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What Liquid Does to Electronic Devices & How to Protect Them

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Don’t Get Them Wet


Consumer electronics, such as phones, tablets, laptops, etc, are typically damaged by water. Actually, they’re susceptible to damage from a number of liquids. While only seven percent of all damage claims to laptops and phones are caused by liquid – it will typically destroy the device. Ionized water, which is pretty much all water except for distilled, can cause short circuits – permanently damaging electrical components. Citrus juices can cause corrosion; as an acid, they oxidize the metal in the circuits. Liquids and electronics go together like banana bread and pastrami. Individually, they’re good, but they shouldn’t be combined.


The solution to devices in a world where liquid is everywhere


So what’s the solution? It’s simple; electronics should be protected from liquid damage. It’s impossible to remain eternally vigilant, lording over electronic devices, and committing one’s life to their protection against liquid damage. Basically there are three things to do to protect an electronic device from liquid damage:


  1. Adjust your behavior to reduce the chance of a liquid damage mishap
  2. Purchase a protection plan for repair or replacement
  3. Buy waterproof technology: cases and smartphones


Ways to protect devices from accidental liquid damage


Accident mitigation regarding liquid damage to devices can be further broken into two parts: best practices, and protective accessories. Best practices are built on the idea that one must be careful with their device around liquid and vice versa. For instance, a cup of coffee on a desk can be knocked over just as easily as a glass of milk on a kitchen table. We know the latter happens, and we’re usually prepared for it with nearby napkins. Desks really aren’t made for food and drink as much as they are for work, and liquids can put a lot of things at risk – laptops, desktops, cell phones, tablets, etc. 


Obviously, people still like to drink at their desks, but considering the risk it poses to valuable electronic devices, people need to do so carefully. Don’t use glasses or cups to hold beverages; find something with a lid that isn’t prone to popping open in case an errant elbow knocks it over. The next best practice would be to set a beverage as far as practically possible from electronics. Don’t forget about plants either! When watering plants, it’s best to move the plant to a watering area, like a sink, rather than pouring water haphazardly into a flower pot setting next to a laptop. Consider Ben Franklin’s quote about “an ounce of prevention” in terms of expensive electrical gadgets that make life easier.


For those where life doesn’t revolve around a desk, devices are frequently susceptible to hazards beyond spilled coffee. And, you’ll need more than better habits to keep your device protected. For example, the polycarbonate LifeProof iPhone. According to Alan Pierce (2012), this case only adds one-sixteenth of an inch to each side of an iPhone. As its name suggests, it’s designed to protect against impact, dirt and submersion. For users who have the expectation that their waterproof case also allow them to use their earphones, they’re in luck. With a screw-in accessory that covers the earphone port, it’s possible to listen to tunes or podcasts while your phone sits submerged in a hot tub. To test the case, Pierce placed a piece of tissue paper inside, secured it, and submerged. The LifeProof case passed. Another alternative is the Otterbox case.


About insurance and protection plans


For some folks, peace of mind about their digital devices comes with knowing in the event of accidents, they can be quickly and easily repaired or replaced. Unfortunately, manufacturers generally place responsibility for liquid damage to consumer electronics on the consumers with clauses that exclude that damage in the fine print of their limited warranties. Furthermore, manufacturers know when their devices have been submerged, through the deft placement of “liquid contact indicators,” (Wikipedia, n.d.). Also, the presence of corrosion is a telltale sign. The bottom line is device manufacturers know when something was damaged by a liquid. 


Fortunately, companies like GoCare offer protection plans in partnership with AKKO for a range of devices; from smartphones, iPhones, iPads and tablets, to laptops and MacBooks. Plans start as low as $7.99 a month. Compared to the warranty plans offered by data carriers for devices on their service, GoCare costs less and provides more. Lower deductibles, lower fees and unlimited claims let you enjoy life rather than constantly worrying about your phone.

How the industry is addressing the problem for the future


What’s most exciting is that manufacturers have heard the public outcry over the fragility of their devices in a world full of impacts and liquids, and have begun working on solutions to the problem. According to Pierce, electronics manufacturers have been creating waterproof devices for the military for years. HzO has developed a chemical treatment that makes devices waterproof. In Pierce’s report, he wondered whether such a chemical treatment would void phone warranties. The HzO representative indicated the treatments were going to begin taking place during the manufacturing process. More and more devices will soon qualify as waterproof. 


Keep in mind, nothing is failsafe, and sometimes the best practice is having your device covered by GoCare. Let them worry about it – go enjoy your life.




What Is a Water Damage Indicator?



Pierce, A. (2012). Waterproofing Electronics–Evolution to Revolution. Tech Directions, 71(9), 8-9. http://www.technologytoday.us/columnPDF/Waterproofing_Electronics.pdf

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