IP Ratings Explained

IP Ratings Explained: YOU NEED TO KNOW Before Buying your New Smartphone

IP Ratings Explained intro imageIP Ratings, or Ingress Protection Ratings, is a globally acknowledged measurement of dust and liquid resistance that IEC (International Electromechanical Commission) standardized back on 1976.

The first water-resistant smartphone was introduced 34 years later. It’s the Motorola DEFY, which was dust and water resistant to IP67 standards. Of course, this was still a premium feature in 2010. So it took a few more years for it to make its way into all the big flagships.

Moving forward to 2013, Sony announced the Sony Xperia Z, their first flagship with a water-resistant rating of IP55 and IP57. Following Sony, Samsung released the Samsung Galaxy S5 in 2014, which has an IP67 certification. In 2016 Apple produced the first iPhone with an IP67 rating, the iPhone 7.

Since then, nearly all flagship and several mid-range smartphones have included some type of water resistance. Although making a phone more difficult to repair, is also a beneficial advantage for the average user.

What do the IP rating numbers mean?

Today almost all flagship phones have received IP68 certifications, but what exactly does that entail and how does it vary? Well, if you look down below to the IEC ratings guide, this is rather straightforward to code.

The rating ranges from zero to six, with zero indicating no protection at all and six indicating dust type. The second number indicates how water resistant your phone is. The scale ranges from zero to nine, with nine indicating that your phone should be able to handle high pressure and high temperature water jets.

What is the difference between IP and IPX rating?

IP RatingsAs mentioned earlier the IP rating of a smartphone  determines how well it resists dirt, dust, and water. The first and second digits in the rating indicate how well it withstands exposure to solid particles and liquids, respectively. If there’s a number 0 after testing an item it means that  has zero protection against that element. If there’s a letter X it means that no testing performed against that element.

So, an IP03 for example means the device is not protected against dirt, dust, or other solid foreign object. It is protected though against spraying water. An IPX4 rating means that there was no testing of a device against solid foreign objects but it is protected against splashing water.

What are the different IP ratings used for smartphones?

IP RatingsTo assign a device an IP code rating, the manufacturer must put it through a series of tests. Since these tests are quite costly the manufacturer decides for what IP rating they want to test their product.

Let’s look into the common IP ratings used in a significant percentage of today’s huge range of smartphones available in the market.

IPX4 – Protected against splashing water

IP RatingsWe consider a device with an IPX4 certification as being water-resistant or, more precisely, sweatproof. It can resist 10 minutes of water splashing and spraying, which closely resembles intense sweating and mild rain.

IP5X – Dust resistant

IP RatingsWe consider a device with an IP5X certification as being  dust-proof. There is protection against a limited ingress of dust. Dust might get inside, but it won’t affect the internal mechanisms.

IP53 – Dust resistant & Water spraying resistant

IP RatingsProtection against dust. Dust might get inside, but it won’t affect the internal mechanisms. Also, there is  protection against spraying water (no pressure) when tilted up to a 60-degree angle.

IP54 – Dust resistant & Water splashing resistant

Protection from limited dust ingress and water spraying from any direction.

IP67 – Dustproof & Waterproof

Protection from high levels of dust ingress. Also there is protection against the effects of temporary immersion in water up to 1 meter deep for 30 minutes.

IP68 – Dustproof & Waterproof

Protection from high levels of dust, dirt and sand ingress. Also there is protection against the effects of continues immersion in water up to usually 1.5 meter deep for 30 minutes.

Regarding waterproof devices rated with IP67 & IP68 the manufacturer must specify the depths. In case of IP68 though are not always the same. All iPhone 12 & 13 models have a rating of IP68 and Apple is claiming that are  capable of diving to a depth of 6 meters up to 30 minutes. iPhone 11, XS and XS Max although they do carry the same IP rating, they can go as deep as 2 meters up to 30 min.  All other manufacturers’ devices on the other hand they are only rated IP68 for going as deep as 1.5 meters and 30 minutes.

So the IEC’s IP rating is basically a minimum requirement to meet in order to certify a device. 

Which phones have IP ratings?

Most of mid-range and almost all high-end devices available today in the market.

Is IP rating important in a phone?

IP ratings indicates that the product has been evaluated for water and/or dust resistance. This information informs a buyer that his/her device will not be harmed if it gets in touch with fluids or dust. Nevertheless, they may only provide an indication for average user and not solid guidance for absolute protection.

Which IP rating offers full protection to my phone?

Even if your phone has a high IP rating such as IP68, it still has limitations and and a damage may occur by liquids if exposed to high velocity/pressure water for longer than it’s design can tolerate. No phone is fully waterproof since that would suggest that water cannot penetrate the device and that even if it did, it wouldn’t do significant damage.

A very important factor you need to know is that IP Ratings are strictly assigned for freshwater. So, as a result phone’s resistance to other liquids such as oil, beer, detergents, coffee, salt water, and soda may differ from its resistance to tap water.

Which IP ratings are suitable for swimming?

Swimming with your phone is not a good idea. Manufacturers perform IP certification tests in a lab and not in the sea with salt water or a swimming pool full of chemicals that can break down phones over time.

Keep in mind that no smartphone manufacturer, including Samsung and Apple, covers liquid damage under normal warranty. If the phone has been exposed to liquid, most likely the manufacturer will refuse all warranty claims, and you will have to pay the repair cost. 

Conclusion

It’s a good idea to look for phones that are water resistant or have an IP certification. Especially if you’re purchasing a premium device. Taking it for granted and purposely exposing you phone to liquids, on the other hand, may result in damage.

So as a conclusion the IP rating is a worldwide method of determining how dust and water resistant an electronic device is. As simple as it is to decode an IP certification, it is not the most accurate way to determine your phone’s resistance to the elements. No matter how much manufacturers would like to sell you the concept of the perfect water and dust proof idea, such a device does not exist. Sure, there are some robust variations that make a device a bit better, but they’re still not waterproof. When you’re ready to buy a phone with an IP classification, keep this in mind.