Today was a bad day. I was visiting a pool. It was a nice pool. Large bushes lined the sides, providing cover from the outside world. Despite the chipped paint along the bottom, the pool felt friendly. It looked like the kind of pool that even the most anxious of swimmers would like. That is, until I dropped my phone in it.
It wasn’t my fault. Well, it was. My phone slid out of my pocket and dropped into the water. I fished it out quickly and surveyed the damage. Even worse, my headphones were still plugged into it. The experience sent me on a frantic trip across the internet trying to figure out how to fix a waterlogged phone. This is what I found.
Save Your Phone From Water Damage
Get It Out and Get It Dry
Thankfully, I heard the splash and noticed that it had fallen into the pool. I grabbed my phone and pulled it out as quickly as I could, hoping to mitigate the damage.
While any contact with a liquid is toxic for electronics, getting it out quickly definitely helps, as evidenced by Popular Mechanics.
A first thing to do is to turn off your phone (if it’s still ON) and then open the back lid to remove the battery (if it’s an Android) and, if present, the SIM card. Use paper towels/tissues to dry the phone as much as possible.
Prolonged exposure to water raises the potential that a critical part of your phone will meet an untimely end and short out. If you can remove it quickly, you may be able to save some of it.
The Wrong Way and the Rice Way
Next was getting it dry. I disassembled my phone and stuck the parts in a bag of dry rice purchased at a nearby store for a dollar. In theory, the rice would draw out the liquid.
Joanna Stern (former writer for The Verge) advises the rice trick. “Rice absorbs moisture and has long been used as a wet-gadget-saving measure.”
Did it help? I think so. It definitely got a rice grain lodged in my external SD card slot. Stern admits, “All these methods are highly dependent on what sort of phone or gadget you have and how bad the water damage is.”
Getting To Dry Ground
The tricks worked. I think. After a prolonged stint in the rice bag, I pulled out my phone and battery, put them together, and pushed the power button.
The phone booted without a hitch. I’ve never been so glad to see the spinning CyanogenMod logo as I was in that one moment.
The phone finished booting. I unlocked it and opened my app drawer. All fine. It wasn’t until I tried to push the back button that I found out the extent of the damage. My hardware keys were dead.
The bottom of my Epic 4G Touch features menu, home, back and search hardware keys. None of them lit up or responded to repeated touches.
Ironically, TechNorms just published an article explaining how to use Android without buttons. When I wrote it, the no-button experience was a passing experiment. Now I get to live it.
Living without buttons becomes much easier with a great app called Glovebox. You swipe in from the edge and can open favorite apps, jump between recent apps, and go home.
I also put in a shortcut to a quick Tasker script I wrote that activates the back button. This way, Glovebox imitates all my hardware buttons.
iOS and TouchWiz users have it easier. Both OSes come with Assistive Touch built in. They feature a small box you can move around the screen and use for OS navigation.
The best way to avoid water damage is to not drop your phone into a pool. Really, just don’t get near water with one in your pocket. If you do, make sure that the pocket is zipped shut.
Using Android without buttons isn’t bad… but I wish I still had them.
Better yet, if you plan to go near a water body of any size, it’s a good idea to keep your phone in a plastic bag or keep it safely tucked in your backpack.