What do IP ratings mean? How to understand phones' dust & water resistance

Don't know your IP68 from your IP67? Here I explain the key factors of IP ratings' water and dust resistance

Waterproof generic
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Spotted an IP rating on your phone's spec sheet and wondering what it means?

IP rating stands for Ingress Protection. It's all to do with the water- and dust-resistance level of a given device. 

You'll find IP followed by two numbers: the first is the degree of dust resistance; the second the degree of water resistance. 

The higher the number's value, the greater the resistance. If there's an 'X' instead of a number that means no resistance to that particular.

Best phone IP rating: maximum numbers

The degree of dust resistance and water resistance isn't on the same scale, though.

Maximum protection from dust is rated at 6. This means it's dust tight.

Maximum resistance to water is rated at 8. This means it's rated against full submersion at 3 metres 'for long periods'.

Therefore IP68 is the most protected a device can be against both dust and water using this IP rating scale. 

IP ratings: What the numbers mean

For object/dust protection: 

5 = dust protected, limited ingress permitted that will not interfere with device functionality

4 = protected against 1mm objects (i.e. not dust - so even sand could be a problem)

For water resistance: 

7 = protected against water submersion of 1 metre for 30 minutes

6 = protected against powerful jets of water from any direction

5 = protected against jets of water from any direction

4 = protected against splashes

If there's no IP rating is there no protection?

Not necessarily. Motorola, as one example, has long coated its phone's interiors with a resistant coating, but didn't submit to the IP ratings system until more recently. 

Also don't rely on your IP rating as thinking your device is invincible. Having an IP68 rated device is great reassurance, but not a guarantee that nothing can ever go wrong.

Mike Lowe
Tech Editor

Mike has been writing about consumer technology for 15 years and is T3's Tech Editor. As a phones expert he's seen hundreds of handsets over the years – swathes of Android devices, a smattering of iPhones, and a batch of Windows Phone products (remember those?). But that's not all, as a tech aficionado his beat for T3 also covers tablets, laptops, gaming, home cinema, TVs, speakers and more – there's barely a stone unturned that he's not had a hand on. Previously the Reviews Editor at Pocket-lint for a full decade, he's also provided work for publications such as Wired, The Guardian, Metro, and more. In addition to his tech knowledge, Mike is also a flights and travel expert, having travelled the globe extensively. You'll likely find him setting up a new mobile phone, critiquing the next MacBook, all while planning his next getaway... or cycling somewhere.