Waterproof mobiles make a splash

Story highlights

  • Waterproof phones generate interest at mobile phone expo in Barcelona
  • Some companies use nano-technology, others special seals to keep water out
  • Low-tech solutions also include keeping phone inside a watertight case

The ability to work inside a fish tank is not high on most people's wish lists when it comes to buying a new smartphone.

But at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, several major manufacturers were putting the waterproof credentials of their devices ahead of more conventional selling points such as processor power.

While some handset manufacturers are looking at more effective rubber seals to protect devices for unexpected dunks and spills, high-tech companies are also springing up offering nano-coating technology as alternative protection.

Liquipel, based in southern California, announced at Mobile World Congress that it was expanding its operations to Australia, Brazil and China.

The company encourages mobile owners to send their devices through the post so they can be coated with what it describes as a "revolutionary water shield."

Company President Danny McPhail said: "You won't want to go swimming with it, but in the event it does come into contact with water, you'll be protected.

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"Talking in the rain, texting in the shower, and playing Angry Birds in the shower is all possible."

He said devices are placed into a machine which draws in the proprietary liquid formulation as a dry vapor, coating the device inside and out.

British company P2i, a few stands away at Mobile World Congress, uses a similar process, but works directly with manufacturers, rather than consumers.

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Its technology was originally developed by Britain's Ministry of Defence to help protect soldiers from both rain and chemical attack.

The company, which is working with Motorola and about 100 other manufacturers, says it has used its Aridion nano-coating technology to waterproof more than 9 million electronic devices, including mobile phones, tablets and hearing aids.

Dr Steven Coulsen, chief technology officer for P2i, said: "this is fast becoming a must-have technology. People expect to have this protection when they buy a device off the shelf."

Japanese electronics firm Fujitsu relies on waterproof seals rather than revolutionary nano-coatings to protect the insides of its smartphones and tablets. It was showing off its ultra-thin waterproof and dustproof Tegra 3 Android quad-core prototype smartphone in Barcelona.

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Panasonic was also using the waterproof credentials of its new Eluga smartphone as a major selling point at Mobile World Congress.

Meanwhile, at the other end of the technology scale, South Korean company DiCAPac was in Barcelona looking for distributors for its colorful, low-tech plastic phone cases.

Spokesman Myeonghwan Yeom said: "Not every manufacturer has waterproof phones, and this is so easy to use. It means you can take your phone to the beach or water park and continue taking photos.

"You can also take photos under water, and none of the major phone manufacturers have worked out how to do that yet."