Category: Waterproof Strategies

Liquipel 2.0 Released, Claims to be Improved

Liquipel 2.0 Watersafe Technology for iPhone

Liquipel, the inventors of a nanotechnology coating that repels water, used CES 2013 to announce the next offering in their phone protection line, what that they are branding as Liquipel 2.0.  After reviewing the materials there are some interesting developments, but a lot of questions as well.

Liquipel 2.0 has a big shoes to fill, considering that the original Liquipel did not work (see Liquipel Does Not Waterproof Your iPhone). Leo Laporte’s iPhone drowned on live TV, but this test was considered outside of Liquipel’s application and use. However, at the time they were saying that it waterproofed your phone.  After, the product was reclassified as making your phone ‘watersafe’, meaning it can stand brief exposure to liquids. To Liquipel’s credit, they have been somewhat more forthcoming in their description of watersafe.

What’s New With Liquipel 2.0?

“Liquipel 2.0 – even more protection from water more efficiently”
                                                             -company website

One thing that is not new with Liquipel 2.0 is that the company continues generalities that don’t really say anything. This is what was most frustrating with the original Liquipel, because they were promising something that was not. Customers were paying a lot of money for this service and being misled, and potentially damaging phones when they thought they were safe.

Well, we are in the same boat again. A video on the Liquipel website describes the version 2.0 as “the latest development in liquid repellent technology” and is “a much stronger process than 1.0”.  They go on to say that they have “sourced PHDs and material scientists and leaders in the field”.

That all sounds great, but what about the product?

The strange thing is that, beyond the video introducing Liquipel 2.0, it is not to be found on the website. When you go to order Liquipel at the price of $59.99, you don’t see anything about Liquipel 2.0. This is strange because you would think that they would want to sell this new product.

Retail Stores

One thing the owners note in the video is that they are moving towards a wider retail network distribution. Imagine having Liquipel at a kiosk in the mall where you could have the service performed while you shop. Moving to a retail store network seems to solve their biggest problems of turnaround and distribution. Having to pay for, mail in, and wait for your phone is a major pain and probably the number one reason people don’t buy. Being able to get the service conveniently will increase conversions, let alone it expose it to customers who have not seen the product and may be interested.

Pre-treated Phones

An interesting development on the Liquipel website is that they have begun selling phones pre-treated with nanotechnology coating. The only phones they have are Samsung Galaxy S III (AT&T, Verizon, $749) and the Apple iPhone 5 16GB black (AT&T, Verizon, $749).  Note that this is a $100 premium on the iPhone 5, when compared to Apple’s website.  $100? I thought the service cost $59? Where does the extra $40 in cost come from? This honestly doesn’t make sense. Are they a licensed retailer, or are they going into Apple stores, buying phones, opening them up and treating them? What is going on?

They are also reselling the pre-treated inventory (retail $749) to any retailer who wants it. And, where is the retailer’s margin again?

There is some time savings with getting the phone pre-treated. Either way, it seems you are better off buying the phone regularly and sending it in. Besides, most people buy on contract, anyway.

A Liquipel Guarantee?

In their Liquipel 2.0 video, the owners talk vaguely about a new performance guarantee:

“We are so confident in Liquipel 2.0 that we are offering a Liquipel Performance Guarantee. In the event that a customer were to water damage their device, we would be able to help them get a replacement.”

What does this mean? This could be anything. It doesn’t sound like they are buying you a phone or paying anything. Perhaps they direct you to the website of your phone carrier and say “good luck”.

This seems very risky due to the uncertain rating of the Liquipel system. It cannot be discerned how much water drowns a phone and how much is repelled, and it seems a fine line. This guarantee is not mentioned yet on the website so it will be interesting to see the terms.

 

Liquipel Available for iPhone 5

Liquipel Watersafe iPhone 5
While they probably didn’t incur much retooling cost, Liquipel is now offering their ‘watersafe’ service for the iPhone 5. This nano-technology coating is applied to your entire phone, creating what the company calls ‘Drench and Dunk’ protection:

“Protection from brief, heavy, accidental water contact. By heavy we mean things like a sudden torrential downpour or even a quick surprise push into a pool.”

Our review of Liquipel made it clear that this does not waterproof your iPhone. Leo Laporte’s test confirmed this. However, for short submersion the technology may work. Unlike a case, it adds no bulk and may save your $700 device in the event it goes for a swim.

The main problem is that Liquipel’s guidelines are so nebulous. They do not have a depth or time rating for the device being in water. Moreover, there is no way to know if the coating is still functioning over time. There is no guarantee that your situation will conform to their loose ‘guidelines’. Their disclaimer says as much:

“Disclaimer: Liquipel applies a preventative coating designed to aid in the event of accidental liquid exposure, and assumes no responsibility for water damaged devices. Liquipel does not recommend your device ever come in contact with liquid.”

The Liquipel service starts at $59 + shipping. They also sell ‘Gadget Film’ for an additional $20, which is a fancy word for a screen protector. Instead of spending time calling this Gadget Film highway robbery what it really is, one can simply head to Amazon and buy one for under $3.

Liquipel Does Not Waterproof Your iPhone

Liquipel LogoA few months back, there was a viral video that espoused a new technology called Liquipel that literally repelled water away from the treated surface. The video showed treated surfaces acting as an invisible wall against water, which would maintain its dancing liquid form at the perimeter. When applied to phones, Liquipel claimed that the process ‘waterproofed’ your phone completely (keep reading).

In a YouTube comment, they described the technology as such:

“Liquipel uses a proprietary nano coating technology that is able to “inject” a coating that is a 1000 times thinner than a human hair which permeates the device entirely. It allows current to pass between components so it doesn’t affect the battery connection or the audio jack as you asked, while on a microscopic level the water molecules are actually “hovering” above the surfaces of the device. It’s truly a next level technology that will free us from the fear of water and electronics”

Interesting stuff, and nano-technology is definitely the future. Despite all of the hype, excitement, and viral video sharing, it seems Liquipel does not perform as promised and seems more like snake oil than magical phone protector.

The Tech Guy Tests his Liquipeled iPhone on Air

Leo Laporte hosts a technology focused podcast/radio show that reviews the latest tech gadgets. On episode 91, his phone is returned to him from Liquipel and he tests it on air.  Start the video around the 27 minute mark:

Leo Laporte 91 – Liquipel iPhone Test

The best part is the accompanying warning telling the user not to drop it in water!

While the phone initially worked upon removing it from water, the long term results were not good – check out 1:13:45 of the clip for the results. Leo says,

“Will it turn on? I killed it. Its not turning on. Our review is in on Liquipel: you can do it, just don’t get your phone wet afterwards”

The lesson here is that all sorts of writers jumped on the Liquipel bandwagon long before they ever thought of testing it themselves. In the end, they did their readers a great disservice. Leo followed the scientific method and drowned his iPhone so that others would not.

Liquipel Changes Their Story

Initially, Liquipel claimed that their technology waterproofed electronic devices: phones, ipads, whatever. As it turns out, this was not accurate. The company since changed their branding to say that the product is WaterSafe, a term they created (which conveniently allows them to define it). While they do not say exactly what this term means, their FAQ’s on their website say it all:

My device was treated with Liquipel; can I take it swimming or surfing?
No, the Liquipel treatment is a preventative coating and is meant to protect the internal, vital components of electronics from liquid corrosion in the event of accidental liquid exposure. Just as you would not intentionally throw your device on the ground after purchasing a case, you would not want to intentionally submerge your device in liquid after having Liquipel applied.

So it is not waterproof, and we are not sure what WaterSafe means. It seems like they are marketing this as a preventative measure that may or may not work.

The Costs

There are a number of costs involved with Liquipelling your phone:

    • Service Cost – Liquipel starts at $59, with additional goofy options (such as ‘Gadget Film’) and rush service that can increase the cost.
    • Shipping Cost – You have to pay to ship your phone to them; they charge you markup for shipping back.
    • Time without phone – You will be without your phone for the roundtrip shipping time + the 1-2 days for them to perform the service. Major headache.
    • Cost of failure – This is the worst cost, in that you pay all of this money and your device still may fail when subjected to water. It is not clear what this ‘service’ protects your phone from and, obviously, they are not liable to replace your phone. You may pay for this and still need to buy a new phone if yours is damaged by water.

Overall, Liquipel is clearly not waterproof and I don’t know if this even counts as water resistant. The definition of WaterSafe is questionable. While they have good marketing and viral videos, the cost coupled with the fact that the product does not work for real users would scare me off as a consumer. Hopefully the technology improves and can be used more confidently in the future.

Why You Should Waterproof your iPhone

Abstract Water Splash
As the owner (or prospective owner) of an Apple iPhone, you can understand how important your phone is to your everyday life.  More than a phone, it truly is your personal computer, by your side at all times.  Besides your lifeline for making phone calls, it is your alarm clock, GPS, music player, web browser, email client, calendar, portable gaming system, and a whole host of other things thanks to the ever expanding app universe.   Leaving it at home feels like going out in public nude; being without it due to repair/replacement is not only financially painful but the emotional equivalent to running a marathon with one lung.

Survey Says

Water is the enemy of electronics. As much as you avoid it, having your phone go for an inadvertent swim happens more times than you think. According to a study by Cellular News:

“The research of 1,065 adults, conducted by TNS, also reveals that four in ten people had already damaged their cell phone by either dropping it in water or spilling liquid on it…”

So 40% (400+!) had damaged their cell phone due to water. One can assume that there is some financial consequence, be it replacement cost or reduced functionality, for each of them. The truth is water damage happens, and it happens, more so than you think. Everywhere you turn, there are sources of water trying to subsume the internal circuitry of your phone. Toilets, rivers, rain, beer, pools, sinks, washing machines. The list is endless. Even small amounts of water can wreck havoc on your phone, disabling both functionality and warranty. Based on your situation, you need to understand how susceptible your phone is to water and how substantial your replacement cost is.

Replacement Costs

If you find yourself in the unfortunate 40% of users with a water logged phone, you will incur a number of costs in order to rectify the situation:

  • Phone Replacement – First and foremost, you need a new phone. If you are up for renewal on your wireless plan, you are in OK shape. However, to get the same phone you may need to pay $100+ and sign another binding 2 year contract. If you are still in contract, the options are much worse. New iPhones start around $400, with new releases being even more expensive. Refurbished options exist, and you can pay to break your contract. But this is probably the biggest liability of water damage: how do you get a new phone?
  • Cost of Insurance – Generally, I do not find phone insurance a good deal. Besides the monthly premiums, you have a huge ($200+) deductible to pay to get a new phone. Perhaps it depends how risk-prone you are, but even with phone insurance, you are still looking at an outlay of cash should your phone take on too much water.
  • Hassle – Hopefully you have never experienced it, but it is a huge hassle to replace your phone. Besides being out of touch completely, you often have to drive to the store to purchase it, activate it, pay fees, reprogram your phone/data and redownload apps. All a major time sink. I can assure you it is not as fun as when you first got your phone.
Preventative Measures

Now that we know the risks and the associated costs of failure, we can analyze ways to protect your phone from water:

  • Being Careful – While definitely the cheapest option, it is not fool proof (just ask the other 40%). There is too much that is out of your control. That said, you can protect it cheaply during high risk (e.g. water park) environments. For example, throw it in a Ziploc bag or keep it in the car.
  • Insurance – A possible option, but it may instill a “don’t worry about it as I have insurance attitude”. Moreover, the monthly premiums and huge deductible literally add up. Also, you may not even need it.
  • Waterproof Cases – Waterproof cases offer a huge advantage that your phone is always waterproof. For the initial cost ($50-$100) you take away the random risk factor, assuming you use it. However, waterproof phones can be bulky to use and limit some features. They also increase the size of your iPhone. While you are always protected, there is a definite cost of that protection.

In the end, you need to examine your situation and how at-risk you are to water damage. Then, make a decision about how to protect your phone from water.