It’s fair to assume that electronics and water aren’t the best of friends, but in recent years the idea of a phone falling into a body of the wet stuff isn’t necessarily a death sentence anymore.
Manufacturers have been exploring ways to make their products more resistant to dirt, shock, extreme temperatures and moisture for years – GoPro cameras were born out of such a need – and nowadays there are established methods that help guarantee such tech is more resilient.
Originally, you had to look at the likes of LifeProof and other specialist phone case makers to gain the necessary protection against the elements for your mobile; adding bulk to their otherwise sleek, lightweight designs and complicating access to ports and controls in the process.
More recently phones – particularly those in the flagship space – have benefitted from internal design changes and additions that help make them hardier, without impacting on their overall dimensions or aesthetics.
Motorola and Sony have led the charge in the mobile space when it comes to water-resistant phones. The use of both seals and hydrophobic coatings are essential to keeping your tech water and dust-free, and nowadays everyone from the likes of Apple and Samsung to OnePlus offer up at least one device with certified levels of ingress protection (also known as IP ratings).
Related: What is an IP rating? Waterproofing and water resistance explained
Based on the capabilities of the phone in question and the degree to which they are able to withstand contact with water (and dust), we’ve assembled a list of the best water-resistant phones you can get your hands on right now.
As mentioned, most reside within the flagship space but competent ingress protection has made its way into the mid-range market too, so keep your eyes peeled for more affordable devices that also cite an IP rating if you can’t find what you’re looking for here.
Best waterproof phones 2021
iPhone 13 Pro (& 13 Mini, 13, 13 Pro Max) – Best overall
- Pros: Brilliant display | Superb cameras | Top-tier performance | Improved battery life
- Cons: Cinematography Mode and HDR algorithm need work | Pricey
You might notice that Apple holds the tops spots on this list, but we promise this isn’t a case of brand favouritism. While the Android phones further down all adhere to IP68 certification, Apple has gone above and beyond with the iPhone 13, 12, and 11 ranges.
Like last year’s quartet, the iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Pro (our favourite of the four) and iPhone 13 Pro Max all feature the same industry-leading water resistance; rated against up to six metres (approximately 19.7 feet) of fresh water, for up to 30 minutes.
All four devices offer class-leading performance, superb cameras and run the latest iOS 15 out the box. The iPhone 13 Pro (and 13 Pro Max) also showcase ProMotion for the first time on any iPhone, with a super-smooth 120Hz variable refresh rate display.
iPhone 12 (& 12 Mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max) – Superb all-rounder
- Pros: Gorgeous design | Great display | Excellent performance | Solid cameras
- Cons: No high refresh rate display | Pricey
The iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max all took Apple’s already excellent water resistance to new heights, by upping their rated protection to withstand up to six metres (approximately 19.7 feet) of fresh water, for up to 30 minutes.
The standard iPhone 12 is our preferred pick of the range, as it’s not only a nice jump up from the iPhone 11 but also doesn’t lose out on all that much compared to the pricier iPhone 12 Pro.
Highlights include its iPhone 5-inspired design, its Super Retina XDR OLED display, Apple’s A14 Bionic chip and Dolby Vision HDR video recording.
Read our full Apple iPhone 12 review
iPhone 11 Pro (& 11 Pro Max) – Still great
- Pros: Good software support | Solid battery life | Great cameras
- Cons: No 5G | Ageing hardware
While not quite as submersible as its 2020 and 2021 successors, the iPhone 11 Pro line lands the number-three spot on our list, thanks to resistance in up to 13 feet for fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
As for the rest of the 11 Pro, while we’re not fully on board with the ‘Pro’ naming, there’s no doubt that at launch, this was the best iPhone you could opt for, and is still an excellent buy today, especially thanks to Apple’s practically unrivalled long-term software support.
We like the matte finish, which provides more grip than standard glass and helps negate fingerprints. The OLED screen is stunning, especially with iOS’ Dark Mode, the cameras are excellent, performance is slick and battery life is better than any previous iPhone generation; there’s a lot to like.
Still, it’s a lot more expensive than the regular iPhone 11 which has the things that most people want and doesn’t really break any new ground. It’s not even 5G capable (again, look to the newer iPhone 12/13 lines, if that’s the sort of functionality you’re looking for).
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review
iPhone 11 – Well-rounded iPhone
- Pros: Good software support | Solid battery life | Great cameras
- Cons: No 5G | Ageing hardware
Unlike the iPhone 12 and 13 lines, Apple tiered the level of water resistance on its 2019 iPhones, with the non-Pro iPhone 11 coming in as a little less hardy than the fancier models.
While not quite as well-adapted as its Pro-branded siblings, the base iPhone 11 still totes above-average water resistance that works at up to 6.5 feet/2 metres of fresh water for 30 minutes.
The iPhone 11 didn’t need to rewrite the smartphone rule book to be a winner. It simply needed to build on the success of the XR and it did exactly that.
It features a nice design which comes in various colours. Face ID is improved over the XR and the telephoto lens has been swapped for a more useful wide-angle lens. The screen still isn’t OLED (check out the iPhone 12 or 13, if that’s what you’re after) but offers a decent experience anyway and performance is still top-notch – even when playing very demanding games.
All of this for a cheaper price than the iPhone XR, when it first arrived. Apple did it again.
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 review
Google Pixel 6 Pro – Best for Android
- Pros: 120Hz display | Superb cameras | Slick OS | Greatly improved battery life
- Cons: Biggest, thickest, heaviest Pixel yet | Awkward fast charging
As mentioned earlier, the rest of the devices in this lineup, including the Pixel 6 series, are listed as being able to withstand the exact standards of IP68-certification – submerged in up to five feet (1.5 metres) of fresh water for up to 30 minutes.
As both of this year’s Pixels are pretty sizeable, we’d suggest the Pro over the standard model, which makes better use its front face, by way of a stunning QHD+ curved-edge OLED that – for the first time in the series – makes the move to a higher 120Hz smooth refresh rate (just like the iPhone 13 Pro range).
The more versatile camera system packs astounding dynamic range and showcases smart new features like Magic Eraser, while the new Google Tensor chip offers more than enough grunt to handle the most demanding mobile apps and games, while also boasting a specialised skill set for machine learning and AI tasks.
A huge 5003mAh battery also ensures some of the best battery life on a Pixel ever, even if fast charging is a bit of a mess.
Read our full Google Pixel 6 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy S21 (& S21+, S21 Ultra) – Well rounded Android
- Pros: Nice 120Hz display | Compact design (S21) | Strong performance
- Cons: Some downgrades over S20 (S21 & S21+) | Plastic build (S21)
Samsung takes the same superb balancing act that it struck with 2021’s Galaxy S20 series and updates the hardware.
As a result, you get some of the best performance found in an Android phone currently, a fresh design, better battery life, the latest Android 11 (dressed in Samsung’s own One UI 3.1) at launch and integrated 5G.
Best of all, all this comes in a more affordable package than its predecessor.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S21 review
Oppo Find X3 Pro – Stunning display
- Pros: Best-in-class display | Outstanding battery life | Great rear cameras
- Cons: No telephoto camera | Performance throttling
The Oppo Find X3 Pro is a phenomenal phone by any measure. The 6.7in 10-bit 120Hz QHD+ panel is one of the best displays in any phone right now and Oppo backs it up with some of the fastest wired charging around at 65W and a top-tier camera that boasts two 50Mp lenses, as well as an unusual microlens sensor.
For pure performance, the Find X3 Pro is still a force to be reckoned with; with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 888 chip, 256GB storage and 12GB RAM; you just have to be willing to pay the price, as it doesn’t come cheap.
Read our full Oppo Find X3 Pro review
Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 – Best foldable
- Pros: Elegant folding design | Great performance | More affordable than ever
- Cons: No telephoto camera | Middling battery life | Still needs to be tougher
Samsung took its already-groundbreaking Galaxy Z Flip foldable, improved every aspect – from design to performance – and then made it cheaper too!
The Z Flip 3 is a beautiful expression of the evolution of foldable smartphone tech and somehow manages to incorporate IPX8-certified water resistance into its design (which does mean it still lacks ingress protection against dust and grit).
Battery life and the dual cameras could be better but despite flagship-class performance in a groundbreaking design, the Flip 3’s pricing also proves that foldables can tango in the same space as conventional smartphones without any major sacrifices.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Z Flip 3 5G review
Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra – The spec beast
- Pros: Outstanding hardware | Stunning screen | Super-fast charging
- Cons: Ugly camera module | Weak long-term update support
The Mi 11 Ultra is big, ugly and expensive, but it’s also brilliant.
Provided you’re comfortable with the size, weight and its plateau of a camera bump, the Mi 11 Ultra packs in some superb snappers, accompanied by a rear display that shows you the time, notifications and even doubles as a viewfinder.
Top-tier internals deliver serious performance, including super-fast wired and wireless charging, as well as a stunning 6.81in WQHD+ 120Hz AMOLED display; protected by the latest Gorilla Glass Victus. The Galaxy S21 Ultra is its most like-minded alternative, but if you’re more of a Xiaomi fan, the Mi 11 Ultra has no equal.
Read our full Xiaomi Mi 11 Ultra review
Asus ZenFone 8 – Most compact
- Pros: Good small Android phone | Crisp 120Hz display | Great performance
- Cons: Underwhelming battery life | Mediocre design | Poor heat management
Compact Android phones worth buying are few and far between, especially those with screens below six inches.
Asus surprised us with the more modest version of its 2021 ZenFone flagship. While the ZenFone 8 loses out on its sibling’s iconic flipping camera, it makes up for it with an impressive pocketable design, led by a 5.9in 120Hz AMOLED display.
It also folds in flagship-level performance and a suitable solid duo of rear-facing cameras. Battery life could be better, as could heat management but it’s still a worthwhile pick in our eyes.
Read our full Asus ZenFone 8 review
CAT S62 Pro – Best overall protection
- Pros: Best-in-class ingress protection | Stress-tested rugged design | Thermal camera
- Cons: Niche appeal | Underwhelming performance | Reduced battery capacity
Like most of CAT’s phones, the S62 Pro doesn’t offer the same mass-appeal as the rest of the entries in this lineup; it’s more of a specialised piece of equipment that delivers one of the hardiest designs in the smartphone space.
It boasts both IP68 and IP69 ingress protection, meaning it’s rated to stand up against high-force water jets (part of IP69), as well as submersion in fresh water of up to 1.5m for up to 30 minutes (part of IP68).
Beyond this standout feature, the S62 Pro’s ruggedised body is also Mil-Spec 810H-tested against high impact and temperature extremes.
There’s Gorilla Glass 6 to protect the 5.7in Full HD display, and an aluminium casing with non-slip TPU rubber on the rear – even with wet hands or gloves the phone is easy to handle. The rounded edges are also aluminium, fixed into place with three screws on each side.
It’s dropped the laser distance measurement and air quality monitoring of the CAT…