IP rating

Waterproof tech has become a big trend in recent years. But how do you know how protected your device is? Most devices use either IP or ATM ratings. Let’s start by talking about IP ratings.

Most high-end smartphones these days either have an IP67 or IP68 rating. These include the Samsung Galaxy S10, LG G8 ThinQ, and Huawei P30 Pro — check out our list of the best waterproof phones to see more models. But what does that even mean? Good question.

You probably know that IP ratings have something to do with protection from water and dust, but if you are reading this, it’s quite possible that’s as far as your understanding goes.

An IP rating tells you the level of protection a device offers against solids and liquids. The “IP” stands for Ingress Protection (or International Protection) and is followed by two numbers. The first number indicates the level of protection against solid particles (dust, dirt…) and ranges from one to six. The second number tells you how much water a device can handle without suffering damage and ranges from one to eight — the higher the number the better the protection. Check out the chart below for detailed info on what each number means:

LevelSolids (first number)Liquids (second number)
1Protected against solid objects over 50mm (example: hands)Protected against vertically falling drops of water
2Protected against solid objects over 12mm (example: fingers)
Protected against direct sprays of water up to 15 degrees from the vertical
3Protected against solid objects over 2.5mm (example: tools and wires)Protected against direct sprays of water up to 60 degrees from the vertical
4Protected against solid objects over 1mm (example: small wires)Protected against water sprayed from all directions
5Dust protected — limited ingress of dust permitted
Protected against jets of water from all directions
6Dust-tight — no ingress of dust permitted
Protected against powerful jets of water from all directions
7/Protected against the effects of immersion in water — between 15 cm (5.9 inches) and 1 meter (3.3 feet) for up to 30 minutes
8/Protected against the effects of long periods of immersion in water under pressure

As you can tell by the chart above, a handset with an IP67 rating is completely dust-tight and will survive in up to one meter of water (3.3 feet) for no more than 30 minutes. An IP68 rated device is also completely dust-tight and is protected against the effects of long periods of immersion in water, which usually means it will survive in up to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) of water for a maximum of 30 minutes.

ATM Rating

There’s another rating to consider for devices, especially for smartwatches; the ATM (Atmospheres) rating system is supposed to indicate how much static atmospheric pressure a device can deal with while in water. It’s actually an older rating system than the IP certification. A rating of 1 ATM means that you are at sea level, outside of water. If a device has a 1 ATM level listed, don’t put it in water under any circumstances.

Here’s a look at the ATM rating system.

RatingPressureDevice Meaning
1 ATM0Do not put in water
3 ATMUnder 100 feetDevice can be used in the rain, and protected against splashes.
5 ATMUnder 165 feetDevice can last for short amounts of time submerged in water, like swimming in a pool.
10 ATMUnder 330 feetDevice can last for much longer amounts of time submerged in water, such as for snorkeling in the ocean.
20 ATMUnder 660 feetDevice can handle being used for high impact water sports like surfing and jet skiing.

An IP or ATM rating gives you peace of mind if you pick up your device with wet hands, accidentally drop it in the pool, or get caught in the rain. Without it, your device could get damaged when it gets in contact with water or even stop working altogether.

According to the poll we did in 2017, water resistance is not a make-or-break feature for almost half of participants, while approximately 30 percent of them wouldn’t buy a phone without at least an IP67 rating. Which side are you on? Let us know in the comments!

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