What If My iPhone Gets Wet Scuba Diving

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Will My Vacation Be Ruined If My iPhone Gets Wet?

Would your vacation be ruined if your iPhone gets wet? Unfortunately, we learned the answer to this on our stay in Grand Cayman.

We have several different cameras. What we travel with depends on where we are doing and what we are doing. But my iPhone is a major source of our photos. And is used for real time social media updates. I certainly went into a bit of withdrawal when my iPhone got wet. We managed to work around it. But it was an expensive lesson.

Cameras We Travel With

People comment regularly on our photos. And we are often asked about the cameras we use. David’s main camera is a Canon D80. This is the current version of a long line of Canon DSLR cameras. Over the years we have added telephoto and wide angle lenses. If we want to capture a full range of photos, we need the Canon with us. I count on David to get that perfect zoomed shot when we can’t get quite close enough.

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Taken With Canon D80 Telephoto Lens Zoomed to 300mm

We added a Nikon A900 camera for those times when we don’t want to haul a full bag of camera gear with us. With a 35 times optical zoom and 20 megapixel resolution, it does a good job and is a much more portable option. That 35 times zoom is good. But it does require a stable shooting platform.

So for every trip, we have an option if my iPhone gets wet.

Cameras We Know Can Get Wet

We love to snorkel and scuba dive. Over the years, we bought and discarded a number of specifically designed underwater cameras.

A few years ago we inherited a Canon G11 camera. We didn’t need it for our main camera, So we went online and bought a used underwater Canon housing designed for this camera. The camera even had a special underwater mode to help improve the colours underwater. When this camera got wet and stopped functioning, we upgraded to a used G12 that fit the same underwater enclosure.

When we go back and look at our older scuba diving pictures, we have seen steady improvement in our underwater photography. We have such great underwater images from scuba diving on the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling around the underwater statues in Grenada and exploring the world underwater scenery below the Pitons in St Lucia. There was no real need to replace the G12 as our main underwater camera.

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Canon G12 Underwater Shot

With a good option for underwater photography, why would I take my iPhone scuba diving? Did I think about what it would mean if my iPhone gets wet?

Looking For A Second Underwater Camera

On our last trip to Grand Cayman for scuba diving, we wanted to add a second underwater camera. David gets great shots. But I often have a different view than he does.

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Canon G12 Underwater Shot

We spent some time considering a GoPro. But we really have not got into video yet. So I really wanted the GoPro mostly for still photos underwater. We were not sure if that justified buying a dedicated action camera. So we tested the theory with a ‘cheap’ knockoff GoPro like camera.

As we explored the water sports at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Cayman, we tested out the knockoff GoPro. And quickly discovered it was crap. The screen was impossible to see. Every couple of pics I had to reset the camera. And the resolution just was not adequate. This was not going to be my new underwater camera.

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Bad Image From Knock Off GoPro

I was so frustrated with the knockoff, I thought about using my iPhone underwater. But really did not stop to think about what would happen if my iPhone gets wet.

Taking My iPhone Scuba Diving

David bought an underwater enclosure for his older iPhone 6 Plus. It was rated for scuba diving. But we mostly used it for snorkelling. It was hard to see underwater and the buttons never seemed to work easily.

I popped my iPhone 7 Plus into the underwater enclosure. The two phones are a bit different. But the enclosure seemed to close ok. When we put the phone underwater, no air bubbles came out. I thought I was good to go.

We started our scuba diving in Grand Cayman with a shore dive. I passed the phone into the water and got my first picture as we climbed down the ladder. I was looking forward to scuba diving with my iPhone.

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iPhone Enclosure Is Still Dry

My iPhone Got Wet Scuba Diving

I took a few underwater pics as we swam through the shallow waters. Not more than 5 minutes into our scuba dive, I pulled up the phone to take a picture. And immediately saw water in the case. In retrospect, we should have stopped right away. But I put the camera inside my wetsuit and we swam on.

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iPhone Enclosure Is Full Of Water

It was a great scuba dive along the coral reef. And down the wall in Grand Cayman. David got some great shots. But I was already worrying about what the process was if your iPhone gets wet.

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Canon G12 Underwater Shot

When we finally surfaced and climbed to shore, I rinsed the iPhone in clean water. And stood it up. Water dripped out from the bottom for over an hour. I left it turned off and prayed. I was about to find out what really happens if my iPhone gets wet scuba diving.

Hope And Then Despair

When we got back to the hotel, i used my iPad to read about what to do if your iPhone gets wet. I stood it up in a dry spot and kept it turned off for over 6 hours. There was lots of battery left, so I did not need to plug it in.

I turned the iPhone on after 6 hours and it powered up. It looked like there may be a bit of damage under the screen. But I was fully able to use the phone. Hope blossomed.

But I was not a full optimist. I immediately plugged the phone in and did a backup. I had a backup from before we left home. But if something happened, I wanted a good recent backup copy of my phone. I made sure all my photos were up in the cloud.

Over the next two days, my iPhone deteriorated. The screen damage got worse. And then touch started to go. I changed the accessibility options so that the phone would work without the Home button. Each time I used it, less and less worked. Until I could not find a touch spot on the screen that worked. I learned what it means when my iPhone gets wet scuba diving.

Getting Along Without My iPhone

I did not realize how connected I was to my iPhone until it was dead. When I wanted to check a fact, I continually looked for my phone. If saw a picture I had to get David take it. While I carried my iPad at times, it was not that portable. I looked like all those people taking iPad pictures that I always shook my head at.

After a few days in Grand Cayman, I just let go. I was not disconnected from the internet since I had both my iPad and computer with me. But I was online only for dedicated periods when we were back at the resort. It was a refreshing change. And David certainly loved having more of my attention. If your iPhone gets wet, be prepared for some downtime.

I contacted the Apple distributor in Grand Cayman about repairs. But the timeline was not enough for me to address the situation before I reached home. An online chat with Apple got me an appointment at the Apple Store as soon as I reached home.

I was not sure that to expect when I reached the Apple Store. My iPhone had Apple Care coverage. But the two years of coverage had elapsed with no claims. I learned that there was really no repair option if your iPhone gets wet. Especially if it is totally submersed. And salt water was a killer.

Since I was not yet ready to upgrade my phone, I paid for a replacement iPhone 7 Plus. Getting my iPhone wet provide me with an expensive lesson.

Lessons Learned – If Your iPhone Gets Wet

1) Pick Your Underwater Enclosure Carefully

An underwater case for an iPhone is version specific. Don’t assume that the minor differences in smart phone will allow for a solid seal.

2) Make Sure The Underwater Rating Meets Your Needs

If you buy an underwater enclosure, make sure it really is water rated. And know what the water rating lets you do. A water rating uses an IP (Ingress Protection Marking) number. IP7 supports immersion up to 1 m depth for 30 minutes.  But this does not cover snorkelling or shallow scuba diving. You will need IP8 to scuba dive at deeper depths. This underwater rating is critical for underwater camera enclosures too.

3) Always Have A Current Backup

If you take your phone everywhere you go, you should be backing it up regularly. Your phone may be in danger. Not just if your iPhone gets wet.

Setting the phone up for regular cloud backups may help. But since we often travel with bad wifi connectivity, I chose to do manual backups to my computer. It was a good thing that I am pretty careful about doing regular backups before we travel. And this time, as soon as my iPhone got wet.

4) Warranty Coverage May Help

Most standard warranties will not cover accidental damage. I added Apple Care which gave me two years of coverage. And there was a nominal charge for accidental damage. Unfortunately, my Apple Care had already expired when I learned what happens when my iPhone gets wet.

We even checked to see if our credit card would cover the damage. We found out that our credit card added one year to the manufacturer’s warranty only. So it did give me one year past the expiration of my Apple Care.

Since we buy our phones outright and not through a cell phone plan, we also did not have an option to go to our cell phone provider. Check to see if your cell plan covers accidental damage. Or if it is time for a phone upgrade. Neither of these options were open to me.

5) Know What To Do If Your iPhone Gets Wet

I immediately checked the internet for what to do if my iPhone gets wet. I followed all the steps. But I was probably doomed by the salt water. There were lots of stories online about success. But none if your iPhone gets wet when scuba diving with a leaky underwater enclosure.

6) Don’t Put Your Phone At Risk If You Can’t Afford To Lose It

If you really need your phone, don’t put it at risk.  Maybe leave your phone behind if it can get damaged or wet. If the information on your smart phone is critical, make sure the only copy is not on your phone. The cost to replace your phone if you don’t have warranty coverage is not trivial. If you can’t afford to replace the phone, keep it in a safe place.

I Wish I Didn’t Have To Learn What Happens If My iPhone Gets Wet

I sure wish I had not taken my iPhone scuba diving in Grand Cayman I did not really want to learn what happens if my iPhone gets wet. In my case, it may have been the worst case scenario from a cost perspective. But I did have a good backup of the information on my phone. In a few hours after my phone was replaced, I was back in action.

I managed just fine for most of our 16 days in Grand Cayman without my iPhone. I had options for taking photos and keeping up with social media. And we got a bit of a break from being constantly online.

But in the future, I am not risking my iPhone by taking it in the water. We are already researching options for a second underwater camera.

Do you put your cell phone at risk when you travel? Do you really want to experience what it feels like when your iPhone gets wet?

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About TravelAtWill 503 Articles
Travel blogger and photographer! Scuba diving, luxury cruising, chocoholic, sea and sunshine addicts, camera attached and just generally curious! Join us on our adventures!

32 Comments

  1. I brought my Samsung and did a snorkel thing which was fine but when I got to charge, there was still water in the charging bay and created a small zap, needless to say the phone was gone even though it was waterproof, lol

  2. That sucks when that happens! Great tips though – the option you choose is key. Have you tried the dry rice method and putting your phone there to dry off? I’ve had good success with this. (But I’m sure the Apple istore won’t approve that) Sorry to hear this, but great tips for anyone to take away.

    • Dorene, I think that part of the issue was that the water was salt water. So even though it seemed to drip dry, there was like some salt left behind. I hope someone else may learn from my mistakes. Linda

  3. Really good advice. Even though I have a number of bags that supposedly can keep a phone dry (I don’t dive; just snorkel), I’ve never been brave enough to put my phone in them. I, too, heard about the dry rice method, but I agree that the salt water probably killed it. I finally broke down and just got a Go Pro for my last trip. On another note, your underwater photography is stunning! I only wish I had half that talent!

    • Merryn, I have a number of bags too and have always resisted the temptation to put my phone fully submersed. I wish I had followed my gut. The knock off GoPro was such a disappointment. Maybe I have to look at a real model. Thanks for the comment on our underwater photography. Linda

  4. Wow, that Canon G12 took some awesome underwater pictures. I was really afraid to take my iPhone when I went diving, I know I would have been neurotic about trying to fix it if it got wet. Great tips!

  5. The only camera I have had no issues with underwater is the GoPro. If you get a good one, they shoot RAW stills so the quality is on par with the DSLR. There are some limitations in regards to lenses, but I’ve enjoyed using it alongside my DSLR. Thanks for sharing your experience, I won’t use my phone underwater!

  6. My One Plus phone works fine even after getting wet though it does not have a certification. But I am sure iPhone users will find this post very useful. By the way, I loved few underwater pictures shot by Canon that you have posted in your blog – really good!

    • Shreya, I am sure that submerging the iPhone in salt water for 45 minutes (at scuba diving depths) put the phone right out of its comfort level. I am so happy we have another option. Linda

  7. Oh, what a bummer that you ended up losing your iphone despite little glimmers of hope. Do you think this would be covered under “travel insurance”? Nonetheless, you do offer some great tips on how to protect your iphone and starting with the underwater enclosure is the first thing to check out. Great tips for other scuba divers.

    • Rosemary, I actually did not check with my home insurance to see. Unfortunately I have a high deductible and would have still had to pay this repair bill. I did not know all the options before risking putting my phone in “danger”. So that is another lesson for me. I scrambled after the fact. Linda

  8. So sad, but I appreciate you sharing your learnings so that hopefully we won’t run into the same issue. I actually didn’t even know that you could get an underwater enclosure for your phone for diving. So many cool things we can do with our phones now!

  9. I was a little panicked reading this! Does that make me sad or normal, I’m not sure! I’ve not photographed anything underwater (yet) but would be super careful not to bring my phone. As you mentioned, if you can’t afford for anything to happen to it, best leave it somewhere safe.

    • Lisa, Sometimes we just need to listen to our inner voices more. I knew I should not take my phone in the water. Even in an underwater case. I will leave it safe next time. Linda

  10. GOsh, that was some risk you too. I fiddled with it for a while but chose to not risk my phone. I use a SJCam for my underwater pics but I am no where close to the kind of pics you take. I am in awe of them

    • Ami, We are definitely looking for a second option that is NOT my iPhone. I will look at the SJCam. We have one great underwater camera. But a second one would still be nice some days. Linda

  11. That was one learning experience , glad you shared.
    I am no underwater expert yet, your pics make me crave to learn the skill. I will be super careful about using my phone then.

  12. I had a case that was supposed to be waterproof but it just wasn’t. So now I use my gopro for snorkeling and diving.

    • Nicole, We too thought this case was waterproof. But I should have stopped when the seal did not look 100%. We are definitely looking for an option for second underwater camera. Linda

  13. That would be devasting! Yet, you did get a break in being able to back it up before you lost it. I haven’t relied on my phone for photos but know so many people who do and am always jealous they aren’t lugging around a big camera

    • Sherianne, I was quite panicked when I realized that water was coming in. Fretted for a day. But then just got annoyed with myself for risking it. Good thing we had a good underwater camera as a backup. Linda

  14. Great tips! So brave of you to take your phone diving. I would be totally worried and not able to concentrate on breathing. I agree, I think the salt water is what killed it that’s what happened to me last year in Bali with my GoPro.

    • Debra, As soon as I saw the water in the case, I was quite distracted through that drive. And for days after. I am sure the salt water was the nail in the phone coffin. Linda

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