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Saving Your Wet Smartphone

Many of us have had the dreaded feeling of having our Smartphone immersed in water or at least know some who have been faced with this predicament. For most individuals, it is usually the bathtub, kitchen sink, toilet or even the swimming pool which is usually the culprit. However, people living in the hurricane flood zones of Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Puerto Rico and the islands of the Caribbean, have a really high probability of getting their Smartphone immersed in water each hurricane season. We have also heard many stories about how to save your phone or at least your data when the phone gets accidentally wet. Among the prominent ones – dropping the phone in a “magic” portion of rice will remove the water and save your phone. The conventional thinking here is that rice can suck the moisture from the phone and immediately return it to its “prior life”. Is this really true? And, if it not, what is the best way to preserve a Smartphone that has been immersed in water? One thing is certain today is the fact that with the price of some new Smartphone approaching $1,000, the initial “fix” cannot be a shot in the dark.

Smart Phone

When the cover is removed from any Smartphone, you are immediately looking at a battery and hundreds of micro-electronic connections. Conventional wisdom teaches us that water and electronics make a very bad companion. We should also note that construction of Smartphone varies according to the manufacturer. Therefore two phones that are fully immersed in the same amount of water for the same time do not necessarily absorb the same amount of water. Various phone technology experts have different ideas regarding what to do when a Smartphone gets wet. However, one advice is usually common among them – the quicker the phone is dried inside out after getting immersed in water, the better the chance of preserving the phone or at least the data. There are also some common “do not”. Among them:

-Do not attempt to charge the phone. Plugging a wet phone into an electrical circuit is outright dangerous and it will cause electricity to flow into a wet circuit board resulting in the board being “fried”.

– If the phone was off when it fell in water, do not turn it on. Turning on the device could cause electricity to flow which can destroy a water-logged circuit board.

In some cases, by simply removing the cover and the battery and let the phone sit on a desktop for a while you can dry the water from the electronics. A search of the web will show multiple stories of how to immerse the phone into a bag of uncooked rice and that should do the trick. The concept is based on a theory that the starch in rice will draw out the water. However, several studies – including one by TekDry (www.tekrdy.com), a Denver, Colorado-based company found that rice removed only an average of 13% of the water from a water-logged phone after 48 hours. In addition, rice can multiply the challenge posed by water by introducing dust into the wet phone electronics – a combination that is almost certain to kill the phone.

The folks at DryBox (dryboxrescue.com), a San Antonio-based firm that provides assistance in the recovery of mini electronics, suggest that vacuum drying is your best option. The vacuum is set at pressure and temperature slightly below boiling. This enables the water inside the electronics to boil off slowly without damaging the components. It should be noted that the sooner the phone is dried out after getting wet, the better the chance of complete recovery. Another important consideration is the type of water in which the Smartphone was immersed. Your kitchen sink, toilet bowl or bathtub is really bad. However, if the culprit is salt water- as in the ocean, this corrosive nature of salt water will almost instantly destroy the electronics. In such a case, the experts at DryBox recommend that you immediately place the phone in a Zip-lock bag with some bottled, purified water and just a pinch of baking soda. The baking soda will counteract the corrosiveness of the salt water until you can get it cleaned out professionally.

Two final points – one should always remember that construction of Smartphone varies with manufacturer. As a result, the resiliency of the phones may be different when immersed in water. As an example, Android phones with their removable battery have a much higher survival rate than more expensive iPhone. This is because Android phones allow for vacuum or another drying device easier and quicker access to the phone electronics. The second point – it is good practice to always back up important data and contact list in some form of free or low cost-cloud service for both iPhone and Android.

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