Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active’s warranty proves phones and water don’t mix

The Samsung Galaxy S 4 Active might be ‘whoops-proof,’ as Samsung likes to say, but that doesn’t mean you should take it with you on your next trip to the beach. Even though the phone carries an IP67 rating against dust and water immersion, its warranty doesn’t actually cover dust or water damage. Whoops.
It recently came to light on Reddit, along with customer reviews on Amazon and AT&T, that some early Active adopters were experiencing problems with the phone after using it underwater. Ordinarily this isn’t the type of complaint you hear from experienced smartphone users. After all, if you drop a standard Galaxy S 4 into the toilet, you stick it in a bag of rice, hope for the best, and move on if it doesn’t recover. Water damage is just one of the risks you’re willing to put up with when you buy a delicate device.
The problem is, Samsung’s marketing campaign for the S 4 Active practically begs you to use the phone underwater. There’s even a special “Aqua Mode” that can be triggered to “increase visual quality and clarity for enhanced underwater images and video.” I don’t know about you, but that makes me want to go find a pool and shoot as many dumb underwater videos as I can until the memory runs out.
But for the phone to be properly water-resistant, you need to make sure that a series of ports on the sides of the phone are fully sealed and the back panel is secure. Also, pay close attention to language there: The S4 Active is “water-resistant,” not waterproof.
Now, IP67 refers to the phone’s Ingress Protection rating. The first digit (6) refers to complete protection from dust, while the second (7), means the phone is protected against temporary immersion between 15 centimeters to 3 feet for up to 30 minutes. That means the phone should be able to survive the occasional dunk in the pool — provided you aren’t deep-sea diving.
So while it isn’t clear exactly how these users damaged their phones, it is clear — in the fine print, anyway — that Samsung is not responsible for replacing it. A quick peek at the phone’s user manual indicates “This Limited Warranty does not cover: (a) defects or damage resulting from accident, misuse, abnormal use, abnormal conditions, improper storage, exposure to liquid, moisture, dampness, sand or dirt…” So if you do incur water damage, your only recourse is a bag of Uncle Ben’s.
Unfortunately, this is actually the case for most water-resistant devices. In fact, maybe the only water-resistant phones with a truly comprehensive warranty are the virtually indestructible ones made by Sonim, but they’re big, bulky feature phones.
There are other options out there if you need a water-resistant smartphone. Just make sure to read all the fine details before you take it on your next tropical vacation. And Samsung may want to rethink the way it markets its “Aqua Mode.”