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The best waterproof phones for 2020

The best waterproof phone is the Apple iPhone 11 Pro. It combines an awesome screen, versatile camera, and all-day battery life in a waterproof, IP68-rated package that can survive a dunk in water up to 4 meters in depth for up to 30 minutes without sustaining any damage. 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 applies to fresh water, and it’s never a good idea to deliberately submerge your phone.

Best waterproof phones at a glance

The best: Apple iPhone 11 Pro

Apple iPhone 11 Pro
Corey Gaskin/Digital Trends

Why should you buy this: Apple’s latest iPhone is simply the best all-round phone that money can buy.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants the best all-around phone available that also happens to be the best water-resistant phone.

Why we picked the iPhone 11 Pro:

Apple jumped on board a bezel-free smartphone future when it released the iPhone X. The iPhone 11 Pro features the same gorgeous design, but with a little more power under the hood than its predecessors and an even better IP68 water-resistance rating, which means it can survive submersion in water up to 4 meters in depth for up to 30 minutes without damage.

The OLED screen’s deep inky blacks and vibrant colors make it hard to pull your eyes away from it, and Apple’s True Tone tech changes the color warmth of the screen to account for the ambient lighting around you. But it’s not all about the 5.8-inch screen.

Apple’s outstanding record on smartphone photography is extended further with its latest model. The iPhone 11 Pro boasts three 12-megapixel lenses, with Wide, Ultra Wide, and Telephoto cameras, respectively. The addition of an extra lens over last year’s XS means that the 11 Pro provides the best camera system out right now, with the capability to take beautiful daytime snaps. Photos are improved further by Deep Fusion, Apple’s new advanced image processing system that uses machine learning algorithms to enhance the light, texture, color, and detail of each shot. And as with its recent predecessors, you also get Apple’s Portrait Mode, which selectively blurs the background around your subject, giving your images a DSLR-style “bokeh” effect that lends your photography a professional look.

Apple’s newest A13 Bionic chip is fast and efficient, beating out all the competition, and though Touch ID is not coming back, Face ID has been improved, so it’s around 30% faster. There’s no headphone jack, but the iPhone 11 Pro is rocking Bluetooth 5.0 for a strong and stable connection to your Bluetooth headphones, while its Wi-Fi and LTE specs have also been improved.

Put simply, it’s the best smartphone out right now in addition to being the best waterproof smartphone.

While the Apple iPhone 11 Pro might lack the two extra camera lenses and the OLED display, last year’s iPhone XR still has plenty of processing power, as well as the same super-smart iOS and an IP68 rating. If you can’t justify the $999 price tag for the iPhone 11 Pro, then the iPhone XR is also a great choice.

Read our full iPhone 11 Pro review

The best Android phone: Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus

Andy Boxall/DigitalTrends.com

Why should you buy this: It’s a sleek beauty with plenty of power and an unbeatable display.

Who’s it for: Anyone who wants a high-powered flagship Android phone that’s waterproof.

Why we picked the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus:

If you’re looking for a fully waterproof Android flagship, then it’s hard to pass up the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus. It’s the middle child of the Galaxy S20 range, but the S20 Plus is anything but awkward. The perfect compromise between the smaller Galaxy S20 and the massive S20 Ultra, the S20 Plus combines everything we love about Samsung’s flagship range — the top-tier power, multi-lens camera array, and the sleek good looks — and crams it into an IP68 waterproof shell.

Yes, it’s not as large as the monolithic Galaxy S20 Ultra, but it’s still not a small phone. The display measures an enormous 6.7 inches, and although the slim bezels and punch-hole selfie camera help to keep the size down, it’s still fair to class this as a two-handed phone for most people. Still, it’s slim and sleek regardless, measuring just 0.3 inches thin and weighing only 6.5 ounces. The slippery glass and wide frame do mean it’s liable to slip out of your hand though, so we recommend picking up a good protective case for it as well.

You’ll want to protect the display too. Samsung’s new AMOLED panel is utterly gorgeous and outputs a 3,200 x 1,440-pixel resolution with a 120Hz rate and support for HDR10+. It’s one of the best-looking displays on the market at the moment, with deep, inky blacks and crisp, vivid colors, and the 120Hz refresh rate gives it a slick smoothness you have to see to believe.

As you’d expect for a Samsung flagship device, the Galaxy S20 Plus contains the latest and fastest hardware. The powerful Snapdragon 865 takes center stage, and it’s backed up by 12GB of RAM and up to 512GB of internal storage. If that’s not enough for you, there’s also space for a microSD card.

The camera is similarly powerful and consists of a 12-megapixel wide-angle lens, a 64-megapixel telephoto sensor, and another 12-megapixel ultra-wide sensor. There’s a time-of-flight sensor for additional depth data, support for 8K video, and a pretty good night mode for when the lights go down. All right, it had some issues when it launched, but Samsung has been ironing those out, and the new Single Take feature — which pulls a series of stills, GIFs, and short videos — from a single video is one of the S20 Plus’ best new innovations.

Of course, all of this doesn’t come cheap, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus starts from $1,200 — and that’s the model with just 128GB of storage. Still, for that price you get a fully waterproof phone that should last you a good few years before needing replacing. Still, if you’d rather save a couple hundred bucks, consider the Galaxy S20 instead. It has the same IP68 rating, but with a small display and — crucially — a smaller $1,000 price.

Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 Plus 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. 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 5 on, plus the Google Pixel phones and a few other models.

Catalyst cases are a great alternative to LifeProof, and come in versions suitable for all iPhone models since 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 Lifeproof Fre 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 smaller than 6 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. For example, Samsung says the Galaxy S10 “can be immersed in 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.” Drop that 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

Since smartphones are now on our list of essentials for leaving the house (on par with wallet and keys), it’s essential to make sure they’re worthy of that essential status. Our reviews show what it’s like to own one — to use it and carry it as an integral part of life. No surface level reviews are allowed here. Instead, we bring the phone with us just like our own, testing it by putting it through the wringer of everyday life. That’s the only way we can separate phones that are good in theory from the real deal.

We check our emails, play games, take photos (lots of photos), browse social media, watch videos, and much more to see how the phone performs in the situations you will most often encounter. We don’t forget about the technical specs, either—we’ll always check out the software and the benchmark results, but the most important thing is still how the phone functions in everyday life. 

We can confidently tell you which phones are worth the investment and which you should avoid. You’ll always know if we love a particular phone model because we won’t be able to stop talking about it. We use our phones all the time and form quite an attachment to them. The decision to buy or not is a big one, and we create reviews that highlight phones that we would actually use based on how we use them day to day — no fluff and no advertisements.

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