You’ve probably come across IP ratings and ATM ratings or even Military certifications on your devices by now. Waterproofing tech has come a long way from being exclusively featured on expensive devices to being widely used to protect the tech we use in our daily lives. Water resistance rating can be seen in a wide range of devices including smartphones, tablets, earbuds, wearables and other electronics, and even in electrical household appliances like geysers and instant water heaters. Some of these ratings indicate how better a device is protected against water and dust, while others deal with the durability of the products. In this article, we explore what IP and ATM ratings and Military certifications mean for your smartphones, earbuds, wearables, and more.
What does IP or ATM water-resistant rating mean for your smartphone or wearable?
IP or “Ingress Protection” ratings are defined by IEC Technical Committee. The rating standard defines the degree of protection the enclosure of the devices (such as a smartphone’s or wearable’s body) provides against water and dust. IP rating, in particular, consists of two numerals — with the first numerical indicating protection against solids and the second numerical indicating protection against water. Further, this rating also indicates how easily one can access critical parts of a device within the said enclosure.
Apart from IP, there is another rating standard called “ATM” (atmospheres) that manufacturers use to indicate how much atmospheric pressure a device can handle while under non-moving water. This particular rating standard is commonly found in wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands.
List of IP ratings
|Level||Solids (numerical 1)||Liquids (numerical 2)|
|0||No protection||No protection|
|1||Protection against objects larger than 50mm||Protection against water drops that are falling vertically|
|2||Protection against objects larger than 12.5mm||Protection against water drops that are falling at 15 degrees from vertical|
|3||Protection against objects larger than 2.5mm||Protection against water spays of up to 60 degrees from vertical|
|4||Protection against objects larger than 1.0mm||Protection against water splashes from any direction|
|5||Dust-protected (some dust particles may get through)||Protection against jets of water|
|6||Dust-tight (fully protected against dust particles)||Protection against powerful jets of water|
|7||–||Protection against temporary water immersion|
|8||–||Protection against continuous water immersion|
|9||–||Protection against high water pressures and jets of water|
Types of IP rating
As you can see from the above table, IP protection comes in various protection levels. As explained above, the first digit/numerical in an IP rating explains the protection rating against solids while the second indicates protection against liquids. For instance, the IP68 rating provides complete protection against dust and water immersion. In some cases, you’ll see ‘X’ instead of a number in an IP rating, which essentially means the device is not tested for that purpose.
IP00 rating provides no protection against water or dust. Take extra care of the device and keep it away from water and dust.
IP11 protects against objects larger than 50mm, such as hands. Further, it is protected from vertically falling water drops. It is not very reliable.
IP22 gives protection against objects larger than 12.5mm, for example, fingers. Additionally, provides protection from water drops that are falling at 15 degrees vertical. Slightly better than IP11, but again refrain from taking your device near water or dust.
IP33 rating provides protection against objects larger than 2.5mm protection, for instance, tools and wires. Further, protected against water spays of up to 60 degrees from vertical.
IP44 rating means your device is protected from objects larger than 1.0mm, which includes tiny wires and other small things. The rating additionally ensures protection against splashes of water from any direction.
IP55 rating brings dust protection, but some dust particles may still get through the enclosure. Further, the rating ensures the device can handle jets of water.
IP66 rating means the target device is fully protected against dust particles — it is dust-tight. Moreover, it gets protection from powerful jets of water
An IP67 device is fully dust-tight and is protected against temporary water immersion — usually up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes.
A device rated IP68 is dust-tight and is protected against continuous water immersion — usually greater than 1 meter, but the exact depth is defined by the particular manufacturer.
A device which is rated IP68 is dust-tight and is protected against high water pressures and jets of water.
An IPX6 rating means the device is protected against powerful jets of water. It has no protection against solids such as dust.
IPX7 brings protection against temporary water immersion of up to 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. This one also doesn’t offer any dust protection.
With IPX8 the object is submerged in water, usually, greater than 1 meter in depth. Any dust protection is absent here as well.
List of ATM ratings
|Rating||Water depth (pressure)||Purpose|
|1ATM||10 meter||Device can handle 10 meters of water depth|
|3ATM||30 meter||Device can handle 30 meters of water depth|
|5ATM||50 meter||Device can handle 50 meters of water depth|
|10ATM||100 meter||Device can handle 100 meters of water depth|
Types of ATM ratings
ATM ratings are usually found in electronics like wearables such as smartwatches and fitness bands. As you can see in the table each ATM rating brings different protection levels when kept under various water pressure levels. ATM rating enables users to wear the device while doing shallow-water activities like swimming.
For instance, a 5ATM rating means the device handles up to 50 meters of depth in motionless water. Below is an explanation of each ATM rating commonly used by manufacturers throughout the world.
Devices with a 1ATM rating can handle 10-meters water depth pressure; usually up to 10 minutes.
A 3ATM rating device can handle 30-meter water depth pressure.
A 5ATM rating device can handle 50-meter water depth pressure.
Devices with a 10ATM rating handle water pressure equivalent to 100-meter water depth.
Military certifications: What does it mean?
Some devices in the market feature Military-grade certifications instead of IP or ATM ratings. For instance, many laptops nowadays come with military certification such as “MIL-STD 810H”, a rating system used by the US military to guarantee the durability of devices even under harsh conditions. A MIL-STD 810G or the newer MIL-STD 810H-rated device — be it a smartphone or a laptop or any other device — needs to conform to a series 26 of durability tests to guarantee a certain level of durability that can withstand harsh environments. These tests include temperature tests, low-temperature tests, drop tests, humidity tests, altitude tests, vibration tests, and more.
Water resistant vs waterproof: What’s the difference?
The terms, water-resistant and waterproof, are sometimes used interchangeably in the tech world, but there is a difference here. A water-resistant device is not necessarily waterproof in nature. Manufacturers most of the time use the term water resistance for both IP and ATM ratings. A recent example is the latest Apple Watch Series 8, which sports a water resistance rating of up to 50 meters that conforms to ISO standard 22810:2010. In simple terms, water resistance rating essentially means — a device can handle splashes of water or is safe to be used while doing shallow-water activities such as swimming under certain water pressure levels — but it is not fully protected from water from all conditions.
Moreover, most manufacturers test devices in lab conditions. For instance, the manufacturer may have tested the water-resistant capabilities of a device in freshwater, or distilled water (a term for ultrapure water), but not in salt water. In other words, although IP water resistance ratings do provide a certain level of protection against water, you should ideally keep your smartphone away from water as much as possible, even if it has a high IP or ATM rating.
Salts in the water are a thing that you need to keep in mind when coming into contact with water. When water gets inside the device, either through high water pressure levels or broken or damaged seals protecting the smartphone, these salts may build up on the internal circuitry over time and cause a short circuit, which may damage the device permanently.
How to protect your phone against water and dust
While most smartphones nowadays do come with at least some level of protection from water even without an IP or ATM rating, how do you protect and/or rescue your device if water ever gets inside the device? Below are some pointers that may help you protect your device if water accidentally gets inside a smartphone.
- As soon as you suspect water has leaked inside the smartphone, the first step here is to switch off the smartphone as soon as possible. This is to prevent any short circuit formation.
- The next step is to remove any connected peripherals such as USB adapters and wired headphones. And ideally, remove the battery if the smartphone features a removable battery.
- Dry the smartphone with a dry cloth and wrap it in tissue paper or a towel. You can keep the smartphone in warm sunlight to dry the water out. Or put the smartphone in a bowl of rice, but when turning the device on, ensure there are no rice grains stuck in the ports that might cause a short circuit.
- Back up any important data from your smartphone as soon as you turn the device on.
- Lastly, you may want to take the smartphone to the manufacturer’s service centre to diagnose the device for any damage.
- And as a measure of precaution, use waterproof pouches if you think your smartphone may come in contact with water.
- Don’t turn the phone on if you suspect there is still water inside.
- Don’t shake the smartphone and keep it still as much as possible. You don’t want water to get deeper inside the smartphone circuitry.
- Don’t blow into the smartphones for the same reason of not making the water go deeper inside.
- Don’t use a hair dryer/blow dryer to dry the smartphone. Smartphones don’t like too much heat.
- Avoid pressing any keys such as volume and power buttons. This may push water deeper into the smartphone circuitry.
- Don’t plug your USB accessories and especially your charger into the smartphone. Wait for the phone to dry out.