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12 October 2022

What Do Phone IP Ratings Mean?
5 mins BY The Three Team

Phones get wet. Living in Ireland means that’s just a fact of life. How well your phone can handle getting wet is usually down to its IP rating. You might have seen IP rating mentioned in the spec list of your phone when you bought it, but what does it all mean?

We’ve pulled together this handy guide to help you understand IP ratings better.

 

What Are IP Ratings?

IP rating stands for Ingress Protection Rating. The word “Ingress” is actually defined as the act of entry. IP ratings can apply to any sort of enclosure. When we talk about IP ratings of phones, we refer to how well your phone can resist water or dust getting inside.

Ultimately, water and dust getting into your phone is bad for it. Phones are sealed to prevent this, but accidents still happen. Understanding IP ratings can help you better protect your phone. If you know your phone shouldn’t be near water, there’s a good chance you’ll be more careful with it.

The flip side is that IP ratings can also help you get more from your phone. Like taking a cool picture in the pool on holidays because you know your phone is water resistant. Or maybe even an underwater snap if it’s totally water proof!

 

Decoding IP Ratings

Let’s take the iPhone 13 as our example here. The iPhone 13 is IP68 rated. This is the typical IP rating format defined as an international standard. “IP” never changes, but the two numbers that follow do.

These two numbers should be read as single digitals. The first and second representing two different things. In this IP68 rating, the “6” represents the level of protection against solids. The “8” represents the level of protection against liquids.

Sometimes, you might see an “X” replace one of the numbers. This means the device has not received a rating for either solids or liquids depending on if it’s in the first or second position.

 

What Do IP Rating Numbers Mean?

To understand what the numbers mean, we need a reference chart.

Digit

Protected Against

Second Digit

0

Not protected

Not protected

1

50mm particles

Vertical dripping water

2

12.5mm particles

Dripping water at 15-degress

3

2.5mm particles

Spraying water

4

1mm particles

Splashing water

5

Somewhat dust protected

Water jets

6

Complete dust protected or Dust Tight

Powerful water jets

7

N/A

Immersion up to 1 meter

8

N/A

Immersion over 1 meter

 
What IP Rating is Waterproof?

The short answer here is none.

An IP68 rated phone like the iPhone 13 is protected from dust and can be in water over 1 meter deep for 30 minutes. But it’s still not waterproof. This particular IP68 rating means the phone can withstand up to 6 meters for 30 minutes.

The chart above represents protection against dust and water. This means phones are water resistant, not waterproof. There’s always a caveat of depth or time.

It’s also important to know, higher IP ratings aren’t always better. IP69K is the “highest” IP rating, and it means protected from stream-jet cleaning. But it doesn’t include any water immersion testing.

It might seem logical that a higher number with an additional letter would be better, but it doesn’t.

Let’s take the Cat S61 as an example. This is the ultimate builder’s phone. It’s IP68 and IP69K rated. So, why the two ratings?

This is because IP69K rated just means a phone has been tested against high pressure water jets. All the ratings before that, IPX1 through IPX7, aren’t included. That’s why you’ll see the Cat S61 is IP68 and IP69K rated. The IP68 rating was simply earned by extra testing.

 

IP67 vs IP68: What’s the Difference?

While there’s a long list of possible ratings, IP67 and IP68 are the most common in phones.

Typically, IP67 means your phone can be dropped in water up to a meter deep for 30 minutes. IP68 means your phone can be dropped into water 1.5 meters deep for 30 minutes. The manufacturer must specify depth for IP68 ratings. As mentioned, this is 6 meters for the iPhone 13.

 

Can You Swim With Your Smartphone?

The big question that remains is just how much you can trust an IP rating. Should you go swimming with your phone for example? While grabbing your phone for a snap in the pool should be fine, we still don’t recommend swimming with your phone.

Chemicals in pools and salt water in the sea can cause major damage to your phone. These aren’t part of the lab testing that determine IP ratings. These lab tests all use fresh water.

IP ratings are great to get a better understanding of whether your phone will be ok if it falls into the sink while doing dishes. But if you do want to take that pool pic with an iPhone 13, you need to be careful.

Another very important thing to point out is phone damage. If you have a cracked screen or phone frame, IP ratings don’t mean much. Your brand-new phone would have been protected, but a cracked screen could let water in.

 

Not All Phones Have IP Ratings

It’s also important to note not all companies get their phones IP rated. The process of getting an IP rating is costly and not all phone makers see the value. In our range, you’ll typically find Xiaomi and OPPO do not have IP ratings. The idea here is that they can save money on manufacturing and pass that saving onto you, the customer.

Now we hope you understand a little more about what your phone’s IP rating means when you’re picking your next phone. Or you’ll know whether or not to panic if you get caught in a sudden downpour on the way home from work!

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