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2/27/2012
11:08 AM
InformationWeek
InformationWeek
Slideshows

MWC 2012: Waterproof Your Smartphones, Tablets

Your silicone bumper won't help if your smartphone falls into a hot tub or sink. Check out these state-of-the-art coatings for phones, tablets, and even laptops, fresh from Mobile World Congress.




Does talking on the phone in the rain make you nervous? Do thoughts of spilling wine on your phone cause anxiety? Liquid is the number one killer of smartphones, but a number of companies want to help you deal with potential moisture problems. At Mobile World Congress, Liquipel, HzO, and P2i showed off technology that's designed to provide essentially undetectable protection for your phones, tablets, and laptops from accidental water damage.

Nano-coating technology allows devices like phones and tablets to repel moisture, keeping the electronics protected and performing without interruption, the vendors say. All of the companies described here provide slight variations on their process, partners, and applications, but each one offers the same assurance--protecting your valuable device from accidental liquid damage.

While differences in the technology are slight, the companies take varied approaches in how they are delivering their services. Liquipel is the only vendor in this bunch selling directly to consumers in the U.S.; it has also announced expansion plans for customers in Australia, plus new operations in Brazil and China.

[ See our complete Mobile World Congress 2012 coverage, live from the mobile industry's hottest event. ]

HzO is trying to partner with manufacturers to offer their protective coating. P2i's approach is similar to HzO's; they already have a partner in Motorola, which now offers the RAZR phone with "SplashGuard" coating.

Dropping a phone into a glass of water might be an obvious way of showcasing water protection. However, these companies were more creative at Mobile World Congress. HzO took the water test a step further by removing external panels to expose the battery and circuitry. Liquipel demonstrated how a tissue treated with the same nano coating can be dunked into water and remain completely dry as the water beads off immediately. P2i had examples of two phones with covers removed--one had been treated and one had not. It was easy to see the corrosion and damage that water damage does over time to a phone. This is why phones with water damage often show delayed signs of bad performance or misbehavior.

Protective, waterproof cases like DryCASE and Otterbox Armor have been available for a while (though some people find them awkward or clunky.)

The new protective coatings demonstrated at Mobile World Congress are transparent and virtually undetectable. Treatments do not disrupt look and feel of devices, nor do they affect performance, the vendors say.

This slideshow will give you a look at devices treated by these companies to see the way they react to liquid. You can decide for yourself if this technology is going to be a must-have for phones in 2012.

Of course, that might depend on whether you store your tech devices in a bowl of water. HzO decided to show that a Samsung Galaxy Tab can perform perfectly with HzO's protective coating, even while sitting in a bowl of water. Removing the back of a phone won't cause problems as the treatment coats both the inside and outside of the device.


To prove the phones continue to function perfectly after WaterBlock treatment, the HzO team placed two of them in a bowl of water and turned on timers. WaterBlock has also been used on theme park rides, underwater surveillance equipment, and even everyday items like fabrics.

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Even with internal components exposed, HzO's WaterBlock technology seals circuitry and keeps the phone intact.

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Treating a device with Liquipel takes a minimum of 30 minutes. The process penetrates the entire device, treating all of the vital components both inside and outside the device.

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Liquipel is the only company which offers its service directly to customers. U.S. residents can mail devices to Liquipel and expect treatment within 1-3 days.

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P2i showed how a tissue treated with their Aridion technology could be completely submerged in water and come out dry. P2i has partnered with Motorola, which now offers the RAZR phone with "SplashGuard" coating.

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P2i's Aridion allows a device to actually repel liquids. On surfaces treated with Aridion, liquids simply bead and roll off immediately, the vendor says.

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The effects of water damage can last long after the device has dried. The untreated phone on the left shows signs of corrosion over time due to water presence. The phone on the right has been treated with P2i's Aridion technology.

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