IP Rating for Smartphones – What Is It & Why Is It Important?

IP Rating for Smartphones

One of the biggest selling points from some of the most-known electronic manufacturers over the last few years has been an IP rating. While it has no impact on the general usability of the phone, having an IP-certified device is now a requirement especially in the top-tier, more expensive smartphones and tablets as a bonus perk – the mark of a ‘premium’ device.

What’s not to like about an electronic that has some kind of resistance to water? This enhanced durability, especially for smartphones, makes a lot of consumers rest easy. But an IP rating is not just water resistance or being waterproof as most consumers believe. There are varying levels and dust (particle) resistance as well.

Manufacturers will sometimes take advantage of IP certification to go crazy with their marketing. If you saw a phone that you could go swimming with or have with you in the shower, you are very likely to be swayed towards it. This, however, can be a little misleading sometimes. It is therefore important to understand the standardized IP ratings and what the accompanying numbers signify for an electronic device.

What is an IP Rating?

IP stands for Ingress Protection or International Protection (less common). Ingress Protection ratings are defined to the EN 60529 (British BS EN 60529:1992) standard. This is used to dictate the sealing effectiveness levels against elements such as dust or water, or even tools, for electronic equipment bodies (enclosures).

IP rating is usually in the IPXX format, with the two X standing for independent single digits. The higher the digit, the better the protection level. In the case that an actual X appears in the rating, this indicates that there is no rating for that particular aspect of protection.

IP ratings have been popularized by smartphones and tablets and indicate sealing around the device that prevents dust and water from reaching the internal components of the electronic device to a certain degree. As such, advertising for these devices will sometimes show them underwater or in extreme conditions, but all this comes with an asterisk as shown in the breakdown below.

IP Rating Breakdown

The two digits following the letters IP stand for protection against different elements. The first digit indicated protection against foreign body intrusion (aka solids) while the second indicates moisture protection levels (aka liquids).

If a device has an IP 68 rating, it means that the device casing has a level 6 protection against the entry of foreign solid objects ranging from dust particles to your hand. It also means that it has a level 8 protection against various forms of moisture, including complete submersion underwater.

There are varying levels of IP ratings:

First Digit: Protection Against Foreign Solids

Number Foreign Object Size Protection
X No Rating No data to give a rating
0 N/A No Protection from object entry
1 50mm | 2 inches Protection from large body surfaces such as the back of a hand but does not protect against deliberate contact
2 12.5mm | 0.49 inches Protection against fingers pr other similarly-sized objects
3 2.5mm | 0.098 inches Protection against tools and thick cables
4 1mm | 0.039 inches Protection against most wires, thin screws, and large ants
5 Dust Protection Some protection against dust but cannot be in large quantities
6 Dust-Proof Dust-tight protection. There needs to be a vacuum and test duration of up to 8 hours based on airflow.

Second Digit: Protection Against Moisture/Water

Number Protection Against Test and Details
X N/A No data to give a rating
0 N/A No protection against entry of water
1 Dripping Water 10-minute test with water equivalent of 1mm of rainfall per minute.
2 Dripping Water at 15° angle 2.5-minute test per tilted side. Water equivalent to 3mm of rainfall per minute.
3 Spraying Water Water spraying from 60 degrees from a vertical position for at least 5 minutes. !0 minutes in an oscillating tube,
4 Splashing Water Water from any direction for at least 10 minutes.
5 Water Jets Water from a 6.3mm nozzle. 1 minute per square metre with 12.5 litres of water per minute including pressure of 30 kPa from 3 metres
6 Powerful Water Jets Nozzle size of 12.5mm. 1 minute per square meter with 100 litres of water per minute including  pressure of 100 kPa from 3 metres.
7 Immersion up to 1 meter Depth of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
8 1 meter immersion Depth of at least 1 meter.

As you can see, the testing to get an IP certification is highly standardized.

Additional IP Rating Codes

Apart from the two digits, there are other additional codes that do not necessarily apply to personal electronic devices. There was a third digit which indicated mechanical impact resistance which is no longer used. There are also additional letters and supplementary letters that signify optional protection ratings like the supplementary rating W for weather conditions.

Is an IP Rating Important for your Device?

Yes, and no. Depending on your particular use case, and IP rating may or may not make a difference in how you use your device. On a more technical note, it helps you know the limits of your device better than marketing terms like waterproof and rugged can. This way, you will not use your device in an environment that will damage it. For most customers, it is something nice to have rather than a necessity.

Things to Note About IP Ratings

There are some important things that you as the consumer need to always remember when it comes to the IP rating of your current or future device.

  1. Your device can still suffer water damage even if it has the highest IP ratings. Increased water pressure and velocity for extended durations can be more than the laboratory environment leading to a damaged device.
  2. IP ratings are specifically for freshwater and not any other liquid, not even saltwater. Spilling a soda or coffee on your device might not be as safe as spilling water. On the same not, chlorinated water might damage your device because of the chemicals in it. The effect may not be immediate, but will slowly creep up over time.
  3. Most devices have a water damage indicator that changes color when it comes into contact with moisture. These indicators can sometimes trigger even with changes in humidity and will void your warranty. If you do not take care of how you use your phone and it gets damaged, the fault may be placed on water exposure.
  4. Even at the highest IP rating, the protection is only up to a certain level, past which, dust and water can find their way to the device internals.

Is Your Device Damaged?

IP Rating or not, our electronics are prone to all sorts of damage. Lucky for you,  any damage suffered is repairable, and you do not have to discard your device no matter what it has been through. So if you misunderstood the marketing gimmicks or just dropped your phone, whether in water or on concrete, U-Tech Electronics offers fast repairs. Need an urgent fix? No problem. Bring your phone, tablet or PC for a quality, affordable, same-day fix! Contact us today.