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Best waterproof Android smartphones money can buy – fall 2015 edition

If you like singing in the rain, swimming in shark-infested waters (literally), and just generally exposing yourselves to various types of liquid interaction while packing Android “heat”, then chances are you’ve been on the prowl for the perfect waterproof phone.

Underwater smartphone

First of all, sorry to break to you, but there’s no such thing. Secondly, even the world’s objectively best waterproof phones often come with limitations as to underwater use. Want a handheld to handle rain drops and shower splashes? Your selection is virtually limitless.

Seeking a device completely impervious to any and all liquid contacts, no matter the time spent immersed, depth and pressure? That’s a lot trickier to find. Be wary of hidden warranty conditions before choosing one of the following ten contenders to the title of world’s best waterproof phone, and make sure you understand the difference between water-resistant and waterproof.

Samsung Galaxy S6 Active – $650 unlocked

Galaxy S6 Active

The first Android soldier on our list isn’t necessarily the all-around top choice for everybody. But it’s the costliest, and not without reason. IP68 certification means you’re technically covered against 30-minute dunks up to 1.5 meter in addition to fully protected for dirt damage.

Then, you have your MIL-STD-810G approval for salt, dust, humidity, vibration, solar radiation, transport and thermal shock shelter. Basically, the GS6 Active is indestructible in normal real-life circumstances, and you’ll need to want to harm it to do so. Which shouldn’t be the case, also given the beautiful 5.1-inch Quad HD AMOLED screen, powerful Exynos 7420 SoC, smooth Lollipop software, and generous 3 GB RAM.

Sony Xperia Z5 Compact – $540

Xperia-Z5-Compact-water

We could have easily recommended the “standard” Full HD Z5 or the 4K-enabled Premium over this “diminutive” 720p model, but both those powerhouses are too damn expensive. Granted, the 4.6-inch Xperia Z5 Compact is pretty prohibitively priced itself, due to import taxes and whatnot.

Hopefully, Sony will give it the official US green-light soon, and perhaps reconsider the controversial water-related warranty policies. Wouldn’t it be awesome to take proper advantage of the IP68 rating here, and snap 23 MP photos in the pool if not in the ocean as well?

Sony Xperia Z3 Plus – $465 factory unlocked

Sony-Xperia-Z3-Plus

The eerily familiar Z3 sequel is protected for half-hour swims beyond 1.5 meters, but no deeper than 9 feet or so. It also sports scratch-resistant glass, a 5.2-inch 1,080p IPS LCD panel, octa-core Snapdragon 810 muscle, 3 GB RAM, 32 GB internal storage, a microSD card slot, 21 and 5 MP cams, and 2,930 mAh battery.

It’s hard to tell why the high-end Xperia incremental upgrade received so much flak in the first place. As long as you don’t pay attention to its family tree, it’s actually a fairly robust flagship, don’t you think?

Sony Xperia M5 – $430 factory unlocked

Xperia M5

Why would a mid-ranger be worth about as much as a high-ender? Well, because despite what the name suggests, the M5 is no pushover. It’s different, as it trades the SD810 chip for a MediaTek Helio X10, and it’s 0.2 inches smaller, but it’s not necessarily inferior to the Z3+.

IP68-certified too, the 5 incher stands out in the photography departments, courtesy of 21.2 and 13 MP cameras, it’s Full HD-capable, and a multitasking workhorse, thanks to 3 gigs of memory.

Kyocera DuraForce – $0 with AT&T device financing; $419 outright

Kyocera DuraForce

Durable, tough as nails and… a tad on the chunky side, this Ma Bell-exclusive 4.5 incher flew under our radar back in March in spite of a commercial launch last November, but shouldn’t escape your attention now. It’s both IP68 and MIL-STD-810G authorized for everything from water dives to drops on hard surfaces and lengthy solar exposure.

It’s ideal for one-handed use, although you’ll need a firm grip, at 4.5 inches in screen diagonal and 200 grams weight. Finally, it should go on for ages between charges, backed by a massive 3,100 mAh battery.

Moto X Pure Edition – starting at $400

Moto X Pure Edition

Technically not waterproof or water-resistant, the 5.7-inch new X, alternatively dubbed Style, features a so-called water repellant nano-coating and much weaker IP52 certification than all our nominees so far. What that means is you probably shouldn’t willfully expose the Snapdragon 808 giant to either immersion or water jets, but mild rainfall won’t harm a hair on the vanilla Android-running phone’s head.

This is far from the X Pure’s main selling point, with the quality-price ratio boosted chiefly by the respectable hexa-core CPU, 3 GB RAM, 21 and 5 MP LED cameras, 3,000 mAh juicer, and Quad HD display.

Cat S50 – $400

Cat s50

If you want to get things done on construction sites and possibly even war zones, the 4.7-inch 720p S50 won’t take a bullet for you, but close enough. Aside from an IP67 stamp of approval that falls just short of others’ excellence, the bad boy withstands plunges onto concrete from 1.2 m high. The rest of the specs start feeling somewhat trivial in the face of such a unique engineering feat, don’t you think?

Samsung Galaxy Xcover 3 – $300

Galaxy Xcover 3

In a nutshell, this could be considered the smaller, humbler, less snazzy, non-Galaxy S, IP67-powered brother of the GS6 Active. That said, it looks a little obsolete, although it only saw daylight six months or so ago, with a dreadful 4.5-inch 800 x 480 pix res screen in tow, as well as a quad-core Marvell chip under the hood, 1.5 GB RAM, 8 GB on-board hoarding room, and 5 MP rear shooter.

Sony Xperia M4 Aqua – $200

Xperia M4 Aqua

 

Before spawning a remarkable follow-up, the M4 Aqua stole the mid-priced IP68 waterproof spotlight, with an unusually slim 7.3 mm profile, decent overall specs (HD 5-inch display, octa-core SD615 processor, 2 GB RAM, 13 and 5 MP cams), and flamboyant colors. Too bad the coral red flavor is $228, compared to the two Benjamin-valued black variant.

Motorola Moto G (3rd generation) – $179.99

Moto G 2015

Isn’t this odd? Not to mention ironic. Lenovo saw fit to make its subsidiary’s latest X hero IP52 water repellant, while the “low-end” G3 skips dust protection altogether, upping the liquid resistance ante to level 7, where you shouldn’t sweat over accidental falls in the typically destructive toilet bowl. As long as it’s less than a meter deep, you’re fine.

Needless to mention the 2015 G is much more than an adequate, semi-rugged device, offering plenty for its wickedly low sub-$200 tag: a 5-inch HD display, Marshmallow readiness, Snapdragon 410 punch, 13 MP photography skill, 2,470 mAh energy.