How Waterproof Are your Tech Gadgets

With the rise of fitness trackers and smartphones, we’ve seen a surge in devices that are marketed as “waterproof” or “water resistant.” However, these terms are pretty vague and it can be difficult to understand what your device can truly withstand. Here are some tips to help you keep your device from meeting a watery grave:

1. ATM Rating

Once upon a time, before we had all these devices we wanted to take to the beach with us, we wore wristwatches with various waterproof ratings. At that time, we used ATM ratings to tell how much static atmospheric pressure a device could withstand. The higher the ATM rating, the deeper a device could go. These ratings are used today on a number of fitness trackers and other wearables.

ATM ratings range from 1ATM, which denotes poor water resistance, to “Diver,” which can withstand scuba diving. For wearables that will be used for swimming or snorkeling, you should look for an ATM rating of 5-10. However, keep in mind that there is no official body performing ATM tests, which means that these devices are labeled by the manufacturer.

2. IP Rating

A more recent and reliable international standard is the Ingress Protection, or IP, Rating. The IP rating of a device is supported by controlled tests.

IP ratings are given in the IPXY format. The X rating tells you how resistant the device is to penetration from solid objects, like fingers or dust. Given the fact that most devices these days are sealed well enough so you can’t stick a finger inside them, most devices will be at rated least IP5Y or IP6Y.

The “Y” rating is where we find information about liquid ingress. These ratings range from 0 for not protected to 9K for protected against close-range high pressure, high temperature spray downs. This rating tends to be a little more complicated than the solids rating because there are many more factors, such as water pressure and temperature, to consider. To determine how water resistant or waterproof your device is based on its IP rating, make sure you consult the complete chart and pay close attention to all the factors.

3. Manufacturer’s Recommendations

While it’s good to have an understanding of these rating systems and what they mean for your devices, the best thing you can do is to read your device manual carefully. This is especially true if your device doesn’t have an ATM or IP rating.

It’s also in your best interest to err on the side of caution when it comes to your devices and water. I recommend keeping them dry unless it’s absolutely necessary for them to come into contact with water. For waterproof devices, keep in mind that temperature, depth, and length of submersion also matter. For example, a fitness tracker designed to withstand swimming might not be able to withstand diving.

By Mike Agerbo

February 16, 2017