IP67 vs. IP68: Water and Dust Resistant Ratings Explained
What are IP ratings?
Electronic device cases and electrical enclosures are marked with an IP code that indicates how well they can keep out solids and liquids. Officially, "IP" stands for "International Protection," but many instead refer to it as "Ingress Protection." The International Electrotechnical Commission originally developed and currently oversees the IP standard.
Currently, IP68 is the highest possible rating for dust and water resistance for smartphones under the IP system.
The third character and first number in an IP code rates the device's ability to protect against small solids, such as dust and sand. This is usually what people call a product's "dust resistance rating." This ranges from 0 for "no protection," maxing out at 6.
The vast majority of smartphones are rated IP5x (dust protected) or IP6x (dust tight). Particles may enter a "dust protected" case but won't interfere with its operation in small amounts. On the other hand, a "dust tight" case will prevent ingress entirely.
The fourth character and second number refers to the water resistance rating. This standard is a little more complicated than the one for solids.
This rating has a range of 0 (no protection) to 9 (able to withstand hot jets of water, which is not a feature currently available to smartphones). This rating is not a sequential list of which is "better" but is instead a specific indication of testing conditions. Because of this, the same device can have two different ratings.
A rating of IPX7 means a device can be submerged in up to a meter of water for as long as 30 minutes without damage. A rating of IPX8 means it can be submerged under greater than a meter of water and usually under 3 meters. However, there is no standard within that range. The manufacturer usually states the specific test conditions in the product information. For example, the Samsung Galaxy S7 was tested at 1.5 meters.
This rating is not a sequential list of which is "better," but is instead a specific indication of testing conditions. Because of this, the same device can have two different ratings. A phone with ratings of IPX8 and IPX5 can withstand both immersion in still water, along with jets of water.
It's important to note that resistance tests are usually done in fresh water unless stated otherwise. They may not protect against salt water, which is much more corrosive.
Additional characters indicate other properties, such as oil resistance. Smartphones do not typically go beyond the standard first four characters.
Are IP-rated smartphones waterproof?
Just because your phone is rated IPX7 or IPX8, it doesn't mean it's truly waterproof. The specific laboratory conditions used to test these devices were meant mimic accidental exposure and done in standby mode.
Swimming with your phone or attempting underwater photography are not recommended. That's why Sony had to backtrack and clarify the Xperia's resistance rating after an infamous marketing campaign implied otherwise. If you really want to take your phone on a scuba dive, you'll need a pricey but effective specialty dive case.
Keep in mind that the water resistant seal also isn't permanent. Dropping a device or taking it apart for repairs may break the seal and compromise its effectiveness. That also applies to submerging it for extended periods of time.
What are some popular IP-rated smartphones?
- Samsung Galaxy S4 and S5
- The iPhone 7 and 7 Plus will be the first offers from Apple with built-in protection rated at IP67.
- Samsung Galaxy S7 and Note7
- Sony Xperia
How does an IP rating affect reparability?
Phones with high IP ratings often have lower "reparability" scores in the sense that they are more difficult to safely take apart. This is the function of a tight seal, which usually translates to a large amount of adhesive. When that happens, its reparability suffers, and some repairs may even be impossible without breaking the device.
if you're dedicated to the DIY experience and prefer to repair your electronic devices instead of contributing to e-waste, you may want to think twice before choosing an IP67 or IP68 device. Always read reparability reviews before buying!
At the same time, IP rating can make the difference between having to replace a single component or half the hardware to get it working again. Highly water resistant phones are less likely to need repairs.
Regardless, be sure to check out our detailed repair guides before attempting a teardown.