Keep Your Old Phone From Drowning

You and can easily make your old phone or tablet waterproof--or at least water resistant.

By Jacqueline Emigh

As you or someone you know might have found out the hard way, exposing your phone or tablet to liquid can spell its doom. And while many new models (like iPhone 7, Galaxy S7, and Xperia XZ) are water resistant, your existing phone might not be.

Don't want shell out $600 nor more for a new waterproof phone? No fear: We've rounded up some other options to help your family's phones withstand spills, splashes, and possibly even a  dunk in the toilet.

Do It Yourself Sprays

Two companies--Impervious and Nanostate--sell do-it-yourself kits that add temporary water resistance to phones and tablets via a technology known as a "nanostatic spray."

Essentially, they send you a spray bottle that you apply to your phone. The spray creates an invisible, super thin, superhydrophobic surface on your device. (Superhydrophobic is science jargon that means it is very, very good at repelling water.)

Once applied, the coatings force liquids to turn into droplets that roll off of your phone or tablet before causing damage.

Before using either product, you need to power down your device and thoroughly clean it with a microfiber cloth. Then, in accordance with detailed instructions from the manufacturer, you spray and buff your device several times, wipe off any residue, and wait 24 hours for the treatment to cure.

Impervious vs. Nanostate

What's the main difference between these two options? With Nanostate's Flash Flood coating, you need to remove the back cover of your phone (if it's removable) as well as the battery and apply the spray to the exposed area, the battery, the SIM card, and the inside the back cover.

With the Impervious spray, you leave the back cover and battery in place, but you spray all of the device's ports and its on/off toggle switch.

Impervious sells kits for iPhones ($15), Android phones ($15), and iPads ($50). One treatment lasts for up to three years, according to the company.

Nanostate's Flash Flood might be more economical for you if your family owns multiple devices, but shipping costs to the US are high (the company is in the UK and ships from there). A single spray bottle is designed to cover three to four smartphones or one to two tablets. However, treatments last only six to 12 months, depending on usage.

Nanostate is currently building a retail network in the US, Steve Ashley, company founder, told Techwalla. In the meantime, US customers can purchase Flash Flood on the company's website for £27.50 (about $34) plus shipping via UPS.

Retail Treatment is Hard to Find

In the past, Techwalla has written about a waterproofing company called Liquipel which offered a mail-in service at a cost of around $60 per device. (You'd send them your phone, and they'd ship it back fully waterproofed.) Similarly, WaterSeal Technology had its own nationwide mail-in service for Canada.

Unfortunately, Liquipel has discontinued this direct-to-consumers service. WaterSeal no longer offers its mail-in service either, but residents in the vicinity of Calgary can drop off their phones for nanocoating or have the phones picked up and later returned by courier from their workplace.

If you run a Google search for "phone waterproofing service," you may be able to find a local company that will treat your phone, but at this point it's pretty unlikely.

Waterproof Cases Are More Dependable

The iPhone 7 carries a water resistance rating of IP-67, meaning that it is submersible for 30 minutes in up to about 3 feet of water. The Galaxy S7 and Xperia XY are each rated at IP-68, meaning that these devices are supposed to be able to survive submersion in water for 30 minutes at depths of up to about 4.5 feet.

In contrast, Impervious and Nanostate make no claims as to submersibility at all. If you want to add the strongest possible level of waterproofing to an older phone or tablet, you'll need to get some sort of waterproof case. Your choices here come down to a model-specific custom case or a general-purpose universal case, also known as a dry bag.

Model-Specific Cases

Usually available for only the most popular models, custom cases are molded to fit the size, shape, and port layout of specific devices. You can get custom IP-X8-rated cases for iPhones of various vintages from either Catalyst or LifeProof for around $70.

LifeProof also sells IP-X8-rated custom cases for iPads, priced at from $50 to $130, depending on the size of the iPad. If you buy a custom case, be sure to seal the ports, in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions.

Dry Bags

If you can't find a custom case to fit your device, you can instead use a waterproof dry bag, some of which are also rated at IP-X8. A dry bag resembles an ultrathick Ziploc bag, except that it has a clamp on top for sealing out moisture. At around $8 to $12 apiece, these cost much less than custom cases do.

Dry bags are really intended for use around water--like on boats and at the beach--not in day-to-day use. Consequently, a dry bag has drawbacks. You might find it harder to touch the screen and to access controls such as the power button and volume control. Audio is likely to be less than stellar, too. You might be able to fix that issue, however, by picking up a pair of Bluetooth-enabled IP-X7 water resistant earbuds.

Earbuds with IP-X8 ratings are available, but as yet no Bluetooth products in the IP-X8 league have reached the market.

Main photo: Impervious