Samsung Galaxy S5 gets waterproof: should iPhone do the same?

Samsung Galaxy S5 gets waterproof: Should iPhone 6 do the same?

Samsung's forthcoming Galaxy S5 was announced at Mobile World Congress this week and rightfully garnered a lot of attention — it's Samsung's next flagship smartphone. Among the new features one jumped out at me as something I'd love to see Apple add to iPhone 6: waterproofing. Yeah, that's right, waterproofing. Think I'm crazy? Hear me out.

Now, in fairness, Samsung's not breaking any new ground here with a waterproof phone. Sony's had a waterproof Xperia smartphone out for a while (and they just introduced a followup too). Kyocera's Hydro handsets can handle water, and Samsung's own Galaxy 4 Active did that last year as well. So I'll say right up front that I don't think waterproofing is a "killer feature the iPhone 6 must have to succeed" or any of that nonsense. But I do think there's a strong use case for it.

All those devices are trying to stake a claim in the incredibly large and sometimes poorly-differentiated Android smartphone market, where having a feature like waterproofing might appeal to a large enough swath of customers to make it worthwhile for the manufacturer to produce a model. That's not a good reason for Apple to follow suit. It's the way people use iPhones now that make a good case for waterproofing the next iPhone.

Poor alternatives for iPhone owners

To make their expensive smartphone water-resistant or waterproof, current iPhone owners have to spend a lot of money and they have to significantly bulk up their device with a case.

You'd think that the iPhone 5s, with its Apple M7, is the ideal smartphone to take with you for any sort of sporting activity — apps to take advantage of the built-in movement processing ability appeared soon after the iPhone 5s was introduced. And certainly a lot of people do use activity apps (like Nike's Nike+ Move app). But using those apps with your iPhone outside a waterproof case is not an ideal situation.

It's a really good idea to have the iPhone away from your sweat, for example, either inside a case that's moisture-proof or somewhere else on your person where it's unlikely to get moist. That means sealing it off inside some sort of waterproof case or compartment.

And if you're into activities involving water, it's definitely a good idea to get some sort of waterproof case for your iPhone: Winter sports like skiing and snowboarding, for example, or even just sledding down a hill, or summer sports like boating, swimming, or going to the pool or the beach.

Not just for jocks

Sports and outdoor activities only tell part of the story, too. SquareTrade, the warranty protection service for electronic devices, says that liquid accidents are the second most common source of iPhone damage (behind dropping it and smashing the glass). What's more, accidents most frequently happen in the kitchen (dropping your phone into a pot on the stove, for example, or into a water-filled sink).

I work at an Apple retailer on the weekends, and we do a brisk business in waterproof cases made by Lifeproof (now owned by Otter). Lifeproof has differentiated itself by producing attractive, comparatively slim cases that are dirtproof, shockproof, and submersible up to about two meters.

If you're snorkeling or diving with your iPhone, you're going to want something a little more elaborate than the Lifeproof case. But if you're just going to spend the day at the beach, are worried about accidentally dropping your phone in the toilet, or just can't live without taking your iPad in the shower with you, it's just the thing.

Lifeproof cases aren't just curiosities. They're among our best selling cases. We sell many cases for half or even a fraction of the price of the Lifeproof cases, but we move more of them than almost anything else.

Based on this buying pattern, it may not surprise you to know that I live in a seaside community. We do a brisk year-round trade in waterproof cases. Our business in waterproof cases spikes in the summertime when we have tourists and seasonal residents visiting who plan a day out on the water and want to make sure they won't ruin their phone.

But we sell waterproof cases year round — even now, in late winter, waterproof cases are among our best selling products. Some of the people buying these cases are either mariners by trade — fishermen, merchant mariners and the like — but many are moms and dads who are replacing phones for kids that have been dropped in the rain or snow or suffered some other liquid calamity (accidents involving sodas and other beverages are sadly common), contractors who work outside and may be exposed to the elements, and others.

Making the iPhone waterproof

If Sony and Samsung's offerings are anything to go with, Apple could produce an iPhone that's water resistant to about three feet for 30 minutes and still keep it outside of a discrete case. (Sealing open ports like the Lightning connector and the headphone jack would be important.)

The goal here wouldn't be to make an iPhone that you could take with you into the water, per se, but instead an iPhone that could tolerate occasional spills or quick dunks without completely frying. Something that you could keep in your pocket in a heavy downpour and not have to worry about shorting out. (That's the difference between water resistant and waterproof.)

You can do this now. A few companies offer treatment services to make your device less likely to get water damage, though they'll typically tell you that you shouldn't go immersing your iPhone in water for extended periods, or perhaps at all. They're designed for people who might get their device occasionally wet and are just looking for better water resistance.

For everyone else looking for serious water resistance — runners, boaters, swimmers, divers — an actual waterproof case would still work out the best, but this would get the iPhone at least part of the way there, and would help cut down on the number of water damage repairs that iPhone users now produce.

Would being water resistant or waterproof be a selling point for a new iPhone? Or is it a ridiculous option that Apple shouldn't even consider?

Peter Cohen

Managing Editor of iMore, Mac and gaming specialist and all-around technologist. Follow him on Twitter @flargh

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There are 60 comments. Add yours.

uwatto says:

Not if it has those horrible flaps covering the charger and earphone ports

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eric6052 says:

I agree about not wanting flaps covering the ports. A waterproof phone would be nice to have but isn't necessary to me since you can buy the waterproof cases if you need that feature.

Taz89 says:

I have the s4 and one of the things I have about the s5 is the flaps, I have always hated flaps. I think what Samsung should have done is made it out the box wireless charging instead of buying a different back cover. I think that's the route apple will or should go if they go waterproof Is to make it wireless charging and include a wireless charging pad in the box therefore a flap doesn't matter.

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Richard Devine says:

Wireless charging as the only method just wouldn't work for the mass market. Sure, a charging pad could be included in the box, but that means you have to take it with you everywhere. When I travel, or even just hit the local coffee shop I just pack a lightning cable and use my laptop. I'm really not sure I'd like to have to carry a wireless charging pad. And I'm positive I wouldn't be alone in that.

Taz89 says:

True guess it will be annoying for those people, don't think I have ever had to charge my phone when I'm out and about. Usually just charge once and it lasts me my daily day.

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Premium1 says:

Yet those cases aren't as functional as a waterproof phone. No sound loss/ touchscreen loss like which occurs with lifeproof cases although they have been getting a little better. Plus takes away from the "design" everyone likes to praise.

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Carioca32 says:

I think its a feature that should be standard in all portable devices. Its absence is almost a design oversight.

025899 says:

The technology is there. It's not even news at CES any more. Just do it.

Exxod says:

It'd be smart to add waterproofing. Not exactly a deal breaker, but a nice feature nonetheless.

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rogifan says:

Just to clarify, the S5 is "water resistant", not "waterproof". I'm not exactly sure what the distinction is but there is one.

Taz89 says:

I think Samsung use water resistance as the term to keep remind people that it can handle water but not something you go swimming with. It is technically water proof for up to 1m of water for 30minutes. That's what the 7 in ip67 stands for..

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iGeneration4 says:

Water resistant: Can get wet but not submerged.
Waterproof: Can get submerged (time & deep limited).

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Premium1 says:

Not quite true. http://m.gsmarena.com/samsung_galaxy_s5-6033.php
That clearly says up to 1 Meter for 30 min.

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Munale says:

As someone with a young child and clumsy hands myself, I would die for a waterproof iphone

tennockey says:

Yes. Water resistant. Not waterproof. The iphone doesn't need it. If you're unlucky or clumsy buy a lifeproof case

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Hollyw0od says:

Lmao this can't be a serious comment. Wait is this a serious comment?

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AustinSJ says:

The distinction between waterproof and water resistant is that water resistant phones can get wet but not for long (you can't take in the pool) whereas waterproof phones are fine for a swim. The Sony Z2 is waterproof, the Galaxy S5 is water resistant.

kilcher says:

Highly doubt Apple would do anything that requires flaps to cover ports. Most people don't need a waterproof phone. I consider waterproof to be kind of gimmicky. And this is coming from someone who has an Otterbox Armor on his phone. Water resistant could be nice. Not sure which the S5 is actually going to offer.

Illustrator Joe says:

"Most people don't need a waterproof phone."
Did you do a survey?
Last I checked 70% of the earth was covered in water :P

Premium1 says:

You wouldn't consider it gimmicky if your phone happened to fall into water.

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Illustrator Joe says:

Absolutely, they all should. Waterproofing should be a standard for flagships. If the flaps bother people then Apple can create an innovative work around for them.

Crypt1c says:

It's 2014, agreed.

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rexalbel says:

I agree completely. My girl friends dropped hers in water 2 times, both within a year. Ironically no issues at all. The first was into the ocean, right at the foot and the wave ran right over it. (Really surprised it lived through that) then she dropped it in the toilet. Once again, lived through that too. Water proofing would be awesome. My bro did kill his evo by walking into a pool with it in his pocket. It's very common for water issues.

Also, for the flaps. I've seen some cool slider ones that aren't that crappy rubber stuff.

iGeneration4 says:

At this point of life iPhone should change dramatically... BUT! I would hate to have stuff covering headphone jack and charging port.

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Becjr says:

In my humble [experienced] opinion, this qualifies as an, "Uh, DER!" question. As an expensive mobile device that is intended to be with us everywhere we go, especially considering that it's US that's carrying these little gems in the first place, the iPhone should ABSOLUTELY have some form of out-of-the-box liquid and dust protection.
An atomized coat should do just fine, especially for those internal connections.
I also feel bold enough to say that this should not impact the cost of the device by more than $25.

cctpitts01 says:

I'm surprised the title has not been updated cause the S5 is not water proof It is water resistant.

Illustrator Joe says:

It can be submerged up to 1 meter. How is that not waterproof?

sting7k says:

Waterproof implies that it will never get wet under any condition. If some metric like depth or time factor into it then now it is merely water resistant.

Illustrator Joe says:

OK that is semantics. Based on the IP rating scale for devices it is certified ip67 which is considered waterproof.

Thus why Samsung and every tech site has been referring to it as "waterproof".
ಠ益ಠ

mikebrennan33 says:

I want the iphone6 but I have to admit the waterproofing feature might sway me to Samsung. If they added this feature to the iphone6 it would be a no brainer for me.

Mastajeet says:

I'll make a small equation and it help you understand WHY YES iphone should be waterproof
Human + Water = LIFE
Human + CellPhone = LIFE
Human + Water = Human + CellPhone
therefore Water = Cellphone, proof that it should be water proof

booboolala2000 says:

Its called QI. Its a wireless charging standard. It works great. My iPhone using friends are jealous that my N4 has it and their new iPhone 5s doesn't. I think the Sony Z2 has it and is waterproof, not resistant.

Its amazing that Motorola made their RAZR line water resistant. And Samsung has done the same. Sony on the other hand has done the best job. Theirs is truly submergible. Apple is being a bit lazy here.

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counterculture says:

I think it's a great idea and a welcome feature. I agree, it isn't groundbreaking, but similar to how Apple improved it's glass manufacturing (Gorilla I think, right?) this could also be another preventative measure Apple could take. It fits directly into their idea of functionality and usability in all aspects (like the dropping your iPhone into a pot of water while cooking, etc.) so I would LOVE to see it added to the iPhone 6! Nice read!

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sting7k says:

Zip lock bags work for me. Cheap, fast, and easy.

Crypt1c says:

So you use garbage bags for your clothes while traveling?

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Premium1 says:

So you have your phone in a bag 24/7?

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tigerinexile says:

Yes, of course it should be made waterproof. Not water-resistant, but waterproof.

And add wireless charging too.

Those are the functions that are most lacking. If Apple hasn't added them by the 6s or 7, that's probably when I move over to Android. It isn't a huge problem for now, of course, because AppleCare+ covers spills, but eventually it needs to be done. And it will be.

Fit24 says:

Water-resistance or waterproof construction for electronics devices is a good feature and should be included in all phones; especially the iPhone. :-)

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jdcorbitt3 says:

I love my 5S. I have had all previous generation down to the 4. I am skipping the 6 and 6S unless they increase the size of the screen and make it water resistant. The ports would not need to be covered if they vulcanized them with rubber in the manufacturing process. Water getting into the ports would not be an issue, except salt water should be rinsed out prior to the port being used.

allthingspixel says:

I think this is a feature best left to the iPhone aftermarket folks to focus on. However, I do believe the iWatch should absolutely be waterproof.

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Apple Blogger says:

Correct your statemt ... It's not water proof .. It's water resistant...

iDisturbia says:

I won't live forever nor my current iPhone or next one!

With that said, since I have no use for my iPhone when in the bathroom, I don't care if Apple does it or not!

IF they ever do, I won't be too excited because it allows people to stay there looooonger!

nit wit says:

Who the hell cares if it's waterproof?? Not me.

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asuperstarr says:

That's what I dislike about Samsung. They have an idea but can't excute it to the highest level. They do it just to be able to say they have it, but it's not at the best quality level. If you going to do it, do it right.

A water proof phone isn't something that I'm needing right now. It's a great feature, but if it's not done right, then no thanks! What's the point?

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ThatsAwesome says:

It would be .. but i wouldn't mind not having it if it comes in the way of a beautiful design.

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Gsarfin says:

Water resistant for sure! All mobile phones should be at least water resistant! An iPhone 6W waterproof option with samsung sized screen? Lol. I kid. I don't want a phablet or tablone, so as long as waterproofing or water resistance doesn't change the physical size much, it should have already been done.
And I hate flaps too!

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tunmise osinubi says:

Y'all just want an apple android phone. Keep asking em to copy everything on the market.

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philips9179 says:

Yes would definitely would like to see a waterproof iphone as I have been stung when caught in a torrential downpour whilst riding a motorbike before. Would also like to see an infared camera on it to for driving at night eg flir esq

hocestquisumus says:

If you take your smartphone diving or snorkeling, you have an entirely new set of (psychological) problems than water damage.

Rodney D says:

I think Apple should concentrate on making a screen that's next to shatter proof Instead of a phone that's waterproof! I mean yes at this day and age all phones should have some kind of water resistance or proofing. If most people are like me I don't like having big bulky cases for my iphone to put in my pocket to keep it safe if I drop it! The design of the iPhone 5/5S is great in size even if you do decide on making the screen a little bigger! Not only make it waterproof but make it shatterproof as well!!! Your customers and clients will be more then happy! Not to mention that the sales of a iPhone that's waterproof and shatterproof would sky rocket more then ever!

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Dark_Huntress says:

No. You want to put the case manufacturers out of business?

Rodney D says:

Would you rather pay to get your screen fix ? Just think about all the money you would save if your phone didn't break!

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3nderw says:

I've heard some good things about liquipel. Wouldn't need flaps from what they claim. http://www.liquipel.com/about/technology/

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Ipheuria says:

I don't think there is any useful option that Apple should write off as not important. I do think waterproof is a great idea but like a larger screen I think Apple should do it when they can do it right. Any compromises caused by waterproofing will upset users who don't see the need. Perhaps this is the right time or perhaps it's not. There are cases and Applecare available to protect the devices. So waterproof is not at the top of my list.

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Mark Ray1 says:

Although it's supposed to be Waterproof, I don't agree at all with this statement, I believe even the most rugged phones such as iPhone and Xperia Z line needs a protective case. Luckily, there are many waterproof cases available made for Galaxy S5 and I am probably going for either Otterbox Preserve or LifeBox. http://www.galaxy-s5-cases.com/galaxy-s5-waterproof-case

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