After the crazy megapixel wars, screen resolution wars and crazy processor wars, the new trend in smartphones seems to be something that is actually useful in everyday usage. From the top-of-the-line Samsung Galaxy S5 to the mid-range Wickedleak Wammy Passion X, the new buzzword is waterproof. But do you really need your mobile phone to be waterproof?
Water-resistant, Not Waterproof
First, let’s clear up one thing. These phones aren’t waterproof, they are water-resistant. The difference is vast in pedantic definitions (where jargon like “Ingress Protection” comes into play), but in real-world usage, water-resistant is good enough. What water-resistant means is that the phone will not be on the fritz if you happened to use it in the rain, dropped it in the pool, or accidentally spilt a drink on it. But you can’t go snorkeling with it or leave it under a waterfall for hours—those things would require waterproofing.
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There’s an aura around the term “waterproof” that makes the consumer believe the phone is capable of more than it is. It only means you can reasonably expect it to survive damage, provided you aren’t the one causing damage intentionally. For example, if your phone were to drop in that pool, you wouldn’t leave it there, you’d dive in to fetch it. But if you think you can drop your phone into the deep end and find it working after hours, think again—that’s not what waterproofing in phones is.
There are also caveats to all the phones when it comes to water resistance. For instance, with the Sony Xperia Z1, Z2 or the Samsung Galaxy S5, the company notes that you need to have the port flaps sealed, otherwise the protection doesn’t count.
It’s not yet the feature you buy a phone for…
What all this adds up to is that waterproofing in smartphones is not yet the main reason to buy the device. It’s a nice feature to have in a device, but it’s not robust enough to take on any water damage either.
The bigger reason, of course, is that there’s a lot more to any smartphone than waterproofing. You need a great screen, you need good battery life, you need it to have smooth performance—those are the things that matter a lot more in everyday usage than a phone that will be fine in case you spill coffee on it.
But it’s the feature to differentiate with
However, if two phones are on par in those basics, then water resistance is the best feature to differentiate them by. A 2012 study by Kelton Research found that 29% of smartphone users damaged their phone by spilling a drink on it—water damage in regular usage is a real threat. So if you’re plonking down tens of thousands of rupees for a phone, it only makes sense that you get one that is going to withstand these common accidents better than one without water-resistance.
The key here is to first have two phones that are on par. For Rs 18,000, the Wickedleak Wammy Passion X is simply not worth it. For Rs 14,000, the Moto G offers similar water resistance and is a far better phone. Or even in the higher end, between an LG G2 and a Sony Xperia Z1, if you find both phones to be on par in most aspects, then grabbing the Xperia Z1 would make more sense since it is water resistant.
So is waterproofing the main feature to look for in a smartphone today? No. The regular features—screen, battery, performance—matter more. Water resistance in phones is worth the peace of mind, but it’s not worth anything more than that.