Whether you work on a shipping tanker, at the local pool or you simply consider yourself accident-prone, there’s a strong chance that water resistance is high on your list of priorities when choosing a new smartphone.
Thankfully, manufacturers have picked up on this need and have been building handsets that boast varying levels of water-resistance, which range from being able to withstand a light mist, to coming out of a full-on dunking unscathed.
Waterproof vs water-resistant
Before we jump to the list, it’s import to highlight the distinction between waterproof and water-resistant.
Most mainstream phones don’t employ waterproof designs and instead offer water-resistance – the ability to withstand being exposed to water for a certain period of time without suffering any adverse effects.
‘Waterproof‘ suggests that a device is designed to withstand being exposed to water practically indefinitely, without issue.
Then, there’s the matter of IP ratings to consider. Not all water-resistant phones are created equal and different devices offer different levels of protection.
Being splash-proof, for example, doesn’t mean you can watch TV in the bath or take photos underwater, while some devices won’t even flinch under such conditions.
Every phone in this list offers IP68 certification – generally the highest level of protection that most manufacturers adhere to right now.
IP stands for ‘Ingress Protection’ and is used to define the sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies and moisture.
The first number refers to how the device handles solid particles, like dust. The highest rating is ‘6’, meaning total protection. The second digit refers to water protection and the best you’ll see on most phones is ‘8’, going by the original IEC standard 60529 (6K and 9K are not part of this).
It’s also worth noting that ratings against water ingress are not cumulative beyond 6; so a device with a rating of 7 doesn’t have to comply with the water jet element of 5 or 6.
If an IP rating has an X in it, don’t misinterpret this as the device having no protection. It’s likely to have good protection for particles if it’s IPX6, but the rating has not been formally allocated.
Here’s a full listing for both particles and water:
Particles (e.g. dust)
• 0 = No protection• 1 = >50mm, any large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand• 2 = >12.5mm, fingers or similar objects• 3 = >2.5mm, tools, thick wires, etc.• 4 = >1mm, most wires, slender screws, large ants etc.• 5 = Dust protected. Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented• 6 = Dust tight. No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact. A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on airflow
• 0 = No protection• 1 = Dripping water causes no harmful effects• 2 = Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect with enclosure is tilted at 15°• 3 = Water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical• 4 = Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction• 5 = Water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction• 6 = Water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) from any direction• 6K = Powerful water jets with increased pressure• 7 = Immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes• 8 = Immersion, 1m or more depth (exact details vary)• 9K = Powerful high-temperature water jets
The next generation of waterproof phones
According to IDC, liquid is the second most common cause of damage in smartphones accounting for 35.1% of all devices repaired. However, that might change considerably thanks to a new generation of waterproof phones with better protection.
At the moment, phone makers either use physical seals or a nano-coating to keep water out. While the latter is limited to splashes, P2i – a leader in the technology – is working on an improved version of its plasma protection which will be IPX7.
A nano-coating to this level will give partners more freedom with design and could even mean we see more handsets with removable covers and batteries again.
Best waterproof phones 2020
1. Apple iPhone 11 Pro
You might notice that Apple holds both the number one and two spots on this list, but we promise this isn’t a case of brand favouritism.
While the Android phones further down all adhere to IP68 certification, like the iPhones, Apple has gone above and beyond with the 11 Pro (and 11 Pro Max) boasting resistance in up to 13 feet for fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
As for the rest of the phone, while we’re not fully on board with the ‘Pro’ naming, there’s no doubt this is the best iPhone to date for various reasons.
We like the matte finish which provides more grip than standard glass and helps negate fingerprints. The OLED screen is stunning, especially with iOS 13’s Dark Mode, the cameras are excellent, performance is slick and battery life is better than ever – there’s a lot to like.
Still, it’s a lot more expensive than the regular iPhone 11 which has the things that most people want and doesn’t really break any new ground. It’s not even 5G capable.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review
2. Apple iPhone 11
While not quite as well-adapted as its Pro-branded siblings, the base iPhone 11 still totes above-average water resistance that works at up to 6.5 feet/2 metres of freshwater for 30 minutes.
The iPhone 11 didn’t need to rewrite the smartphone rule book to be a winner. It simply needed to build on the success of the XR and it has done exactly that.
It features a nice design which comes in various colours. Face ID has been improved and the telephoto lens has been swapped for a more useful wide-angle lens. The screen still isn’t OLED but offers a decent experience anyway and performance is top-notch – even when playing the very demanding games.
All of this for a cheaper price than the iPhone XR, when it first arrived. Apple has done it again.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 review
3. Samsung Galaxy S20
As mentioned earlier, the rest of the devices in this lineup, including the S20, are listed as being able to withstand the exact standards of IP68-certification – submerged in up to five feet (1.5 metres) of freshwater for up to 30 minutes.
The base Galaxy S20 is the best phone in Samsung’s S20 series and simply the best phone the company makes right now.
It’s compact, powerful and packs a versatile camera system that may not match the top-tier S20 Ultra on zoom or detail, but meets – and sometimes beats – it across the rest of the board, which means it’s more than a match for just about any other phone out there too.
The wider 5G ecosystem isn’t quite there yet but will be within this phone’s lifetime, making it almost worth the upgrade.
Battery life remains a slight concern, that’s really the only major fault here. The Android ecosystem offers more for less elsewhere, but usually without Samsung’s level of prestige or polish and in this case we think that’s worth paying for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
4. OnePlus 8 Pro
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company’s first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68 waterproof rating to make it a genuine contender with Samsung’s finest.
Understandably the price has gone up accordingly, but at £799/$899 for the base model – no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – it still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers. You can save even more with the £599/$699 OnePlus 8, though you’ll have to give up a few features and downgrade the display and cameras.
The 8 Pro camera is OnePlus’ best yet, and while it still lags behind rivals slightly in some software the hardware is among the best around, which has helped to close the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design, and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
5. Oppo Find X2 Pro
The Oppo Find X2 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in, 10-bit, 120Hz, QHD+ panel is the best display in any phone right now, and Oppo backs it up with the fastest wired charging around at 65W, and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses and up to 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging, and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish orange vegan leather finishes might leave some struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro can’t be beat right now, with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 5G, 512GB storage, and 12GB RAM – you just have to be willing to pay the price, as at £1,099 it doesn’t come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X2 Pro review
6. Samsung Galaxy Note 10+
It’s pretty clear the Galaxy Note 10+ is the phone that will satisfy fans of the series, by offering all the things that Note users love.
A big screen, a gorgeous design, and almost all the high-end specs you can throw at a phone. We particularly love the display and new cameras which just about distract from the missing headphone jack.
It is expensive though, so unless you really will make use of the real estate and S Pen, an S10 model might be a better choice – or even the smaller Note 10.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ review
7. Samsung Galaxy S20+
There’s no denying that the Samsung Galaxy S20+ is both an exceptional flagship and one of the most well-rounded phones on the market right now, but ironically it stands in the shadow of its smaller sibling, the standard Galaxy S20.
If you prefer the larger 6.7in display that the S20+ offers up, you’ll also enjoy its WQHD+ resolution, HDR10+ visuals and most exciting of all, the new 120Hz refresh rate. Performance is also top-notch meaning it’s great for enjoying media and gaming, there’s 5G onboard and 25W fast charging means you can refill the phone’s 4500mAh battery in little over an hour.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20+ review
8. Google Pixel 4 XL
Both Google’s Pixel 4 and 4 XL offer innovation in spades. The larger 4 XL skirts around one of the smaller models main issues in its underwhelming battery life but it still suffers from some odd decision making elsewhere.
You’ll likely fall in love with the super-smooth 90Hz display, the newly enhanced and incredibly responsive Google Assisant, and the astounding astrophotography skill baked into the new dual-sensor main camera. Quirks like the phone’s weak maximum display brightness and middling longevity are less appreciated.
If you’re yet to join the Pixel family, the Pixel 4 XL is a wholly capable jumping-on point, however, unless you’re after the latest Android experience as Google intended, other manufacturers’ devices offer more bang for your buck.
Read our full Google Pixel 4 XL review
9. LG V60 ThinQ 5G
A niche hit, the V60 ThinQ 5G excels in areas like battery life, video capture and audio but lacks mainstream appeal, with LG’s ‘quirky’ user interface and the love-it-or-hate-it optional Dual Screen accessory.
LG has made some surprising decisions compared to the competition but a little thought does reveal that such choices collectively make a lot of sense. There’s no high refresh rate display, for example, instead, the V60 actually sports a lower resolution (Full HD) panel compared to its predecessor, but as a result, it offers great longevity – even when using that second screen. There’s also something to be said for the phone’s raw speed, courtesy of a Snapdragon 865 chip and 5G connectivity.
The only other challenge is its availability, with just three major US carriers (AT&T, T-Mobile and Verizon) being the only places you can pick the V60 up (at the time of writing).
Read our full LG V60 ThinQ 5G review
10. Huawei P30 Pro
The Huawei P40 Pro would sit here in the lineup but with the company’s ongoing issues with the US government and the phone’s lack of Google services, including the Play Store, the P30 Pro is actually the preferred choice.
Huawei is also one of the few manufacturers to make a first-party enhanced water-resistant casing for its phones. In the case of the P30 Pro the phone’s native IP68 certification gets bumped up to 10 metres for up to 60 minutes.
Despite its age, the design is still top-drawer stuff, the display is outstanding and the cameras are truly some of the best ever seen on a phone, even one year on.
Prices have dropped since it launched early in 2019 and it’s great value compared to many rival flagships.
Read our full Huawei P30 Pro review
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