Sony changes stance on waterproof phones: Do not use underwater

by XB on 10th September 2015

in Featured Content, Problems, Xperia Z4 and Z3+ series, Xperia Z5 series

Xperia Z3Sony Mobile has made a hugely controversial change to its advice around Xperia waterproof devices. Despite most recent Sony Xperia waterproof devices achieving an Ingress Protection rating of IP68 for water resistance, the highest possible, Sony now says that they should not be used underwater.

If you head over to Sony Mobile’s support page on water and dust protection, you will find several statements on Sony’s new policy including: “Remember not to use the device underwater” and “The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures.

A device with an IP68 rating is tested with continuous immersion in fresh water to depths of 1.5m for up to 30 minutes. Sony’s new language on the waterproofing abilities of its Xperia devices suggest that despite this IP68 certification, Sony is not confident in how you may use the phone, potentially causing water damage and thus having to repair the phone under warranty.

Notice in the above statement how Sony talks about achieving the IP68 certification under “laboratory conditions”. This language is echoed on the same support page:

“Sony devices that are tested for their waterproof abilities are placed gently inside a container filled with tap water and lowered to a depth of 1.5 metres. After 30 minutes in the container, the device is gently taken out and its functions and features are tested.” [Emphasis ours]

You can see what Sony is doing there. Sony says that the handsets were not tested for the kind of rigor of a swimming pool, for example, where the Xperia device is potentially being splashed around at fast speed. A comment from a Sony Mobile support rep makes a similar point:

“Moving or operating the device while it is submerged is not tested during the laboratory tests. There are also many environmental factors which we could not assess (e.g. water movement or water pressure changes during the movement), if a device is used underwater. Therefore we recommend not submerge our Xperia Z5 in water.”

These new disclaimers first appeared for the Xperia Z3+/Z4 back in May 2015. At the time, the new wording surprised us, but we thought it might only be targeted for that handset for some reason. However, when the same disclaimers were used with the Xperia Z5 launch it became clear that Sony is issuing new limitations on its waterproof devices.

So why is this a big deal? Well, Sony Mobile’s marketing of its waterproof Xperia devices have centred on being able to take pictures in a pool and underwater. Most of Sony’s Xperia promotional campaigns for its new flagships (up until the Xperia Z3+/Z4) included the phones taking pictures underwater.

Take the Xperia Z3 as an example, Sony Mobile’s launch press release touted the device as having the “highest level of waterproofing” and that it was a “fully waterproof” smartphone. Even the Xperia Z3 promo video shows someone diving in to the pool and taking a picture underwater:

Also, who remembers the countless press pictures that Sony Mobile has used showing its new Xperia devices underwater. Here’s a few samples to jog your memory:

Xperia Z3

Xperia Z3

Xperia Z3 Tablet Compact

Xperia Z3TabletCompact_5

Xperia M2 Aqua

Xperia Z2


Xperia Z1


Xperia ZR


Talk about mixed messages. Up until now, this waterproof feature has been a key part of Sony’s advertising, yet now Sony wants to retract it. So why the change of heart from Sony? We can only think it relates to warranties. There must be a number of users who have damaged their phone in a pool or similar and tried to get it fixed from Sony under warranty. If the ports were kept closed, then Sony has had a potentially large repair bill from these kind of incidents.

Whatever the reason, Sony needs to be very clear on what its new policies are, as it is extremely confusing for the customer. Sony Xperia customers who purchase a waterproof device have always expected that it should be able to be used underwater, as that is what Sony has told us in its marketing. We do not think this is an issue of capability (we have used a number of Xperia models underwater to take pictures without problems), but of caution from Sony.

What we need is for Sony to be consistent across all of its material. Case in point, this “Waterproof Technology” page on the Sony Mobile website says: “Casual use in chlorinated pools is permitted provided the phone is rinsed in fresh water afterwards” and that “you can’t take the phone deeper than 1.5 m of water and for longer than 30 minutes.”

Then we have the Xperia Z3 product page which says: “You can even dive down to 1.5 metres with it”. These are just a couple of examples that were quickly found whilst writing this post. We’re sure there are countless more examples showing something similar.

The Xperia Z5 product page does use the updated language: “You should not put the device completely underwater or expose it to seawater, salt water, chlorinated water or liquids such as drinks. Abuse and improper use of device will invalidate warranty.”

So it’s quite clear here, that Sony is saying unless you adhere to this restriction there is a risk that you will invalidate any warranty claims. We have reached out to Sony for a clear statement on its new waterproof policies and will update this post when we hear back.

Does Sony’s new waterproof policy surprise you? Would it impact on your purchasing decisions? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Update: Sony Mobile has issued a statement on this here.

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