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Phones

Going deep with the future of waterproof phones

With one phone that's saltwater-resistant and another that you can wash with warm soapy water, Kyocera explores the outer reaches of waterproof phones.

Lynn La/CNET
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Not all waterproof phones make a big splash.

Though the waterproof Samsung Galaxy S7 and Sony Xperia X are making the biggest waves here at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, it's two devices from little-known Kyocera that are really riding the wave of waterproof devices.

Hailing from Japan, where they've already been on the market for a few months, the Torque G02 and the Digno Rafre aren't your standard waterproof phones. The Torque G02 is saltwater-resistant, while you can wash the Digno Rafre in soapy water as warm as 109 degrees Fahrenheit (43 degrees Celsius). Don't expect them to leave Japan anytime soon, but I was excited to check them out while touring MWC.

Why they matter

Most waterproof phones currently for sale, like the Galaxy and Xperia phones I mentioned, are protected only against freshwater. That's fine if you accidentally drop your device in the sink or toilet, but you're not so safe if you take them into the ocean or drop them in the sink while you're doing dishes.

Blame the corrosive elements in salt water, which can render the seals and the rubber gaskets and bands inside the phone brittle. As for soap, it has detergents that similarly can dry up these materials. You may not have a problem the first time you take your fancy new waterproof phone in the shower, but you will run into trouble overtime.

Soaping up the Digno Rafre in the sink.

Lynn La/CNET

How they work

For both the Torque G02 and Digno Rafre, Kyocera says it uses different, more durable materials for the phones' seals, which better protect them against these drying agents.

They're a first step towards a more durable phone, but there's still a lot to do on this front. Surviving a dunk is one thing, but actually being fully usable is another story. Kyocera is working on improving touchscreen technology so you'll be able to tap on your screen underwater and use the phone like normal, but it's an ongoing endeavor.

Nevertheless, it's still interesting to see traction here. As phones increasingly become part of our everyday lives, it's important that the scope of where we can physically take our phones, and what we can physically do with them, is widening.