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