Unlike arch-rivals Samsung and Sony, Apple has never tried to get industry-standard IP55, IP58 or IP67 dust and water resistance certificates for its iPhone smartphones.
But there are signs Apple has responded that the sheer number of people who drop their iPhones in water – and the recent $53 million settlement of a US lawsuit that penalised the company’s refusal to fix water-damaged phones under warranty.
Repair company iFixit noted this week in its detailed dismantling – known as a ‘teardown’ – of the iPhone 6 Plus that Apple was now putting water-resistant rubber seals on many of the smartphone’s vulnerable points.
“We’re button-pushers around here, so we took particular interest in this fancy new rubber gasket surrounding the power button,” said iFixit.
“Similar gaskets surround the volume buttons. Altogether, this seems to represent a move toward increased water/dust resistance, and therefore improved durability.”
The new rubber seal around the power button on the iPhone 6 Plus
This improved water resistance is demonstrated in the durability tests run on the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus by the insurance company SquareTrade this week.
SquareTrade submerged both the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus under water for 10 seconds while they were playing a Taylor Swift’s Shake it Off video – skip to 0:43 if you’re in a rush. (Was the gargled ‘Haters gonna hate, hate, hate’ chorus a subtle reference to the Android viewers?).
“After 10 seconds under water we checked to see how each phone held up,” reported the video’s narrator. “The audio on both iPhones shut off temporarily but came back on after a few minutes. Otherwise there was no immediate damage to either phone.”
These results lend credibility to the photographs that leaked earlier this year showing iPhone 6 water submersion tests. It’s now clear that the doused devices were genuine iPhone 6 smartphones – see below.
It’s clear that the device in these leaked water test images from May 2014 was a genuine iPhone 6 – which didn’t leak
A 10-second submersion in water may reflect a real-life scenario of someone dropping their iPhone into the sink or toilet bowl and fishing it out. But it’s a long way short of the 30-minute, 1-metre deep dunking required to get an IP67 or IP58 rating like the Samsung Galaxy S5 or Sony Xperia Z2.
So it seems Apple is quietly improving the water resistance of the iPhone 6 range – but not to the extent that it wants to make it into a marketing bullet point. Some may say that this is a cynical exercise to keep replacement cash rolling in for water-damaged iPhones.
But more likely it is an aesthetic aversion by Jonny Ive and his design team to raft of ugly flaps required to get full water and dust resistance by externally sealing vulnerable ports.
As we’ve said before, that kind of barrier protection is both inelegant and prone to user error. It’s one area – unlike aircraft carrier-sized phones – where Apple doesn’t plan to play catch-up just yet.
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