Video: Liquipel treatment test
CHOICE takes a look at a new waterproofing treatment for smart devices called Liquipel.
Electronic gadgets and water generally don't mix. A few drops of water getting into your smartphone or tablet could be a data disaster, causing the device to fail and simultaneously voiding the warranty. So, getting caught in the rain while using your smartphone or tablet is more than an inconvenience, it can be downright dangerous for our devices.
That's where a new water-repellent nanotechnology treatment called Liquipel, designed to make electronic devices water-safe, sounds like a sure-fire winner. The Liquipel process “applies a water-repellent coating … to the inside and outside of a device to provide optimal protection against damage caused by accidental contact with water.” The coating is 1000-times thinner than human hair, and thus invisible to the naked eye.
To try out the process we had Liquipel applied to an iPhone 3GS and an iPad 2, lodged via separate retail outlets on different days.
How does it work?
You can have it applied to your existing “approved” mobile phone or tablet, or buy a new device that has already been treated before sale. Liquipel is the first to bring this type of nanotechnology to Australia, though other companies overseas are working on similar “superhydrophobic” processes. While Liquipel is first past the post in offering consumers a solution, you can expect others to not be too far behind in offering water protection for electronic devices over the next couple of years.
The have your own smartphone or tablet treated with Liquipel costs $99 per device. The process has a four-day turnaround, as the devices are sent away to Liquipel’s facility for treatment, after which your device should be “water safe”. The Liquipel website has a list of "approved" devices.
Liquipel’s carefully worded warranty cautions about not deliberately immersing treated devices or deliberately subjecting them to water. However, videos on Liquipel’s own website demonstrate an iPhone being completely submerged in water (and still functioning) as does video of the company’s stand at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show (CES), which you can find on YouTube. In its promotional literature Liquipel also cites "accidental contact with water - such as splashing or dropping into water..."
So, we did our own full-immersion experiment in the CHOICE labs, dunking both our devices in a tub of water to see if they would be immune. Unfortunately, they weren't. Both devices malfunctioned almost immediately. And, despite being thoroughly drained and dried over several days, neither device recovered.**
Liquipel is obviously confident in its claims, providing samples of Liquipel-treated paper tissue with each device returned from treatment. We also subjected them to water to see how they held up. Initial results showed that the process appears to provide a certain amount of water repellency, but from the results we obtained with our electronic devices, obviously we can’t recommend this treatment.
For more information about mobile phones, see Phones and mobile devices.
**UPDATE: After several weeks of drying out and periodic re-checking, the iPhone has not recovered any useability at all. The iPad, however, has regained some functionality. The water markings on the inside of the display screen faded noticeably after about three weeks and the iPad appears to be mostly usable but the hardware Power/Sleep button at the top edge is still NOT working at all, so it can't be used to put the device to sleep, wake it up or shut it down completely. The workaround for the sleep/wake function is to use an Apple magnetic SmartCover or to enable the Assistive Touch software options under the Accessibility menu. This presents a software option onscreen that can be used to put the iPad to sleep. However, you can't use this to turn it off. So, for example, it couldn't be taken on a plane because electronic devices must be turned off completely for takeoff and landing.