When the Xperia Z family first launched a few years ago, Sony proudly advertised their waterproof capabilities. For almost every generation of phone, up until this year, the hardware manufacturer used imaged of phones being used to take photos in swimming pools, or in the sea, as a way to sell its products. They’ve even come with some impressive-sound IP-rated certificates to prove their durability under water. And, while the the Xperia Z5 range comes with IP68 rated waterproofing, you might want to refrain from taking them to the beach to take your own underwater pics…

As spotted by the Sony enthusiasts at Xperia Blog, the Android OEM’s guidance on how to use these new, water-resistant phones has changed completely. Sony’s support pages on water and dust protection explicitly state “not to use the device underwater.” This makes it absolutely clear, it may say that it has water-proof qualities in its marketing, but that doesn’t mean you should take it swimming to snap creative pics in the ocean. Almost as if to justify its marketing, the Japanese tech giant explains that “The IP rating of your device was achieved in laboratory conditions in standby mode, so you should not use the device underwater, such as taking pictures.

In specific reference to the Z5, Sony says that its testing involves being placed gently in a container filled with clean tap water, being left for 30 mins and taken out again, gently. No swishing around, no using the phone while it’s submerged, no rigorous testing of real-life uses. Just dropped in to some water, and taken out again. The following disclaimer makes it even clearer:

Moving or operating the device while it is submerged is not tested during the laboratory tests. There are also many environmental factors which we could not assess (e.g. water movement or water pressure changes during the movement), if a device is used underwater. Therefore we recommend not submerge our Xperia Z5 in water.

We can speculate as to why the change of  heart has taken place, but in cases like these, it’s almost always about money. Having to repair or replace phones under warranty, at no cost to the customer, when phones get water-damaged has a negative impact on the mobile division’s already troubled finances. Still, I find it incredibly disappointing to see Sony backtrack on one of its biggest selling points.

Xperia-Z3-marketing

It wasn’t that long ago Sony was using pictures like this to encourage underwater use…

For a long time, as already mentioned, the Xperia series’ was proudly shown off in ads. It was a big, unique selling point that undoubtedly will have influenced buying decisions from real customers, with real money. The sad part is that the IP68-rated waterproof certification will undoubtedly be used heavily marketing again with the Xperia Z5, Z5 Compact and Z5 Premium. People will buy these phones thinking they can go on their vacations to the beach, or to the pool, take awesome pictures underwater in full confidence that their device can handle the rigors of a chlorine pool, or the sea. They won’t have read the terms advising you not to use the device in water. All you’re ‘technically’ protected against is “gently” putting the phone in a small amount of water, leaving it there, and “gently” removing it.

This time, I can’t help but feel that Sony should remove all instances where the phone is called “waterproof” in its marketing, and replace it instead with something like water-resistant, or splash-proof. It’s clearly more capable of dealing with water and moisture than most phones, but waterproof it isn’t. At least, not in the way that applies to the vast majority of consumers. Can you answer your phone in the rain, or drop it in the sink accidentally? Sure. Just don’t think you’re being encouraged to go snorkeling with a smartphone, because if it dies underwater, Sony will point you to its support pages where it says clearly ‘don’t do it’. Before shrugging and saying “sorry, it’s not covered under your warranty.”

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