Your buying guide for the best waterproof phones in 2017

If you're accident-prone (or simply want to give your phone to a child without worrying they will drop it down the toilet or throw it into a pond) then a waterproof phone is what you need.

We explain what IP rating mean so you can choose the right one.

Most Sony phones are waterproof unless you're buying budget models, and you can also get waterproof Samsung phones and even iPhones. Sadly the Google Pixel phones are only splash-proof so don't make it into this list. 

The problem is that not all waterproof phones are created equal and different devices will offer different levels of protection. Being splash-proof, for example, doesn't mean you can watch TV in the bath or take photos underwater.

Others can be fully submersed in water and continue to work. Because of this, we've explained the IP rating system which is used for electronics that feature dust- and water-protection.

Before you shell out, check out the best phone deals.

What does a waterproof IP rating mean?

IP stands for 'Ingress Protection' and is used to define the sealing effectiveness of electrical enclosures against intrusion from foreign bodies and moisture.

The first number refers to how the device sealed against solid particles like dust; the highest you can get is '6' meaning total protection. The second digit is for water protection and the best you'll see on most is '8', going by the original IEC standard 60529 (6K and 9K are not part of this).

It's worth noting that ratings water ingress are not cumulative beyond 6, so a device with a rating of 7 doesn't have to compliant with the water jet element of 5 and 6.

If an IP rating has an X in it, don't misinterpret this as the device having no protection. It's likely to have good protection for particles if it's IPX6, but the rating has not been formally allocated.

Here's a full listing for particles and water:

Dust

•    0 – No protection.
•    1 – >50 mm, any large surface of the body, such as the back of a hand.
•    2 – >12.5 mm, fingers or similar objects.
•    3 – >2.5 mm, tools, thick wires, etc.
•    4 – >1 mm, most wires, slender screws, large ants etc.
•    5 – Dust protected, Ingress of dust is not entirely prevented.
•    6 – Dust tight, No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact. A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on air flow.

Water

•    0 – No protection.
•    1 – Dripping water shall have no harmful effect.
•    2 – Vertically dripping water shall have no harmful effect with enclosure is tilted at 15°.
•    3 – Water falling as a spray at any angle up to 60° from the vertical.
•    4 – Water splashing against the enclosure from any direction.
•    5 – Water projected by a nozzle (6.3mm) against enclosure from any direction. 
•    6 – Water projected in powerful jets (12.5mm nozzle) from any direction.
•    6K – Powerful water jets with increased pressure.
•    7 – Immersion, up to 1m depth for up to 30 minutes.
•    8 – Immersion, 1m or more depth (exact details vary).
•    9K – Powerful high temperature water jets.

The next generation of waterproof phones

According to IDC, liquid is the second most common cause of damage in smartphones accounting for 35.1 percent of all devices repaired. However, that might change considerably in 2018 thanks to a new generation of waterproof phones with better protection.

At the moment, phone makers either use physical seals or a nano-coating to keep water out. While the latter is limited to splashes, P2i - a leader in the technology - is working on an improved version of its plasma protection which will be IPX7.

A nano-coating to this level will give partners more freedom with design and could even mean we see more handsets with removable covers and batteries again. We certainly hope so.

1. Samsung Galaxy Note 8

Samsung Galaxy Note 8
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 6 December 2017

The Galaxy Note 8 sure is expensive, but the finest things in life don’t come cheap. The reality is the price will likely have dropped a good hundred pounds by Christmas, and you’ll possibly be looking to buy it on a contract anyway.

If you can stomach the price, we are really taken by the Note 8. Until you see it you’ll find yourself wondering why anyone would choose it over the cheaper Galaxy S8+, but the S Pen alone justifies this price difference for us. It really is the kind of thing you need to see to believe just how good it is, so we urge you to try out the Note 8 in a local high-street store if at all possible.

Performance is bang-on as always, the screen is amazing, and photography is difficult to fault. Even Bixby has shown itself to be anything but the over-hyped, unnecessary feature we feared it could be.

If all we can throw against the new Note 8 is an expensive price tag, a slightly awkward fingerprint scanner and a very tall glass body that could be more fragile than metal-body phones, we find it absolutely deserving of our Tech Advisor Recommended badge.

Read our Samsung Galaxy Note 8 review.

2. Samsung Galaxy S8

Samsung Galaxy S8
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 28 November 2017

Samsung has taken the best phone around and made it even better with an impressive Infinity screen and premium design. It ticks a shedload of boxes - as you'd expect from a flagship. It's the best phone of 2017 so far, but it is expensive and the biometrics are a let down.

If you want a slightly larger screen and battery, then the S8+ also gets our approval. Though now, the OnePlus 5T offers staunch competition on specs and price.

Read our Samsung Galaxy S8 review.

3. Google Pixel 2

Google Pixel 2
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 20 October 2017

The Pixel 2 is a boring phone until you turn it on. The uninspiring hardware melts away to present you with a bleeding edge vision of the Android future, with machine learning fully integrated. It’s not quite there yet, but this is where we are heading. 

The camera, one lens down on some competitors, is better than all of them in most situations thanks to the superior software onboard. You only get that benefit when you buy Google hardware, and the company is finally realising the end to end product that Apple has been making for a decade.

If you want a smartphone to fawn over and make your friends jealous with, you won’t want the Pixel 2. But it’s faster than the Galaxy S8 and takes better photos. It delivers the best overall camera and software experience on any Android smartphone to date.

Read our Google Pixel 2 review.

4. Apple iPhone X

Apple iPhone X
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 21 November 2017

The iPhone X comes with a number of quirks, but there’s nothing you can’t simply get used to and we’re sure Apple will bring fixes and improvements to iron things out.

When compared with the other new iPhones, the X wins hands-down despite only having a few exclusive features. And while you can get Android phones on the same premium level at a lower price, that doesn’t stop the iPhone X being an awesome device in all areas.

The big question here is whether you can or should spend the undoubtedly tricky price tag. We can only answer the latter and luckily for Apple, the iPhone X is so good that why shouldn’t you spend this amount on the piece of technology you use the most?

Read our Apple iPhone X review.

5. LG G6

LG G6
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 9 August 2017

The LG G6 is no doubt a striking smartphone. Metal and glass shimmer while the huge 18:9 screen is impressively brought to life with the improved software and its rounded corner design. It is a more refined smartphone than both the G4 and G5, and should appeal to a broader audience – even if its features aren’t the same globally.

There’s a lot to cover with the G6, and it’s a complicated phone to assess. The differences in hardware and the tweaks in software mean that is a phone that reveals itself to you slowly than the immediacy of, say, a Samsung Galaxy S. The design looks uniform at first until you realise how well it all comes together.

LG has quietly managed to build a mature phone with next to no bezels and some genuinely unique tweaks to software, leaving it feeling fresher and more creative than any Android phone we’ve seen for a while.

The age-old question for LG though – will people buy it?

Read our LG G6 review.

6. Huawei Mate 10 Pro

Huawei Mate 10 Pro
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 17 November 2017

The Mate 10 Pro is the best phone from Huawei yet and although the cameras aren't as good as the Pixel 2 XL's, it has a better screen, better battery life and just as much processing power. 

In fact, with the AI processor there's arguably more on board, but there's no guarantee that apps will appear to make use of it. 

Even if they don't, this is still an outstanding phone.

Read our Huawei Mate 10 Pro review.

7. HTC U11

HTC U11
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 11 September 2017

There's a lot to like about the HTC U11 and while it certainly has flagship level specs, it's hard to differentiate in the market against the likes of Samsung and LG. The glossy and colourful design is fresh but won't be for everyone, even though we're glad it's finally waterproof. The key is wether you want the squeezable Edge Sense feature which is useful at times but not something we're blown away by.

Read our HTC U11 review.

8. Google Pixel 2 XL

Google Pixel 2 XL
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 15 November 2017

The Pixel 2 XL is a fantastic phone. It’s well designed, well built and looks great. The screen issues could put you off, and don't forget there's no headphone socket or microSD slot.

This is where the Galaxy S8 Plus comes in: it’s slightly cheaper and has both of those features and matches the Pixel in just about every area.

The Pixel does win out on camera quality – just – but has the advantage of quick updates to future Android releases and unlimited photo and video storage for three years.

Read our Google Pixel 2 XL review.

9. Apple iPhone 8

Apple iPhone 8
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 14 November 2017

There are some great things about the iPhone 8 including the addition of wireless charging, 64GB storage as standard and a fast A11 Bionic processor. However, this all comes at a higher price and everything else is largely the same so we can't imagine or recommend iPhone 7 users upgrading. Those on an older device like an iPhone 6 or older will experience a much bigger change.

Comparing the iPhone to Android rivals is difficult as many users will be on one side of the fence already. Forgetting about software, the iPhone 8 simply doesn't excite like flagship rivals including the Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

Read our Apple iPhone 8 review.

10. Sony Xperia XZ Premium

Sony Xperia XZ Premium
  • Rating: ratingsratingsratingsratingsratings
  • Reviewed on: 11 September 2017

The Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a stunning smartphone, both in terms of design and performance. The mirror-like look isn’t for everyone due to the appearance of smudges, but it helps provide an elegant, high-end look.

The 4K HDR display is one-of-a-kind, bright and vibrant, and shows off snaps taken by the impressive Motion Eye camera perfectly. The camera itself can handle almost anything you can throw at it, although performance does slip in low-lit conditions and the super slow-mo video mode takes some practice.

If you’re looking for a gorgeous high-end smartphone with a huge focus on display and cameras with above average battery life, the Sony Xperia XZ Premium is a solid option.

Read our Sony Xperia XZ Premium review.