Explained: What does IP X8, IP 67, 68 ratings really mean in smartphones

You must have come across the term called IP rating while going through spec sheets of smartphones. Now, IP rating gives some assurance that your smartphone is protected from dust and water. However, there are different IP ratings and just because your smartphone has some kind of IP rating, doesn’t necessarily mean it is completely safe. Here’s everything you need to know about IP ratings.
What is an IP rating
IP code rating stands for ‘Ingress Protection’ and it’s a measure of how much protection is offered by casings, body and other parts that cover electrical housings from dust and water. The keywords are dust and water. And not coffee, alcohol, sea water, hand sanitisers, etc. The ratings are standardised by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). For a smartphone, to get an IP rating, the brand needs to send their phone to independent certified testing agencies before it’s launched. This agency conducts lab tests and then rates a particular device. A brand cannot claim any random IP rating without validating from a testing agency.
What is the cost involved in getting IP rating
The thing with IP rating is that it increases the cost of smartphones as it has to be provided by an external agency. While giving an exact cost figure for each smartphone is difficult, it all depends on what rating the brand is aiming for. For example, if a brand is confident that their phone will be able to pass the IP 66 testing then it will apply for IP 66 certification only. On the other hand, if a brand is sure to pass IP 68 testing, after conducting internal tests, then it will apply for IP 68 rating. It all depends on which IP test the smartphone brand wants to apply. The higher the IP rating the greater the costs. So, IP 68 rating costs more than IP 67 or IP 66. OnePlus had once claimed that adding IP 68 rating to the OnePlus 7 smartphone would have increased the cost of each device by up to $30.
So, there are two things that brands usually do. For budget devices, they usually skip IP rating as an additional cost will make their product less competitive. But they assure buyers of some degree of dust and water resistance from internal testing. Meanwhile, for flagship phones, they opt for IP ratings, after conducting internal tests, and flaunt that as a feature. For expensive phones, it’s easier to absorb such external costs.
How to read IP ratings
IP rating consists of two digits like 68, X8, 67 or 66. It’s always read as IP 6 and 8 or IP X and 8 and not 68 or 67 together. The first digit signifies protection from dust and particles and the maximum score is 6 on a scale of 0 to 6. A score of 6 means the body of the phone is dust tight. And if it’s 0 then ‘X’ is given. A rating of 5 means ‘dust protected’ or some amount of dust will go inside but the amount is less and will not affect the functioning of the electrical components. Usually, dust rating is either 5 or 6, because any score less than that makes little sense.
The second digit signifies water resistance and it is measured in the range of between 0 to 8. A rating of 8 means the device can be immersed in water beyond 1 metre for 30 minutes. Anything beyond these limits is not tested for IP rating.
What does IPX8, IP66, IP67, IP68 mean
The new foldable phones from Samsung offer IP X8 rating. This means it is protected from water but has zero protection from dust as denoted by ‘X’. Now, the problem is a wet device easily attracts dust and coarse particles. Without any dust resistance, these particles may either put scratches on the fragile flexible display or worst, some particles may enter the hinge mechanism of the foldable phones and create problems.
So, ideally, you should totally avoid going to the beach with the new foldable phones, as there’s no protection from either the salty water or sand particles.
Other common ratings are IP66, IP67 and IP68. While IP68 offers maximum protection from dust and water, IP67 offers full protection from dust but some protection from water. An IP 67 rated phone can be used in the rain or it will be fine if some water falls on it. On the other IP66 maximum protection from dust but very less protection from water. A little spray of water, accidental spills, or light rain is fine, but anything beyond that may ruin a IP66 rated phone.
IP ratings doesn’t offer full protection
Note that IP ratings are only meant for dust and water. It is not tested for coffee, alcohol, hand sanitiser, sea water and other substances that may react to the adhesive or colour coating of the phone. If the adhesive holding the case of the phone is damaged, then the device no longer remains IP68 dust and water resistant. Also, if there’s any damage from accidental drops, the phone may not be protected any longer, especially if the frame is dented or the screen is broken. Also, an IP rating in no way defines how tough your phone is.

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