Explaining an IP67 rating to civilians

Why that fancy new smartphone won’t get destroyed if it gets rained on.


I was listening to the radio the other day, and there was a commercial for a smartphone from a company that isn’t Apple. Such things exist, apparently. Since I depend on my retro iPhone 3s “roundyback,” I don’t pay much attention to those other platforms.

One thing caught my attention: The commercial made the point that this particular phone can survive many clumsy situations, such as being left in the yard with the sprinkler running, dropped in a bowl of chili, etc., because it is “IP67 rated.” Further investigation turned up that the phone in question is a Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active, and as the company’s website describes it: “Enjoy the freedom of being able to take your smartphone almost anywhere. An IP67 rating means the Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active is resistant to dust and moisture.”

Those of us who turn in engineering and industrial circles are used to hearing such designations. (A search on "IP 67" at the Control Engineering home page found 176 hits, mostly product announcements of items that have that rating.) On the other hand, if IP67 means as much to you as furlongs per fortnight, here is a brief description:

IP in this case stands for ingress protection, or the ability to keep stuff out. The 6 and 7 designate dry and wet stuff, respectively. Dry stuff is on a scale from 0 to 6, with 0 meaning no protection. As the numbers increase, the size of the stuff that can get in gets progressively smaller. 1 means it can keep out something larger than a golf ball. 6 means total protection against dust, and is the highest rating. Similarly, liquid ingress protection is designated by the second digit on a scale from 0 to 8. A low number means it can keep out the rain if lying in the correct position and the rain is coming straight down. 7 means it can be dipped in water if it’s less than 1 meter deep and you probably don’t want to leave it in there very long. 8 means it’s suitable for continuous immersion.

This standard was written by the International Electrotechnical Commission and adopted in the U.S. by the American National Standards Institute. You can download part of the standard, but if you want to read the whole thing, you have to buy it.

Now you can take this knowledge and impress the guys and gals behind the counter of your local phone store. They'll think you're an engineer.

Peter Welander, pwelander@cfemedia.com

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