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The best waterproof phones for 2021

The best waterproof phone is the Apple iPhone 13 Pro. It has a solid IP68 rating for water resistance, but importantly, it’s also an amazing phone, with a top-notch camera, great display, and all-day battery life. But, if you prefer an Android phone or want something more rugged, we have alternatives for you below.

We have tested hundreds of different phones at Digital Trends, so we can confidently recommend the best for you. These phones have sustained spills, rain, and dunks without showing any signs of mistreatment, though it’s important to note that water resistance tests only apply to fresh water, and it’s never a good idea to deliberately submerge your phone.

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Best waterproof phones at a glance

The best: Apple iPhone 13 Pro

iPhone 13 Pro side view.
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Apple’s iPhone is always an excellent choice, and the iPhone 13 Pro is no exception, and has solid waterproofing to boot.

Who’s it for: People who want the best waterproof around.

Why we picked the iPhone 13 Pro:

It should come as absolutely no surprise to see an iPhone on this list — or even topping it. Apple’s iPhone 13 Pro is a masterpiece of smartphone design. Sure, it’s not hugely changed from last year’s design, but internally, a fair amount has changed. But, most importantly for this list, it sports an IP68-rating for water and dust-proofing, which means it can take being completely submerged underwater, for up to 30 minutes, without damage.

That’s enough to ward against an accidental dunking, and should provide peace of mind for anyone worried about spending a lot of money on a phone. Yes, it’s a very expensive phone. Prices start from $999 for the basic model, and rise all the way to $1,499. That’s for 1TB of storage though, and so means you get a lot of storage for your buck. The use of the Apple A13 Bionic processor also means you get top-tier power, the base model of 128GB of storage is strong, and it comes with 5G connectivity as well.

Battery life is a real highlight too, with over a day’s use out of a single charge — or even two days with light usage. Charging speed is simialrly good, though you will need to spend more to get a fast charger, as one isn’t included in the box. Wireless charging is included too.

The camera is probably one of the best aspects of the iPhone 13 Pro, and when the rest of the phone is so good, that’s saying something. The Pro Max model no longer has a monopoly on the best camera features, and the iPhone 13 Pro has been brought into line with three 12-megapixel lenses, including a wide-angle, ultrawide, and a telephoto lens. While it doesn’t top our best camera phones list, having been pipped by the Pixel 6 Pro, it’s a close run contest, and the iPhone 13 Pro’s camera is a phenomenal thing. Stills are colorful, the Night mode brightens up all but the darkest areas, and the Portrait mode is as excellent as ever.

Yes, the iPhone 13 is the cheaper option, and gives you the same power and waterproofing for a lower price, but with a bigger battery and a fuller-featured camera suite, the iPhone 13 Pro is the absolute best waterproof phone you can buy.

Read our full iPhone 13 Pro review

The best Android phone: Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra

Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s Samsung’s top-of-the-line flagship, with a feature for everything, a great camera, and of course, the S Pen.

Who’s it for: Anyone who loves Android phones and wants the best, or anyone who needs a phone that can keep up with their every whim.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra:

It’s big, it’s powerful, and it’s one of the most feature-rich smartphones on the market today. The Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra certainly lives up to its name, and with an IP68 rating, it’s the water-resistant phone to pick if you’re an Android-lover, or simply need a smartphone that can keep up with your demanding needs.

We’ll start with the biggest feature of the Note series — the S Pen. Not just an artist’s tool, the S Pen can be used for a variety of reasons, including sketching on screenshots, creating GIFs, or as a camera trigger, among many other features. But it’s not just an S Pen party; you’ve also got access to the wireless DeX mode that links your phone to a monitor for a desktop-like experience, and other handy extras like Link to Windows, which lets you control your phone through your Windows PC. When the workday is over, you can relax with some Xbox games streamed straight to your phone.

The specs are as powerful as you’d expect. The Snapdragon 865 Plus powers the phone, with 12GB of RAM, and a large 4,500mAh battery that won’t quit, even if you’re punishing it on a heavy day. The display is one of the most impressive pieces of kit on the phone too. It has a 120Hz refresh rate, Samsung’s usual high level of quality, and it’s reduced the S Pen’s response time to just 9 milliseconds.

Of course, you’re paying a lot for all of this, and the price starts at $1,299. But if you need a water-resistant Android phone that’ll keep up with you, then the Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra is the best choice.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review

The best value waterproof phone: Google Pixel 6

Pixel 6 Pro in the pocket
Google

Why should you buy this: It’s not the top-level Pixel, but the Pixel 6 is an incredible phone for under $600, with premium waterproofing.

Who’s it for: Someone who wants an excellent and waterproof Android phone, with an exceptional camera.

Why we picked the Google Pixel 6:

The Google Pixel 6 Pro may have snagged the hearts of many tech commentators (and the top spot in our best camera phones round-up), but don’t count out the standard Pixel 6. Like the Pixel 6 Pro, it sports an all-new and unique design, with the distinctive camera bar and a two-tone design. A punch-hole for the selfie camera around the front is the only interruption on the 6.4-inch AMOLED display, with a 90Hz refresh rate to boot. The under-display fingerprint scanner is better than the Pixel 6 Pro’s, too, which is a welcome surprise.

Google’s new Tensor processor is powerful and speedy, and while the 4,614mAh battery has shown it could easily last two days on a single charge, with normal use. The new version of Android is, like the new design, certainly an eye-catcher. The new Material You design is the biggest change you’ll notice, though the notification shade has also seen some changes, and the new button design makes navigating menus easier than ever before.

The Google Assistant has been given some serious upgrades too, which Google is attributing to the Tensor processor. There’s an A.I.-powered Voice Typing mode, which is a real step up over previous versions of this tech, and actually useable in day-to-day life. It also powers the mysterious Magic Eraser, that uses machine learning to remove unwanted lamposts, animals, and even people from your photos.

You’ll want to take plenty of photographs too, as the Pixel 6 is equipped with a stunning camera. While the Pixel 6 Pro gets the more advanced camera suite, the Pixel 6 is no slouch, thanks to a 50MP main lens and a 12MP ultrawide lens. This brace of high-quality lenses provides great still images, and uses Google’s A.I. to make pictures that look incredible straight out of the camera. It’s a point-and-shoot master, and while the photos it takes are different to the Pixel 6 Pro, that certainly doesn’t mean they’re bad. In fact, the Pixel 6’s camera is still amongst the best smartphones can offer.

Best of all, this is a flagship-level phone that’s available for a lot less than the usual flagship price. The Google Pixel 6 starts at $599, and can be purchased from Google, or a number of carriers. However, do be aware the 5G connectivity you get is, rather weirdly, tied to the carrier you choose.

Read our full Google Pixel 6 review

The best rugged waterproof phone: Caterpillar Cat S61

CAT S61 front full
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: It’s the most rugged phone you can buy, with solid drop protection and water resistance.

Who’s it for: Climbers, hikers, construction workers, and clumsy people who love the outdoors.

Why we picked the Caterpillar Cat S61:

If all you care about is a phone that will still work after it gets dropped, bashed about a bit, or dropped in quite a lot of water, then the Cat S61 is definitely the phone for you. It’s extremely chunky, but the IP68 rating is good for 60 minutes in water down to a depth of 5 meters (16 feet), plus the MIL-STD-810G rating keeps it safe from dust, radiation, and shocks. The tough body will treat a fall from 6 feet onto concrete like it was nothing.

By chance, if during all this abuse the need for thermal imaging arises, the S61 will step up to this task as well. In a partnership with sensor company Flir, the S61 has an unusual thermal camera alongside its standard 16-megapixel shooter. It works with a special app to show heat palettes, temperature, and hot spots, which can come in handy for all sorts of professions, from vets to car mechanics.

The rest of the phone isn’t quite so high spec as the others on our list. A Qualcomm Snapdragon 630 processor and 4GB of RAM provide the power, while the 5.2-inch screen has a 1,920 x 1,080-pixel resolution. However, no one will be buying the Caterpillar Cat S61 for top specs or outstanding style. It’s all about survival, and it’s built to withstand almost anything.

Read our full Caterpillar Cat S61 review

The best waterproof case for your phone: Lifeproof Fre

lifeproof_bestof waterproof phones

Why should you buy this: Cheaper than getting a new phone, it’s a fast and convenient way to add protection.

Who is it for: Anyone who doesn’t want to switch out their phone, but wants to protect it from the elements.

Instead of hunting around for a cheap phone that provides water resistance, why not just buy the phone you want, and put it in a waterproof case? There are various options out there, but we like the following three choices.

The Lifeproof Fre promises to protect against water, dirt, snow, and sharp impacts. It covers the whole of your phone, including the screen and all the ports, so be prepared for an increase in overall size and weight. But it’s a small price to pay for such a high level of protection. LifeProof Fre cases are available for most of Samsung’s Galaxy range, along with all iPhone models from the iPhone 6 on, plus the Google Pixel phones.

Catalyst cases are a great alternative to LifeProof, and come in versions suitable for all iPhone models from the iPhone 4. There are even cases for the Apple Watch and the iPad range. Tested to IP68 levels and a depth of 10 meters (33 feet), the cases protect against water, snow, dust, and dirt. Catalyst has paid attention to the little things, like ensuring Touch ID still works as you want it to, and the camera lens cover is of high enough quality to not ruin any pictures.

If a custom waterproof case isn’t available for your phone, or you want a really cheap, reliable system, then get a universal “dry bag” type case, which seals your phone inside a pouch and keeps all the elements out. There are plenty of choices out there, in various colors, such as this one from Joto. It has an IPX8 rating and fits phones with screens up to 7 inches.

IP What? What those IP ratings actually mean

When we talk about waterproof hardware, we often refer to an IP rating. This stands for Ingress Protection, and is usually followed by a number, which refers to its ability to withstand water and dust. The first digit relates to solid particle protection and the second digit to liquid.

All the phones on our list meet IP67 or IP68 standards. IP numbers that start with a six mean the device features complete protection from dust, and will ward off particles to the extent where none can find its way in. It’s the highest rating currently available, and is considered “dust tight.”

To meet the IPx8 standard, the device must continue to function normally after being left in water “continuously,” although the exact details are usually down to the manufacturer. Usually, IP68 ratings are quantified as being able to be immersed in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes. Drop that rating down to an IP67 rating, and the depth changes to a meter, and protection is only for a short time.

Here’s a complete breakdown of what all the IP codes mean, if you want to check out other ratings. It’s worth pointing out that while we call these phones waterproof, they remain so for a limited amount of time at best, and are technically water resistant. In other words, we don’t advise you to deliberately submerge any of them, especially not for very long, but it’s still nice not to have to worry if an accident happens.

How we test

We understand that your phone is an essential item in your life right now. It’s honestly more like a lifeline because it keeps us connected with others, helps with navigation, provides entertainment, and much more. We rely on our phones for all of those same reasons and, because of that, we work to review and test smartphones in ways that we would actually use them. We apply the smartphones to real-world situations to ensure that they’ll hold up. We prioritize reliability, durability, long-lasting battery life, a dependable connection, and more. Then we sort through what’s fluff and what are genuinely useful features and compile our lists.

We use our phones every single day and reach for them often. We play games, message each other, stream videos, scroll through social media, capture photos, and constantly check our emails. We reach for our phones as often as possible to see how products perform in the situations you’re likely to use them in over and over again.

Our research points us to the phones we believe are best worth the investment and the products you should stay far away from. It’s pretty clear when we get excited about a new phone— we can’t stop talking about it. Because it’s one of the few devices that we as a collective people use every day, we grow pretty attached to our top choices. Although you definitely get your money’s worth with this investment, it can feel overwhelming picking out a new phone. We want to streamline the process by doing the research for you. We build comprehensive reviews, spotlighting the phones we prefer, based on how we use them day to day — no fluff and no advertisements.

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