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How water-resistant is the iPhone? Italian watchdog says Apple’s claims are overblown

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Apple has been offering water-resistant iPhones for several years now, but are its protection claims actually justified?

The Italian Antitrust Authority (AGCM) thinks Cupertino has been overstating the handsets’ water resistance. The agency, which is in charge of consumer protection in Italy, on Monday fined Apple €10 million ($12 million) for misleading its customers—and for not providing standard warranty assistance to customers whose iPhones were damaged by liquids.

Since 2016’s iPhone 7 range, Apple’s smartphones have been promoted as offering at least “IP67” protection. (The “IP” part stands for “ingress protection,” while the first digit refers to dust protection and the second to water protection.)

A phone with IP67 protection can be continually immersed in water of up to 1 meter (3 feet 3 inches) in depth. According to Apple’s promotional material, this is fine for up to 30 minutes. For 2018’s iPhone XS and subsequent models, the advertised protection is IP68, meaning a maximum depth of over 1 meter—it grades up from the XS’s claimed 2-meter water resistance to the new iPhone 12’s 6 meters.

Lab conditions

Now, despite what many online sources allege, Apple’s water resistance does not equal waterproofness, which is why Apple never claims its iPhones are waterproof—it doesn’t even use that word for the Apple Watch, which is meant to be worn while swimming.

But, focusing on the models from the iPhone 8 to last year’s iPhone 11, the Italian regulator said Apple still wasn’t being cautious enough.

It said the tech giant broke the rules by failing to tell its customers that the claimed water resistance is not normally achievable.

So an iPhone 8 can theoretically stay a meter underwater for half an hour and emerge unscathed, but only if the water is entirely still and pure, like in a laboratory setting.

Apple does give a disclaimer that the iPhone’s guarantee won’t cover damage caused by liquids, but the agency said the company’s “emphatic advertising boast of water resistance” still means customers were deceived.

On top of that, the AGCM said Apple was infringing on customers’ legal warranty rights by refusing to help them out when their phones were damaged by water or other liquids. It told Apple to pay a total of €10 million for the infringements, and to publish a notice of the ruling on its Italian website’s iPhone section.

Apple refused to comment on the fine.

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