How my BlackBerry survived a swim in the toilet

CNET News' Ina Fried loved her smartphone already, but loves it even more after it survived an unfortunate "water incident." Here's how the incident went down.

Ina Fried Former Staff writer, CNET News
During her years at CNET News, Ina Fried changed beats several times, changed genders once, and covered both of the Pirates of Silicon Valley.
Ina Fried
4 min read

My BlackBerry, after recovering from Wednesday's swim. Ina Fried/CNET

It's every gadget lover's nightmare and, on Wednesday, it became my reality.

My BlackBerry went for an ever-so-brief tour of CNET's plumbing facilities. I'm not sure how it ended up exactly where it did, but suffice it to say, it did. And, to answer the question before you ask, it was a clean bowl.

I pulled it out within a second of hearing that dreaded splash. I shook it off, dried it, and headed to my desk with a sheepish look on my face.

With a quick glance to make sure no one was looking, I googled "What to do if cell phone gets wet."

As you may or may not know, many cell phones meet their end by visiting pools, tubs, and other reservoirs of different shapes and contents. There are so many such incidents, cell phones now have indicators that show whether they have gotten wet and are therefore ineligible for warranty replacement.

I called Verizon Wireless to see how often this happens. Although spokesman Jeffrey Nelson didn't have any solid numbers, he said, "I do think it happens a fair amount more than people realize."

Nelson said his own cousin has dropped his BlackBerry in the toilet twice and a Facebook friend dropped his phone in a cup of coffee this morning. (The Verizon folks also helpfully pointed me to this phone, should I really want a phone that can handle the water.)

Luckily, even some of the non-waterproof devices survive their aquatic ordeals and there is plenty of advice on the Internet about how to maximize one's chances.

Pull out the battery. Check. Make sure everything is as dry as possible. Some suggest paper towels or those silica gel packs to absorb moisture, while others recommend a bowl of uncooked rice.

The next piece of advice is to leave it be for a day or two. Don't test it. Just let it dry out.

That's was the hard part. It just goes against human nature--or at least my nature--to just let it sit there.

I must admit, I did test it several times yesterday.

I saw signs of life, but it was clearly not working properly. Sometimes the power light would go on and nothing else. Other times it would show the rotating hourglass, but the screen was not back-lit.

The time without my BlackBerry was unsettling. To be away from the computer is one thing, but to not check my e-mail every few minutes was unnatural.

On the bus ride home, I occupied myself with Yahtzee Adventure on my iPod Touch. As soon as I got home, I quickly logged into Outlook Web Access to see what vital messages I had missed on that 30-minute commute home.

I tried to pretend it was no big deal. I cooked dinner and sat down to watch the "American Idol" finale. In some ways, it was good. I had no opportunity to check Twitter, which would have inevitably led me to some spoiler from an East Coast twit.

But, I was clearly out of sorts. My partner kept asking me if something was wrong.

I tried my best to demur.

"You just seem off," AJ said.

"I'm fine," I insisted.

How do you say, "It's not you honey. I just miss my BlackBerry?"

I went to sleep fervently hoping to wake up to a brighter day--and screen.

When I put the battery in this morning, my heart lept as my screen came to life. The hourglass spun for what seemed like an eternity. Eventually, though, my familiar home screen popped up, revealing all of the e-mails, text messages, and Facebook updates that had streamed in during the time my phone was drying out.

My joy abated some when I tried to respond to an editor's e-mail. I tried to tell him, "I've got it" in response to a story idea, but the screen showed a bizarre mix of "h"s and "l"s.

Still, it was a step in the right direction. I made my commute into the office on Thursday able to at least read my e-mail, if not reply.

When I arrived at the office, all but a few keys were working properly. After my morning bagel, the keyboard seemed to be fully functional. I tried a test message. It worked.

Excited, I ran off to show a co-worker.

She looked at the brief e-mail. What's the big deal, she said.

Well, you see, my phone had a bit of an unfortunate water incident.

"You didn't drop it in the toilet, did you?"

I demurred.

"And you let me touch it?" she exclaimed.

I guess not everyone is as proud as I am to hold a BlackBerry that learned how to swim.


Tale of a dunked BlackBerry
CNET News reporter Ina Fried tells editor Leslie Katz what happened when her BlackBerry went for a swim.

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