Just how waterproof is the iPhone XS?

Water, wine, beer and bay: We tested the durability claims of Apple's new flagship to see how liquid-resistant it really is.

Vanessa Hand Orellana CNET Senior Editor
As head of wearables at CNET, Vanessa reviews and writes about the latest smartwatches and fitness trackers. She joined the team seven years ago as an on-camera reporter for CNET's Spanish-language site and then moved on to the English side to host and produce some of CNET's videos and YouTube series. When she's not testing out smartwatches or dropping phones, you can catch her on a hike or trail run with her family.
Vanessa Hand Orellana
4 min read

Water resistance is not new for iPhones, but when Apple announced the iPhone XS, it made big claims about just how resistant this phone was. Its IP68 rating means it can survive a dunk of up to 2 meters (6.5 ft) of water for up to 30 minutes compared to the 1 meter IP67 rating on the previous models.

Phil Schiller, Apple's marketing chief, even gave his blessing to take it off the deep end at the company's September keynote.

"So if you happen to be hanging by the pool, drop your phone in the water... don't worry, dive down, grab it, rinse it, let it dry, you'll be fine," said Schiller.

And Schiller didn't stop at pool water.

"And the team tested in many different liquids -- in chlorinated water, salt water, orange juice, tea, wine, even beer. Now this is some of the most fun intense testing we get to do at Apple," he added.

Which is exactly what we did to our brand-new gold iPhone XS to tests the claims. Starting off with a swan dive from the deep end of the pool.

Watch this: How water-resistant is the iPhone XS?

The pool test

Before dunking the phone, we set the screen to remain on and started the timer. The deepest end of the pool we conducted our tests in was 1.8 meters deep (6 ft), so not quite the 2 meter max that the IP rating allows, but pretty close.

John Kim / CNET

The iPhone XS in just under 2 meters of water.

Charles Wagner/CNET

After 30 minutes, we dove down to retrieve it and the screen was still on. By the time we got the phone out of the water it had gone over by about two minutes on the timer, but we had also started it before it hit the water.

Per Apple's recommendations, we washed off the chlorine with tap water, and dried it off with a lint-free cloth. Apple also recommends waiting at least five hours before plugging it in to a cable again. We then turned it off and let it sit on the cloth to dry out for about 15 minutes, before powering it back on.

The first thing we tested were the buttons: the power button, the ringer switch and the volume rocker, all of which check out. The touchscreen was also in perfect working order. But when we went to test out the speaker, there was barely any sound coming out from either side of the phone. After letting a video play with audio for a few more seconds, we noticed tiny water drops coming out of the top speaker where the earpiece is after which the audio from the video began getting louder.

Once we could hear some sound coming from all the speakers, we tested out the microphone with a voice memo. The playback still sounded muffled, but it was hard to tell whether it was due to the speaker.

We decided to let it sit overnight to give it a chance to dry out completely.

The beverage tests

In the meantime we used another brand-new gold iPhone XS to go down the lists of liquids Schiller mentioned in the keynote, starting with an orange juice spill. To keep things within the realm of possibility, we staged a breakfast scenario where your phone is on the table alongside a glass of orange juice that gets knocked over.

All the ports got wet, but we didn't leave it in the puddle for very long (few seconds max) before pulling it out and rinsing it off in tap water. After drying it off again, we completed a few of the same tests of the screen, buttons and speakers to make sure everything still worked.

We did the exact same thing with hot tea, red wine (a $5 bottle of Pinot in case you're wondering) and then took it to a bar in San Francisco's Nob Hill where we tried to recreate the beer spill that Apple showed in the keynote. We couldn't get the waiter to purposely spill a tray on us, so we did a sloppy cheers instead that caused some spillage on the phone. The phone was still in working order.


Red wine spilled on the iPhone XS.

Charles Wagner/CNET

For the last test, we took the phone to the Embarcadero on the San Francisco bay. We found a spot near the pier with some steps where we "accidentally" dropped the phone while taking a picture. The phone was under about 2 inches of salt water before we reached in to grab it after a few seconds. Again, we rinsed it off and gave it a passing grade.

The verdict

After about 20 hours of letting both phones dry off, we went back to run the same tests. The iPhone XS that went through the liquid spills checked off all the boxes, but the iPhone XS that had been submerged in the pool for 30 minutes was still having speaker issues.

Though there was sound coming from both stereo speakers, the top one still sounded muffled with intermittent sound. We even noticed tiny drops bubbling up on the netting of the speaker while we were playing the video.

But the more it played out, the better it sounded, so we decided to let it sit again (this time face side down) for another 24 hours before making a final verdict.

Once day two rolled around, the speakers on our submerged iPhone XS were back to normal.

So while both our iPhones survived the many water tests that Apple had outlined, the company doesn't cover liquid damages in the warranty, so don't take your chances and try to replicate this at home. And if your phone goes for a swim, make sure to check the water indicator for signs of water damage once you've let it dry off. On the iPhone XS it's located inside the SIM slot as outlined in this diagram. If it's red, you're out of luck, but if not you may still be under warranty.

The iPhone XS in gold is sleek, shiny and smooth

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