The days of desperately plunging your iPhone into a bag of rice after accidentally dropping it into water are increasingly behind us. Thankfully, most devices coming to market now sport some level of waterproof IP rating.
But what do all those numbers mean? And what’s the difference between IP67 and IP68? Or even IPX4 and IPX8? Canstar Blue explains:
IP ratings explained
An IP rating is typically associated with a device’s waterproof level. But the two numbers actually correspond to two different factors:
- the first digit – measured on a scale from 0-6 – indicates protection from solids (i.e. dust)
- the second digit – measured on a scale from 0-8 – indicates protection from liquids (i.e. water)
That means the iPhone 13 Pro, which features an IP68 rating, measures a ‘6’ against dust and an ‘8’ against water. Which is the maximum possible rating.
How dust and waterproof is your phone?
Most premium phones now have an IP68 rating, which will keep your device plenty safe. But some cheaper devices may have a lower rating. The below table indicates what each of the ratings mean, and can help you decide what IP rating is best for you. Or, it might help you better understand what your current device’s IP rating actually means, so you can care for it accordingly.
|IP Rating||Protection (object size)||Real World Usage|
|1||Larger than 50mm||Some protection from large surfaces and objects|
|2||Larger than 12.5mm||Protection from fingers|
|3||Larger than 2.5mm||Protection from tools, thick wires, etc|
|4||Larger than 1mm||Protection from most wires and tools|
|5||N/A||Some protection from dust|
|IP Rating||Protection||Time of test||Real World Usage|
|1||Protection from vertical dripping water||10mins||Light rain|
|2||Protection from vertical dripping water when device is tilted at a 15° angle||10mins||Light rain|
|3||Protection from direct sprays of water when device is tilted at a 60° angle||5mins||Rain and spraying|
|4||Protection of sprays and splashes of water from all directions||5mins||Rain, spraying, and splashing|
|5||Protection from low-pressure water projected from a nozzle with a 6.3mm diameter opening in any direction||3mins from a distance of 3m||Rain, splashing and direct contact with most kitchen and bathroom taps|
|6||Protection from water projected in powerful jets from a nozzle with a 12.5mm diameter opening in any direction||3mins from a distance of 3m||Rain, splashing, direct contact with kitchen and bathroom taps, outdoor use in rough sea conditions|
|7||Protected from immersion in water with a depth of up to 1m for up to 30mins||30mins||Accidental submersion|
|8||Protected from immersion in water with a depth of more than 1m (manufacturer must specify exact depth)||At least 30mins||Accidental submersion|
IPX4 and IPX8: What does the ‘X’ mean?
Some devices come sporting an IP rating with just one number (typically a water rating). An X simply means the company hasn’t provided testing details. So there’s no information on the level of dust, or solids, protection. That doesn’t necessarily mean it doesn’t provide any protection, it just hasn’t been rated.
What if my device doesn’t have an IP rating?
To get an IP rating, a company needs to put the device through some strict testing. That can be costly and time consuming. So some companies choose to opt out.
However, just because a device doesn’t have an IP rating doesn’t mean it’s not dust/waterproof. It just means it hasn’t undergone IP testing. A company may have done its own tests, and the device may still be waterproof.
For this reason, you may see products advertised as water-resistant or splashproof, despite no IP rating.
If there is no IP rating, however, you should definitely treat take care with your device, and adhere to the recommendations outlined in the documentation provided with the product.
Can I use my phone underwater?
While a waterproof rating of 7 or 8 indicates the phone can be fully submerged in water, it’s not necessarily recommended to intentionally use your phone underwater. For starters, these devices are tested in controlled environments. If you’re swimming in a pool or at the beach you have water swishing and moving about (as opposed to in still water) which can increase the water pressure on the device. You’ll also have chemicals/sand etc to deal with, which can be harmful to internal components.
This could impact the level of real-world protection.
As a result, waterproof ratings are usually marketed as a safety benefit, not a feature. And that’s why you don’t see people snorkelling with iPhones in Apple adverts, despite Apple claiming the iPhone 13 Pro can be submerged to a depth of 6m. In fact, over in Australia, Samsung was fined for misleading consumers into thinking their waterproof devices were appropriate for submerging in pools and at the beach.
So while your iPhone should be okay if you accidentally drop it into a pool (and quickly retrieve it), your iPhone probably can’t replace your GoPro just yet.
What IP rating do I need?
In general, the higher the better, as this will provide the best protection. You might not feel as if your device needs protection from being plunged into water, but accidents happen.
However, for certain devices, the IP rating is more important than others. Think Bluetooth speakers that are designed to stick to your shower wall. Or earbuds designed for a sweaty gym workout. Both of these are going to be regularly exposed to moisture.
In this case, there is probably a minimum rating needed for it to viably function long-term. For example, a speaker in a shower is likely to get splashed from multiple directions, and at times with some pressure (although it shouldn’t be getting hit with a direct stream from the shower head). So you’d probably want an IPX5 or IPX6 rating.
And while IP ratings don’t measure for sweat, IPX4 is typically regarded as the minimum for sweat resistance. Nearly all modern earbuds feature an IPX4 or greater rating, for this reason. But if you’ll be using them for runs and/or gym sessions, in particular, you’ll want to double-check the level of protection.
What about my smartphone?
When it comes to smartphones, the higher the better. Not only are these devices expensive, and you’ll want them to last as long as possible, but they tend to come with us everywhere and anywhere. So while you shouldn’t need to put that 1.5m, 30-minute water submersion rating to the test, you phone will need to survive its fair share of rain, spilt tea and coffee, or even a dip in the bathroom basin.
About the author of this page
This report was written by Canstar Content Producer, Andrew Broadley. Andrew is an experienced writer with a wide range of industry experience. Starting out, he cut his teeth working as a writer for print and online magazines, and he has worked in both journalism and editorial roles. His content has covered lifestyle and culture, marketing and, more recently, finance for Canstar.