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Is your smartphone waterproof? It could save your life

Picture this: You’re aboard a boat on the open sea, and the water is still and silent. Then within a minute, everything changes.

Rough waters are coming in and threatening to capsize the boat, so you grab your bag before you’re forced to jump. As you’re trying to stay afloat near a dangerous whirlpool, you retrieve your smartphone from the bag. It’s soaked but luckily still works and you call for help.

That actually happened, and eight people are most likely alive today because one woman’s smartphone could handle being submerged. If you were in the same situation, would you be able to call for help?

A story of survival

That’s what happened to 28-year-old Rachael Neal when she, her boyfriend and other college friends took a two-week trip to Japan this past fall. After spending the last day of their vacation on a small chain of islands near Okinawa, they decided to head back to the mainland in their chartered boat.

Neal is safety-minded. After all, she worked at FEMA for six years. So before she and and the others had to jump from the boat, Neal grabbed her emergency “go-bag” that contained drinking water, a first-aid kit, protein bars and her iPhone 8.

She called for help, and after about two hours in the water, everyone was rescued and airlifted to safety. She credits her phone for their survival, and even reached out to Apple to share the story. Apple CEO Tim Cook even responded on Twitter just a few days ago.

Check your smartphone’s durability

Do you know how to find out if your smartphone could stand up to the same? It’s easy to check.

But first, you need to know that no smartphone is truly waterproof. Instead, they come in varying degrees of water resistance. And maybe you don’t think of your smartphone’s water resistance level as a last resort means of survival, but it’s sure nice to have when you’re at the pool, right?

This feature isn’t actually new to smartphones, so water resistance is now incorporated into most popular models. For instance, Samsung and Sony smartphones have been water resistant for years. Apple eventually caught up in 2016, and now every iPhone starting with the iPhone 7 and later is water resistant.

Bonus: How to keep your iPhone battery from draining so fast

You can find out if your smartphone is water resistant by looking for its IP rating. Fun fact for your next party, IP stands for ingress protection and it’s used to define just how well a device is sealed and protected from the elements. The first number represents its resistance to things like dust and dirt. The second number deals with moisture. The highest number for dust resistance right now is 6 and water resistance is 8, so these are the current standards.

  • IP67: can be submerged in water up to one meter (3.3 feet) deep for up to 30 minutes
  • IP68: can be submerged in water from to 1.5 to 2 meters deep for up to 30 minutes

Alternative protection for other smartphones

If you’re phone’s allergic to water or you just want that extra level of protection, there are just a few of the many alternatives available on Amazon.

1. Cheap and simple: JOTO universal waterproof cellphone case, Amazon, $5.87

  • This case will hold just about any smartphone, including the big ones like the iPhone XS Max and Samsung Galaxy Note 9. And it has a ton of positive reviews on Amazon.

2. For more than just your phone: Pelican 1060 Micro Case, Amazon, $19.99

  • Get something like this if you want protection for other sensitive items like a standalone camera or other small electronics.

3. Smartphone-specific option: OTBBA iPhone 7/8 waterproof case, Amazon, $16.99

  • OTBBA makes all kinds of waterproof cases specific to your phone model. For reference, this one’s made for the iPhone 7 or 8.

The bottom line here (literally) is that if you haven’t really paid too much attention to your smartphone’s ability to stand up to the elements, you might reconsider. That feature could one day help save your life.

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