WHAT ARE IP RATINGS IN SMARTPHONES AND EARPHONES, AND HOW ARE THEY CALCULATED

Nowadays, all mobile devices – smartphones, tablets, wireless earphones, TWS earbuds- come with an IP rating. People who follow tech closely and do thorough research before investing their money into a piece of tech will know what an IP rating is. The iPhone 13, for example, is rated at IP 68, whereas the second-generation AirPods have an IPX4 rating.

With that being said, many people do not necessarily understand what IP ratings are and how they are calculated.

We look at IP ratings, what they tell about a device, and how they are determined.

What is an IP rating?
An IP rating is a code that determines how easy water and dust particles can get inside a piece of tech. IP ratings measure the ingress ability of water and dust particles inside a piece of tech. In effect, it measures the effectiveness of the different seals and designs that manufacturers implement to keep liquids, dust, and dirt out.

IP ratings determine how well a device will stand against accidental splashes, drawing in water, or dusty environments. The higher the score, the better the sealing around the device. This, in turn, means that machines with good IP ratings can survive harsher and more demanding usage.

The International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) developed the standard for determining these ratings and published it under the title IEC 60529. Any device not tested by the IEC does not have an official IP rating. Certification from the IEC costs money, and many manufacturers do not send in their devices, despite sealing their machines as per industry standards. Still, it is always better to go for devices that have these ratings certified.

What do the IP numbers mean?
Although the ratings are written down as IPXX or IP68, they shouldn’t be read as IP sixty-eight. Instead, it should be read as IP 6-8 or IP six-eight. Both the digits in a rating have different connotations. The first digit refers to its ability to keep solids out, while the second addresses liquids, like water or sweat. For solids, the highest rating that the IEC gives out is 6, whereas, for drinks, it is 9.

Therefore, a rating like IP 68 means that a device has been rated as 6/6 against dust and other solid particles, whereas for liquids, the same device has been rated as 8/9.

Now, some devices, like the 2nd Gen AirPods, have a score of IPX4. The ‘X’ in this rating means the device has a certain level of protection against dust or solid particles but hasn’t been rated officially. This means that the 2nd gen AirPods scored 4/9 against liquids, but although it does protect against solids, it hasn’t been placed.

Remember that a rating of X does not mean it has a rating of zero(0). It simply means that because the manufacturer hasn’t requested a specific evaluation section, it has been marked X.

How are the devices rated?
For solids, IEC rates the devices on a scale of 6. It rates devices being sent for an evaluation as per the following:

  • 0 – No protection
  • 1 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 50 mm in diameter and greater
  • 2 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 12.5mm in diameter and greater
  • 3 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 2.5mm in diameter and greater
  • 4 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 1.0mm in diameter and greater
  • 5 – Dust protected, which means that very few particles get in, and those that do, do not harm.
  • 6 – Dust tight, or it is almost impossible for dust particles to get in.

For liquids, IEC rates the devices on a scale of 9. It rates devices being sent for an evaluation as per the following:

  • 0 – No protection
  • 1 – Protected against vertically falling water drops
  • 2 – Protected against vertically falling water drops when enclosure tilted up to 15°
  • 3 – Protected against spraying water
  • 4 – Protected against splashing water
  • 5 – Protected against water jets
  • 6 – Protected against powerful water jets
  • 7 – Protected against the effects of temporary immersion in water
  • 8 – Protected against the effects of continuous immersion in water
  • 9 – Protected against high pressure and temperature water jets

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