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 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).
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
1. iPhone 12 (+ 12 Mini, 12 Pro & 12 Pro Max) – Best overall
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 12 (and 11) range.
Our pick of the bunch is the standard iPhone 12 but the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max all feature the same industry-leading water resistance; rated against up to 6 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 new 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
2. iPhone 11 Pro (& 11 Pro Max) – Superb all-rounder
While not quite as submersible as its 2020 successors, the iPhone 11 Pro line lands the number-two 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.
We like the matte finish, which provides more grip than standard glass and helps negate fingerprints. The OLED screen is stunning, especially with iOS 13’s 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 line if that’s the sort of functionality you’re looking for).
Read our full Apple iPhone 11 Pro review
3. iPhone 11 – Well-rounded
Unlike the iPhone 12 line, 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 freshwater 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 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
4. Samsung Galaxy S21 (+ S21+ & S21 Ultra) – Best for Android
As mentioned earlier, the rest of the devices in this lineup, including the S21 line, 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.
Samsung takes the same superb balancing act that it struck with last year’s Galaxy S20 series and updates the hardware.
As a result, you get the best performance found in an Android phone currently, a fresh new 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
5. OnePlus 8 Pro – Stunning display
The OnePlus 8 Pro is arguably the company’s first full flagship, finally incorporating long-requested features like wireless charging and an IP68-certified rating to make it a genuine contender with the likes of Samsung’s finest of 2020.
Understandably, the price has gone up accordingly, but even the base model – no slouch at 8GB RAM and 128GB storage – still represents serious value by flagship standards, meaning you will save at least some money by opting for OnePlus over most other manufacturers.
The 8 Pro’s camera is the company’s best yet and while it still lags behind rivals, OnePlus’s imaging engineers have clearly worked hard to narrow the gap considerably. Throw in 5G, a great design and the best Android skin around and the OnePlus 8 Pro is easy to recommend to anyone who can afford it.
Read our full OnePlus 8 Pro review
6. Oppo Find X2 Pro – Best stills camera
The Oppo Find X2 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 the fastest wired charging around at 65W and a top-tier camera that boasts two 48Mp lenses and up to a 10x hybrid zoom.
You’ll have to live without wireless charging and the choice between bland grey ceramic or garish green or orange vegan leather finishes might leave some struggling to find a design that suits their style.
For pure performance though, the Find X2 Pro is still a force to be reckoned with: with all of the above plus a Snapdragon 865 chip, 512GB 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 X2 Pro review
7. Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra – Best for productivity
A true powerhouse – the Note 20 Ultra doesn’t take any prisoners, with its flagship performance, greatly-improved camera (compared to the Galaxy S20 Ultra), low-latency S Pen experience and the sheer number of features it offers.
Samsung’s One UI user experience is jam-packed with functionality without feeling overwhelming. You have control over pretty much every aspect of the phone and it’s designed to help you get things done.
The pairing of S Pen and the updated Samsung Notes experience is a particular highlight, as is the tighter Microsoft integration. There’s also the matter of DeX desktop experience – which is now fully-wireless with compatible displays.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy Note 20 Ultra review
8. Google Pixel 5 – Most compact
Google’s first 5G flagship walks a different path to its predecessors, showcasing Android 11 to the best of its abilities but also shedding the more experimental features of previous generations and opting for more conservative hardware at the same time.
Its clean design and user experience are supported by a set of superb – and now more feature-rich – cameras, as well as an incredibly compact design and battery life that’s actually usable.
Don’t be put off by the literature on Google’s website, the Pixel 5 is also confirmed to be IP68-certified (not just IPX8).
Read our full Google Pixel 5 review
9. Samsung Galaxy S20 – Great for ease of use
The best entry in the S20 series and simply Samsung’s best phone of 2020. It’s compact, powerful and packs a versatile camera system that may not match the top-tier S20 Ultra on zoom or detail but still meets – and sometimes beats – it across the rest of the board.
While battery life remains a slight concern, that’s really the only major fault here. The Android ecosystem offers more for less elsewhere, but usually, without Samsung’s level of prestige or polish, and in this case, we think that’s worth paying for.
Read our full Samsung Galaxy S20 review
10. Sony Xperia 1 II – Great for multimedia
Sony’s latest flagship doubles down on the unique attributes of 2019’s Xperia 1, with an enhanced 21:9 4K HDR OLED display, a wealth of audio technologies (including a 3.5mm headphone jack) and a Sony Alpha-influenced triple-camera module.
It’s augmented but clean take on Android includes meaningful improvements and despite not looking as competitive on paper as other Android flagships, its performance and battery longevity proved more than capable in testing.
Read our full Sony Xperia 1 II review