What is an IP rating and how to choose it for a device? Guide Tech

In the past few years, the development of software to assist human activities has increased dramatically. Some of these programs help in activities that involve conditions where devices are susceptible to dust and water. It is very important to ensure that the devices are protected against the same. And this is where we come across a term called IP rating in the specification.

What is an IP rating

Every device that has an IP rating provides a certain level of protection against dust and water. More importantly, an IP-rated device doesn’t necessarily mean it’s “waterproof” or “dustproof.” After you read this article, you will learn more about IP ratings and make an informed decision when purchasing a device based on its water and dust resistance.

What is the meaning of IP ratings

There are set standards for evaluating a device for the protection it offers against various elements. The two main standards are MIL-STD (Military Standard) and IP (Ingress Protection). Most manufacturers focus on the latter and give the device an IP rating based on the results of the test.

iPhone 12 IP rating example
Source: Apple

The IP rating is a global standard defined by the International Electrotechnical Commission and provides a metric for understanding a device’s protection against “ingress” of dust (solid particles) and (water). As you can see in the image above, Apple claims that the iPhone 12 is IP68 rated and offers protection against spills and splashes.

The IP rating can be of different levels, and each term in the rating has its own meaning. As you read the article further, you will have a good understanding of what each term means and the level of protection they indicate.

Understanding IP Rating Numbers

Understanding IP Rating Numbers

IP rating is a combination of three different terms. The first term indicates the level of resistance to particulate matter/dust and the second term indicates the level of water resistance. Finally, there is an alphabet that stands for additional rating information. This includes additional features such as oil resistance, resistance to certain weather conditions, etc.

So when you read that the iPhone 12 has an IP68 rating, that means it offers Level 6 dust and water protection and Level 8 water protection, and now you might be asking – what do they mean? And how many levels are there?

To clear up all your queries, here’s a more detailed breakdown of each term along with an IP ranking table.

Term 1 – Dust resistance

There are six levels of dust protection. Each of these levels is characterized by the size of solid particles it can handle or pass through.

LEVEL DROP PROTECTION IS OFFERED
1 Protection against solid objects up to 50 mm
2 Protection against solid objects > 12.5 mm (e.g. finger)
3 Protection against solid objects > 2.5 mm (eg screwdrivers)
4 Protection against solid objects > 1 mm (e.g. wire)
5 Protection against dust (the presence of dust does not affect the operation)
6 Dustproof (no dust penetration)

From the table above, it is clear that the higher the value of the first term in the IP rating, the stronger the protection against dust ingress.

Term 2 – Liquid resistance

There are nine levels of liquid protection for electronic devices. These levels are based on how well the devices are protected against water drops or splashes that come at different angles, speeds and durations. However, consumer device manufacturers typically consider only the first eight levels of water resistance.

LEVEL DROP PROTECTION IS OFFERED
1 Protection against drops of water falling vertically at a speed of 1 mm/min for 10 minutes.
2 Protection against drops of water falling at an angle of 15 degrees. at a rate of 3 mm/min for 10 minutes.
3 Protection against drops of water falling at an angle of 60 degrees. for 5 minutes, at a rate of 0.7 l/min, with a pressure of 80-100 kPa.
4 Protection against water splashes from all sides for 5 minutes at 10 l/min at a pressure of 80-100 kPa.
5 Protection against a 6.3 mm water jet at a distance of 3 meters for 3 minutes at 12.5 l/min and a pressure of 30 kPa.
6 Protection against a 12 mm water nozzle at a distance of 3 meters for 3 minutes at 100 l/min and a pressure of 100 kPa.
7 Protection against 30-minute immersion to a depth of 1 meter.
8 Protection during long periods of immersion to a depth of up to 3 meters.
9K Protection against jets of high pressure and temperature.

The higher the value of the second term in the IP rating, the higher the resistance to liquid ingress. Although the manufacturer will have to name the specifics, say, about the duration and depth to which you can immerse the device in water. Ideally, this will be noted in the specification.

However, some devices may be required and expected to provide greater water resistance than the highest IP rating.

What to do if you need even higher water resistance

Consider the Apple Watch Series 7 – they are IP6X rated. Dust resistance level 6 in the IP code provides sufficient protection. But the second term is denoted as “X”. This does not mean that it is not water resistant at all. This means that Apple wants higher protection than what the first eight IP ratings can offer. So they didn’t have an IP rating added for water resistance and wanted to use a completely different standard.

They chose the ISO 22810 standard, and the tests carried out may offer higher water resistance, at least in terms of depth. So, the Apple Watch Series 7 specification reads as follows:

IP rating features for Apple Watch
Source: Apple

The ISO 22810 standard provides water resistance up to 50 meters (50ATM), unlike any level of IP rating. Although we used the Apple Watch as an example, most high-end smartwatches like the Galaxy Watch 5 use a similar multi-standard system.

Term 3: Additional letter

Finally, there is a third term in the code. Some devices are designed to protect against more than just dust and water, such as oil. The 3rd term shows this additional protection.

Therefore, when manufacturers develop a device that can be used in harsher environments, they use an additional letter to indicate this. However, they are not necessarily present on consumer devices such as phones and wearable devices.

LETTER DEFENSE OFFERED
F Oil resistant.
H Resistant to high voltage.
M Protection while the device is stationary under water.
S Protection while the device is stationary under water.
V Protection from harsh weather conditions.

The above tables have helped us to understand the different levels of each term and their meaning. But how are the best-selling devices on the market rated today? And what kind of use will they protect? In the next section, you will find answers to such queries and get a more practical context of IP ratings.

IP ratings of the best selling devices

Today, IP rating is a more important feature than USP. Most smartphones offer decent protection. Devices such as truly wireless earbuds and smartwatches are expected to score reasonably well given that they are more susceptible to sweat, water and dust. This is how most smartphones, headphones and smartwatches are rated today.

Smartphones

Wondering how the best-selling and most popular smartphones are water and dust resistant? Let’s find out.

DEVICE IP RATING
iPhone 13 series, iPhone 12 series IP68
iPhone 11 series IP68 (waterproof 4 meters up to 30 minutes)
Google Pixel 6A IP67
Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra IP68 (waterproof 1.5 meters up to 30 minutes)
Samsung Galaxy A53 5G IP67
OnePlus Nord 2 No IP rating

Most flagship devices (iPhone 13, Samsung Galaxy S22 Ultra) have a top-notch IP68 rating. These are the highest possible levels. Mid-range and budget devices have an IP67 rating, while some devices like the OnePlus Nord 2 don’t have an IP rating at all.

With an IP68 rating, your smartphone can be completely dustproof, but it can’t be completely waterproof. The manufacturers claim that the devices can prevent liquid ingress from accidental spills during daily activities, but advise users to avoid bathing, showering or intentionally submerging the device in water.

So, at best, an IP rating for your smartphone guarantees protection against a few splashes and accidental spills. Although the ratings say that it can protect the device from being submerged to a depth of 2-3 meters for 30 minutes, it is better to avoid such actions, at least on purpose.

Wireless headphones

Source: Sony official website

The arrival of AirPods disrupted the entire headphone industry, and almost all brands followed suit to develop truly wireless headphones. There are many options available today, but not all have the same IP rating. Ideally, both the earbuds and the charging case are IP-rated.

DEVICE IP RATING
AirPods Pro IPX4, the housing is not rated
Pixel Buds Pro IPX4, IPX2 rated case
OnePlus Buds Z2 IP55, IPX4 rated housing
Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro IPX7, the case is not rated

Since running, sports, and other fitness-related activities are the primary use cases for wireless headphones, they all seem to have a water resistance rating. However, most brands don’t seem to test the device for dust resistance, nor do they publicly disclose any information. So you have the “X” in place.

But this does not mean that they are not resistant to dust. There is simply no means to quantify resistance. However, devices like the OnePlus Buds Z are an exception.

With a water resistance rating of around 4 or 5, your earbuds and charging case are expected to withstand sweat, water drops and other liquid interactions during exercise or sports. As with smartphones, it is not recommended to intentionally submerge the device under water or swim with headphones.

Additionally, devices like the Samsung Galaxy Buds Pro with a higher 7 rating can provide a better chance of survival in the event of accidents involving water and liquids.

Smart watch

Smart watches typically include water resistance ratings from another standard, as mentioned earlier in this article. Most high-end smartwatches adhere to IP 6 dust protection and use the ISO 22810 standard to provide a higher water resistance of 50ATM. This means you can submerge these watches up to 50 meters for extended periods of time.

DEVICE IP RATING
Apple Watch Series 7 IP6X with 50ATM water resistance
Samsung Galaxy Watch 5 IP68, plus 50ATM water resistance
Mi Band 5 IP68
Fitbit Versa Water resistance 50ATM

Therefore, these watches can be used for activities such as swimming or showering. However, high-speed activities such as skiing or activities at depths below 50 meters such as scuba diving are not recommended. And yes, you have full dust resistance as most have a top rating of 6.

On the other hand, budget fitness bands rarely have an ISO rating of 50ATM. Therefore, you cannot use them in activities such as swimming. If they come with an IP rating, they offer basic protection.

We hope this section has given you a realistic view of IP ratings. Now you have a clear idea of ​​what protection you get with different types of devices and their ratings.

Everything you need to know about IP ratings

This was our definitive guide to IP ratings. The purpose of this is to help you understand, beyond what the specifications and promotional materials tell you about dust and water resistance. Given the way we carry our devices everywhere, the IP rating can be a deciding factor when buying a smart device. We hope this guide will help you make the right choice.