How to Determine the Waterproofness of a SmartWatch
Everyone who has dropped their phone into the water at least once has thought of buying a waterproof gadget. Fortunately, it’s not a problem anymore. Water-resistance used to be a rare feature and only specialized “armored” smartphones boasted it just a couple of years ago. However, today it is becoming the norm and almost all of the latest flagship models are more or less protected from water (Galaxy Watch water eject special function comes to mind). However, the thing is that a waterproof degree can be different, and it’s not easy to understand them.
If you think about buying a secure device, the following information may be useful to you.
Water-Resistant vs Waterproof
The “water-resistant” marking on the packaging of the gadget means the minimum level of protection. The case of such a watch prevents but does not completely exclude the ingress of water. Another thing is the “waterproof” marking, which means that the smartwatch is protected no matter how long it stays underwater.
Sometimes manufacturers market their watches as “sweatproof”. This means that the gadget has protection against sodium chloride, acid and other aggressive substances contained in the sweat.
Pay attention to the fact that waterproofness is not a constant value. For example, it may be compromised if the gadget is crushed. The manufacturer tests the watch with clean water and can’t predict protection against soap solutions, lotions, the effects of steam in a sauna, etc.
When choosing a smartwatch, be sure to read the manufacturer’s manual, especially text written in small print. Promotional materials are often misleading, while the small print carries the most useful information.
The easiest way to find out how much water a particular gadget can withstand is to check its degree of protection according to the international IP scale (Ingress Protection). Look for IPXX markings on the packaging of the gadget, where XX is two digits.
The first digit shows the degree of protection of the gadget from the penetration of foreign objects into its body. The scale ranges from 1 to 9, where 1 is an almost complete lack of protection, and 9 is complete impermeability even for the smallest dust particles.
Finally, we turn to protection against water. The degree of protection against moisture ingress is indicated by the second digit of the IPXX marking. And here everything is somewhat more complicated. If the first digit is determined by the diameter of the blocked particles (the smaller they are, the larger the number), then the second one describes the type of exposure to water:
- IPx1 ‒ condensation;
- IPx2 ‒ splashing water at an angle of less than 15 degrees;
- IPx3 ‒ splashing water at an angle of less than 60 degrees;
- IPx4 ‒ splashing water from any angle;
- IPx5 ‒ low-pressure jets of water from any direction;
- IPx6 ‒ high-pressure jets of water from any direction;
- IPx7 ‒ immersion at depth from 15 centimeters to 1 meter;
- IPx8 ‒ the long-term diving at a depth of more than 1 m;
- IPx9 ‒ aerosol ingress of high-temperature water under high pressure.
For example, IPX3 means protection against vertical splashes and raindrops, while IPX4 means protection against splashes from any direction. But spray should not be confused with water jets (#5) or sea waves (number #6).
IPX7 and IPX8 are the most interesting security standards. As a rule, these are the ones in question when the manufacturer of smartwatch mentions protection against water. An IPX7-protected smartwatch can withstand being immersed at a depth of up to a meter for 30 minutes.
Regarding the IPX8 standard, everything is not that easy. According to the international classification, IPX8 means that the gadget can stay at a depth of more than a meter and for more than 30 minutes. It appears that smartwatch, which can’t be immersed to a depth of more than two meters, and watches for divers have the same markings. Formally, both devices are protected according to the IPX8 standard, but their real endurance is completely incomparable.
This means that if you need a specialized watch for some definite task, for example, scuba diving, pay attention not to the IPXX marking, but to specific characteristics from the manufacturer.
Check out another way to indicate the water-resistance of a watch: ATM, which is often used to evaluate fitness trackers and smartwatches. Somewhere you will see the value of atmospheres, and somewhere meters. There is no difference:
- 3 ATM (30 m) ‒ for daily use. Resistant to rain and spray. Not suitable for shower, swimming, diving, fishing, and activities in the water.
- 5 ATM (50 m) ‒ for swimming, rafting, fishing and water work without diving.
- 10 ATM (100 m) ‒ for surfing, swimming, scuba diving, sailing, and other water sports.
- 20 ATM (200 m) ‒ for professional marine activities, high-speed water sports (water skiing) and scuba diving.
Users often misunderstand ATM ratings. For example, if you see the 5ATM, or water resistance up to 50 m, on the back of smartwatches and fitness devices, this does not mean that the smartwatch is waterproof when immersed in water up to 50 m. This means that the pressure will not violate the gadget’s seals in still water 50 m below its surface. If your device gets under a sea wave, the pressure of moving water will hit it much harder than static pressure at 50 m depth, and it is quite possible that it will penetrate the device. You must understand that water in a pool and water in a moving river or sea is different. Swimming in a pool can subject the watch to a pressure of up to 3 atmospheres (3 ATM, 30 m), for jumping and diving it will be higher. For example, a water protection level of 10 ATM is reliable for swimming on the surface or scuba diving in shallow water, but not suitable for deep diving.
MIL-STD-810G Rugged Ratings
Recently, smartphone manufacturers have been increasingly resorting to protecting their devices according to the “military standard” MIL-STD-810. You should not confuse it with IPxx or water protection. Important to note that a gadget certified according to the MIL-STD-810 standard doesn’t always indicate protection against water. And vice versa, smartwatch, which is not afraid of swimming, is not always able to withstand the load of the “military standard”.
If the device is market MIL-STD-810, then it should withstand:
- falling from 1.2 meters in the ON state;
- severe vibration of an off-road vehicle;
- a week under direct sunlight without fading and deformation;
- temperatures from -20 to +60 C in the ON state;
- heating from -51 to +75 C over a minute in the OFF state without data loss;
- freezing from +75 to -51 C over a minute in the OFF state without data loss;
- rain, storm, dust storm or salty sea fog without water or particles getting inside;
- being lifted to a height up to 4.5 km in the ON state;
- being lifted to a height up to 12.2 km in the OFF state without data loss.
But even so, it’s better not to immerse the device in water, if the manufacturer did not mention protection IP67 or IP68 besides MIL-STD-810.
The first generation smartwatch was made with IPX7 protection. Subsequent models are classified according to ISO 22810: 2010 and have 5 ATM protection (50 meters). Models such as Classic Buckle, Leather Loop, Modern Buckle, Milanese, and Link don’t have waterproof qualities. With watches of the second and later generations, you can swim in shallow water, but refrain from water skiing and diving.
Samsung Galaxy Watch
The manufacturer guarantees the compliance of its smartwatches with the MIL-STD-810G standard. Galaxy Watch water resistance according to ISO 22810: 2010 matches to 5 ATM (50 meters). The manufacturer warns of the inadmissibility of sudden temperature changes and extreme pressure, for example when water skiing.
The company specializes in the production of high-tech sports watches and offers models with improved water resistance characteristics. For example, Descent Mk1 with 10 ATM is quite suitable for diving, and the Fenix 6S Pro is able to control the heart rate underwater.
When choosing a water-resistant smartwatch, you should decide why you need it and where you want to use it. Besides, pay attention to the various ratings. Read the recommendations of the manufacturers: find out about restrictions on the depth immersion, whether it’s possible to use the buttons underwater, and so on.
Laboratory tests that help to determine a waterproof rating for the watch don’t always match to real conditions. Treat your gadget with care to keep it working longer. Don’t abuse the abilities declared by the manufacturer, and the watch will remain smart until you decide to buy a new model.