Are wa­ter­proof gad­gets as im­per­vi­ous to liq­uid as they claim? T3 hits the drink to find out

T3 - - Contents - Words: Chris Barnes Pho­tog­ra­phy: Neil God­win

Are your favourite wa­ter­proof gad­gets ac­tu­ally wa­ter­proof? We dump ’em in the drink to find out

After a re­peated dunk­ing in the tank, I wear the Ap­ple Wa tch on a rainy run and it takes ev­ery­thing in its stride

Only a few years back, an ac­ci­den­tally sub­merged gad­get meant a race to the kitchen to find a bag of rice, be­fore bury­ing the de­vice in a bowl of po­ten­tially tech-sav­ing grains. What came next was a prayer to the grain gods, fol­lowed by an anx­ious wait to power up and see if you’d saved your gad­get from wa­tery doom. If you were un­lucky, you’d be look­ing at a pricey re­place­ment.

Thank­fully times have changed, and many of the lat­est gad­gets now come with a de­gree of wa­ter­proof­ing as stan­dard. The ques­tion is, just how wa­ter­proof are they? Can we re­ally What­sApp safely from a banana boat, or read an ebook in the bath, turn­ing the page with foamy fingers?

Deep im­pact

To find out how wa­ter­proof your tech is, look for the IP rat­ing (found in the spec). This dic­tates how deep the gad­get can be sub­merged and for how long (see p56). I want to send a se­lec­tion of ev­ery­day, IP-rated gad­gets to the bot­tom of the T3 test­ing pool to see if they re­ally are wa­ter­proof. Sadly the pool is closed for main­te­nance, so in­stead I fill a fish tank with icy wa­ter. On the cold­est day of the year. My hands will love this.

One of the most com­mon tech ca­su­al­ties is the phone down the toi­let, so I’m pulling out the big guns for test num­ber one (or should that be num­ber two? Sorry). The Google Pixel 3 XL – de­signed with 6.3-inch QHD+ OLED dis­play and ro­bust Corn­ing Go­rilla Glass 5 pro­tec­tion – is a size­able beast in the hand. With a price tag start­ing from £739, it’s not some­thing you’d want to lose to wa­ter dam­age. An IP68 wa­ter­proof rat­ing means the Pixel 3 XL should with­stand sub­mer­sion to a depth of 1.5m for up to 30 min­utes. Let’s see if can with­stand our tank…

In or­der to en­sure the hand­set is fully func­tion­ing be­fore hit­ting the wa­ter, I load a few apps and take some snaps on the Pixel’s 12.2MP dual-pixel rear cam­era. The HDR+ im­ages are bright and vi­brant, the per­for­mance slick and fast. Will it be the same story after half an hour sat in wa­ter, though? I let the phone sink to the bot­tom of the tank and set a timer.

After 30 min­utes my alarm sounds, so I re­trieve the Pixel 3 from the icy deep. Thank­fully no mouth to mouth is needed: the phone un­locks in­stantly (after wip­ing the drops off) us­ing face recog­ni­tion, and gets straight back to busi­ness. Im­pres­sive.

Dunk­ing for ap­ples

Next for the big dip is the fourth­gen­er­a­tion Ap­ple Watch. It’s packed with tech, in­clud­ing a new elec­tri­cal heart sen­sor, auto work­out de­tec­tion and hard fall de­tec­tion. The lat­est Ap­ple Watch is wa­ter-re­sis­tant to 50 me­tres, so you’ll have no wor­ries track­ing ac­tiv­ity in the pool or sea.

After a thor­ough and re­peated dunk­ing in the fish tank, with the Ap­ple Watch on my wrist, I wear it again on a rainy run, then in the pool. It takes ev­ery­thing in its stride, and at less than 48g (for the 44mm model) I barely no­tice I’m wear­ing it.

Slip­pery when wet

If mu­sic boosts your rhythm in the pool, the i360 Wa­ter­proof Sport MP3 player is worth ex­plor­ing. Drag and drop up to 2,400 songs onto the built-in 8GB drive to sound­track your next front crawl, leav­ing your phone safe in your locker.

The MP3 player is wa­ter­proof to three me­tres, mak­ing it ideal for most pool-based an­tics. Although the mu­sic helped me stay on pace, the fit was prob­lem­atic. Swim­ming is sup­posed to be mind­ful, but con­stantly ad­just­ing the shift­ing ear­buds was dis­tract­ing.

Be­ing a mu­sic and tech jour­nal­ist with a love of out­doors pur­suits, I’m al­ways keen to find a speaker that can hold its own in the au­dio stakes, yet won’t wimp out if it falls into a river or pool. Ul­ti­mate Ears has po­si­tioned it­self as leader of the wa­ter­proof speaker pack, and on paper the Wi-Fi/ Blue­tooth-equipped Me­gablast is the ul­ti­mate pool party starter. It pumps out up to 93dBC of bass-rich sound, and can be con­trolled with voice com­mands via Ama­zon Alexa.

LEFTWhat? Our Kin­dle was in need of a bath

RIGHTThe Thinkpad gets wa­tered like a plant

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