Feb 2, 2015

What Are IP Codes and How Do They Help You Buy a Smartphone?

Americans have spent over $23.5 billion dollars on smartphone repairs in less than a decade, states a study by SquareTrade. That figure accounts for accidental breakage, cracked screens, water damage and other mishaps. While some repair costs may result from faulty software or hardware from the manufacturer, much of that figure is our own fault. Luckily, we can drastically reduce the amount spent on repairs by investing in a quality phone with rigorous standards. If you aren't sure how to tell if a phone is high quality or not, the IP rating is a good place to start.

What Is an IP Code?

The Electro Technical Commission started the Ingress Protection rating or International Protection Marking, otherwise known as IP, to rate the protection given to electrical parts. Specifically, the ratings help identify how well electronics and parts are protected against different types of intrusion or immersion in water.

The IP code is two digits and applies to all types of electrical devices, including smartphones and tablets. The first number represents the durability against solid objects and the second by water. So, if the first number is zero (or marked with an X), it has no protection against solid objects. If the second number is four, this means it is protected against objects that are bigger than 2.5 mm, such as wires.

How Does IP Benefit the Customer?

Without an IP code standard, manufacturers potentially could claim any device is waterproof without much accountability for it. The IP code helps standardize what to expect from manufacturer claims. You may never actually check to see what the code is, but the manufacturer must create their product according to standard to secure the rating they want. This can prove challenging depending on the product, but it helps deliver reliable products to the public.

How Do IP Codes Affect Smartphones?

As smartphones evolve, so do their IP codes and manufacturing standards. Currently, there are dozens of waterproof and even self-healing smartphones on the market. For example, the Sony Xperia Z3 claims a slim, waterproof design. But what does that really mean?

The Sony Xperia Z offers a rating of IP55 and IP58 for dust and water, respectively, reports Phone Cruncher. More specifically, this means the device is protected against low-pressure jets or rain. However, it also can be kept in 1.5 meters of fresh water for up to half an hour at a time, which makes it compliant with the rating IP 58.

What Does Waterproof Entail?

A waterproof and dustproof smartphone can lower the odds of permanent damage to your phone, but it doesn't mean you can drop your smartphone in a pool, use it underwater for hours, abandon it and then expect it to work. Ports for your charger and headphones generally need to be closed and your touchscreen probably won't work very well while underwater. However, a quality smartphone with a solid IP rating can save you from spending hundreds of dollars a year to replace your phone if you accidentally get it wet or drop it in the sand.

How Can You Make Smart Purchases?

When shopping for a new smartphone, you don’t need to get overwhelmed by cross-referencing multiple IP ratings. Instead, look for ratings that give reasonable protection to your phone based on your lifestyle. If you spend a lot of time in the water or sand, you’ll benefit from a more robust rating. Sites like Android Police or Digital Trends can help demystify IP ratings and help you identify what kind of protection you need. While a great IP rating can’t protect your smartphone from every unforeseen event, it can help save you a bundle in replacing your phone just because you got caught out in the rain.

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