Best waterproof phone in 2023: cellphones that beat perpetual fear

Best waterproof phone - smartphone in water
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The best waterproof phones don’t necessarily distinguish themselves in terms of appearance, but will survive an excursion underwater without failure. No longer is it essential to compromise on handset appearance if you’re planning on taking your phone to the beach, pool, or out in stormy weather (although nearly all phones can be waterproof with a suitable underwater housing (opens in new tab)).

The latest flagship phones from Apple and Samsung are both waterproof, so (since we slightly preferred the iPhone 13 Pro Max) it will appear at the top of this list. 

The key measure of waterproofing you’ll see on most phones are the ingress protection standards IP67 or IP68. The ‘6’ in these means (a little confusingly) no harmful dust get into a device in 8 hours. The 7 for water means immersion up to 1 meter (3.3ft) for up to 30 minutes, while 8 is immersion of over a meter with a requirement for a stated depth.

In other words, the IP68 is able to handle water pressure up to a point, IP67 can have a brief excursion in shallow water and – to head the other way on the scale – IP66 can cope with a spray of water but no depth. Waterproof is theoretically distinct from water-resistant as the former will never be damaged by submersion.

A worthwhile bit of reality, especially in the phone world, is that these standards meet lab tests, and the real world isn’t quite the same; a classic difference is the mineral content of sea water (mostly salt). 

Watch out for so-called ‘water repellence’ – which alone doesn’t make this list as a means of protection from water. It refers to a ceramic hydrophobic nano-coating (unsurprisingly not all manufacturers use every word of that) which repels particulate including water droplets. Ceramic-based coatings don’t hurt, but aren’t enough to earn IP67 or above.

Best waterproof phones in 2023

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best iPhone for photography: iPhone 14 Pro Max

(Image credit: Basil Kronfli / Digital Camera World)
The best iPhone to date can be

Specifications

Water resistance : IP68; 6 meters (20ft) for 30 mins
Rear cameras: 48MP (24mm, f/1.78), 12MP Ultra Wide (13mm, f/2.2), 12MP 3x Telephoto (77mm f/2.8)
Front camera: 12MP TrueDepth camera (f/1.9)
OIS: Yes
Weight: 240g
Dimensions: 160.7 x 77.6 x 7.85mm
Screen: 6.7-inch Super Retina XDR
Storage: 256GB/512GB/1TB

Reasons to buy

+
Larger camera sensor than 13 Pro series
+
Rich styling with IP68 certification
+
New selfie camera has autofocus

Reasons to avoid

-
No SIM slot for US customers
-
Price increase over 13 Pro in the UK
-
Telephoto reach isn't class-leading

Gone are the days when you had to worry about dropping your iPhone down the toilet or into a pool of water. The latest iPhone isn't only the best phone yet in terms of camera abilities but it has the same IP68 water resistance rating as the iPhone 13. That means you can submerge it down to 6 meters for up to half an hour and it shouldn't have any issues. 

The iPhone 14 Pro Max might be the biggest of the latest iPhones but it is the most powerful with the new A16 Bionic chip. It features an impressive 48MP main camera plus a 12MP front camera that is now capable of autofocus and is much better at handling depth of perception.

(Image credit: Apple)
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The best phone. And its waterproof.

Specifications

Water resistance: IP68; 6 meters (20ft) for 30 mins
Display: 6.7-inch OLED 2778 x 1284
Rear camera: 12MP (ƒ/1.6) wide + 12 MP (ƒ/2.4) ultra-wide + 12MP tele (ƒ/2.2)
Front camera: 12MP (ƒ/2.2)
CPU: A14 Bionic
Battery: 3095 mAh / approx. 28 hours video
Dimensions: 161 x 78 x 7.7mm
Weight: 248g
OS: iOS 15 (upgradeable)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent camera system
+
Deep submersion capability
+
Spectacular battery life

Reasons to avoid

-
Weighty handset
-
Same price as a MacBook

The iPhone 13 Pro Max boasts a IP68 water & dust resistance, which is tested to an impressive 6 meters (20ft) submersion for up to 30 minutes. That’s plenty long enough to fish the phone out if you drop it, while the depth is further than an Olympic diving pool. Apple’s ceramic-coated glass makes the handset tough, too, though testing that might affect the aesthetic of that shiny square edge! Apple have long eschewed the microSD, which might have helped them minimise ports and make for a well-sealed phone.

As a phone, the iPhone 13 Pro Max has little to fault it except perhaps its size (a choice partly in your hands as you need not specify the larger ‘Max’ version). The camera array might lack the highest megapixel counts but the lenses and the output are more than competitive. The CPU and battery life, however, seem peerless. 

• See also Best iPhone for photography (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Google)
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Waterproof, powerful and sensibly priced flagship phone

Specifications

Water resistance: IP68; 1.5 meters (5ft) for 30 mins
Display: 6.7-inch OLED
Rear camera: 50MP (ƒ/1.85) wide + 12 MP (ƒ/2.2) ultra-wide + 48MP tele (ƒ/3.5) with 4x zoom
Front camera: 11.1MP (ƒ/2.2)
CPU: Tensor
Battery: 5003 mAh
Storage: 128, 256GB
Dimensions: 164 x 76 x 8.9mm
Weight: 210g
OS: Android 12

Reasons to buy

+
Powerful main and zoom cameras
+
Google’s new custom chip
+
Doesn’t rock on desks

Reasons to avoid

-
Wide camera isn’t that wide (0.7x) 

The Pixel 6 Pro has attracted a lot of attention which might otherwise have gone Samsung’s way because it packs more than flagship specifications; it’s brought some unusual design touches to the flagship phone space and done all of that for a markedly lower price than the previously unassailable king of the Android space. It doesn’t hurt that Google have good early access to the newest edition of their OS, but the powerful camera array is all their work and many users have found the full-width camera bump makes using the handset while resting on a flat surface much easier (it doesn’t rock around the lens bump).

Admittedly 1.5 meters pressure resistance won’t compete with the iPhone 13 (or 12 for that matter), but it’s level-pegging with the much more expensive Galaxy S21 Ultra.

• See also Best Google phones (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Samsung)
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Android flagship with powerful camera array

Specifications

Water resistance: IP68; 1.5 meters (5ft) for 30 mins
Display: 6.67-inch OLED
Rear camera: 108MP (ƒ/1.8) wide + 12MP (ƒ/2.2) ultra-wide + 10MP (ƒ/2.4) tele + 10MP (ƒ/4.9) periscope tele.
Front camera: 40MP (ƒ/2.2)
CPU: Snapdragon 888 5G Octocore
Battery: 5000 mAh
Storage: 128GB, 256GB, 512GB
Dimensions: 165 x 76 x 8.9mm
Weight: 227g
OS: Android 11

Reasons to buy

+
S-Pen functionality
+
10x Zoom
+
8k Video

Reasons to avoid

-
Bulky and a bit slippery
-
No microSD slot (if you want one)

While others choose phones which make compromises on price and features, Samsung’s Galaxy S21 Ultra is not about cutting corners (save for the slightly rounded corners required for aesthetics and to make the glass a little drop-safe). The giant 515ppi screen cloaks an almost invisible but very snappy fingerprint scanner, and if you’re looking to capture 8K video then this is a waterproof phone which will do that for you. The camera will also allow photographers to capture 108MP stills, in theory at least, though in reality you’ll likely want to do some work to original images from the camera if you’re not going to let the phone apply its treatment. The phone, though, does know what it’s doing, even at night; it has a ‘Moonshot’ mode which will apply a 100x zoom to a picture of the moon.

(Image credit: Nokia )
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5. Nokia XR20 Rugged Smartphone

Rough-and-tumble phone without the aggressive looks

Specifications

Water resistance: IP68; 1.5 meters (5ft) for 60 mins
Display: 6.67-inch OLED
Rear camera: 48MP (ƒ/1.8) wide + 13 MP (ƒ/2.4) ultra-wide
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2)
CPU: Snapdragon 4800 5G Octocore
Battery: 4100 mAh
Storage: 64, 128GB
Dimensions: 172 x 82 x 10.6mm
Weight: 248g
OS: Android 11

Reasons to buy

+
Dedicated Emergency button
+
4 years guaranteed updates
+
Sleek look for rugged 

Reasons to avoid

-
Maximum storage option is 128GB

The Nokia brand (now property of Finish firm HMD Global when it comes to phones), looks good on this cleanly designed rugged handset. The XR20 has all the drop-proofing – and of course IP68 certification – you’d expect from a rugged handset, while side-stepping the excessive masculine touches so many designers equate to durable.

Featuring the latest Gorilla Glass Victus, the phone is so dependable in a drop onto concrete up to 1.8m that the screen is guaranteed for a year by HMD. In terms of future-proofing, the firm also promise to provide security updates for four years & OS updates for three, a generous proposition compared to many mid-ranking Android devices.

Camera-wise, a Zeiss dual camera array offers ultra-wide with a dual-tone flash – handy for capturing indoor shots – while the system also sports two physical buttons, an emergency button and one for Google Assistant.

• See also Best Nokia phones (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Apple)
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6. iPhone SE (2020)

Apple offer water resistance for less

Specifications

Water resistance: IP67; 1 meter (3ft) for 30 mins
Display: 4.7-inch LCD
Rear camera: 12MP (ƒ/1.8) wide
Front camera: 7MP (ƒ/2.2)
CPU: Snapdragon: A13 Bionic
Battery: 1821 mAh
Storage: 64GB, 128GB, 256GB
Dimensions: 138 x 67 x 7.3mm
Weight: 148g
OS: iOS 13, upgradeable on purchase to 15

Reasons to buy

+
Cheap route to iPhone
+
Fast processor

Reasons to avoid

-
Smaller screen
-
Outdated styling
-
1m water resistance only

The iPhone SE (2020), or SE2, is more or less built on the old shell of the iPhone 8 (2017), which looks a little compact these days. That said, the design – screen surrounded by speaker and fingerprint scanner on black cars – is virtually iconic, and the case is IP67 water resistant. It can hold on up to 1 meter for 30 minutes, which isn’t so different from many non-Apple flagships; when their specifications are examined closely, many can only sink half a meter further though this earns them the eight at the end of their IP number.

Camera-wise the iPhone SE is somewhat ordinary, with a single camera which does fine until things get dark and, to its credit, can capture 4K video at 60fps. Apple’s chipset is very snappy compared to pricier Android competitors, and wireless charging is included. All this is a very pocket-friendly little device.

(Image credit: Ulefone)
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7. Ulefone Armor 8 Pro

Cheap rugged phone

Specifications

Water resistance: IP68; 1.5 meter (5ft) for 30 mins
Display: 6.1-inch IPS LCD
Rear camera: 16MP (ƒ/2.2) wide, 5MP (ƒ/2.4) macro, 2MP (ƒ/2.2) depth
Front camera: 8MP (ƒ/2.2)
CPU: Mediatek Helio P60
Battery: 5580 mAh
Storage: 128GB
Dimensions: 166 x 82 x 15mm
Weight: 282g
OS: Android 11

Reasons to buy

+
MIL-STD-810G compliant
+
Accessibly priced
+
Enormous battery

Reasons to avoid

-
Drop-to-concrete tested only 1.2m
-
Only 4G

Waterproofing and ruggedizing go hand in hand, and the Armor 8 Pro is a butch piece of kit compliant to military standards as we well as meeting the IP68 dust and water resistance standard. This is achieved without sacrificing a microSD slot, for those who appreciate them, and the case design’s protruding edges should be effective in preventing the scratch-resistant glass encountering too many unlucky drops. Site workers may appreciate the touch screen’s Gloves Mode, and other handy features like NFC are included in this relatively modestly priced handset, and even those forced to work a long day will at least know their phone should keep going thanks to the sizeable battery.

See also the Best rugged phones (opens in new tab)

(Image credit: Adam Juniper/ Digital Camera World)
Designed to cope with a high-pressure hose soaking

Specifications

Display: 6.53 inch 2340x 1080px
Cameras: 48 MP + Thermal + 20MP Infra Red + 2MP macro (front); 16MP (selfie)
OS: Android 11
CPU/GPU: 5G 4350-2 8nm 2GHz 480 Qualcomm Snapdragon
Memory: 128GB + microSD
RAM: 256GB
Dust/water protection: IP69K (1.5m for 30mins)
Drop test: 1.2m
Rugged: MIL-STD-810H compliant
Practical: Radio, Accelerometer, proximity, compass, thermal camera,
Size: 175 x 84 x 23 mm
Weight: 370g

Reasons to buy

+
High-pressureThermal imaging
+
Resilient to temperatures from -40˚C and up
+
Speaker nearly as loud as a Bluetooth speaker

Reasons to avoid

-
Charging dock sold separately
-
Weightier than many handsets

This 5G phone is built to handle high-pressure jets from close range  - and from close distances - thanks to its IP69K rating. It can also handle temperature extremes and report back; it has an excellent thermal-imaging camera (opens in new tab) with an unusually high resolution and frame rate (25fps) as well as the ability to survive in Arctic temperatures (we tested one (opens in new tab) in the freezer). The G1 Pro’s styling makes no attempt to hide its rugged nature, using the 23mm thick protective frame to house a 33mm diameter 3.5 watt speaker which can put out 110db. The 8-core system is nothing to write home about, but fast enough on the clean Android 11 supplied, while other useful tools – including fingerprint ID, NFC, Bluetooth 5, 18W wireless charging and a definable side key – are all there. Despite the ruggedization, remarkably, you can still use microSD cards or 3.5mm-plugged headphones.

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With over 20 years of expertise as a tech journalist, Adam brings a wealth of knowledge across a vast number of product categories, including timelapse cameras, home security cameras, NVR cameras, photography books, webcams, 3D printers and 3D scanners, borescopes, radar detectors… and, above all, drones. 


Adam is our resident expert on all aspects of camera drones and drone photography, from buying guides on the best choices for aerial photographers of all ability levels to the latest rules and regulations on piloting drones. 


He is the author of a number of books including The Complete Guide to Drones (opens in new tab), The Smart Smart Home Handbook (opens in new tab), 101 Tips for DSLR Video (opens in new tab) and The Drone Pilot's Handbook (opens in new tab)