If you work outdoors, are always at the beach or in the pool, or are in the habit of texting while in the bath, you might need a smartphone that won’t be immediately ruined if it comes into contact with some water. Add in a rambunctious child or an athletic lifestyle, and you might also be looking for one that won’t be damaged by an occasional fall. Fortunately, choosing a robust and rugged phone doesn’t have to mean opting for a bulky, underpowered phone encased in plastic and rubber.
The first thing you’ll need to know when you start researching waterproof phones is the limits of the water resistance or waterproofing you’d get with each of the models you’re considering. Smartphones that can survive some abuse all have IP (or Ingress Protection) ratings, which are a number that refers to the device’s ability to withstand dust and water. The first number in the two-digit IP rating refers to protection against solid particles, while the second refers to protection against liquid.
If a smartphone’s IP rating begins with a six, then that means that the device will be completely protected against dust, and no particles will find their way in. If the first digit is a five instead of a six, that means that some particles might find their way in, but they won’t stop the device from working. If the second number of the IP rating is an 8, then that means that the device will function normally after being left in water “continuously,” though you should always take a look at how a smartphone manufacturer defines “continuously” to find out exactly what you’re getting. Another set of codes to familiarize yourself with are the Military Specifications and Standards numbers, the most well-known of which is the MIL-STD-810G, which refers to a device’s ability to withstand a number of different scenarios including drops and falls.
1. Caterpillar Cat S60
Caterpillar’s new Cat S60 is the way to go if you want a truly rugged phone. This phone is marketed toward engineers, construction workers, and inspectors — all people who appreciate a phone that’s built to be tough. It’s built to withstand falls onto concrete from a height of almost 6 feet with a MIL Spec 810G certification, and can be submerged in 5 meters of water for up to an hour. It features a 3,800mAh battery, a Snapdragon 617 octa-core processor, and 3GB of RAM. Additionally, this is the first smartphone to integrate a thermal imaging camera, which visualizes heat as a colorful map and can take measurements from up to 100 feet away. You can use the heat sensor with the 13MP camera to get a photo that combines the heat map with details captured by the camera.
2. Kyocera DuraForce XD
The Kyocera DuraForce XD, available at AT&T and T-Mobile, is a great choice if you need a truly robust phone to stand up to some rugged conditions. This device is dustproof and shockproof, can withstand extreme cold and hot temperatures, and can be submerged in up to 6 feet of water for 30 minutes. It features Military Standards 810G certification for dust, shock, vibration, and extreme temperatures, and the IP68 rating offers assurance of its ability to withstand submersion. (If you think the phone might take a dip, however, you’ll need to make sure that the charging port and headphone jack are closed to guard against water.) The device features a 1.6GHz processor, 2GB of RAM, and a 3,700mAh removable battery. Thanks to the 5.7-inch display and the industrial design, it’s one of Kyocera’s largest rugged phones.
3. Motorola Moto G4
The Motorola Moto G4 is an impressive but affordable Android phone. It’s described as a splash-proof phone, since it features a nano-coating to repel splashes of water, but doesn’t feature an IP certification for dust or water resistance. BGR reported that while the Moto G4 is dust-repellant with a “splash guard” to protect against splashes and rain, Motorola opted to prioritize a thin form factor over waterproofing since many consumers aren’t enthusiastic about water resistance. Nonetheless, if you just want a phone that can withstand the occasional splash instead of routine dunks, the G4 is a great choice. It features a Snapdragon 617 processor, 1GB of RAM, and a 16MP camera.
4. Samsung Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Active
If you want a high-end smartphone that just so happens to be well-equipped to handle drops and dunks, then Samsung’s impressive flagship may be the phone for you. The Galaxy S7 and Galaxy S7 Edge both earned an IP68 rating and can be submerged in 1.5 meters of water for 30 minutes. Combine that with the device’s quad-core 2.15GHz processor, 4GB of RAM, and 12MP camera and you have a device that’s both rugged and incredibly impressive. If you really want a rough and tough smartphone, you can even opt for the Galaxy S7 Active, which features a 4,000mAh battery instead of the regular S7’s 3,000mAh battery, adds a more robust build with a metal frame and a shatterproof screen, and carries not only the IP68 rating, but also a MIL-STD-810G certification that indicates it can withstand a drop from any “normal” distance and won’t be ruined by humidity, vibration, or solar radiation.
5. Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3
If you’re less interested in one of Samsung’s priciest phones and more excited about finding a budget-friendly alternative, Samsung’s Galaxy Xcover 3 may be the right phone for you. It’s powered by a quad-core Marvell Armada PXA1908 processor, 1.5GB of RAM, and a 5MP camera. While those specs may not set the phone apart from other low-end phones, what does make it stand out is the IP67 and MIL-STD-810G certification, which together mean that the phone can be submerged in a meter of water for 30 minutes, and is resistant to dust, salt, humidity, rain, vibration, solar radiation, transport, and thermal shock.
6. Sony Xperia Z5
Sony has led the way when it comes to waterproofing on smartphones (a feature that we think more manufacturers should adopt) starting with the introduction of the Xperia Z in 2013. While the Xperia Z5 may be the successor to a phone that Daniel Craig turned down $5 million to use in Spectre as a product placement deal, the Z5 did make it into the Bond universe, and was featured in a series of ads with Moneypenny. The device features IP68 certification for dust and water resistance, which will give you some peace of mind. It’s also equipped with a 2.0GHz processor, 3GB of RAM, a 2,900mAh battery, and a 23MP camera.