Wouldn’t it be great if all phones were absolutely 100% waterproof?
Think of all the accidental phone deaths that could be avoided from toilets, pools, and washing machines. Or instead, think or all of the adventures that you could take your phone on – underwater snorkeling, lazy river rafting, or a truly care-free day at the beach!
This may sound great, but it’s not the reality we live in – at least not yet. The majority of phones are still not waterproof out of the box.
So what can you do to protect your non-waterproof phone from liquid damage? Is it even possible to make a non-waterproof phone waterproof? Yes, to a certain extent!
In this blog post, we share 5 of the most popular and effective ways to waterproof a phone and what you should know about how they can fail.
How to Make a Phone Waterproof
1. Use a Waterproof Phone Case
A waterproof case is essentially a protective, watertight container for your phone. There are two types of waterproof cases – hard cases and soft cases (also referred to as waterproof pouches or dry bags).
They work the same way, in that you stick your phone inside and seal it closed. However, hard and soft cases are different enough that it’s worth talking about them separately. Let’s start with hard cases.
- Price range: $40-$100
- Positives: Can allow for full access to buttons, controls, and ports; Can be shockproof and offer protection against being dropped; Can offer protection against snow, rain, dirt, and sand
- Negatives: Can be bulky; Can make your voice sound muffled or hard to hear
- Most popular bands: LifeProof FRE series and NUUD series, OTBBA, iThrough, ZVE
- Completely waterproof? Most hard cases will be rated waterproof up to a certain depth and for a specified amount of time. For example, the LifeProof FRE series can be submerged up to a depth of 6.6 feet (2 meters) for 1 hour. The OTBBA waterproof case for iPhone 7 Plus can be submerged for 10 feet (3 meters) for 2 hours. On the other hand, some cases like the Griffin Survivor All-Terrain do not guarantee waterproofness during submersion.
- Best used: From everyday use to possibly the most rugged outdoor adventure
2. Use a Waterproof Pouch or Dry Bag
The major advantage of a waterproof pouch or dry bag is the affordable cost. A waterproof pouch or dry bag can offer the same level of waterproofness as a hard waterproof case does but at a fraction of the cost. The downside is that dry bags or waterproof pouches are not as durable as hard cases and usually make it more difficult to use or access your phone. However, to get the most bang for your buck, choose a waterproof pouch or dry bag.
- Price range: $7-$12
- Positives: Low cost; Protection against water, snow, dust sand, and dirt
- Negatives: Limited camera use underwater; No drop or shock protection
- Most popular bands: JOTO, Voxkin, YOSH, Ace Teah, MoKo
- Completely waterproof? We hesitate to say that these cases are completely waterproof because we have seen them fail. However, waterproof pouches typically guarantee waterproofness in water at least 3 feet (1 meter) deep. The exact depth of submersion that a case can withstand will depend on the manufacturer. For example, JOTO cases are submersible up to 100 feet, but most manufacturers do not provide this information.
- Best used: For any casual water activity (beach, swimming, boating, fishing, water park)
Be Aware that Waterproof Cases, Pouches, and Dry Bags Can Fail
- The lanyard on waterproof cases can break. Out of tens of thousands of customer reviews on Amazon about waterproof cases, the most common reason for a low rating was a broken lanyard. If your lanyard breaks, your phone is lost.
- Waterproof cases wear out over time. We see this all the time and believe it to be the number one reason why waterproof cases leak. Cases can leak when port covers, rubber seals, and screens crack or break. That’s why it’s a good idea to test a case periodically. Sweat and salt water especially can dry out rubber seals causing them to eventually crack. Cleaning a case periodically will also help prolong its life and protect your phone.
- Waterproof cases can be defective. Even some of the most highly rated waterproof cases have been known to be defective straight out of the box. Most manufacturers recommend testing your waterproof case before first use. This is commonly done with a paper towel and a bowl of water.
- Regular cases are not removed before a waterproof case is used. Because waterproof pouches tend to be roomier, some users mistakenly believe that they can accommodate additional items, like an Otterbox or SlimArmor case that is commonly used with phones. These types of phone cases are so common that a user will often forget it is there. Using an additional case on your phone can put additional stress or strain on the seal and result in a poor seal.
- Waterproof cases can be sealed incorrectly. Sometimes sand or other debris can get in the way of locks, snaps, or port covers, and prevents them from closing properly. Check these areas often and clean them out to ensure a good seal.
- Waterproof pouches can trap condensation. Some users reported condensation in their waterproof pouches which then damaged their phones. To avoid condensation, do not fill the case with extra air. (Some users had done this to make the pouch float.) What you should do is release as much air as possible from the pouch before sealing it. Then, when you are ready to remove the phone from the pouch, consider waiting until the phone is a similar temperature to the environment. Condensation is more likely to form around the phone when there is a larger temperature difference between the phone and the air.
- Waterproof cases can be used beyond their limits. Not all waterproof cases are created equal. For example, some cases can be submerged in certain depths for certain amounts of time while other cases cannot be submerged at all. Know the limits of your waterproof case.
- Waterproof pouches and dry bags can tear. Unlike hard cases, waterproof pouches and dry bags are not rated for protection against solids (wires, screws, tools, etc). While a hard plastic case might be durable enough to withstand being dragged along canyon walls, a dry bag or waterproof pouch might not be.
- Waterproof cases can crack. When a case is dropped too many times, materials can weaken and the case or screen becomes more likely to crack. It’s a good idea to test your case periodically, especially after it’s taken a hard fall
3. Use DIY Nano Coating (Water-Resistant Only)
A nano coating is a hydrophobic liquid that is impervious to water. It is used to waterproof electronics specifically because water cannot penetrate it.
The nanocoating can be sprayed or rubbed onto your phone, leaving a thin, transparent coating that when cured allows water and other liquids to roll right off. This can be done by yourself using a kit or by a third party. We’ll cover both.
- Price range: $15-$30
- Positives: No bulk; Doesn’t affect screen sensitivity; Does not hinder access to phone in any way
- Negatives: Not recommended for submersion; No shock protection; Can affect screen brightness
- Most popular bands: Nanostate, Impervious, GotaChip, Nanex
- Completely waterproof? No. Nanocoatings are water resistant, not waterproof. They are not designed to protect against submersion in water for an extended period.
- Best used: Everyday protection against liquid damage, including splashes, spills, and rain
4. Use 3rd Party Nano Coating (Water-Resistant Only)
Professional nano coating is applied much differently than DIY nano coating. During professional nano coating, a phone is placed in a vacuum chamber and the nano coating is deposited in vapor form until a waterproof film builds up on and around the phone. As a result, the nano coating covers the phone completely, and you don’t have to worry about having missed a spot. This is beginning to happen more commonly at the manufacturer level to create waterproof phones.
- Price range: $50-60
- Positives: No bulk; Doesn’t affect screen sensitivity; Does not hinder access to phone in any way
- Negatives: Not recommended for submersion; No shock protection
- Most popular bands: WaterSeal Technology, Liquipel
- Completely waterproof? No. Even professional nano coatings are not considered waterproof. For example, Liquipel considers its technology to be watersafe not waterproof, and does not recommend taking your mobile device underwater.
- Best used: Everyday protection against liquid damage, especially in humid or rainy environments
Be Aware that Nano Coatings Can Fail
- Nano coatings wear out over time. Most nano coatings only last 1-2 years. Some manufacturers like Nano state recommend reapplying the nano coating every 6 months.
- Nano coatings can be applied incorrectly. This is an issue with DIY nano coatings. If a nano coating is applied only partially, it could leave some areas vulnerable to liquid damage instead of liquid protection
5. Use a Waterproof Phone Skin
A waterproof phone skin is a thin film adhesive that is applied directly to the phone. It offers a cost effective way to waterproof a phone without adding any bulk. However, it is a temporary waterproof solution lasting only a couple uses. And it covers all ports, so be sure your phone is completely charged before using.
- Price range: $7-$30
- Positives: No Bulk; Low cost, Can be used with normal phone case
- Negatives: Skin must be removed to charge phone; Can only be used a limited number of times; Poor sound quality
- Most popular bands: iOttie, Subtech Dryskin, Alienskin
- Completely waterproof? Varies. Some phone skins claim to be waterproof, like , while others claim to be only water resistance, like Alienskin.
- Best used: Everyday use against liquid damage, including splashes, spills, and rain
Be Aware that Waterproof Phone Skins Can Fail
- Waterproof phone skins can be applied incorrectly. If a phone skin is applied incorrectly and isn’t fully sealed or doesn’t cover the phone completely, the phone is at risk for water damage.
Know Your Waterproof Phone Options. But Know the Risks, too.
Now that you know what options are available for waterproofing a phone, and how they fail, you can confidently select the best waterproof solution for your situation. The current most popular and highest rated waterproof phone cases from Amazon are shown below.