Want a better way to waterproof a phone? Try nanocoating

Behind the scenes, a company called P2i has developed a new method for making phones and tablets impervious to H2O.

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BARCELONA, Spain -- A cell phone lies at the bottom of a fishbowl for hours, far longer than the 30 minutes that typical waterproof phones are rated to survive while fully submerged. Nobody looks worried; in fact, they're proud.

On the far side of the demo table is a shallow dish full with water that's been dyed blue. In drops a sheet of tissue paper, which immediately crumples as it thirstily soaks up the tinted water.

P2i nanocaoting
A Samsung Galaxy S4 treated with nanocoating rests at the bottom of a fishbowl for hours. Sarah Tew/CNET

Next to it, another tissue bobs lazily on top. Push it deeper into the water and the liquid just pools, then slides off. Occasionally, some drops will get between the fibers, giving it a wet feel, but the gauzy paper fabric won't soak.

This is the work of a company called P2i, which manufactures the nanocoating similar to the stuff that makes raindrops slide off treated clothing.

P2i also happens to be also the company behind Motorola's splash-proof Droid and subsequent hydrophobic phones.

Yes, other handsets on the market can claim the same rating and water-resistance as phones treated with P2i's proprietary polymer, but the technology and processes are a little different. There's HzO, for instance, which has a similar goal of coating a phone's internals to repel liquid, though as of CES 2014, they're still shopping for a debut device.

P2i nanocaoting
A treated sheet of tissue paper, about to go for a dip. Sarah Tew/CNET

Then there are any number of rugged phones on the market, like Kyocera's Hydro family, but these rely on internal gaskets to seal off sensitive spots, or else rubber stoppers to plug up ports.

P2i says the new waterproof technology -- which is more robust than its splashproof version -- will show up in its first smartphone this year.

Considering that the demo smartphone resting comfortably at the bottom of the fishbowl is a Samsung Galaxy S4, I'd hazard a guess that the lucky phone in question could be the Samsung Galaxy S5, or else the S5 Active.

Catch all the mobile news from Mobile World Congress 2014.

The treated tissue won't meet a watery grave, even after getting dunked hundreds of times in the course of one evening. Sarah Tew/CNET
 

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