Fairfax Tech Talk Column

Fairfax Tech Talk Column

20.3.2020 Fairfax Tech Talk Column 190


It was almost two years ago when I almost gave my daughter a heart attack. Our family was on an Easter holiday and one daughter was at University so she flew direct to our destination. We were about to prepare a meal in our apartment when I picked up my daughter’s phone – and realised that her short time at University had resulted in a phone covered with residual alcohol stickiness.

So, as any good father with a knowledge of technology would do, I turned on the tap and placed her phone under the slow stream of water. I don’t think Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce could move as fast as I saw my daughter move. She imagined all of her photos and contacts and apps and, well, her life, disappearing down the drain and bounded across the apartment.

The phone had an IP67 rating and a slow stream of water was not going to cause any damage.

Sony was the first to introduce a modern smartphone with a water resistance rating. In March 2013 the Sony Xperia Z was released which had an IP57 rating. Samsung followed with the Galaxy S7 in March 2016 with an IP68 rating and Apple came to the party with the iPhone 7 in September 2016 with a slightly watered down (sorry – I couldn’t resist a second pun) IP67 rating.

The “Ingress Protection” ratings are defined in EN 60529. The first number relates to resistance to dust. A 6 means that the product is dust tight. The second number relates to water resistance. A 7 means that the product can be immersed in up to 1 metre of fresh water for up to 30 minutes. A rating of 8 goes a little further with the manufacturer required to specify the exact depth. For example, the iPhone 11 Pro has an IP68 rating and Apple specifies the phone can be submerged in up to 4 metres of water for up to 30 minutes.

As a handy side benefit to a little bit of water being splashed around, with COVID-19 permeating every aspect of our lives, a phone that is water resistant is a phone that is easier to clean.

The phone is almost a perfect breeding ground for the spread of any disease. Apart from most millennials, the rest of us talk on our phone. Our phone is close to our mouth so we are breathing our germs all over it. Then we swipe our fingers across a germ-ridden screen. Our hands are now ready to transfer these germs to the world. I would add cleaning your phone to the list of precautionary measures to take.

Firstly I would check the IP rating on your phone and, if it is IP67 or IP68 rated, I would start with a brief rinse under slow running water. Keep in mind that there is risk involved with this as manufacturers still won’t cover water ingress under warranty.

Secondly I would use any common substance that would be used to clean a pair of glasses. Spray the substance onto a lint-free cloth and then wipe the phone with that. Apple advise that a 70 per cent isopropyl alcohol wipe, for example, is perfectly fine to be wiped over the non-porous surfaces of the phone. Don’t be too aggressive though – many screens have an oil-repellent coating to minimise finger smudges.

Most importantly, don’t spray anything directly onto the phone. Always spray onto a cloth and then use that to wipe over the phone. These are strange times indeed. Tell me if you feel comfortable putting your IP rated phone under a tap at ask@techtalk.digital.

Mathew Dickerson