Eight tips to watch for if you water-damage your Smartphone

The Tale of woe

So I went swimming in the sea while I was on holiday.  We've all done it, many times.  What was different this time was that my Smartphone went swimming too.  Not by design and not through choice.  A moment's distraction, a splash and it was all over.  Thing is: I didn't realise it was in my pocket until about 15 minutes later, by which time I'd been snorkelling and the phone had completely drowned.
As soon as I realised the phone was in my pocket, I got out, took the phone apart and took the battery out.  Then I rinsed it with the fresh water from my water bottle and dried it in the sun.  I went to town later on and even bought a set of small screwdrivers so I could dismantle the phone and rinse and dry it out properly.  As it was the first time I had dismantled my phone I looked on the Internet for instructions and soon the phone was in bits in a shallow dish being gently rinsed and cleaned with a toothbrush then dried carefully leaving the phone overnight to dry completely.

After re-assembling the phone I popped the battery in, not expecting much, and sure enough the phone remained as dead as a dodo. Not even a flicker of life. Not looking good.  I was fortunate in that my good lady wife has the same phone, so I tested my battery in her phone - it was fine - and testing her battery in my phone confirmed that my phone was still dead.  (Apple users can't easily do this as Apple have made their phones without a battery cover).  So that was that. With the phone looking dead I carefully put it to one side and got on with the holiday resolving to have another look when I got home.

The Long Wait
Holiday over, all safely home and taking stock of the situation:
  • Can I get the phone working now I'm home with all my kit around me? Answer: No.  Phone still inoperative despite further cleaning and probing with alcohol and swabs
  • Have I another phone I can use in the meantime? Answer: Yes.  My old 2006 vintage Sony Ericsson K800i
  • Can I live without a Smartphone? Answer Looks like I'm about to find out... :o(
  • What are the arrangements with the Travel Insurance - am I covered and with which policy?

First things first. I transferred my SIM to the K800i, charged it and turned it on.  Success! Welcome to Orange.  I'm back on the air.  Next, insurance.  We had ceased the phone-specific insurance within the first month of owning the phone, so we now had two avenues for cover here - our Travel insurance and our Household Contents insurance.    After ringing both firms and discussing the matter with them, we found that the Household Policy covered the phone but with a £200 excess and I lose a 10% NCB.  I was assured this was a Good Deal.  I disagreed.

I then spoke with Nationwide, as one benefit of our bank account is that it comes with free Travel Insurance.  They were a lot more helpful, and sent me the forms I needed to complete so they could assess my claim.  Quite rightly they wanted to know:
  • Did I really own the phone?
  • Was I really on holiday at the time?
  • Was it really damaged and beyond economical repair?
  • Was there any other insurance for the phone?
  • What was the likely cost of replacement?
The Damaged Repair
All of these were easy to answer - except that for the 'damaged beyond economical repair' I needed a report from a recognised repair company that confirmed the status of the phone. Easy, I thought.  Just take the phone to an Orange Shop. Nope.  "We don't do repairs, sir, we'd have to send it to HTC"  This seemed to be the consistent story for all the high-street shops regarding repairs.  So, using the Power of the Internet, I located a M Blue Ltd in Essex who "are highly experienced in water damage repairs". The cost? £34.99 including return delivery.  This looked fine.  The process would take three days and I would get a repaired phone or a report back that confirms the phone is irreperable.  So I sent the phone off to them, wrapped and protected - and complete - and then I waited for the report.  Their service was quick and their communication excellent.  It's just a shame that they did not take proper care of the phone while it was with them.  It was returned with two parts of the case broken, two screws missing and not properly assembled.  I sent them photographs of the phone as it arrived back to complain about their lack of care and these are included below:
Their reply?
"It is clear from your order submission that the device has been opened before sending it to us and on arrival we have found it to be in a rough state. Our technicians are trained to repair to a high standard and not to damage devices in the way you claim."

Now I know this is not true, but it's my word against theirs.  The phone was sent to them water damaged but physically complete and sound.  It was returned with further damage to the case showing a lack of care on the part of their engineers. My worry - which was expressed to them - was that their poor quality of care and workmanship would be reflected in all their repairs, so on that basis I cannot recommend this company at all for your phone repairs.  Instead, I do recommend that if you have to return your phone for repair, you take a photo of your phone alongside the box you use to send off the phone and include a print of the photo in with the parcel as you send it off.  This way, you stand a better chance of arguing your case if they do not take care of the device.

Back to the insurance claim.  This took a long time to settle, partially because the insurance company were "just starting to use a new system" and were "busier than normal" (these do seem to be stock excuses!!) but if you've not heard anything from them, ring them weekly, note the details of the call (because they will do the same) and try to see if you can hurry things along.

One thing to watch for is if the insurance company need to check something with another company.  The odds are that if Insurance Company A need to check something with Company B, Company B will not be able to give information about you to Insurance Company A because of the Data Protection Act.  If this is the case, find out what the Insurance Company want, agree that you'll ask for it and how you'll supply it, and get it yourself.  However, realise that even with all the chasing in the world, it still takes too long to process a claim.  I started my claim for the water-damaged phone in September, when I returned from holiday and finally got a settlement in November.

Top Tips:
  1. Make sure you make a point of putting your phone safely in your belongings when you go swimming - or better still don't take it to the beach at all
  2. If your phone gets soaked like this, turn it off. Take out the battery as soon as you can. Disconnecting the battery stops any electrical currents going where they shouldn't and protects the phone from further damage.
  3. Cleaning. Dismantle the phone - carefully - and then clean out all the salt from the sea as gently as you can.  Ideally you should use iso-propyl alcohol as this is the cleanest cleaner you can get, but this is not always possible.  Equally important is to dry the phone thoroughly but gently so that all traces of moisture are removed.  Drying involves three stages.  Stage 1 is blotting all parts with a paper towel or tissue, stage 2 is gentle heat from a hair dryer or similar and finally (if necessary) stage 3 is to store the phone components overnight in a sealed container with a desiccant such as silica gel or uncooked rice.
  4. Always have a spare working phone somewhere available - just in case.
  5. Always be sure what your insurance polices provide in the way of cover for your smartphone - you may not need to take out insurance when you buy a new phone, but you should satisfy yourself that the cover you've got is the cover you need.
  6. If you're sending your phone to be repaired, take a photo of it as you send it to record its state as sent for repair.
  7. Make a note of all calls you make, when they were made, who you spoke to and what was discussed - including the state of the claim.
  8. Help the Insurance Company get hold of information if they need it.  It hurries things along.


  1. Follow tip 1 and tips 2-8 become irrelevant! Or, own a phone that survives water damage... like mine!

  2. Very few phones would survive a 15-minute immersion to two or three metres under the water....

  3. There are numerous advantages of Mobile Phone Insurance. Mobile Phone Insurance helps you bear the cost of mobile phone when it is stolen or damage. The foremost advantage of Mobile Phone Insurance is that it saves you a lot of money and top of all it reduce the level of stress when your mobile phone is loss. Mobile phone insurance holders are provided with alluring insurance facilities. This insurance also covers damages caused by water. If you have mobile phone insurance then there is no need to worry about your phone.

  4. Andy - there are advantages, true, but as I had the cover I wanted (and indeed was able to make use of that cover) there seemed little point in paying out for cover I already had. Particularly since you can only make one claim for the loss.