Your buying guide for the best waterproof phones in 2018
If you’re accident-prone (or simply want to give your phone to a child without worrying they will drop it down the toilet or throw it into a pond) then a waterproof phone is what you need.
We explain what IP rating mean so you can choose the right one.
Most Sony phones are waterproof unless you’re buying budget models, and you can also get waterproof Samsung, Google, Huawei and Apple phones.
The problem is that not all waterproof phones are created equal and different devices will offer different levels of protection. Being splash-proof, for example, doesn’t mean you can watch TV in the bath or take photos underwater.
Others can be fully submersed in water and continue to work. Because of this, we’ve explained the IP rating system which is used for electronics that feature dust- and water-protection.
Also check out our round-up of the best rugged phones.
What does a waterproof IP rating mean?
IP stands for ‘Ingress Protection’ and is used to define the sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies and moisture.
The first number refers to how the device sealed against solid particles like dust; the highest you can get is ‘6’ meaning total protection. The second digit is for water protection and the best you’ll see on most is ‘8’, going by the original IEC standard 60529 (6K and 9K are not part of this).
It’s worth noting that ratings water ingress are not cumulative beyond 6, so a device with a rating of 7 doesn’t have to compliant with the water jet element of 5 and 6.
If an IP rating has an X in it, don’t misinterpret this as the device having no protection. It’s likely to have good protection for particles if it’s IPX6, but the rating has not been formally allocated.
Here’s a full listing for particles and water:
• 0 – No protection.
• 1 – >50 mm, any large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand.
• 2 – >12.5 mm, fingers or similar objects.
• 3 – >2.5 mm, tools, thick wires, etc.
• 4 – >1 mm, most wires, slender screws, large ants etc.
• 5 – Dust protected, Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented.
• 6 – Dust tight, No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact. A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on air flow.
• 0 – No protection.
• 1 – Dripping water shall have no harmful effect.
• 2 – Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect with enclosure is tilted at 15°.
• 3 – Water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical.
• 4 – Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction.
• 5 – Water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction.
• 6 – Water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) from any direction.
• 6K – Powerful water jets with increased pressure.
• 7 – Immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes.
• 8 – Immersion, 1m or more depth (exact details vary).
• 9K – Powerful high temperature water jets.
The next generation of waterproof phones
According to IDC, liquid is the second most common cause of damage in smartphones accounting for 35.1 percent of all devices repaired. However, that might change considerably in 2018 thanks to a new generation of waterproof phones with better protection.
At the moment, phone makers either use physical seals or a nano-coating to keep water out. While the latter is limited to splashes, P2i – a leader in the technology – is working on an improved version of its plasma protection which will be IPX7.
A nano-coating to this level will give partners more freedom with design and could even mean we see more handsets with removable covers and batteries again. We certainly hope so.
All the phones on this list are either IP67 or IP68.
The best waterproof phones for 2018
1. Google Pixel 3
The Pixel 3 is the best phone you can buy right now. It has the best performance of any Android phone, the best camera on a smartphone ever and a newly premium design.
Google has paid special attention to the display, which is much better than the previous two generations of Pixels, and the Android 9 Pie software is best with this hardware. The all-glass back now allows for wireless charging, and Google bundles USB-C headphones in the box.
The Pixel 3 XL is exactly the same experience save for the larger notched display and larger battery.
Read our Google Pixel 3 review.
2. Samsung Galaxy S9
There’s no doubt that the Galaxy S9 is one of the best phones of the year. It offers an excellent all-round experience with Samsung expertly blending design, hardware and software to make a phone that will appeal to all kinds of users.
You only need to spend extra on the Galaxy S9+ if you really want the extra camera, bigger screen and other internal upgrades – more RAM, storage and a bigger battery aren’t as noticeable.
However, we can’t avoid the fact that the improvements – namely the camera and biometrics – are minor and in many ways the S9 is the same as the S8 but with a higher price tag. Those on last year’s model will unlikely be able to justify the upgrade and those on an S7 or earlier might want to grab the S8 at a now much lower price.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S9 review.
3. Huawei Mate 20 Pro
The Mate 20 Pro is an outstanding phone. The cameras will be the highlight for many people, but it really is a fantastic all-rounder with a top-quality screen, super-fast charging, wireless charging and excellent battery life.
It isn’t perfect, but the small niggles shouldn’t be deal-breakers for most people.
Read our Huawei Mate 20 Pro review.
4. Apple iPhone XS
The iPhone XS is the sweet spot. As with the X, you get a big, bright, 3D Touch-equipped OLED screen within a superbly portable chassis – it’s big but not too big – and a dual camera; you can now add a small speed bump, better future-proofing and a far smarter camera setup – we love being able to adjust the bokeh effect of Portrait Mode shots afterwards, and camera performance is demonstrably better under various types of difficult lighting.
The XS is super-fast, looks wonderful, and is a pleasure to use. The only downer is that punishing price tag, but if you can look past that, this is a terrific choice for those upgrading from a pre-X iPhone, and particularly (in our view) from one of the older Plus models like the 7 or 6s.
Read our Apple iPhone XS review.
5. Apple iPhone XR
The iPhone XR is the best iPhone for most people, as well as a great phone in its own right. It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than the XS and a similar price to most Android flagships.
The battery life is the best on an iPhone ever and the generous 6.1in display is a decent LCD, though it’s not as lovely as the displays on the XS.
If you want an iPhone right now, this is the one we recommend unless you want OLED and dual cameras.
Read our Apple iPhone XR review.
6. Huawei P20 Pro
In the P20 Pro Huawei has delivered a stunning phone which should be on your shortlist along with the Galaxy S9 and iPhone X. Sure, there are some niggles such as the lack of stabilisation for 4K video, no headphone jack and no wireless charging,but if your priority is photography then the P20 Pro does not disappoint.
Add in the long battery life, dual SIM slots and great screen and you’ve got the complete package: this is one of the best phones of 2018.
It’s a fair amount more than the regular model so save yourself £200 on the regular P20 if you don’t mind ‘only’ dual rear cameras, no waterproofing and an LCD screen vs OLED.
Read our Huawei P20 Pro review.
7. Samsung Galaxy Note 9
If you want an Android phone with every feature under the sun, the Galaxy Note 9 is it. With premium design, amazing battery life and the unique S-Pen, it’s pretty much the most you can spend on a phone right now.
That said, its features aren’t for everyone and it will be too big and expensive for many. The regular S9 has similar design and most of the features and costs less (and will fit in most pockets to boot).
But the Note 9 has the best display on a smartphone on its release and the 4000mAh battery has incredible stamina. It even has liquid cooling and can run the most demanding mobile games.
If it’s up your street, it’s the only choice.
Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 9 review.
8. LG G7 ThinQ
If you want wide angle cameras in a flagship phone, the G7 is an excellent option – particularly as LG has now added portrait mode for the first time.
The screen is still LCD but goes extremely bright. Add to that water resistance, wireless charging and a headphone jack with a Quad DAC, this is one of the most fully featured handsets of 2018.
You might dislike the notch and LG’s Android skin, but if you want to spend less and get a whole lot of phone, the G7 could be for you.
Read our LG G7 ThinQ review.
9. Sony Xperia XZ3
This is the best Sony phone you can buy right now, but you’d expect that from its latest flagship.
The design in an improvement on the XZ2 and the OLED display means it can go shoulder to shoulder with the Galaxy S9 and OnePlus 6, finally.
Some software niggles let it down a bit, and side sense is a waste of time. The camera is the best on a Sony (if not the best on a phone) and it’s a well rounded package of a phone at a decent price.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ3 review.
10. Apple iPhone 8
There are some great things about the iPhone 8 including the addition of wireless charging, 64GB storage as standard and a fast A11 Bionic processor. However, this all comes at a higher price and everything else is largely the same so we can’t imagine or recommend iPhone 7 users upgrading. Those on an older device like an iPhone 6 or older will experience a much bigger change.
Comparing the iPhone to Android rivals is difficult as many users will be on one side of the fence already. Forgetting about software, the iPhone 8 simply doesn’t excite like flagship rivals including the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.
Read our Apple iPhone 8 review.