What do IP67 and IP68 mean for waterproof smartphones?

So-called IP ratings are increasingly found on everyday devices such as smartphones and loudspeakers. But what do cryptic names like IP67 or IP68 actually mean?t

A few years ago, waterproof cell phones were a rarity. Meanwhile, however, a large number of smartphones have an IP rating, which should guarantee protection against dust and water. And other devices such as headphones and loudspeakers are also increasingly bearing such a label. But what is actually hidden behind the numerical code? TECHNOLOGY BUTTON shows you what a smartphone with an IP67 or IP68 rating is really protected against.

What do the numbers in the IP rating stand for?

The designation IP stands for “International Protection”. The IP rating thus indicates the extent to which electronic devices such as smartphones are protected against the ingress of water and solid foreign bodies such as dust or dirt.

The IP value is made up of protection against solid objects in the first digit and protection against water in the second digit. Level 0 is indicated when protection for only one of the two has been confirmed. Lamps often have an IP20 rating, which means that although they are protected against penetration by objects as thick as a finger, an immediate defect is likely if they come into contact with water.

Smartphones or other devices that only have one of the two IP ratings measured replace the unmeasured value with an X. So if a Bluetooth speaker has an IPX5 rating, this means that you can hold it under running water. However, a laboratory has not investigated protection against dust.

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The digits in the IP specification have the following meaning

Protection against ingress of solid foreign bodies

           step, protection
  • IP0X No protection
  • IP1X Objects larger than 50 mm (e.g. back of the hand)
  • IP2X Objects larger than 12.5 mm (e.g. fingers)
  • IP3X Objects larger than 2.5 mm (e.g. screwdriver)
  • IP4X Objects larger than 1 mm (e.g. cables)
  • IP5X Dust-protected (dust entry does not restrict functionality)
  • IP6X Dust-proof (no dust can enter the device)

Protection against ingress of liquids

           step, protection

  • IPX0 No protection
  • IPX1 Waterdrop
  • IPX2 Drops of water at a 15 degree incline
  • IPX3 Water spray
  • IPX4 Splashing water
  • IPX5 Water jet
  • IPX6 Strong jet of water
  • IPX7 Submersion to a depth of 1 meter
  • IPX8 Submersion to 1 meter or deeper
  • IPX9 (K) High pressure water jet (heated up to 80 degrees)

Important: The degree of protection only applies to fresh water.  . The same applies to treated water, for example chlorinated water in swimming pools.

It is also confusing that protection against water, which is specified as IPX7 or IPX8, does not include other degrees of protection such as IPX5 or IPX6. Devices that are waterproof when completely submerged do not necessarily have to be protected against spraying with a jet of water – but they are usually anyway. In cases in which the protection against both types of water contact has been tested, devices are therefore also given both designations (e.g. IPX5 / IPX7).

What does the IP rating mean for my smartphone?

The IP rating has the advantage that it is an internationally recognized rating. It gives certainty about the procedures with which the protection against foreign bodies and water was tested. An IP rating is more reliable than, for example, the mere statement by a manufacturer that the smartphone is “dust and splash-proof”.

Modern smartphones usually have an IP67 or IP68 rating. This means that they offer the highest level of protection against dust and in any case remain fully functional for 30 minutes after submerging in water up to 1 meter deep. The difference is that IP67, which is specified for the Samsung Galaxy A52 , for example , is limited to a water depth of 1 meter. Devices like the Samsung Galaxy S21 and the iPhone 12 , on the other hand, have an IP68 rating. They even allow submersion to a water depth of up to 1.5 meters.

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