How iPhone waterproofing works. We figure it out so as not to accidentally drown it

How iPhone waterproofing works. We figure it out so as not to accidentally drown it

One of the most controversial features of modern smartphones is the protection against moisture entering the case. 

On the other hand, this is a great bonus for the large set of advantages of the tool. On the other hand, this is the lack of guarantees from the manufacturer when filling the device.

Now let's find out what weaknesses moisture protection has in modern iPhones, and whether it is worth exposing them to such an effect.

What iPhone Moisture

Protection Experts and enthusiasts have found similar protection against ingress of liquids in the iPhone 6s model. Apparently, Apple was already preparing to obtain the necessary certifications for the devices and to test some developments.

Officially, protection against ingress of liquids and dust has become a feature of the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus . Then Apple smartphones complied with the IP67. Cupertino promises to protect devices when submerged to a depth of up to 1 meter and last up to 30 minutes.

iPhone 8 and iPhone X received a similar degree of protection a year later (the same protection options are found on the iPhone XR and iPhone SE 2020).

On this topic: More About Moisture and Dust Protection for Devices
In 2018, the flagship iPhone XS/XS Max models were protected standard IP68 the more seriousAccording to the specifications, the tool can withstand immersion of up to two meters for up to 30 minutes.

The 2019 iPhone 11 Pro/11 Pro Max standard IP68 , but the manufacturer allowed diving to a depth of 4 meters for up to 30 minutes.

The entire 2020 family of devices (all iPhones with index 12) are IP68 again, but the specs say they can be immersed in depths of up to 6 meters for up to 30 minutes.

The most important thing that has not changed over time - the lack of a guarantee when pouring the tool. This phrase has been present in the specifications of all iPhone models since 2016.

And this is how Cupertino protected themselves from millions of smartphones flooded in service centers. Repairing such devices is almost impossible, and changing the iPhone to a new one in this case will be very expensive.
It turns out that the smartphone has a distinctive feature, but the manufacturer does not take any responsibility for it.

How to Test iPhone Moisture Protection

This is how smartphones are tested in the lab
To understand how Apple smartphones moisture protection works, you must understand how they are tested and approved.

To obtain the appropriate certification for the required IP class, a test set of instruments is tested in strictly controlled laboratory conditions. The test device is placed in a bowl of fresh water and submerged very slowly to the desired depth.

After 30 minutes, the tools are also slowly removed from the water and checked for their performance.

Here we immediately see three main differences from real living conditions.

First , the laboratory temperature and humidity rarely exceed 20-22 degrees and 50%, respectively. In everyday use, we can get the iPhone wet in the summer during a severe heat wave, while traveling abroad in a country with high humidity, or in other excellent conditions.

Second, testing is done strictly in fresh water, and in actual use, the iPhone often ends up in a swimming pool (with a lot of chemical elements) or in the sea (with a high salt content). These inclusions will negatively affect the protection against moisture or settle on other unprotected elements.

Thirdly, in real conditions of use, the smartphone will go to the bottom or to the surface much faster than in the laboratory.will change significantly, and not evenly, which can also be a determining factor.

These three differences do not allow us to hope for a successful outcome of the "bathing" of the smartphone in real life.

Even during tests closest to real conditions, conducted by bloggers and enthusiasts, new tools are used with the highest possible moisture protection standards. At the same time, no one talks about the further fate of devices that have passed such a test.

Most often, the first immersion in water is not fatal. During the first "dive", the iPhone receives a certain dose of chemicals or salts, which have a negative effect on protective gaskets or unprotected items. But subsequent dives after a certain time are fatal.

What are the weaknesses of moisture protection

Now let's see what exactly is moisture protection in recent Apple smartphones.
Let's look at all the holes in the case through which liquid can enter the iPhone.

1. SIM card tray. Good alignment of the parts and the presence of an additional sealant allow the new smartphone to easily withstand liquid contact in the opening drawer location.
However, over time, the rubber seal loses its elasticity, and sometimes stretches. In this case, every SIM card removal and installation process turns into a painful procedure.
The iPhone can be sold on the secondary market without this rubber seal at all.

2. SIM tray pusher. This miniature element is also equipped with a protective gasket that is pressed into the structure under pressure and is restored when the tray is removed.
As a result, frequent replacement of the SIM card will lead to rapid wear of the seal both on the tray and in the push mechanism.

3. The physical buttons on the case (volume, power and silent mode switches). Here, too, there is a rubber seal that shrinks and expands as the buttons are pressed.

The keys are pressed a lot more than removing the SIM card tray, which means that the gasket can start to leak faster.

4. Lightning connector. The slot on the inside is tightly protected from the rest of the smartphone insert. In addition, there is software protection that can detect closing contacts and disabling potentially dangerous charging.

The user will receive a warning, after which he will have to dry the smartphone or ignore the warning by immediately turning on the charging. If the iPhone is completely discharged after getting wet, the software protection will not work and there is a risk that the connection will close while charging.

Even at this level of protection, exposure to salty sea water can oxidize the contacts with further problems.

5. A protective layer between the screen and the case. The complex design of the smartphone involves the assembly of two main modules: a frame with a back cover and a front panel with a screen. An elastic rubber seal is installed between these elements.

This is a weak point of the entire moisture protection system. The gasket can be discarded and should be replaced with a similar one if the case has been opened. In addition, a thin layer wears out over time, from temperature, pressure and torsion of the structure, during shocks and falls, from moisture and dust particles that fell on it.

Depending on the operating conditions, this gasket retains its properties from 6 months to a year. Hoping that the iPhone after a year of use won't let moisture in, it's definitely not worth it.

6. Holes for speakers and microphone at the bottom. Initially, there is a porous sealant between the body and the filler. In addition, the holes themselves are covered with a very fine mesh, through which the liquid practically does not penetrate.

Even if moisture seeps in, it will settle on the speaker diaphragm and won't damage the rest of the padding. The exception, as in other cases, is salt water. It can lead to oxidation of the contacts and damage to the membrane.

In addition, the external elements on the bottom of the smartphone are protected by plastic partitions, and important parts are filled with epoxy. Even if the speakers, microphone, or Lightning port allow a small amount of liquid to pass through, it won't have a significant negative impact on the rest of the device.

7. Conversational speaker on the front panel. Here the situation is complicated by a very dense arrangement of hidden elements under the device "notch". In a small area, several important sensors and a smartphone camera are located simultaneously.

All this is protected only by a thin mesh that covers the speaker. The ingress of liquid, especially under pressure, may damage units near the device.

Failure of the Face ID sensor system will be critical. The inoperable face scanner significantly reduces the cost of the smartphone in the secondary market or results in an expensive repair.

The sensor itself cannot be replaced, as it is hardware attached to the motherboard. This is necessary to ensure that the data on the device is protected. As a result, you will have to work with a gadget without Face ID or invest in replacing the sensor and motherboard, which will make up the majority of the cost of the gadget.

Many service centers confirm that it is the Face ID sensor that often fails due to moisture ingress . This happens either when moisture under slight pressure enters through the speaker grille, or through a worn gasket around the perimeter of the case.

Otherwise, the new tool, which has no worn out parts and has not been opened for repairs, is well protected from moisture for up to one year.

What is the result: Is it possible to get the iPhone wet

In Apple's lineup of smartphones, there is such protection against moisture:
  • iPhone 6s and earlier: they are not designed to be immersed in water.
  • iPhone SE 2020 / XR / X / 8/7: Up to 30 minutes at a depth of up to 1 meter.
  • iPhone 11 / XS / XS Max: Up to 30 minutes at depths of up to 2 metres.
  • iPhone 11 Pro / 11 Pro Max: Up to 30 minutes at depths of up to 4 metres.
  • iPhone 12/12 mini / 12 Pro / 12 Pro Max: Up to 30 minutes at depths of up to 6 metres.
Guess how deep the new 2021 iPhone will be immersed.
As you have already seen above, several factors can simultaneously affect the decrease in moisture protection.

This may be different from the laboratory conditions in which the diving is performed. The chemical composition of the water, the temperature and humidity of the environment and the pressure exerted on the smartphone.

 Even the deepest tests do not provide guarantees of protection from a cliched combination of conditions and the human factor.

During the life of the device, it is subject to normal wear and tear. The casing is periodically compressed and clamped, the smartphone is heated to high temperatures, and the seals (like the rubber on the SIM card tray) are erased and stretched.

Even overheating an iPhone left in the sun or charged on a wireless charger can deform the protective seal and further ingress moisture into the case.

In any other complex devices and mechanisms, rubber elements are consumables. 
To do this, we regularly change the gaskets in the car or reconnect watches. In the smartphone industry, such measures have not yet been made available due to the limited average life of the devices.

Such protection exists, if only, and not as a chip for everyday use. The manufacturer refuses warranty service if moisture gets into the case, which makes the job very specific.

Protection according to IP67 / 68 standard, in most cases, you will save iPhone after accidentally dropped in water. But it is certainly not worth regularly exposing the device to such an effect.

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