Smartphones get ruggedized, hydrophobic


— 11:09 AM on January 24, 2012

These days, it's rare to see smartphones naked in the wild. Most are wrapped up in cases to protect against scratches and impacts, which only makes sense. Modern smartphones are relatively fragile, and unless your contract has expired, they're incredibly expensive to replace. So, why don't they just make more durable smartphones?

Casio seems to like that idea, because it displayed a prototype G-Shock smartphone at CES this year. The ruggedized beast is reportedly capable of surviving a 10-foot drop thanks to its beefy body, which doesn't look that much larger than some iPhone cases I've seen. The G-Shock's case is also airtight, allowing it to plunge into water up to 10 m deep and potentially survive a run through the washing machine.

The G-Shock's amphibious credentials are particularly appealing to me because I've always been leery of whipping out my smartphone in the torrential rain we get up here in Vancouver. It turns out that the G-Shock wasn't the only water-proof smartphone on display at CES; a number of companies displayed hydrophobic treatments for existing phones. These approaches coat smartphones with ultra-thin layers of transparent, water-resistant material. The coatings purportedly allow devices to function normally, and they could be applicable to other electronics devices.

With over 30% of cellphone users in the UK claiming to have damaged devices due to liquid contact, it's clear that better water-proofing is needed for our everyday computing devices. Hydrophobic coatings seem more likely to catch on than fully ruggedized designs like the G-Shock prototype, but given how indispensable smartphones have become, I can see the appeal of both.

   
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