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Apple Watch is waterproof, but is it really safe to put it in water?

Apple Watches come with a workout recognition feature. If a user exercises for a certain period, the watch detects it and calculates how long the workout lasted and how many calories were burned. The types of workouts it can recognize are varied. Walking and running are basics, but it can also accurately analyze biking, using a rowing machine, and climbing stairs.

Measuring workouts with an Apple Watch (Source: Apple)

I was curious about what exercises supported by the Apple Watch that I haven’t tried yet, so I checked the list. Then, I noticed ‘swimming’. It’s rare to swim with a regular watch on, but it’s quite imaginable to swim with a smartwatch on. But wouldn’t the Apple Watch break if water gets into it while swimming?

Most smartwatches for exercise support waterproofing… what’s the principle?

Most smartwatches that are released these days with built-in exercise-related features support waterproofing. This is because they need basic waterproofing features to prevent malfunction due to sweat getting into the device during workouts.

If you disassemble a waterproof electronic device, you will see that the gaps where water could get in are sealed with adhesive or rubber. These sealed parts are called waterproof seals. The waterproof performance of the device is determined by how well the seal blocks the water.

A disassembled Apple Watch (Source: iFixit)

If you look at the disassembled Apple Watch by the U.S. electronic device repair company ‘iFixit’, you can see the waterproof seal between the display and the frame. The Apple Watch Ultra even includes a waterproof rubber ring called an ‘O-Ring’ inside the screws that secure the back of the watch.

The waterproof seal is designed to fit the product perfectly as it needs to block the gaps that occur when assembling various parts. If you disassemble the device, the seal can twist or stretch, creating gaps and reducing the waterproof performance. Therefore, it is advisable to keep any smartwatch that has been disassembled or repaired at least once away from water as much as possible.

Each product has a different waterproof rating… how can you tell if it’s okay to put it in water?

Just because it supports waterproofing doesn’t mean it’s okay to swim with the smartwatch on. When the Apple Watch was first released, there were quite a few cases where the product was damaged or flooded while swimming with the Apple Watch on. Depending on the type of underwater exercise, it may or may not be okay to use it.

So how can you tell if a product is okay to put in water? The most reliable way is to check the manufacturer’s waterproof function guidance.

The first generation Apple Watch only supports life waterproofing (Source: Apple)

Apple announced that you should not immerse the first generation Apple Watch in water. From the second generation Apple Watch, you can use it in shallow water or indoor swimming, but it is not suitable for diving, water skiing, deep diving, or activities in fast-moving water. The Apple Watch Ultra series can dive up to a maximum depth of 131 feet, and it is also possible to water ski, swim, and shower, which were not recommended for the regular model.

The reason why each product has a different tolerance range is due to the difference in waterproof ratings. The higher the waterproof rating, the more it can withstand stronger water pressure. If you look at Apple’s announcement, you can easily guess that the first generation Apple Watch has a low waterproof rating, and the Apple Watch Ultra series has the highest.

It would be good for consumers to know if all smartwatch manufacturers, like Apple, specifically state what underwater exercises are possible. However, some manufacturers simply indicate the international standard waterproof rating. Therefore, it is good to know what underwater exercises are possible depending on the waterproof rating.

Dust/waterproof performance by IP rating (Source: Eyecatchmedia)

When we talk about waterproof ratings, we often think of the notation starting with the letters IP, like IP54, IP68. The two digits after IP represent the ‘dustproof rating’ and ‘waterproof rating’, respectively. The first digit indicates how well it blocks dust and foreign substances, and the second digit indicates how well it prevents flooding. The higher the number, the better it blocks dust and water. The highest waterproof rating is IPX8, which is awarded when it is possible to dive at a depth of 3.3 feet.

However, watches use a slightly different standard. Instead of the IP rating, they display the waterproof rating according to the international standard ‘ISO 22810:2010’. This is a standard rating that indicates how much it can withstand at higher water pressures than IPX8. Although smartwatches are electronic devices, they are used as watches, so they display waterproof performance according to the ISO 22810:2010 standard.

What is the waterproof rating of the Apple Watch? Is it okay to immerse it in water?

The first generation Apple Watch only supports IPX7-rated life waterproofing. It does not even meet the minimum standard of ISO 22810:2010. It can be used in environments where water splashes a little or in the rain, but it is not completely waterproof, so it is not recommended to use it underwater.

Apple Watches have been swim-proof since the second generation (Source: Apple)

Apple Watches from the second generation onwards support 5ATM water resistance according to the ISO 22810:2010 standard. 1ATM signifies one atmosphere, which is equivalent to the pressure exerted by a 33.9 feet high column of water. A product is said to support 5ATM water resistance if it can withstand being submerged in water at a depth of 164 feet for 10 minutes. Products with 5ATM water resistance can be worn while swimming and during light snorkeling.

The Apple Watch Ultra series supports a higher water resistance of 10ATM. According to the standard, it maintains its water resistance even at a depth of 328 feet. You can wear it even when enjoying water sports that involve a lot of splashing, like jet skiing. The Apple Watch Ultra series has also passed the European standard EN13319 test, which means it has high water resistance that prevents it from getting waterlogged even when diving.

Apple Watches from the second generation onwards are suitable for underwater activities… ‘Ultra’ is recommended for sports

However, just because a watch has obtained a water resistance standard, it doesn’t guarantee that it will always perfectly prevent water from entering under all usage conditions. Therefore, the manufacturer has separately announced some precautions.

Apple recommends not to go scuba diving, diving, or water skiing while wearing models from the Apple Watch second generation onwards. It’s also forbidden to use it in fast-flowing water. The Apple Watch Ultra series is also limited to use in environments within a depth of 131 feet.

The water resistance of the Apple Watch Ultra is higher than that of the regular Apple Watch (Source: Apple)

According to the standard, the Apple Watch Ultra series does not get waterlogged even at a depth of 328 feet. However, Apple has prohibited its use in water deeper than 131 feet. This is because the conditions of the water resistance test and the actual usage environment are different.

Tests to measure the water resistance rating are conducted in calm water. In contrast, in actual usage environments, the water pressure is not always constant. When swimming, the pressure increases momentarily when the hand hits the water surface, and the pressure rises when the speed increases underwater. If the water pressure exceeds the pressure that the water seal can withstand even for a moment, there is a possibility that the device may become waterlogged. Therefore, it is advisable to stick to the usage environment recommended by the manufacturer rather than the standard water resistance criteria.

Wipe off any water that has come into contact with the Apple Watch and use the ‘Water Eject’ feature

If you wear your Apple Watch and go in the water, water may remain in the gaps between the parts or inside the speaker. Especially if water fills the speaker, the sound becomes muffled, so it’s best to get the water out as soon as possible.

The process of using the ‘Water Eject’ feature to remove water from the speaker (Source: MacRumors)

If water has entered the speaker of the Apple Watch, try using the ‘Water Eject’ feature. When you click on the water droplet icon in the ‘Control Center’ of the Apple Watch, the ‘Water Lock’ feature, which prevents unintended touch recognition underwater, is activated. If you press and hold the side crown in this state, the water ejection feature turns on. For about 3 seconds, the speaker driver vibrates at high speed, pushing out any water trapped inside.

Meanwhile, even though the Apple Watch supports water resistance, it’s best to avoid sea water or muddy water as much as possible. The salt contained in sea water can damage the product coating or water seal, and if dirt enters the speaker, the driver may get damaged and the sound may not play properly.

If you go into the sea or water with poor water quality, you should rinse the Apple Watch with clean water as soon as possible. Even the water in the swimming pool contains disinfectants, so rather than leaving it as it is even if you can’t see the impurities, it’s better to rinse it with clean water and wipe it off with a dry cloth.

Is it okay to soak the Apple Watch in water?

1. The Apple Watch has a water seal that prevents water from penetrating inside.

2. Models from the Apple Watch second generation onwards are okay to be soaked in water as long as the water seal is not damaged.

3. For activities such as diving, scuba diving, and water skiing, it’s recommended to use the Apple Watch Ultra series, which has a higher water resistance rating.

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