DO NOT USE Waterproof Smartphone in Sea Salt Water!

On my recent trip to Hawaii, I broke two of my smartphones while using them in sea salt water to take videos of corals while snorkeling, I broke my Galaxy S9 Plus and my Pixel 2 XL.  In this video, I show you what happens if your smartphone seal breaks in sea salt water and also how to minimize damage from salt water corrosion by disassembling both my S9 Plus and Pixel 2 XL.  I’ve taken all my waterproof phones(with IP67 or IP68 rating) diving in swimming pools and even in 100+ degree temp spa many times but I have NEVER actually broken a smartphone from water until last week.

If you absolutely must use your phone in sea salt water, just make sure to rinse it thoroughly BEFORE it dries and also use a toothbrush to clean your USB port as salt water droplets like to stay in there even if you rinse it well.

So first I took the back glass off. Nothing too unusual here. Upon taking the plastic enclosure off, ouch. Salt water had literally corroded many of the smaller chips, rendering my Galaxy S9 Plus completely useless. Now, this happened while in water, and my phone shut off while recording video of corals when I was snorkeling. You can see some rust forming already, this is bad.

Taking a closer look at the back glass cover, you can clearly see where the salt water seeped through, on the bottom camera lens housing. And that really boggled my mind as I imagined it was the USB port that had corroded.

Now, what most likely happened was that in my first outing I didn’t rinse the phone off and some of the salt water driplets had gotten into the camera housing, and I suspect there is some metal there. And in my second outing next day, the corrosion that happened during the first dry offmade the camera housing weak, and salt water just came through. And I admit I actually this phone like 10 feet under water while diving, that probably didn’t help either.

Taking it further apart to see any more damage, the camera was just fine. Upon taking the motherboard off and, you can clearly see salt water is bad for the phone. But surprisingly, the Galaxy S9 Plus held up pretty well as this showed evidence of small amount of salt water entering the phone, it definitely didn’t fill up the whole internals with salt water. On the opposite, you can see that none of the salt water actually touched the back.

Upon inspecting the metal frame, also salt water had not affected it much other than this small evidence of salt by the screw hole here. Upon inspecting the LCD flex cable, there was no damage. The good news here is that I should be able to re-use the AMOLED screen fine.

Now, initially I thought water had entered through the USB Type C port. Upon taking a closer look at the USB port module, no salt water actually had entered it. But the metal connections on the USB port were definitely corroded. And this was obviously because I didn’t rinse off my phone.

Upon taking the camera module apart from the motherboard, you can clearly see where the salt water had entered the phone by the second camera and that aligns up with the back glass where water had entered. Also taking a look at the fingerprint sensor, the adhesive held up just fine.

Overall, the motherboard was destroyed but everything else was fine, I should be able to repair with a new motherboard.

Now, after breaking my S9 Plus, I started using my Pixel 2 XL. And I was very careful to rinse off the phone. But it still broke on day 2, not in the water but after I dried it and charged it the next day. Let’s take a closer look.

Upon taking the screen off the Pixel 2 XL , there was no apparent damage from the water.

Upon taking the housing off, there was no apparent damage here either. After taking the motherboard apart, there was zero water damage. In fact, the innards of Pixel 2 XL was squeaky clean.

I suspected the USB port might have corroded and shorted the phone. Upon taking the USB module apart, there was no damage to the internal part of it but there was clear corrosion at the connections of the USB port. It seems that even after I rinsed the phone, some of the salt dripplets remain on the phone and when they dry it corrodes the USB metal connections. I should have used a toothbrush and I think it would have been fine.  Now, this is probably easily fixable with a USB module replacement, which I ordered already on ebay and I will give you guys an update once I fix it.

 

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Max Lee

Max Lee is the founder of HighOnAndroid.com. Max makes Android tutorials and review videos for people who want to get high on Android over at his YouTube channel and Korean YouTube channel.