Samsung Galaxy S7 Fails Water-Resistance Test: Are Waterproof Smartphones Ready For Primetime?

The Samsung Galaxy S7 Active was recently put through a “water-resistance test” by the people at Consumer Reports.

It failed.

The S7 Active is a model in the Samsung Galaxy family that was designed and advertised to be more rugged for the active lifestyle. Features like a shatterproof screen and a larger battery are being used to market the phone to those who spend more time outdoors than commuting. Another advertised feature is its water resistance.

According to Samsung marketing material, the S7 Active has “an IP68 water-resistance rating helps to protect it from spills and splashes—just wipe it off and keep going.”

A footnote to the water-resistance claim states, “IP68 water-resistant in up to 5 feet of water for up to 30 min. Rinse residue/dry when wet.”

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Waterproofing and resistance is a highly desired feature in a smartphone even by those who are not outdoor enthusiasts, and many companies, including Apple, have been toying and experimenting with attempts to waterproof their phones.

Some time ago, YouTube user Zach Straley water tested the iPhone 6S and 6S Plus to determine how water resistant they were. He submerged them both in bowls of water for over an hour, and they survived the dunk with no adverse effects. He concluded that Apple had secretly waterproofed its latest phone.

Why the company would waterproof the iPhone without advertising it as a feature is speculative, but if they wanted to test the feature under consumer conditions without claiming responsibility for failed devices, that would be the way to do it. However, subsequent water tests on the iPhone 6S did not turn out so well, indicating that Straley’s test may have been a fluke.

With Samsung touting its Galaxy S7 Active as IP68 water resistant, Consumer Reports wanted to test that claim. The consumer watchdog publication stated that they ordinarily do not check smartphones for water-resistance durability, but since this is the first time that a company has advertised it as a feature, they felt the need to put it through an immersion test.

Testers used a pressurized water tank to simulate the pressure of five feet of water and left the S7 Active in the environment for 30 minutes.

“When we removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen wasn’t responsive.”

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Standard procedure for CR when a product fails a test is to perform a second test. A second S7 Active was subjected to the same conditions, and it failed as well.

“After we removed it from the tank, the screen cycled on and off every few seconds, and moisture could be seen in the front and back camera lenses. We also noticed water in the slot holding the SIM card. For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality.”

Samsung claimed that they have not received any complaints on the issue and that phones that fail due to water damage are covered by the Samsung warranty.

Although not a highly advertised feature, the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge also have an IP68 rating. Consumer Reports performed immersion tests with those phone, and they both passed.

“Those two phones currently top our smartphone Ratings, with Excellent scores for their displays, battery life, cameras, and other attributes.”

While the Samsung Galaxy S7 Active failed to prove any degree of water resistance, results from the standard S7 and S7 Edge immersion tests seem to indicate that the race for water resistance may have a new leader. Rumors persist that the iPhone 7 will have some degree of water resistance, and this seems to be a logical leap considering that Apple’s largest competitor appears to be ahead in this race.

[Photo by Rick Kern/Getty Images for Samsung]