For its next iPhone, Apple is under pressure to outshine rival Samsung when it comes to design, speed, and how waterproof it truly is.
The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus already had a certain amount of water resistance, It’s guaranteed to resist momentary exposures to splashes, etc., but was not built to withstand full submersion in water.
Samsung phones were rated IP68 water- and dust-resistant starting last year with the Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge and the Note 7 (which was obviously not explosion-resistant). This year’s Galaxy S8 and S8 Edge are also IP68 rated. Samsung users like to drop Galaxy phones into fishtanks during product demos. It’s cute. The LG G6 has an IP68 rating. So do many others–it’s becoming the norm. (See an explanation of the ratings here.)
Now iPhone assembler Wistron says the next generation of 5.5-inch iPhones (likely called the 7s Plus), expected to be announced this fall, will be IP68 waterproof (and will support wireless charging too), according to a Nikkei report. A higher-end “iPhone 8” would very likely get the IP68 rating, too.
Even though the existing iPhone 7 line is at least partly waterproof, the Apple warranty doesn’t cover water damage. Actually, Apple’s warranties don’t say anything specific to water damage. They simply state that Apple won’t cover damage from any use not covered by its published guidelines.
iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus are splash, water, and dust resistant and were tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP67 under IEC standard 60529. Splash, water, and dust resistance are not permanent conditions and resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear. Do not attempt to charge a wet iPhone; refer to the user guide for cleaning and drying instructions. Liquid damage not covered under warranty.
If the iPhone 7s Plus gets an IP68 rating, the usage guidelines may shift to look something like Samsung’s for the S8. Paraphrased:
The device is water resistant in fresh water to a maximum depth of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes, and are protected from dust. The device may be damaged if water or dust enters the device. Do not expose the device to water moving with force, such as water running from a tap, ocean waves, or waterfalls.
But before going swimming with the next iPhone, buyers are well-advised to make sure the marketing claims of “waterproof” are backed up by the legal fine print in the warranty.
Actually, Apple tends to build more waterproofing into its devices than what the marketing materials say. Many people have reported showering with their iPhone 7 with no problems. Same thing with the first Apple Watch, which many believe offered a high level of water resistance, but did not hype it, or guarantee it.
The IP68 level of waterproofing will have real-world value for iPhone owners. It might bail out the thousands of people who drop their iDevices into sinks and toilets every year (then play the dreaded game of “rice roulette,” which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t).