January 17, 2012, 12:03 PM — Even the most nanotech-addled, smartphone-addicted mobile-tech geek will admit smartphones come with at least one major drawback (in addition to all the others): they're allergic to water.
Cell phones can "drown in as little as an inch of water" according to one insurer pushing insurance for digital devices.
Even steam from the shower can make some smartphones rebel, or just feel hurt and shut themselves down for a while.
Smartphones are so susceptible to water damage there's a water-exposure indicator built right in so the carrier's support crew can quickly ID units too hydrologized to qualify for a free replacement.
According to one U.K. survey, at least a third of smartphones are damaged by exposure to water (half of those by being dropped in the toilet).
What to do?
Two companies trying to make a splash at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) claim the solution is to coat the surface of every component in the phone with a plastic-like coating that repels water and reduces the chance of frying your darling iPhone the first time the humidity rises.
Both claim they're able to apply an invisible "nanocoating" that covers smartphones or other devices inside and out to protect them from water damage.
The plastic-ish coating is one-one-thousandth the thickness of a human hair that paints itself across the inside and outside surfaces of the phone, sealing cracks and coating circuits to keep accidental splashes or dunkings from inevitably killing the phone.
The material is clear, almost undetectable once it's applied, according to Liquipel, allows electricity to flow through it unimpeded to it doesn't damage any of your physical interfaces and lasts "a long time."
The other company, HzO, offers a very similar product and process called WaterBlock, though it appears to be focusing more on OEM deals than on selling to consumers. Liquipel is trying to do both.
The Liquipel and HzO coatings are not designed to allow the device to be dunked into water without damage, but there are any number of videos on the sight showing exactly that.