The best waterproof phones in 2020

The best waterproof phones in 2020

Once upon a time, the best waterproof phones were ugly, rugged handsets. Today, they’re sleek devices that can shrug off splashes and even be submerged without problems. 

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.

Today, all the latest flagships from Apple and Samsung are water resistant. In the case of other manufacturers, it’s a bit of a mixed bag, where only certain models pass the test. Nevertheless, one of the options on our list of the best waterproof phones is bound to suit your needs. Read on for our top picks across all makes and models at every price. 

What are the best waterproof phones?

First off, we should preface this list by saying there’s no such thing as a perfectly waterproof phone. 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.

There are two numbers in IP code: the first deals with dust protection, whereas the second pertains to liquids. A first digit of “6” means that the phone is dust tight, and indeed any device you buy today will at least have a perfect score for warding off damage from dust.

However, the second digit is what we’re chiefly concerned with, and in that column you’ll 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.

The iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are our top selections for the best water-resistant phones on the market today, because both can survive up to 13 feet (4 meters) underwater for a maximum of 30 minutes. That’s far and away the best among flagships, most of which are built to manage 5 feet (1.5 meters) at best — save for the cheaper iPhone 11, which can withstand 6.5 feet (2 meters).

The latest models from Samsung and Google — from the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra and Galaxy Note 20 to the Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL — have been built to that 5-foot spec, which technically qualifies for IP68. (IP68 means submersion protection in more than 1 meter of water; 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 this list.

The best waterproof phones you can buy today

Best waterproof phone: iPhone 11 Pro MaxThe best waterproof phones in 2020

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

1. iPhone 11 Pro Max

Unparalleled 13 feet of water resistance

Water resistance: IP68; max 13 feet (4 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.5-inch OLED (2688×1242) | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4); 12MP 2X telephoto (ƒ/2.0) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | CPU: A13 Bionic | Battery life: 11:44

Gorgeous OLED display

The fastest CPU in any phone

Stellar triple-camera system with Night Mode

Longest battery life of any iPhone

Just 64GB of base storage

On the surface, you might not think there’s anything particularly special about the water resistance of Apple’s flagship iPhones. They’re rated IP68, like so many other devices, and IP68 typically translates to just 5 feet of ingress protection.

However, Apple quietly improved both the iPhone 11 Pro and the iPhone 11 Pro Max’s durability such that they can last in up to 13 feet (4 meters) of water for a half-hour. And that’s far better than any other device on this list, including Apple’s other iPhones. In fact, it’s double the depth of the iPhone 11 and iPhone XS.

With the iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max, you’ll also get a stunning OLED display, triple-lens camera with Night Mode, Apple’s industry-leading A13 Bionic processor and great battery life in addition to those durability improvements.

For buyers looking to upgrade from older iPhones, these high-end flagships are worth the splurge. We’re highlighting the 6.5-inch Max variant for its larger screen and battery, though anyone interested in the best small phones should know they’ll get the same performance and build quality in the more compact 5.8-inch iPhone 11 Pro as well. And of course, it must be said that the iPhone 12 series is looming in the horizon, and those are sure to be water resistant, too.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review and iPhone 11 Pro Max review.

Best waterproof phone: iPhone 11

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

2. iPhone 11

Best-in-class water resistance for a reasonable price

Water resistance: IP68; max 6.5 feet (2 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.1-inch LCD (1792×828) | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.4) | Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2) | CPU: A13 Bionic | Battery life: 11:20

Great photos, especially with Night Mode

Industry-leading A13 Bionic processor

Long battery life

Fast charger not included

LCD display isn’t the most impressive

The $699 iPhone 11 is rated IP68, just like its predecessor, the iPhone XR. But Apple improved the iPhone 11’s durability by making it able to withstand 6.5 feet (2 meters) of water for 30 minutes, compared to the iPhone XR’s 5-foot (1.5-meter) rating. That’s why the iPhone 11 is one of the best waterproof phones around. Of course, it’s unlikely you’d subject your iPhone to more than 6 feet of water for a half hour, but, hey — anything can happen.

The iPhone 11 Pro and 11 Pro Max are rated for up to 4 meters (13 feet) of water, but otherwise, the iPhone 11 delivers the same overall performance for hundreds of dollars less, thanks to its speedy A13 Bionic processor. The iPhone 11 also offers many of the same excellent photography features that its more expensive siblings do, despite having one less camera lens.

Read our full iPhone 11 review.

Best waterproof phones: OnePlus 8 Pro

(Image credit: OnePlus)

3. OnePlus 8 Pro

The best all-around water-resistant Android flagship

Water resistance: IP68; max 5 feet (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.78-inch OLED (3168×1440) | Rear camera: 48MP wide (ƒ/1.78); 48MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 8MP 3X telephoto (ƒ/2.4); 5MP color filter | Front camera: 16MP (ƒ/2.5) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 | Battery life: 11:05

Bright and beautiful 120Hz display

Long battery life

Strong performance

Curved display causes accidental taps

No mmWave 5G

The OnePlus 8 Pro marks a few milestones for the Chinese phone maker. It’s the first handset from the company to tout IP-rated water resistance and wireless charging. And while previous OnePlus devices advertised unofficial protection against the wet stuff (so as to not drive up their costs), the OnePlus 8 Pro goes a step further, affording buyers the same peace of mind they’d expect when purchasing a phone from Apple or Samsung.

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 865 chipset and 12GB of superfast LPDDR5 RAM. In fact, we consider it one of 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 S20 models.

Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review.

Best waterproof phones: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

4. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

The ultimate big-screen, water-resistant phablet

Water resistance: IP68; max 5 feet (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.9-inch AMOLED (3088×1440) | Rear camera: 108MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP telephoto with 5x optical zoom (ƒ/3.0); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2) | Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 Plus | Battery life: 10:26

Dynamic 6.9-inch 120Hz display

Smoother S Pen performance 

Powerful 50x zoom camera and laser autofocus

Very good battery life

Expensive

At $1,299, the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is certainly not a device you’re going to want to have to replace for any reason. Thankfully, just like all of Samsung’s other premium Galaxy devices (as well as the cheaper, $999 Galaxy Note 20) the Note 20 Ultra is rated IP68 water resistant, built to handle submersion in up to 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water for a maximum of 30 minutes.

What makes that especially impressive is that the Note 20 Ultra contains a massive hole in it just to keep the S Pen stashed away, and ordinarily you’d expect that to present a weak point against water damage. The fact Samsung went to the extra trouble to make the Note 20 as sturdy as the Galaxy S20 range without sacrificing the stylus deserves praise.

The phablet also incorporates Corning’s new Gorilla Glass Victus material, which is better protected against scratches in addition to shattering. (The regular Note 20 makes do with Gorilla Glass 6 on the front and strengthened polycarbonate for the back.)

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review and Samsung Galaxy Note 20 review.

Best waterproof phones: iPhone SE 2020

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

5. iPhone SE (2020)

The most affordable water-resistant phone

Water resistance: IP67; max 3.3 feet (1 meter) for 30 minutes | Display: 4.7-inch LCD (1334×750) | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8) | Front camera: 7MP (ƒ/2.2) | CPU: A13 Bionic

The new second-generation iPhone SE packs the lightning-fast A13 Bionic processor from Apple’s range-topping 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.

Best waterproof phones: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

6. Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

A well-rounded, water-resistant Android flagship

Water resistance: IP68; max 5 feet (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.7-inch OLED (3200×1440) | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.8); 12MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 64MP 3X telephoto (ƒ/2.0); time-of-flight VGA | Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/2.2) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 | Battery life: 10:31

Impressive 64MP telephoto

Above-average battery life

Massive display with 120Hz refresh rate

Very expensive

120Hz mode takes toll on battery life

All of Samsung’s latest flagship phones — the $999 Galaxy S20, $1,199 Galaxy S20 Plus and $1,399 Galaxy S20 Ultra — all sport IP68 water resistance at the 5-foot (1.5-meter) level. That’s shy of the 6.5 feet (2 meters) offered by Apple’s cheapest iPhone 11, though it should still be good enough for most people.

But of course the Galaxy S20 range has a number of other noteworthy features aide from its battery life, like its 5G connectivity, dazzling 120Hz screen and quad-lens camera system that is more versatile than the triple-lens system in the iPhone 11 Pro (even if it doesn’t always capture better photos). The biggest knock against them is that they’re very, very expensive — especially the S20 Plus and S20 Ultra — though at least you can live with the peace of mind that an untimely splash in the pool won’t sink your investment.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus review.

Best waterproof phone: Pixel 4 XL and Pixel 4

(Image credit: Tom’s Guide)

7. Google Pixel 4 XL

The water-resistant phone with pure Android

Water resistance: IP68; max 5 feet (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.3-inch OLED (3040×1440) | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.7); 16MP 2X telephoto (ƒ/2.4) | Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.0) | CPU: Snapdragon 865 | Battery life: 9:42

Excellent camera

Dynamic 90Hz refresh rate

Peerless software

Dim display brightness

Battery life could be better

The Pixel 4 and Pixel 4 XL don’t improve upon the IP68 water resistance of their predecessors in a significant way, but they’re still among the best waterproof phones because they can withstand a dunk in as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water. 

Both the 5.7-inch Pixel 4 and 6.3-inch Pixel 4 XL tout Google’s first 90Hz OLED screens and dual-lens rear camera systems. The extra shooter on the back of each model is a 16-MP telephoto, which, coupled with Google’s Super Res Zoom technology, can deliver up to 8x digital power that is almost as lossless as optical zoom. Both Pixels also include three-dimensional Face Unlock, similar to Apple’s Face ID system, and support Motion Sense air gestures using Google’s breakthrough Soli radar chip.

Unfortunately, neither phone lasted particularly long in our battery test (especially the smaller Pixel 4, which has a downsized battery compared to 2018’s Pixel 3). Still, Google’s range-topping handsets have so much going for them, they’re certainly worth a look for Android users. Just be mindful that we’re slowly nearing the Pixel 5‘s release this fall, and if history is any indication, the new model will preserve the water resistance of their predecessors. (However, Google may skip a larger XL version of its next flagship, based on rumors.)

Read our full Google Pixel 4 review and Google Pixel 4 XL review.

Best waterproof phone: Samsung Galaxy S10

(Image credit: Future)

8. Samsung Galaxy S10

One of the only water-resistant phones with a headphone jack

Water resistance: IP68; max 5 feet (1.5 meters) for 30 minutes | Display: 6.1-inch OLED (3040×1440) | Rear camera: 12MP wide (ƒ/1.5-2.4); 16MP ultrawide (ƒ/2.2); 12MP 2X telephoto (ƒ/2.4) | Front camera: 10MP (ƒ/1.9) | CPU: Snapdragon 855 | Battery life: 10:19

Gorgeous, bright display

Triple-lens cameras capture every angle

Headphone jack included

Recently discounted

Cameras are good, not great

All of Samsung’s Galaxy S10 flagships from 2019 sport IP68 water resistance, which is exactly what you get from the newer Galaxy S20 range. That means they’ll stay protected under as much as 5 feet (1.5 meters) of water for up to 30 minutes. And Samsung managed this even though the 6.1-inch Galaxy S10, 6.4-inch Galaxy S10 Plus and 5.8-inch Galaxy S10e all have headphone jacks, which would typically impede water resistance.

That makes the S10 line an excellent choice for users who are still lamenting the omission of 3.5-millimeter ports from most high-end handsets — not to mention Samsung’s own most recent flagships — but don’t want to skimp on durability or performance. Buyers get a powerful Snapdragon 855 chipset with every model, at least 128GB of storage and 6GB of RAM, and cutting-edge features like an in-display ultrasonic fingerprint sensor and triple-lens rear cameras on the S10 and S10 Plus.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S10 review, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus review and Samsung Galaxy S10e 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. 

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x