We travel almost everywhere with our cell phones. Whether its a trip to the restroom (seriously, and people always seem surprised to learn there are traces of feces on their pocket computer) or on a vacation to the beach, chances are your cell phone is within reach at almost all times.
This being the case, the odds that your phone also comes in close contact to hazardous substances (to the phone, not your person) are pretty darn high. Concrete, for instance, can shatter the protective glass over your phone's display into thousands of tiny little shards. And intense, direct sunlight can heat your phone to skin-singeing temperatures that can also overheat the device and begin to melt internal components. (I picked up a phone that was upwards of 130º F, and it wasn't very pleasant.)
But one of the most damaging substances your phone can come near at any given time is liquid. The ocean, a swimming pool, heavy rain, a toilet and even a drink at the dinner table can all render your phone useless. Unless you have the Motorola Defy (pictured above) or a water resistant phone similar to it, all it takes is a little slip and you could find yourself with a rather expensive paperweight.
If you've had a phone slip through your grasp into a nice, fresh cup of sweet tea or slide from the poor grip between your shoulder and ear into a sink full of warm, soapy water, you know the gut-wrenching feeling associated with a smartphone taking a fatal dunk in liquid.
Mat Greenfield of CNET, however, explains that if a soaked phone is dealt with properly, it could survive the swim. Although not fool-proof, all it takes is some prompt and delicate care. Oh … and some rice.
Greenfield explains you should remove the phone as quickly as possible from the liquid and avoid pressing any buttons or check to see if the phone is alive. While checking for a pulse may ease calm your nerves, you're not in the clear if the display turns on. There is plenty that could go wrong after the phone has been removed from liquid, so cutting the power should be your primary objective. Pull out the battery, or make the exception and hold the power button until the device powers down. Dry the device off with a towel and toss it in an air tight container filled with dry rice – any rice will do. You can also use the gel silica packs that come in shoe boxes whose sole purpose is to soak up all the moisture and keep the inside of the box dry.
After no less than 24 hours (48 if you really soaked your device), it's probably safe to test powering the device on. If there are signs of life, you just might be in the clear. But Greenfield reminds us of a soaked phone's worst nightmare; corrosion. When your phone's innards come in contact with water and oxygen, they may corrode (rust) over time. This means that while your phone may work for several days, weeks or months, it may eventually meet its maker.
Greenfield also explains what not to do when you soak your phone, like using a hair dryer to evaporate the internal moisture. While it may work, it can also cause more internal damage or make moisture that would otherwise be in a non-fatal location to condensate on a more susceptible component. You could also melt internal parts. He also recommends not sticking your phone in the freezer, despite some success stories.
A single dunk is all it takes, but it may not be the end of your phone if you act swiftly and with extra care not to make the situation any worse.
I have sent at least one phone swimming before. I dropped it in the sink while the water was running. The water poured over the screen a couple seconds before I turned the knob on the faucet. Immediately, I dried the phone off, took out the battery and put it in an air tight bag of rice that I had thrown together for such a situation. After switching to one of my spare phones, I let the phone sit for about 30 hours, popped the battery back in and waited. Life! The screen lit up and it worked perfectly. However, there was still some moisture sandwiched between the protective plastic and display (this was an old BlackBerry, in case you were wondering). The phone continued to work for several months before it started acting strangely and, randomly, died one day.
Luckily, the problem with soaked phones short circuiting and drowning should only be a problem for a little while longer. Companies such as HzO have discovered a way to waterproof mobile technology by coating the insides with a water-repellent substance which they call WaterBlock. This technology cannot make its way to consumer devices soon enough. But until then, the ol' bag o' rice trick will have to do.
Tell me, readers. Have you ever dunked your phone in a drink? Pool? Or worse, a toilet? What did you do to resuscitate your phone? Was your attempt successful?