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Is the iPhone 11 waterproof? We couldn't drown it, nor the iPhone 11 Pro

Let's take the iPhone 11 to extremes with an underwater drone.


The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro mounted on the front of the Trident underwater drone.

Lexy Savvides/CNET

The iPhone 11 and 11 Pro aren't fully waterproof, but are water resistant enough to survive a splash of coffee or get dunked in the pool. But how much water can these phones really take? According to Apple, the iPhone 11 is rated IP68, which means it's water resistant in up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) of water for 30 minutes. The more expensive iPhone 11 Pro and iPhone 11 Pro Max are also IP68 but can go deeper: 13 feet for 30 minutes. Outside of the official ratings, we wanted to see how deep we could take these phones.

Last year we tested the iPhone XR and iPhone XS in salt water and were surprised at just how much water these phones could take. The iPhone XR survived a dunk at eight times its rated depth before it became waterlogged, while the iPhone XS did not sustain any visible water damage, but its speakers became softer.

To up the ante, we wanted to take the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro to greater depths. Teaming up with Sofar Ocean Technologies (formerly known as OpenROV), we mounted a brand-new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro on its underwater drone, Trident. It can reach depths up to 328 feet and can be controlled from your phone. We sent the Trident deep down into Monterey Bay in California on a chilly fall day to see what would happen to the iPhones.

Watch the video on this page for the full test and to see some of the epic underwater footage from the drone.

Dive 1: 13 feet

For the first dive, we wanted to test the claim for the iPhone 11 Pro: 13 feet for 30 minutes. The iPhone 11 is only rated for half this depth, so we had no idea what to expect for the less expensive phone.


Spot the iPhones underwater.

Eric Stackpole/CNET

After 30 minutes, we brought the drone back to the surface with both phones still attached. Drying off the phones with a lint-free cloth, the screens on both still worked and there was no evidence of fogging on the camera lenses (front or back). 

Buttons and speakers still worked; the iPhone 11 sounded a little waterlogged when playing back an audio clip I recorded before dunking the phones, while the iPhone 11 Pro had some distortion, but was louder than the iPhone 11 playback.

Dive 2: 26 feet

For the second round, we took our boat out deeper into the heart of the Bay and doubled the dive depth to 26 feet for the same 30-minute stretch. Thanks to the camera on the front of the Trident, we could view the phone screens live to see if anything out of the ordinary happened.

It didn't. After 30 minutes, both touchscreens still worked, the cameras took photos without any evidence of fogging or water ingress on the lenses, and speakers played back audio. Again, the iPhone 11 sounded softer than the iPhone 11 Pro.

Dive 3: 39 feet

Seeing as the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro were still working, we had time for one final dive. Taking the boat out into open water we plunged the Trident down 39 feet to the sea floor.


The iPhone 11 (left) and iPhone 11 Pro (right) go for a swim.

Eric Stackpole/CNET

When the phones were in the water, the screen on the iPhone 11 Pro flicked from the stopwatch to another screen in the Clock app.

After waiting the full 30 minutes (and witnessing some sea lions swim by), we brought the drone back up to see if the phones survived this final swim.

To our surprise, the phones were both completely fine on first inspection. They looked as good as new and worked like they had come fresh out of the box, except the speakers now sounded muffled on both phones when playing back audio.

I washed the phones in clean water and dried them with a lint-free cloth, then turned them off and let them dry completely for 72 hours just in case the water left us with any surprises.

The verdict

After waiting for the phones to completely dry, it was time to see if there had been any additional damage after three days. I ran through the same tests again, checking the cameras, microphone, speaker and to see whether they would charge. I couldn't quite believe the phones still looked like new (apart from a few small scratches on the iPhone 11's screen) and there was no visible external water damage. Everything still worked.

The only issue I could find was the speakers on both the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro sounded less crisp and slightly softer at maximum volume compared to two brand-new iPhones that hadn't been dunked. I confirmed this by using the Sound app on the Apple Watch, which showed the submerged phones were playing back at a few decibels lower than the new phones.

I reached out to Apple and the company pointed me toward its official support page about what to do if your iPhone comes into contact with liquid, which is to rinse it off with clean water and wipe it off with a soft, lint-free cloth.

Now playing: Watch this: iPhone 11 extreme water test

As with our earlier water experiment with the iPhone XR and XS, this isn't a scientific test and doesn't guarantee your iPhone 11 will survive if you drop it in deep water. Also remember that water damage isn't covered under warranty. 

But our test does show that the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro may just withstand a lot more water than Apple gives them credit for.

Originally published in October.