WARNING! Sony backtracks on Xperia waterproof claims

Sony seem hell bent on confusing its customers by giving very conflicting advice about its Xperia smartphones.

If you're familiar with the range, you'll no doubt be aware of the advertising material that appears to show users taking photos in the rain and even (seemingly) underwater at the pool.

Take a look at the picture above and you'd probably assume that a) it depicts someone shooting a video or taking a photo in a swimming pool, and b) you can do the same with your phone. But you'd be wrong (at least on b) because Sony has changed its mind about what waterproof means. Or it doesn't know. It really depends on where you look on the Sony website.

The picture accompanying this article is taken from the Water and dust resistance section of Sony's support pages. The company quite rightly says that "before you dive into the action with your waterproof or dust-resistant Sony device, you should check its capabilities and limits". Seems reasonable enough... let's find out more.

Sony's advice regarding water-based use of a phone is as follows:

If your Sony device has an IP58 rating, as well as being resistant to dust (but not dust-tight), it is also waterproof to IPX8 standard. That means it’s protected against immersion for up to 30 minutes in fresh (non-saline) water at depths of around 1.5 metres. The exact depth and other details will be specified in your user guide.

The company handily explains the IP (Ingress Protection) rating system. The first digit after the letters covers 'resistance to solid objects and dust', and the second is 'resistance to water', the highest possible rating being 6 and 8 respectively. OK… so let's imagine that you have a Sony Xperia X3. The product page has a helpful section about its waterproofness:

With the waterproof Xperia Z3, you can take pictures with the best smartphone camera while swimming in fresh water for up to 30 minutes. You can even dive down to 1.5 metres with it. Just remember that all the covers for the micro USB port, the micro SIM slot and the memory card slot must be firmly closed.

Cool... so you can take photos while swimming and diving, right? You could re-enact the scene picture above if you want, couldn't you? (After all, the Z3 "has an impressive IP65/68 rating"). This is where things start to get confusing. Head over to the Basic care section of the waterproof advice pages and we learn:

The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures. Do not use the device to take photos while performing any type of activity underwater, including diving or snorkeling.

So we can't take photos underwater? Who knows? Sony seems undecided, so it's very hard to say for sure (we have, of course, reached out for comment). The advice to not use the phone underwater is rather at odds with the Z3 promotional video which very clearly shows sub-aqua use:

As Xperia Blog says, it is very much a case of mixed messages. The testing procedure described by the company does not really seem to replicate real world scenarios, and hardly instils confidence:

Sony devices that are tested for their waterproof abilities are placed gently inside a container filled with tap water and lowered to a depth of 1.5 metres. After 30 minutes in the container, the device is gently taken out and its functions and features are tested.

It seems that even in testing, the device is not used underwater. It's merely placed underwater... and gently at that. The language used to describe the waterproof capabilities of the upcoming Z5 range is slightly different. Writing on the Sony support forums, a company representative says:

Our new Xperia Z5 is protected from water ingress according to the IPx5/x8 standard, which is the highest water protection featured in mobile handsets. The tests for this rating also include the slow submersion in a fresh water tank up to 1.5m for a duration of 30 minutes. Moving or operating the device while it is submerged is not tested during the laboratory tests. There are also many environmental factors which we could not assess (e.g. water movement or water pressure changes during the movement), if a device is used underwater. Therefore we recommend not submerge our Xperia Z5 in water.

So this highly waterproof phone should not be submerged in water, let alone operating whilst submerged. Most confusing.

You might not be happy that Sony appears to be moving the goal posts. Tough; the company already has a get-out clause in place:

All claims were verified at the time of testing. However, as the mobile landscape changes quickly and new phone models are released on a continuous basis, we cannot guarantee that all claims are still valid as you read this.

Don't like it? Bad luck.