Is It Really Waterproof?

Since the Sony Xperia Z and Samsung Galaxy S5, about 2013, common smartphones have been IP67, “water resistant.” Now Apple has built the iPhone 7 to the same specification, and once Apple jumps on the train more people start asking questions. The phones are rated IP67, but what exactly does that mean? It is a tight seal, but not something you want to take snorkeling.

Technically, IP67 means the phones, as they come out of the box, can take immersion in 1 meter of water for 30 minutes. The certification states that the seal will prevent “ingress of water in harmful quantity.” It can leak, but not enough to cause damage, a vague standard for something as sensitive as a smartphone. Two meters would mean more pressure and all bets are off. As the phones age, spend time in your pocket, and get dropped the seals will lose integrity. The Samsung Galaxy S7 and S8 are now IP68 rated, which protects against immersion more than 1 meter, but the standard does not specify a depth benchmark. Samsung says the S8 is good to 1.5 meters; let’s call it 4-1/2 feet. In other words, it will not end well if you jump into the deep end of the pool with your S8.

IP standards do not apply well to handheld objects that are subject to daily bumps, occasionally being sat upon, and just general abuse. The ratings, however, are a sound measurement for electronic equipment installed in one place even when the conditions at that location change drastically. The IP (for Ingress Protection) standards were developed by the IEC, International Electrotechnical Commission. The “IP” is followed by two digits. The first digit represents penetration by solids and the second digit is for liquids. It helps to understand how the ratings work.

It takes an IP3x rating to keep out objects greater than 2.5mm, which means you could still poke a flat blade screwdriver into the sensitive parts. IP4x will keep out most chunks, but sand and dust are going right in. IP5x is dust “protected,” which means dust can still get in, but will not “enter in sufficient quantity to interfere with satisfactory operation.” If it strikes you that words like sufficient and satisfactory are less than precise, you are starting to understand the situation. Finally, the IP6x rating draws a line, “no ingress of dust.” Yet, when I open my 3-year-old, IP67-rated Samsung S5, there’s plenty of pocket lint in there. IP ratings do not account for pockets.

The second IP number is for liquids, which is where the rubber meets the road for electronic equipment. An IPx2 will keep out dripping water. The IPx3 rating keeps out spraying water, and IPx4 keeps out splashing water. The distinction between 3 and 4 seems to be that splashing can come from any angle. The ratings get serious at IPx5, which means, “Water jets projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against the enclosure from any direction shall have no harmful effects.” For most products mounted outdoors IPx5 covers rain, even in wind. IPx6 protects against “water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm).” The powerful jets protection is the sort of seal that will keep out storms up to low-grade hurricanes. You can take IPx7 devices swimming in very shallow water. The most liquid resistant is the IPx8, but the difference is just that it goes beyond the IPx7’s 1 meter immersion rating, but how much beyond is up to the manufacturer to specify.

In all of these ratings fresh water is used in testing, simulating rain and conditions in nature. It should not be assumed that other liquids, which may be more volatile than water will be prevented from entering an enclosure. For industrial installations with chemicals and other liquids, specific testing is the only way to confirm protection. The IP standards for solids and liquids ingress protection are only tested with new equipment with full seals intact. It is up to manufacturers to take testing beyond the basic IP standard.

How do IP ratings apply in actual installations?

Pepwave houses several of their products in IP certified enclosures, with two levels of certification. The AP One Flex Wireless Access Point, MAX BR1 IP55 Cellular Router, and MAX BR2 IP55 Cellular Router are in all-weather, plastic, IP55 rated enclosures. These products are widely used outdoors and give years of service in all-weather applications and temperatures. In all but hurricane force wind, they will withstand rain and dust.

Pepwave’s iconic, industrial level, all metal IP67 enclosure houses the AP Pro line of Access Points and the MAX HD2 IP67 Dual Cellular Router. For applications anywhere but in standing water these IP67 enclosure can fight off weather, storms, high winds and temperature extremes. The Pepwave AP Pro routers were used to bring the Longboat Key community Wi-Fi for 212 homes. Weather conditions do not get more severe than on a barrier island off the coast of Florida.

IP standards tell a great deal about water and particle resistance but do not address other factors that can effect electronic performance. Pepwave goes beyond the IP standard with their own aggressive testing. Peplink maintains their own Faraday chambers and tests every product for performance in thermal extremes. The products housed in the IP55 and IP67 enclosures are all tested and continue to perform over several days at temperatures as low as -40°F and as high as 149°F. The AP Pro Access Points and MAX HD2 IP67 are also certified for RF Port Lighting Immunity to ITU-T K.20 (+/- 1.5 kV) and EN 61000 Electromagnetic Compatibility.

Even the Peplink products not intended for outdoor use undergo rigorous testing for extremes. The entire Pepwave MAX BR and HD lines of cellular routers are tested and will perform in temperatures from -40°F to 149°F for installation in remote locations where heating and cooling are not available. The Pepwave MAX Transit line can handle both temperature extremes and significant vibrations. The MAX Transit and MAX Transit Duo cellular routers are certified for Shock and Vibration Resistance, Railway Applications, Electronic Equipment used on Rolling Stock, and Electromagnetic Compatibility.

While there is no certainty that your smartphone – Samsung or Apple – will withstand a jump in the lake, you can count on Peplink and Pepwave devices to perform up to and beyond their IP rating. Frontier Computer can help you match the right Peplink or Pepwave products to both your application and the conditions at the installation site.

As it has since 1976, Frontier Computer can provide IT hardware and enterprise computing solutions. We have experts who can identify the best tools to maintain your connections in any weather.

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