Saturday, April 20, 2013


Apple will reportedly pay $53 million to settle a class action lawsuit concerning wet iPhones. The Apple warranty does not cover dropping the phone in the toilet... which seems to be a common occurrence, so Apple placed a Liquid Contact Indicator (LCI) on the phone to determine which phones had been submerged. However, it seems the LCI also reacts to humidity. The settlement begs the question whether humidity can disable a phone as well and whether folks in Louisiana and Central Florida can routinely expect shorter life from their devices. There are tried and true remedies to this type of problem.

As discussed in another post, CRTs routinely lasted 20 years or more. They had a few things going for them that mobile electronics did not have. They maintained an internal vacuum, they were built from two pieces of completely hermetic glass, the glass was joined together by an equally hermetic frit seal, the inside was “gettered” to scavenge up any stray oxygen and, the power and data conduits to the tube were hermetic glass-to-metal seals. All of this was done very cheaply and the tubes were physically robust. In CRT manufacturing plants the tubes were occasionally dropped. Not only would a well-made tube not necessarily break, they would sometimes bounce. Made with non-strengthened glass, the combination of the Implosion band and the vacuum imparted sufficient surface compression that the tubes were able to survive indefinitely in most homes where their treatment was not always as gentle as one would want for a big glass bottle.

Many of these same solutions could be applied to smartphones and tablet. It would involve some re-thinking of the I/O but is certainly doable. The result would be not only a longer lived device, one that is susceptible to neither humidity or to actual submersion, but one that is physically more robust as well.


  1. A recent article shows where there is a need, there is invention. Caterpillar (yes the tractor folk) have introduced a cell phone that can be submerged and is good for use in dirty environments. the article can be found here

  2. There are also other alternatives available such as:


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