bag or two.

Find prices for the Apple iPhone X on Amazon

Google Pixel 2 – $579

waterproof smartphones googleWhile Google was a little late to the smartphone game compared to the other providers on this list, they really showed up to compete with the Pixel 2. This marvel of features, cameras, and overall incredible user experience has turned heads right out of the gate. And those portrait mode pictures aren’t too bad either.

  • 12.2 megapixel camera (rear); 8 megapixel camera (front)
  • 5-inch (1920×1080) AMOLED display
  • 4GB of RAM
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • Runs Android 8.0 Oreo with Google Interface

Like the iPhone X, the Google Pixel 2 is certified IP67 (30 minutes of resistance in 3 feet of “stable” water), which means that taking it on the open water is far from recommended. But when it comes to everyday spills and drops, you can be rest assured the Pixel 2 will stand its ground.

Find prices for the Google Pixel 2 on Amazon

Motorola Moto X4 – $321

waterproof phones motoEvery list of waterproof phones needs an affordable option, and the Moto X4 provides that and then some. At only $321, it’s at least half as expensive as every other phone on this list. Sure, you’re foregoing a few key features, like a stellar camera, but the Moto X4 is good enough, particularly for the price.

  •  12-megapixel (front)
  • 5.2-inch full-HD (1080×1920 pixels) LTPS IPS display
  • 3GB of RAM
  • Octacore Snapdragon 630 processor
  • Runs on Android 7.1.1 Nougat

Like the other phones on this list, the Moto X4 boasts IP67 certification, which means it’s water resistant in 3 feet of stable water for 30 minutes, which at this point might seem a little underwhelming. But for the price, you’re getting a whole lot of freedom along with it.

Get the Moto X4 at Amazon

LG V30 – $530

waterproof phones LGThe LG V30 is far from the biggest or most popular phone on the list. However, this smartphone is equipped with a lot of the same specs and features as the phones above, which makes its price all the more attractive. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.

  • 16 megapixel camera (rear); 5 megapixel camera (front)
  • 6-inch OLED with curved edges
  • 4GB of RAM
  • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
  • Runs Android 7.1.2

Here comes the good part. While the LG V30 lacks in a few key areas compared to the other phones on the list, it is certified IP68, giving it 30 feet of water resistance for 30 minutes. And, as we mentioned earlier, that’s the highest IP rating on the list.

See prices for the LG V30 on Amazon

Which iPhones are Waterproof?

We’ve picked out the iPhone X above as our top-choice for a waterproof iPhone. The iPhone X is Apple’s premium phone, though it’s due to be replaced later this year. However, it’s not the only iPhone that can survive a splash.

The following iPhones are all IP67 waterproof (3ft of water for 30 mins)

  • iPhone X
  • iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus
  • iPhone 7 and 7 Plus

If you have an iPhone older than these models, keep it away from water. Liquid damage will invalidate an iPhone warranty, and Apple has simple ways to test for liquid ingress in an iPhone, so don’t be tempted to lie at the Apple Store about why your phone ‘suddenly just stopped working’.

All of the waterproof iPhone models have one other feature in common – a lack of a headphone jack.

Read more about Gear and Gadgets on Tech.co

Waterproof vs Water-Resistant

It’s worth nothing that, while these phones can be submerged in water for an extended period of time, “waterproof” is not entirely accurate. Most of these mobile providers will make it as clear as possible that these smartphones are characterized as merely “water-resistant,” albeit an impressive iteration that puts those 1990s sports watches to shame.

Thanks to the exit of the headphone jack and improved waterproof coating technology, these smartphones can survive splashes, dunks, and even full on drops into pools.

However, if submerged for a long time, a deep depth, or in a particularly volatile liquid, pretty much any phone will succumb muffled speakers, malfunctioning screens, or even a complete shutdown.

IP Ratings Explained

The extent of a smartphone’s water resistance is measured by its IP rating, which measures its resistance to water over a period of time and certain depths. It also measures how well smartphones hold up against dust, wires, screws, and even your fingers.

The phones above are all either IP67 rated (3ft of water for 30 mins) or IP68 rated (30ft of water for 30 mins).

The two numbers in the IP rating each equate to a different standard of durability and water resistance. The first number (the ‘6’ on both IP67 and IP68) means the device can withstand dust and physical damage by small objects.

The second number, however, equates to the level of waterproofing. A rating of ‘1’ here would mean your phone would survive a few raindrops. A rating of ‘8’ means you could safely dive off a boat with your phone in your pocket.

Just remember, when we say “waterproof,” what we really mean is just “really, really, really water resistant.” So be careful – don’t take a smartphone scuba-diving.

Waterproof Phone Cases and Pouches

We’ll stop you here – just don’t. While waterproof phone cases can be pretty affordable, these seal-tight pouches aren’t a smart choice if you’re looking to take a phone underwater.

Most case and pouch manufacturers accept zero liability in case of liquid damage to your device (a clear sign of low confidence in their own product). They’ll typically recommend you test out the pouch with a piece of tissue paper inside, first, to test for leakage.

The heartbreak of damaging your phone isn’t worth it. Plus, the cheap plastic covers on these waterproof cases and and pouches often reduce the picture quality you can get from your phone’s camera.

If you’re about to board a boat for a day and just want a safe pouch for your phone, in case water splashes over the side, then these products are perfectly fine. If you’re looking to jump off the deck, don’t trust a waterproof pouch to protect your phone when you hit the water.

What to Look for in a Waterproof Phone

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to choosing a waterproof phone beyond its IP rating. While most of these devices are safe to drop in the toilet or spill a glass of water on, they vary widely when it comes to their others specs.

Processor

water splashing smartphoneThe brains of the smartphone, a processor can make all the difference to your day-to-day use of the device. If you want to run a lot of apps, take a lot of pictures, and avoid glitches and freezes, make sure your processor can handle how much you use your phone.

Screen Size

Big or small, curved or straight, notch or not, deciding on the right screen is key. If you’re looking for an immersive experience, the bigger the better. Operating a phone camera underwater isn’t easy, for example, so a larger screen may make things simpler.

Operating System

The age old question: iOS versus Android. At this point in the game, the choice is yours. They both have their own set of pros and cons, and loyalty seems to be the driving force these days. Apple has lagged behind on waterproof phones so far, but now that everyone has a stake in the game, waterproof supremacy is up for grabs.

Camera Quality

The latest generation of smartphones really stepped up the photo quality, and with phone camera snaps cropping up everywhere from billboards to Instagram, the manufacturers know that this is a feature that matters. If you’re keen on underwater photography, your main challenges are reduced light and being able to operate the camera itself. Low-light picture quality and image stabilisation have improved immensely in recent smartphones, fortunately.

Security

Waterproof phones are secure against water and sand, but you’ll want to know your device is safe if you leave it by your sunbed unattended. Picking a phone with adequate security measures, like a fingerprint reader or Face ID, could prevent you from having your identity, money or data stolen. Both Apple and Google have strong phone tracking features now for finding a lost device or locking it remotely, too.

Why Aren’t Waterproof Phones the Standard Yet?

With waterproof phones hitting the market, you’d think every mobile provider in the world would be jumping at the chance equip this game changing technology. It stands to reason that every one with a smartphone would be clambering to get their hands on one of these splash-, dunk-, and drop-proof devices. But, unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

Waterproofing is all about keeping water out, but completely sealing a smartphone that can still make calls, play music, and generally function is, as Scott Havard, teardown engineer for iFixit, explained to CNET, nearly impossible.

“With enough pressure, you can push water molecules into the device,” says Havard.

Simply put, there’s no way to guarantee a smartphone will stay impregnable enough to keep water out. Waterproofing smartphones isn’t straightforward, and when something is hard in the consumer tech world, that means it’s expensive. And therein lies the problem.

When the likes of Google and Apple can’t afford to shell out the big bucks to get IP68 certification for their smartphones, you know the cost isn’t worth the investment. Granted, it would be great to be able to swim around the ocean with your iPhone X zipped into your bathing suit pocket. But, unless you’re willing to starting paying a whole lot more money for smartphones, you’re going to have to leave it on land like the rest of us.

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Conor is a writer, comedian and world-renowned sweetheart. As the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co, he’s written about everything from Kickstarter campaigns and budding startups to tech titans and innovative technologies. His background in stand-up comedy made him the perfect person to host Startup Night at SXSW and the Funding Q&A at Innovate! and Celebrate, posing questions to notable tech minds from around the world. In his spare time, he thinks about how to properly pronounce the word "colloquially." Conor is the Assistant Editor and Writer at Tech.Co. You can email him at conor@tech.co.

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