on Nov 30th, 2011Waterproof Samsung Windows Phone?
No, this is not an inside scoop on some new technology, rather an experience report on full submersion of a powered on cell phone.
The other day my 8 year old son and I were down at the beach skipping stones and chasing ducks. Said son, being the adventurous type, was wading out in the water about 5 feet off-shore when he spotted something shiny. I suggested he pick it up. Lo and behold he came up with a sparkly AT&T Samsung Focus Window Phone.
We had no idea how long it had been there. We looked around at the people on the beach to see if anyone was frantically searching for something. No one. The screen was blank and I didn’t want to try and turn if on so, we took it home to figure out what to do.
On the way home we speculated about how the phone could have gotten there. The water is pretty shallow and boats don’t get that close. It’s too far away to have just fallen out of a stroller’s pocket. There’s no tide and the water level is consistent so the distance to the shore is constant. It could have been throw (but why)? Perhaps it had been there a long time and some summer tourists dropped it while swimming?
At home we decided to open it up and see about drying it out with a view to turning it on and finding the owner. Amazing how much water that little block seemed to have in it. After getting the easy parts out (battery, sim, …) it became apparent that there was more water underneath the circuit boards. I found a great step by step disassembly series on TechRepublic. Within about 10 minutes my son and I had the phone in pieces on the kitchen table. We stopped short of separating adhesive bonded parts as we wanted to re-assemble and operate the phone.
After soaking up the obvious water we looked for someplace warm but not too hot for it to dry. Our new oven has a “Proof” setting that is used for rising bread (about 100F). Hmmm, not 100% sure on that one. Heat register? That could work but small parts, kids, cracks, … Not a good combination. In the end we opted for putting on a small piece of paper on top of the cable TV box.
I checked it the next day and it seemed dry but I figured a bit more time would not hurt. After about 24 hours of drying we reassembled the phone, put in the battery and turned it on.
Well, whaddya know?! It booted up just fine. About 1/5th of the battery power left — it could not have been in the water that long. Unfortunately the phone was locked with a pin code so we could not immediately find the owner. Also, we could not test that it still worked as a phone. Bummer.
I decided to call AT&T and see if they could locate the owner. You’d think that this sort of thing happens all the time but the person I talked to said that they can’t do anything and that I’d have to take the phone to a AT&T store. Luckily there is one on the Microsoft campus where I work so I figured I’d take it in the next day at lunch.
Just before lunch the next day I plugged in (and turned on) the phone to ensure it had some charge when I went to the store (not really sure why but it made sense at the time). Shortly there-after it buzzed with a text message. “Call me at 425 436-2″. The rest of the phone number was cut off and the phone locked so I could not see it. Sigh. Then a little while later the phone rang. I answered but could not hear anyone. This time however I could see the number so I called it back. It was the owner, looking for the phone.
Working at Microsoft I see a lot of these phones around and figured the chances where high that it was a fellow ‘softie. Indeed it was. In fact, he worked for a former roommate of mine from 15+ years ago! Small world.
Apparently he and his family had been at the beach a couple hours before us and, like us, were hanging at the water skipping stones with their kids. Now, you just gotta imagine that a cell phone would skip real well… Our best guess is that their 3 year old somehow got the phone, had that very thought, and flung it into the water unnoticed. Needless to say they were pleased to have reconnected with the phone.
We made arrangements to meet. When we did we tried out the calling and to our mutual surprise, it worked flawlessly. It would be interesting to see how long that will last or if some parts will start to corrode. Either way, I think its pretty impressive.
In any event, we had some fun dissecting the phone, they got their phone back, my son learned about “doing the right thing” and I learned that Samsung phones can take a licking. Not bad for a Saturday at the beach.
p.s., Later that week I bought a Samsung Focus S and a Focus Flash for me and my wife. While this was more because we wanted Windows phones, I have to say I was very comfortable with the purchase decision having seen what the phones can withstand.