Apple is sued in the US state of New York because the company allegedly misrepresents how well iPhones are protected against water.
According to Apple, iPhones are dust and waterproof
Apple has been selling its smartphones with an IP rating since 2016. This is a standard certification that indicates protection against ingress of dust and water. According to Apple, the protection has increased over the years. While the iPhone 7 was still protected according to IP67 up to 1 meter water depth for 30 minutes, the iPhone 12 Pro now has an IP68 rating up to 6 meters water depth for 30 minutes.
When it comes to the indictment , Apple exaggerates but with these specifications. The plaintiff Antoinette Smith is seeking the status of a class action – “on behalf of all who are in a similar situation”, as can be read in the court document.
Protection against water only tested under laboratory conditions
The tests for awarding an IP certification are carried out under laboratory conditions with static and sprayed fresh water. As a result, the results are not applicable to pool and sea water. Additives such as chlorine or the high salt content in seawater attack rubber seals in smartphones. This could mean that, despite an IP certification, water can enter the iPhone. Therefore, in cases where the iPhone has come into contact with pool or sea water, Apple will refuse to repair it under the manufacturer’s warranty. The company only excludes the repair of damage caused by contact with liquids in the warranty conditions. This is nothing new, other smartphone manufacturers handle such cases in a similar way.
Do Apple Recommendations Lead to Disclaimers?
Almost all waterproof smartphones, including iPhones, have one or more liquid contact indicators (LCI) inside. The little adhesive pads change color, usually red, when they come into contact with water. Manufacturers can recognize when water has penetrated a device and refuse to carry out repairs under warranty.
However, according to the lawsuit, Apple recommends washing iPhones that have come into contact with liquids such as juice, beer or coffee with water. In fact, the company writes in a document on the support page : “[iPhone Xr and later] are protected against accidental spills of common liquids such as soda, beer, coffee, tea and juice. In the event of a spill, rinse the affected area with tap water. ”The plaintiff accuses the company that these recommendations can cause the indicator to turn red. And so a repair under guarantee is excluded.
The court document shows that Smith himself owns an iPhone 8 that has come into contact with water. The contact was “in accordance with the IP rating of your device and in accordance with the way in which the water-protecting properties were presented in the marketing and advertising for the device.” Apple has denied the plaintiff the repair under warranty.
The plaintiff would like to obtain a series of injunctions, including compensation for repair and court costs for themselves and others affected, as well as Apple having to correct the marketing for iPhones. The plaintiff is therefore concerned that manufacturers specify protection against water penetration that is based on actual use in everyday life – and not on tests under laboratory conditions.
Also interesting: What do IP67 and IP68 mean for waterproof smartphones?
Waterproof iPhones are also being put to the test in other countries
The lawsuit is not the first time that Apple has had to justify its IP ratings for iPhones. Last year, the Italian competition authority imposed a fine of 10 million euros on Apple. The company makes misleading claims about protection against water and refuses to repair liquid damage. In Brazil, consumer protection is also investigating allegations that Apple does not repair devices with water damage.