The best waterproof phones offer you peace of mind in case you drop your device in standing water. They used to be hideous things, but today, they're sleek devices that can shrug off splashes and even be submerged without problems. And many of the top smartphones available right now feature some degree of water resistance.
Owning a water-resistant phone means that you can snap pictures by the pool or use your handset in the rain without fear it'll be damaged. Look for an IP67 or IP68 rating — both mean the device can withstand being submerged in water for 30 minutes, at varying depths.
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Of course, even the best waterproof phones are completely immune to water damage. Every device on this list — and, indeed, every smartphone you can buy today that is considered water resistant — has some IP rating attached to it, that conveys a degree of ingress protection. The first digit in an IP rating with dust protection — a "6" means the phone is dust tight, which is standard these days — whereas the second pertains to liquids. You'll want to look for at least a "7" to connote water resistance. Anything below that might mean the device can withstand water sprays and splashes, but not immersion.
What are the best waterproof phones?
All of Apple's iPhone 13 models offer the same high-quality water resistance, but only one phone can take the crown. Therefore we have placed the iPhone 13 Pro Max on top, since it offers the best smartphone experience as well as an IP68 resistance rating. The iPhone 13 is a good alternative if you don't want to pay for the Pro features, as is last year's iPhone 12 if you want to save even more.
The latest models from Samsung and Google — from the Galaxy S21 Ultra and Pixel 6 Pro — have been built to that 5-foot spec, which technically qualifies for IP68. That means submersion protection in more than 1 meter of water — the official depth can vary from phone to phone. IP67 is anything up to and including 1 meter.
On the cheaper side, unfortunately most models from Motorola, Nokia and even OnePlus (to a certain extent) tend to skip true water resistance in favor of water repellence through the application of a nano-coating. That might save you in the event someone spills a drink on your phone, but it won't help your phone should it sink to the bottom of a pool. You won't find such devices on our list of the best waterproof phones. However, for budget-friendly water-resistant phones, then look to the iPhone SE (2020) and Google Pixel 5a, for $399 and $449 respectively.
The best waterproof phones you can buy today
Just as you'd hope from a phone as luxurious as the iPhone 13 Pro Max, it promises to keep your phone dry. With an IP68 water/dust resistance rating, Apple promises all its new phones, including the iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 and iPhone 13 mini, will withstand submersion in 6 metres (about 20 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes. That should be plenty of time to retrieve your phone if you've dropped it.
These impressive waterproof credentials are joined by the best phone cameras and performance of any phone we've tested, a fantastic new 120Hz display and improved battery life. Although the iPhone 13 Pro is almost identical to the Pro Max, the larger phone still takes the top spot of the range. Its larger display and longer battery life may be the only differences, but they're enough to make it the ultimate iPhone experience you can get right now.
Read our full iPhone 13 Pro Max review.
While it lacks a few features, the iPhone 13 still keeps up with its Pro siblings on the waterproof front. It's also capable of lasting for half an hour under 20 feet of water, and like last year's iPhone 12 series, it makes use of a Ceramic Shield display that should prevent screen damage if the phone gets dropped on solid ground instead of in water.
The iPhone 13 doesn't have the same 120Hz display as the Pro models, and it also misses out on the telephoto camera and LiDAR sensor again. However the screen picture quality, powerful chipset and overall quality of experience are the same. About the only real limitation with the iPhone 13 is its disappointing charging speed, which most non-Apple phones beat with ease.
Read our full iPhone 13 review
Like other Galaxy flagships, the Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra features IP68 water resistance, so you can drop it in up to 5 feet of water without worry. But the real value in this phablet comes with its other features — it’s the first phone outside of the Galaxy Note lineup to support Samsung’s S Pen. You’ll also find two telephoto lenses on the back of the Galaxy S21 Ultra to help you capture more detail when you zoom in on a shot.
The 6.8-inch AMOLED screen offers a dynamic refresh rate that adjusts depending on what you’re doing — scrolling through web pages might max out the refresh rate at 120 Hz, for example, for a smoother experience. And the phone can last up to 11.5 hours on our battery test, though we got that result with the adaptive refresh speed on the display turned off.
With the pending Galaxy Z Fold 3 announcement, all eyes will be on Samsung's latest foldable phone. We hope to see water-resistance on a phone that's more than likely to run well over $1,000, but the jury is still out on that one.
In short, for Android fans, this is the best waterproof phone to buy, not just because of its IP68 rating, but because of all the other things the Galaxy S21 Ultra can do.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 Ultra review.
It's over a year old now, but the iPhone 12 still features the same level of waterproofing as the iPhone 13 line - an Apple-tested resistance to 30 minutes of being submerged under 20 feet of water, and an IP68 rating.
Its Apple A14 chipset is still more powerful than any Android phone even if it's been superceded by the A15 chip. Its dual cameras still take fantastic pictures too, and once updated to iOS 15 it'll have all the iPhone 13's software tricks to play with as well. However it does have even worse battery life compared to the already lacking base iPhone 13. The price drop to $699 might make that a worthwhile sacrifice though.
Read our full iPhone 12 review.
If you’re looking for the best Android camera experience, then the Pixel 6 Pro is for you. Not only does it sport IP68 water resistance, but you get the all-new Tensor chip and a fresh new design. In fact, the Pixel 6 Pro is the best phone Google has ever made.
From the impressive hardware to the excellent software, the Pixel 6 Pro is the best Android experience. While it can only survive 1.5 meters, it’ll still get through a dunk. Regardless, this is a great phone and it’s hundreds less than other flagships.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review.
The OnePlus 9 Pro is the new kid on the block and it's really quite impressive. Touting multiple high-end specs like a big QHD+ AMOLED 120 Hz display, the latest Snapdragon 888 processor, and 65W wired charging, this phone is a really solid option no matter what you're looking for. It also comes with an IP68 rating.
Like the Galaxy S20 range, the OnePlus 8 Pro is built to last for 30 minutes in a maximum of 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water. But aside from its durability, we also appreciate its gorgeous 120Hz OLED screen, superfast wireless charging and gobs of performance, owing to the combination of a speedy Snapdragon 888 chipset and 12GB of superfast LPDDR5 RAM. In fact, we consider it the best Android phones on the market right now — and well worth a look for any prospective buyers who were entertaining one of Samsung's comparable-but-pricier Galaxy S21 models.
Read our full OnePlus 9 Pro review.
Google went back to the drawing board with the Pixel 6, with the end result being one of the best phones you can buy right now. Not only are the cameras extremely good, but the hardware and software complement each other so well.
If anything, we’d have to say that the Pixel 6’s battery life isn’t the best. That said, it’s still an excellent phone with a good display. And with IP68 water resistance, you can rest assured that the Pixel 6 can survive if you drop it in some water.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 review.
For many of the top features in the Galaxy S21 lineup, but for less, turn to the Samsung Galaxy S21. The phone starts at $799, yet features an adaptive display and Snapdragon 888 system-on-chip, just like other, more expensive S21 options.
Just as importantly, Samsung doesn’t skip on water resistance with its entry-level Galaxy S21. Like the more expensive versions of this phone, the $799 S21 can survive a 5-foot plunge into water for up to 30 minutes. That’s an especially valuable feature, given the Galaxy S21’s lower price. (It costs $200 less than last year’s Galaxy S20 when that phone debuted in 2020.)
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review.
Google brought water resistance to the Pixel A-series with the Pixel 5a. This $449 camera champ sports an IP67 rating, meaning it can survive a meter for 30 minutes. Not only that, but it's just a really good phone. Not only is the display good, but it's got decent performance (especially for the price).
The Pixel 5a's claim to fame is the photography experience. Without a doubt, it's the best camera phone under $500, punching well above its weight thanks to Google's computational photography prowess. If you're on a budget and want the best cameras for your money, the Pixel 5a should be at the top of the list.
Read our full Google Pixel 5a review.
The new second-generation iPhone SE packs the lightning-fast A13 Bionic processor from 2019's flagship iPhones in the body of the iPhone 8. And because it repurposes the iPhone 8's design, it also benefits from the iPhone 8's water resistance. This phone is built to IP67 spec, meaning it can withstand submersion in 3.3 feet (1 meter) of water for a half hour.
That might not sound remarkably impressive compared to other devices on this list, that are a bit more protected against liquid. But what makes the iPhone SE's water resistance so special is the handset's bargain price. At $399, the iPhone SE is the cheapest IP-rated, water-resistant phone you can buy. It also supports wireless charging and sports an aluminum-and-glass design, making it extremely premium compared to similarly-priced Android phones. Even Google's Pixel 4a, another one of the best cheap phones, lacks both an IP rating and the ability to charge wirelessly.
Read our full iPhone SE 2020 review.
How to choose the best waterproof phone for you
If water resistance is a primary concern in your smartphone buying decision, you'll definitely want to pay attention to manufacturers' IP-rating claims.
In the mobile industry, an IP67 certification means your device will be protected against 3.3 feet (1 meter) of submersion for a period of 30 minutes. IP68 usually means you're getting at least 5 feet (1.5 meters), though some companies, like Apple, use IP68 to refer to as much as 13 feet (4 meters) of durability. If a phone boasts no IP rating, or has been treated with a water-repellent coating, you shouldn't trust it to survive if it's ever submerged. Unfortunately, most budget phones tend to make do with this limited form of protection, and even some flagships, like the Motorola Edge Plus and Xiaomi Mi 10 Pro 5G, are among them.
Also, it's important to point out that an IP rating does not mean water damage within the specified parameters is covered under your device's warranty. Unfortunately, while many phone makers are all too quick to assert water resistance, you won't find a single one that is confident enough in that claim to actually replace or repair one of their products, free of charge, in the event of a spill.
How we test smartphones
In order for a smartphone to make any one of our lists of the best phones, it needs to excel on several tests that we run on every handset. We perform some of these tests in our labs and some in the real world.
When it comes to performance, we rely on such synthetic benchmarks as Geekbench 5 and GFXBench to measure graphics performance. These tests allow us to compare performance across iPhones and Android devices. We also run a real-world video transcoding test on each phone using the Adobe Premiere Rush app and time the result.
To measure the quality of a phone's display, we perform lab tests to determine the brightness of the panel (in nits), as well as how colorful each screen is (DCI-P3 color gamut). In these cases, higher numbers are better. We also measure color accuracy of each panel with a Delta-E rating, where lower numbers are better and score of 0 is perfect.
One of the most important tests we run is the Tom's Guide battery test. We run a web surfing test over 5G or 4G at 150 nits of screen brightness until the battery gives out. In general, a phone that lasts 10 hours or more is good, and anything above 11 hours makes our list of the best phone battery life.
Last but not least, we take the best phones out in the field to take photos outdoors, indoors and at night in low light to see how they perform versus their closest competitors. We take shots of landscapes, food, portraits and more, and also allow you to be the judge with side-by-side comparisons in our reviews.