Durable phones are finally starting to come in to vogue, with protection from liquids being high on the agenda. Fully functional, top-tier devices are hitting shelves that are not only water-resistant, but waterproof.
We’ve collected our favourite waterproof and water-resistant smartphones on the market right now. These are not huge ‘rugged’ phones either, but sleek, pocket-friendly handsets with some of today's best features.
So far the field is mostly comprised of Sony Xperia devices, but with any luck we'll get a bit more diversity in the near future.
|Samsung Galaxy S5 Plans||
Sony Xperia Z2
A quick IP-rating explanation
Protected devices are judged by the Ingress Protection Rating, also known as the International Protection Rating (IP rating). In an IP rating the first number always refers to dust protection, while the second refers to water resistance. For example, a rating of IP54 would mean a dust protection rating of 5 and a water resistance rating of 4.
The maximum dust protection is 6; the maximum standard water protection is 8. To keep things simple, we only need to pay attention to dust protection from 5 and up, and water resistance from 5 and up.
||Object size protected against||Effective Against|
Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented, but it must not enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with the satisfactory operation of the equipment; complete protection against contact.
No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact
||Object size protected against||Effective Against|
Water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.
Powerful water jets
Water projected from powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.
Immersion up to 1m
Ingress of water in harmful quantity shall not be possible when the enclosure is immersed in water under defined conditions of pressure and time (up to 1m of submersion).
Immersion beyond 1m
The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer. Normally, this will mean that the equipment is hermetically sealed. However, with certain types of equipment, it can mean that water can enter but only in such a manner that it produces no harmful effects.
Chart source: DSMT
Sony Xperia Z3
The Xperia Z3 is the new flagship phone from Sony. Much like the Z3 and Z2 before it, the Z3 boasts both IP55 and IP58 protection, meaning that it can be submerged in over 1m (3 feet) of water for an indefinite period. It can also withstand the pressure of a small jet, like a tap. This is not something that other devices are rated for and definitely makes cleaning your phone easier.
Sony has adopted close to a 6-month release cycle for its flagship devices, which we think might actually be a tactic that does well for the once-struggling mobile division. Still, Sony has demonstrated that while this works from a marketing perspective, it's difficult to make significant changes to your tech with only half a year's worth of R&D.
The Xperia Z1 wasn't exactly a huge upgrade over the original Z, and the Z2 is pretty much the same phone as the Z1.
The Xperia Z3 is no different; it's a small upgrade over the Z2 in CPU power, camera sensor technology and battery size. Just about everything else is the same.
It still sports a 5.2 inch 1080p display, is impressively waterproof (IP55 and IP58), and will come running the latest version of Android.
Sony Xperia Z2
The Xperia Z2 is the newly-relegated number 2 phone from Sony. It boasts some good upgrades over its predecessor (Z1) in terms of hardware, and has the same incredible water immersion and pressure resistance ratings. Better still, thanks to the Z3 coming out its price will become increasingly affordable. Considering the noticeable similarities between the two devices, the Z2 is probably the wiser choice in terms of price for user experience.
Under the hood is a 5.2 inch 1080p display, quad-core 2.3GHz processor, 3GB of RAM, 16GB of storage with MicroSD slot for expansion, Android 4.4 and that 20.7MP camera complete with underwater photo ability we've come to know and love.
It's rated IP55 and IP58, meaning it can be submersed in over 1m (3 feet) of water for over an hour and take direct pressure from a tap.
Samsung Galaxy S5
The Galaxy S5 is a top-tier, water-resistant, powerhouse of a smartphone. As the new flagship for one of the world's largest smartphone manufacturers it was always destined to make a splash, but who knew Samsung would take things so literally?
The GS5 is rated IP67, which is the same rating as last year's rugged Galaxy S4 Active. It can survive in up to 1m of water for up to half an hour on paper, but in reality people have tested it with even greater success. We wouldn't recommend purposefully repeating the experiments yourself, but at the very least it'll survive a trip in to the kitchen sink.
Speaking of the sink, it's not advisable to run any direct water pressure over the S5. Its rating is for immersion; not water jets. So no holding it under a running tap.
The GS5 rocks a 16MP camera, powerful internals, Android 4.4 KitKat, 16GB or 32GB of internal storage and a fantastic 5.2 inch 1080p display.
Sony Xperia Z3 Compact
Available in black, white, red and mint-green, the Z3 compact is the smaller mid-range entrant that debuted alongside the flagship Z3. The Compact has just a 4.6 inch screen with 720p resolution, 2GB of RAM and a 2600mAh battery.
Other than that, it's essentially the same phone as its bigger, more-expensive sibling. It rocks a powerful quad-core 2.5GHz CPU and a 20.7MP camera that can be used underwater.
It's also just as water-resistant with both IP55 and IP58 ratings. If you're after a smaller underwater experience, or perhaps don't want to drop top-dollar on a phone, then the Z3 Compact is definitely worth considering.
Samsung Galaxy S4 Active
Unlike the other devices on this list, the Galaxy S4 Active is designed to be a bit more hardy on the physical side, as well as boasting protection against water.
Unfortunately, the Galaxy S4 Active is not quite as water-going as the Xperia Z phones. It has a rating of IP67, just like the Galaxy S5. This means that it is totally impervious to dust and other small physical particles. As for water protection, it can survive in up to a metre of water for up to half an hour.
You can drop it in a puddle, or take an accidental dip in the pool and still be fine, but you cannot use it underwater or leave it immersed for long periods of time. The good news is it's much, much cheaper than the Galaxy S5.
The downside is that the Galaxy S4 Active is starting to get a bit harder to find on plans, so you may need to go out and buy one outright depending on what you can find.
Sony Xperia Z1
The Xperia Z1 was a crowning achievement of water-proof smartphone tech. It rocks a 5 inch 1080p display, quad-core 2.2GHz processor, fantastic battery life (often making two full days) and a great 20.7MP camera.
It has two protection ratings: IP55 and IP58. This affords it protection against water jets, such as a kitchen tap, and from total, continuous submersion ‘beyond 1m’. The dust rating of 5 gives it significant dust resistance, but not dust-proofing.
The best part about the Z1 is that you can even take under-water photos with it thanks to its dedicated shutter button. This is totally safe to do. It’s actually one of the main marketing factors for the Z1. Now that the Z3 and Z2 have reared their heads, the Z1 is now cheaper than ever.
Keen to see waterproof phones in action? Here at some of the photos we've taken while testing the Galaxy S5 and Xperia Z2 in the WhistleOut labs.