Your buying guide for the best waterproof phones in 2017
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 a great purchase. We explain what IP rating mean so you can choose the right one. Also see: Best kids’ phones 2017.
Also see: Best Phone Deals
Most Sony phones are waterproof unless you’re buying lower-tier devices, and you can also get waterproof Samsung phones and even iPhones. Sadly the new Google Pixel phones are only splash-proof so don’t make it into this list. Also see: Best phones of 2017.
The problem is that not all waterproof phones are created equal and different devices will offer different levels of protection. Having doesn’t always mean you can watch TV in the bath or take photos underwater.
Some will be simply ‘splash proof’ while others can be fully dunked 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.
This chart only includes phones we’ve reviewed and we’ve included some older phones since there still aren’t many waterproof phones. Read: Best new phones coming in 2017.
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% 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.
Samsung has taken the best phone around and made it even better with an impressive screen and design. It ticks a shed load of boxes you’d want a flagship to do. It’s the best phone of 2017 so far but it is expensive and the biometrics are a let down. We’re keen to see what the likes of Apple, HTC and OnePlus can do to challenge.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 review.
The LG G6 is no doubt a striking smartphone. Metal and glass shimmer while the huge 18:9 screen is impressively brought to life with the improved software and its rounded corner design. It is a more refined smartphone than both the G4 and G5, and should appeal to a broader audience – even if its features aren’t the same globally.
There’s a lot to cover with the G6, and it’s a complicated phone to assess. The differences in hardware and the tweaks in software mean that is a phone that reveals itself to you slowly than the immediacy of, say, a Samsung Galaxy S. The design looks uniform at first until you realise how well it all comes together.
LG has quietly managed to build a mature phone with next to no bezels and some genuinely unique tweaks to software, leaving it feeling fresher and more creative than any Android phone we’ve seen for a while.
The age-old question for LG though – will people buy it?
Read our LG G6 review.
The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a stunning smartphone, both in terms of design and performance. The mirror-like look isn’t for everyone due to the appearance of smudges, but it helps provide an elegant, high-end look. The 4K HDR display is one-of-a-kind, bright and vibrant, and shows off snaps taken by the impressive Motion Eye camera perfectly. The camera itself can handle almost anything you can throw at it, although performance does slip in low-lit conditions and the super slow-mo video mode takes some practice. If you’re looking for a gorgeous high-end smartphone with a huge focus on display and cameras with above average battery life, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a solid option.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ Premium review.
As with the regular Galaxy S8, we’re really impressed by the Galaxy S8 Plus. Samsung has done a great job of making last year’s phones even better. However, with both offering the infinity edge screen and the unwieldy size of the S8 Plus, there’s little reason to spend the extra.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus review.
The iPhone 7 is an evolution of the 6S, so if you were expecting a revolution you’ll probably be slightly disappointed. However, aside from the underwhelming battery life, it is an excellent phone. It’s waterproof, has fantastic cameras and performance, and the new stereo speakers sound great. There’s now 32GB of storage as a minimum, which helps to mitigate the higher prices.
If you have an iPhone 6s, it’s hard to justify upgrading (even for some people with a 6) but if you’re out of contract and want a small phone, it’s the best Apple has made yet.
Read our Apple iPhone 7 review.
There’s a lot to like about the HTC U11 and while it certainly has flagship level specs, it’s hard to differentiate in the market against the likes of Samsung and LG. The glossy and colourful design is fresh but won’t be for everyone, even though we’re glad it’s finally waterproof. The key is wether you want the squeezable Edge Sense feature which is useful at times but not something we’re blown away by.
Read our HTC U11 review.
The Galaxy S7 edge is no longer the semi-gimmick it was before. Although some of the main features are things from the Galaxy S5 – Micro-SD and waterproofing – Samsung has given fans what they want. It’s now a refined, sophisticated and highly desirable piece of technology.
The battery isn’t removable but the phone lasts longer than before and has seriously powerful specs under the hood. It has almost everything you could want from a phone even though the IR blaster is gone.
We’re also very impressed with the new camera and unless the screen is too big for you (despite some software features to help out) we think it’s worth getting the S7 edge for the extra £70 with its gorgeous looks and extra functionality. Right now, this is the best smartphone money can buy.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S7 edge review.
The Samsung Galaxy S6 was the best phone of 2015 and, although it’s still early days, the Galaxy S7 is a serious contender for best phone of 2016. Samsung has taken into account what its fans want, addressing the three main areas of concern: removable storage, waterproofing and battery life. It’s also upgraded the core hardware and photography gear, added an always-on display and some useful software. Right now the Galaxy S7 is simply unbeatable.
Read our Samsung Galaxy S7 review.
The iPhone 7 Plus is an excellent phone. It’s Apple’s best yet, but it is also Apple’s most expensive yet, with a huge starting price. In some respects, the upgrades seem to justify this, but at the same time some features are arguably only catching up with what the competition has been offering for a while now – water-resistance for one.
Taken as a whole, the performance, battery life, camera quality and stereo speakers are all compelling reasons to upgrade. But our advice remains much the same as for the iPhone 7: if you already own the previous generation, there’s not enough here to justify ditching a 6S Plus, especially if you’re halfway through a two-year contract. Those just coming out of contract on the iPhone 6 or 6 Plus would do well to grab a 7 Plus.
Read our Apple iPhone 7 Plus review.
Sony Xperia XZ
The Xperia XZ is an attractive phone in design if you can get on with the angular style and while it’s cheaper than rivals such as the iPhone 7 and Google Pixel, you can get better value with some older phones like the Samsung Galaxy S7. While the hardware is decent, we can’t help but mention the very similar Xperia Z5 will save you a lot of money.
Read our Sony Xperia XZ review.
Sony Xperia Z5
There’s no doubt that the Xperia Z5 is a solid flagship smartphone from Sony and an improvement on the Z3+. We certainly like the new frosted glass rear cover and the addition of a fingerprint scanner in that slim power button. The camera isn’t great compared to the best phone cameras out there though, and you can get a better phone for similar money.
The price has dropped, and it’s now a decent-value waterproof flagship with a Micro-SD card slot. However, you can’t use it underwater, and there are newer rivals which are better value, take better photos and have better performance.
Read our Sony Xperia Z5 review.
The Xperia Z5 Compact is the best small phone around, but then there’s not much competition in this area anymore and there are a number of phones offering decent specs for a lot less. Those looking for Z5 design and specs in a smaller frame will be pleased but it’s a shame about the chunky design with the sharp edges. The fingerprint scanner is a great addition and the Snapdragon 810 with almost stock Android provides slick performance. However, the camera isn’t as good as Sony makes it out to be.
Read our Sony Xperia Z5 Compact review.
With various upgrades including a waterproof design, great cameras and stock Android, the new Moto G 2015 is a great affordable phone. The device is still a bit chunky and it’s a shame to see the stereo speakers gone. It’s worth opting for the model with 16GB of storage and 2GB of RAM. Now with a price cut to £149, the Moto G 3rd-gen is the best budget phone you can buy.
Read our Motorola Moto G (3rd gen) review.
The mid-range smartphone market is always tricky, especially with budget devices getting so good. If you are looking for something around this price, the Sony Xperia M4 Aqua is a solid choice although the Honor 6 is worth a look for extra features. It offers flagship-like design, a great camera and a user-friendly Android Lollipop.
Read our Sony Xperia M4 Aqua review.
HTC 10 Evo
- Reviewed on: 22 November 2016
- RRP: £0
Although HTC hasn’t confirmed the price yet, it says the 10 Evo will be the best in its class – of £450 to £500 phones. However, that conveniently ignores cheaper phones such as the OnePlus 3 which has a faster processor, more RAM and more storage, and it certainly makes the newcomer appear overpriced even considering its IP57 rating and its clever headphones.
However, we’ll update this with a definitive conclusion once we’ve spent more time with the phone.
Read our HTC 10 Evo review.
The Nomu S30 passed our durability tests with only superficial damage to the rubber case, standing up to both dunking in water and a launch across our patio. It has a large, bright screen, and decent performance for most users, but falls down on its camera quality, size and weight.
Read our Nomu S30 review.