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 what you need.
We explain what IP rating mean so you can choose the right one. Also see: Best kids’ phones 2017.
Most Sony phones are waterproof unless you’re buying budget models, and you can also get waterproof Samsung phones and even iPhones. Sadly the Google Pixel phones are only splash-proof so don’t make it into this list.
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.
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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.
Samsung has taken the best phone around and made it even better with an impressive Infinity screen and premium design. It ticks a shedload of boxes – as you’d expect from a flagship. It’s the best phone of 2017 so far, but it is expensive and the biometrics are a let down. The OnePlus 5 is already a strong competitor, and we’re keen to see what Apple can offer in way of a challenge with its iPhone 8.
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 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.
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 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.
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 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.