iPhone 7 and the potential for waterproofing

Last spring Apple shipped the first Watch, which is officially water resistant and unofficially water proof for short depths and durations. Last fall Apple shipped the iPhone 6s, which — completely unofficially — is resistant to splashes and has even been shown surviving dunks. Repeated rumor has it, the iPhone 7, expected this September, will be water resistant. Officially. But, what does that mean?

Water resistant vs. water proof

Apple Watch under water

Apple Watch under water (Image credit: iMore)

The Apple Watch is technically water resistant rating of IPX7 under IEC standard 60529. That, according to Wikipedia, means:

  • Immersion up to 1 m
  • 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 1 m of submersion).
  • Test duration: 30 minutes
  • Tested with the lowest point of the enclosure 1000 mm below the surface of the water, or the highest point 150 mm below the surface, whichever is deeper.

Apple achieved that rating by using gaskets and seals to protect all the sensitive components inside. And gaskets and seals can only do so much.

Even so, Apple's CEO, Tim Cook talked about showering with it, and developer Craig Hockenberry, swimming with it.

That's because what's legally required on product labeling isn't the same as what's possible in the real world. Like "best before" dates, it behooves companies to be conservative.

Water resistance and phones

Samsung's Galaxy S5 had the same rating and achieved it by using similar methods, including a little flap over the MicroUSB port. They've come a long way since then.

My colleague, Andrew Martonik, recently wrote about the IP8 water resistance rating on the new Galaxy Note 7:

The Galaxy Note 7 shares a common platform with the Galaxy S7 edge, and that means bringing over one of its best features: an IP68 water resistance rating.The "8" part ... refers to just how much water the Note 7 can handle, and for how long. In this case, it's the same story we see over and over with lots of mobile devices: you can submerge the Note 7 in water up to five feet deep for up to 30 minutes.

Water resistance and the iPhone

Apple believes the iPhone should only include the barest of essentials — the features that will be used, day in and day out, by almost everyone. Anyone who wants a rugged case or a battery extension, the company feels, can add one if and when they need it.

That why the iPhone 6s, even though Apple never announced it as a feature, includes the same kind of water resistance as the Apple Watch. There's a new gasket inside that slightly bigger 7000 series aluminum bezel, and silicone seals inside. No IP rating has ever been given for it, but customer testing has shown it to possess pretty much what you'd expect from the 6 rating.

That's enough to prevent accidental exposures. And it prompts the question — do we need more?

Water proofing and the iPhone 7

Let's set some reasonable expectations. I wouldn't count on taking your iPhone 7 deep-sea diving or leaving it at the bottom of the pool all summer. Apple will still make the barest of essential cores and leave more rugged, more occasional use features to accessory makers like Lifeproof.

Apple likely won't add the significant bulk required to bring the iPhone 7 to liquid ingress protection rating of IP8. If the company could take the water resistance already found in the iPhone 6s and make it official, that would be a great start. Perhaps Apple could also employ some form of superhydrophobic nano-coating — one that meets the company's eco-friendly standards — to improve things even further.

Samsung has already shipped IP8 water resistance in all of its 2016 flagship phones. So, some level of official water resistance is rapidly becoming table stakes.

Would you like to see water resistance or water proofing in the iPhone 7? What kind and to what rating level?

Rene Ritchie
Contributor

Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.

68 Comments
  • Waterproofing is a great feature an all but it isn't an essential feature, at least for me, I'm fine with the iPhone being water resistant as in the iPhone 6s I think there are more important features that could be added like fast charging. Sent from the iMore App
  • Another great feature would be able to use my many expensive headphones with a headphone jack. Or maybe Apple can tell me I'm just not using my headphones right.
  • 3.5mm has to go, it's old tech. It's no different to the removing disc drives or, floppy drives for that matter
  • That's absurd. As it stands now, wireless audio is nowhere near as good as a solid connection. The 3.5mm jack isn't leaving the world anytime soon.
  • Maybe not the world, but iPhone users yes
  • I am actually ok with my 6s's hardware features. I would like a few additions to iOS in the area of default apps, but that's about it. what amazing technology we already have. Not sure how Apple can top it with the iPhone 7, but I am sure they will.
  • 3gb of ram for both models. Wireless charging. And a better screenresolution. With the basic version of iphones (who have 720p) I can see the pixels. They should make a 1080p (full HD) screen for the 7 and a 2160p (quad HD) resolution for the 7plus. That seems legit since every other smartphone company has high resolution screens on all their phones. 720p is outdated and modern lcd screens are energy saving enough for high resolution even with smaller batteries.
  • 1080p is fine on a smartphone anything above that is unnecessary and the trade off will be battery life. Sent from the iMore App
  • That's as stupid as saying "1GB of RAM is fine for a smartphone anything above that is unnecessary". Technology moves on, of course they should increase the screen resolution
  • Until battery life improves significantly, the 1080p is fine on a smartphone, plus QHD is isn't that much better and I prefer everything to be more natural rather than the oversaturated colours you get from QHD screens, for me battery life and software and hardware performance are more important to me than screen resolution as long as that screen resolution is 1080p,right now for me and most people anything above that is overkill. Do you really think most people care whether the screen is 1080p or QHD? No they don't. Sent from the iMore App
  • Oversaturated colors would be an amoled thing, not a resolution thing...
  • Actually it's literally NOTHING like saying that. The issues are completely different.
  • I am surprised that Apple don't make more of the fact that the iPhone 6S is able to handle the odd unintentional dunk. I reckon that, for most people, it would be a better reason to upgrade than 3D Touch or Live Photos. Further waterproofing would be useful for a minority of users, especially if it is unobtrusive like a hydrophobic coating or internal seals, but just making the current waterproofing abilities official would be enough for most people.
  • 3D Touch is another useful feature I'd rather have Something like 3D Touch than waterproofing most people don't dunk their iPhone under water. Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree that 3D Touch is a great feature. In fact I have written an app that uses it in a very unique and useful way, so I am even more of a fan of it than most people. However I reckon that the average person (not a reader of iMore) who is thinking of upgrading would see more benefit in waterproofing than 3D Touch. Hopefully after people have bought the device then they would appreciate 3D Touch, but from a marketing point of view I'd imagine that waterproofing is easier to sell to the average (non-technical) person.
  • but people have accidents. take my wife had an IPhone 6 for 2 weeks dropped it fell out of pocket straight down toilet DEAD IPhone. new IPhone £600 not very happy here
  • Same here, except she dropped it in the swimming pool.
  • Your wife should be more careful with her iPhone in future. Sent from the iMore App
  • The Apple Care policy helped me when my iPhone slipped from my shirt pocket and landed on one corner on the pavement. I paid about $75(US) for a repair that would have cost me $175(US) without the Apple Care policy. And would not have had to pay for a new phone.
  • re: " ...most people don't dunk their iPhone under water." Actually, most damage to iPhones comes when the user is inebriated. The number one thing is dropping it (because you're drunk), and the number two damage point is dropping it in the toilet (because you're drunk). Water (actually pee-water) damage is pretty much the number two reason for phone damage.
  • It's For those reasons that people don't dunk their iPhones in water, I'd get a waterproof case if waterproofing was important to me and I've never dropped my iPhone in a toilet or the other things you've mentioned because I'm actually careful with my iPhone as I know how expensive it is and to replace. Sent from the iMore App
  • Not sure I trust that it's that water resistant.
  • My lifestyle doesn't call for the need for a water proof phone so this feature isn't as appealing to me as other features they could include.
  • I don't think full waterproofing is necessary for many of us, but the sort of water resistance that the 6s has is useful because it protects against accidental immersion, and accidents can happen to anyone.
  • That I will agree with. But if anything beyond that requires additional bulk or sacrificing the sleek design then I'm not with it, personally. If I'm going to get additional bulk I'd prefer that be because the battery is getting beefier.
  • Well, most of us don't need car insurance (unless required by law, of course) but it's nice to have in case our car gets smashed up.
  • Never said it wasn't nice to have. Just personally if I'm comparing features there are other things I'd rather have. I personally keep my phone away from the possibility of being submerged in water or having liquids spilled on it. I understand others have not be able to protect their devices in similar manners so I don't disregard the feature completely. But I'd prefer other features as a priority.
  • Well, nobody intentionally spills liquids on their phones. It'd be nice to know that my phone won't get damaged if a glass of water does spill on it.
  • Keeping it away from glasses of water is probably the best course of action
  • You obviously don't have kids, do you?
  • An 11 year old boy and a 3 year old girl. Don't use that as an excuse. I pay premium money for my electronics. The least I can do is be responsible enough to keep them away from the dangers of kids.
  • I work outside in all weather conditions and I've always been nervous taking my iPhones out of my rain gear. That's the main reason for my getting an  Watch. I can check/make phone calls while my phone stays nice and dry.
  • The reason that most people buy applecare + is for water damage accidents and screen crack. If they would had announced that the Iphone 6s is water resistant, I think they would see a drop on applecare purchases.
  • Brilliant point.
    Not to mention, AppleCare Plus for iPhone is more expensive for the 6s than previous years (if I remember correctly. Sorry no ref.) Sent from the iMore App
  • An IP68 rating should be a basic feature in phones today. The Samsung Galaxy S6 active proved that a phone can have an IP68 rating and still have all the features that anyone could ask for--wireless charging, a huge battery, QHD display, fast charging, and one of the best cameras on smartphones today--and still be thin enough to not feel like a massive slab in your pocket. I work outside all day and it's important for my smartphone to have water resistance/water proofing. I have a Lifeproof case on my 6s Plus, but I would rather not spend an extra $100 for a case when the phone should have waterproofing already. Whichever phone offers waterproofing, it'll be my next phone, whether it's the S7 or iPhone 7.
  • Why would anybody not want it to be water proof? Even if they don't plan on needing it, it's nice to know its there. I personally, if given the choice would pick my iPhone to be scratch proof, both aluminum and glass. If there's a hardware improvement, that would be the one for me. Apple wants us to carry the phone the way they intended it, so make it harder to scuff up. I absolutely hate otterboxes and cases like that, I have the slimmest case I can possibly find. With the current design, screen protectors suck on the rounded edges. I wish I could do away with it all. I don't expect to ever see this feature though.
  • I agree. with what you are saying. Apple's always shown "naked" iPhone in every bit of marketing material since the first iPhone. It was almost like they didn't even condone use of a case until they started making the iPhone 6 and their own cases (correct me if I'm wrong). However, we are talking about a $600 + device that is slick to the touch and is covered almost half in glass that has little chance of surviving a fall or splash that is going to happen at some point. And yet now the "shot on iPhone" commercials show people hiking, trekking through the snow and in all kind of anti technology environments using a naked iPhone that in many cases can't handle exposure to high/low temperatures and humidity as shown in many of these commercials. I don't know how Apple fixes drop protection but waterproofing is certainly achievable and should be minimal at this point. I have Apple Care for these reasons and probably always will but I really love not having to use it.
  • I agree with all of that. I have insurance on mine as well and I would be more than happy to use it if I dropped the phone and shattered the screen. It's the daily bumps,scratches or nicks that concern me. I would think it would bolster resale value for everyone. My 6s is about two months old and the screen has hundreds of little scratches on it that annoy me to no end. The waterproofing, as you say, should already be on there as other companies have shown its easy to do. Sent from the iMore App
  • Problems arise when you claim its waterproof and someone takes it past the limits and wants it covered under warranty. How can anyone prove how deep it went? I can see why Apple wouldn't want to state that it's waterproof. Sent from the iMore App
  • The S6 active has an IP rating of 68, the highest rating possible; however, on the phone's page on Samsung's website, it lists the phone as "water resistant". Calling the phone waterproof would open up a whole lot of liability issues for the manufacturer if people's phones stopped working because water entered the device.
  • The s6 active is IP67. It wasn't until the s7 line that it was increased to IP68. And nothing is marketed as waterproof. Even a submarine will leak if it goes deep enough. Sent from the iMore App
  • I agree with robertopod. Having had as wholesale customers, watchmakers who had to work with retail customers who wanted their watches certified as having passed waterproofing tests, this could be a huge hassle for manufacturers and service providers as well. If the phone is made waterproof, it must be specified to exact standards, usually expressed in numbers of "atmospheres of pressure" and temperature. What a pain in the neck, when the phone is rarely meant to be used underwater! And unlike with waterproof watches which are expressly made to be used underwater, for example with divers.
  • well I can tell you this about the iPhone 6s, it can not go through a wash cycle. I accidentally washed mine the first month I had it. Totally fried it. It only wen through the wash for about 10 minutes. But when I pulled it out, water was visible in the display and within about a minute or two, it shut down completely and never came back.
  • You failed to mention the Xperia series of phones which have had waterproof for sometime yet still look and feel very nice. Posted from my Nexus 6P
  • This an Apple thread, and we will only use Samsung as an example as they are Apple's biggest competitor. Sent from the iMore App
  • Make it waterproof like the active and make is drop proof like the droid turbo 2 and you got a killer Sent from the iMore App
  • Then they wouldn't be able to sell AppleCare Plus.
    Perhaps they would offer two models- basic and "active" at a $100 premium. Sent from the iMore App
  • Well, at least that phone model would be available everywhere the iPhone is. In many countries they wouldn't lose any AppleCare Plus sales as they haven't made it available in the first place. Sent from the iMore App
  • Eliminating the charging port and the headphone port would make waterproofing a lot easier. Kind of goes along with some of the wild roumors.
  • It's not necessary to remove those, though. The S6 active has a charging port and headphone port and it's waterproof.
  • I've been confused why Apple hasn't already purchased a company like Liquipel and added that technology to all iPhones.
  • Apple Watch isn't 'technically' water resistant - it IS water resistant.
  • Apple should copy what moto did with the unbreakable screen. Broken screens are notorious on iPhones so that would be one thing most people would gladly accept.
  • I would like to see waterproofing similar to that seen on the xperia z series of phones from Sony. It still retains a sleek design without flaps on the ports (except for the sd card slot which the iphone will never have)
  • Apple won't waterproof their phones until they figure out how to use the touchscreen while it's wet. They usually don't hype up a feature until it's done just right.
  • Make it waterproof. Had an iPhone 5 last & had water damage from simply being in the bathroom- open door. Also, fog caused damage. Make it thicker- bigger battery. Like to see the glass & frame rugged enough to take a 6ft drop onto pavement. Regarding the water resistant nature of the 6S I have, can it survive being exposed to rain or fog while the phone is mounted on bicycle handlebars?
  • Would really like to know answer to this
  • At present, I put mine in a plastic bag at the first sign of rain. The touchscreen works fine thru the plastic but the thumbprint scanner doesn't, so you have to enter the code.
  • Putting it in a plastic bag is not necessary at all if you have an iPhone 6 or later, and mostly not necessary for the 5 also. The iPhone 4 definitely, but not since then. The fog in the bathroom, while seemingly innocuous to us, is actually far more of a problem than a few drops of rain on the screen because the water particles are much finer and pressure will drive it inside. Outside, you can walk around in a light rain with an iPhone even if it is without a case and nothing is going to happen to it.
  • I would like some water proofing or resistance but not at the cost of making it ugly and bulky.
  • Interesting that waterproofing is considered a valid feature by Apple, but durability of the casing is not, since they are arguably not only in the same ball-park, they are equally desired by the consuming public. The exact same argument Rene uses here for waterproofing could be used to argue that iPhones should be durable PLASTIC devices that one doesn't have to treat like a precious jewel.
  • As long as it will survive being dropped in the toilet and quickly retrieved, that's okay for me.
  • You state that Apple won't add the significant bulk required to make the iPhone waterproof, though Samsung did it without adding significant bulk. Not to mention, the screen to body ratio on the iPhone is also poorer than the Galaxy S7. So it seems that you're implying Samsung has some sort of engineering prowess that Apple lacks. Of course the ports aren't lined up, but I'd rather an OEM focused on things that actually matter. Sent from the iMore App
  • That is rene's argument to everything, "they will have to make it significantly thicker" yet other OEM's are doing that and not only including the feature but a much larger battery as well.
  • I'd rather they make the phone less slippery to the point you don't need a case to hold on to it securely; some micro-etching maybe.
  • For the price you pay, they should include it. No reason a $700+ device gets the "bare minimum"
  • Waterproofing not a necessity. Water resistance more likely useful in case of accidental exposer to dropping in a shallow basin of water, such as a sink or bathtub, and so on.
    Fracture-resistance is a real necessity, which means we will have to lose the current (as of iPhone 6) recessed "button" on the front of the iPhone, which is a source of stress risers and prevents the use of a Gorillaglass-like substance. As it is, the setting of the glass in the frame results in fractures developing anywhere the glass is set in the frame.
  • Improved water-resistance is more important, unless your work is underwater. AppleCare will take care of infrequent accidents. I'd much rather see tougher glass, and though I like the locator feature of the recessed "button", I'd gladly let it go for stronger glass, like in my old Android phone, which survived many, many falls to the pavement without a scratch or shatter. And, if I might, I want to request a longer-life battery. Charge times could be better, too, but they are pretty quick with duplex cables.