Samsung Fixes Galaxy S7 Active's Waterproof Woes

It may be safe for the Galaxy S7 Active to go back into the water. After Samsung's super-durable smartphone failed a few high-profile tests of its most extreme waterproof claims, the phone maker said it's fixed a problem in the manufacturing process that was causing the Active S7 to suffer water damage.

The problem arose earlier this month when Consumer Reports said that the S7 Active had stopped working after a 30-minute dip in nearly 5 feet of water. That was an eyebrow-raising result, since an IP68 rating for water resistance is one of the chief calling cards for the $795 phone. Consumer Reports ran its test a second time with a second S7 Active — that phone, too, failed to emerge from the water undamaged.

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While we didn't run into any problems when we first tested the S7 Active by placing it in a foot-tall fish tank for 30 minutes, the Consumer Reports findings made us want to retest the phone. This time we placed it in a swimming pool between 4 and 5 feet of water; as it did in Consumer Reports' tests, our Galaxy S7 Active was damaged by its trip to deeper water. The phone became stuck in a continuous reboot, and we noticed water damage to the screen. (Cnet ran into the same issue when it tested the S7 Active.)

However, we ran the same test with a second phone. This time, the S7 Active survived its extended watery bath, as we were able to use it without a hitch.

The reason for the differing results may be more than just luck of the draw. Last week, Samsung told Consumer Reports that it had found a manufacturing problem at its plants that was causing a small number of phones to hit retail shelves without being fully waterproof. Samsung says it made changes to the manufacturing process that should eliminate the problem in the S7 Active that are built going forward.

But what does that mean for the S7 Actives produced before Samsung caught the issue? The phone maker says it will replace water-damaged phones that are under warranty. That doesn't sound particularly reassuring for S7 Active owners who bought their new phones right away but have yet to drop the devices in 5 feet of water. However, Samsung says the problem affected only a small number of the devices it's already sold.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.