Explained: What are IP ratings in smartphones and earphones, and how are they calculated- Technology News, Firstpost

All mobile devices nowadays – smartphones, tablets, wireless earphones, TWS earbuds etc. come with an IP rating. Now, people who follow tech closely, and people who 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, there are a lot of people who do not necessarily understand what IP ratings are, and how are they calculated.

We take a look into IP ratings, what exactly do they tell about a device and how are they determined.

What is an IP rating?
An IP rating is basically a code that determines how easy is it for water and/or dust particles to get inside a piece of tech. IP ratings measures the ingress ability of water and dust particles inside a piece of tech, so in effect, it measures the effectiveness of the different seals and designs that manufacturers implement when it comes to keeping liquids, dust and dirt out. 

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

The standard for determining these ratings was developed by the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) and is published under the title IEC 60529. Any device that is not tested by the IEC does not have an official IP rating. Having said that, certification from the IEC costs money, and a ton of manufacturers do not send in their devices, despite of sealing their devices 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 writen down as IPXX or IP68, it shouldn’t be read as IP sixty eight. Rather, 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 liquids, 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 basically 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 rated.

Do keep in mind that a rating of X does not mean that it has a rating of zero(0). It simply means that because the manufacturer hasn’t requested a certain section of the evaluation, 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 diametre and greater 
  • 2 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 12.5mm in diametre and greater 
  • 3 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 2.5mm in diametre and greater 
  • 4 – Protected against solid foreign objects of 1.0mm in diametre and greater 
  • 5 – Dust protected, which means that very few particles get in and those that do, do no 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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