How waterproof does a smartphone need to be?

When a new smartphone is launched, lots of claims are made as to how radical and innovative various new features are. 

This is particularly the case when it comes to the major tentpole releases from industry giants like Apple and Samsung, with speculation regarding the next iteration of the iPhone or Galaxy S series typically starting to escalate very quickly after another version is released. 

But what about the practical durability of these devices? For all their software innovations, if they shatter when the user drops them, a lot of valuable photos and messages can be lost. Likewise, if the handset gets wet, the user runs similar risks of damage and loss. 

Luckily, the bulk of such loss can be avoided by keeping data backed up in the cloud – and an insured device can often be swapped for a new one. Prevention remains the best policy – but what are the chances of a handset surviving damage? To find out, SquareTrade ran the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge through its breakability and water-resistance tests and compared the results to those of its biggest rival, the iPhone 6s. 

Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 edge

Samsung has made bold claims for the water-resisting capacity of its latest smartphones – and SquareTrade tested these by submerging both the S7 and S7 edge five feet underwater for 30 minutes with its Deep Water DunkBot. While both devices survived, their audio was permanently muffled and distorted. 

The repeated falls smartphones often take were mimicked by SquareTrade with its TumbleBot. This sees devices continually knocked around in an enclosed chamber at a rotational speed of 50 revolutions per minute for 30 seconds. 

In this test environment, the S7 and S7 edge both suffered only minor cracks to their front screens, but significant damage to their back panels. When dropped on their corners from six feet, the S7 cracked after four falls and the S7 edge was totally unusable after seven. The S7 shattered on the first fall when dropped face down and the S7 edge shattered on the second.

A bend test was also conducted, in which the S7 edge cracked at 110 pounds of pressure and reached catastrophic failure at under 170 pounds. The regular S7 withstood 170 pounds of pressure. 

Apple iPhone 6s

Apple's iPhone 6s was subject to the same testing procedure as the Samsung handsets. When dunked underwater, it lost all audio functionality and suffered water damage beneath the surface of the screen. The iPhone 6s Plus malfunctioned after ten minutes and completely died after 24 minutes.

However, the iPhone 6s was the only smartphone tested that survived the TumbleBot unscathed. The screen of the iPhone 6s Plus completely shattered. In terms of the bend test, the iPhone 6s matched the performance of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and withstood 170 pounds of pressure. 

Director of communications at SquareTrade Aileen Abaya said: “Samsung's new phones may hold up to an impressive amount of water, but we've found that they still struggle to keep up with the iPhone when it comes to screen durability.

“So while the S7 and S7 edge may be perfect for underwater adventurers, those of us who are clumsy or accident-prone should still be careful about drops and tumbles.”ADNFCR-2155-ID-801814708-ADNFCR

Written by Mazuma

Mazuma Mobile is the UK's most trusted mobile phone recycling service.

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