Can Your Phone Do This?

Would you dunk your entertainment electronics toys in water? Probably not, unless you’re running some kind of insurance scam. Don’t worry. Most of my gear doesn’t like being underwater either. Trust me, if you try to play an LP record at the bottom of your pool, bad things happen. Really bad things. The jacuzzi isn’t good either.

The point is this: while everyone celebrates things like the small size and connectivity of smartphones, their relative immortality is often overlooked.  Anyone who’s dropped their iPhone in the toilet (you know who you are) knows that immortality isn’t exactly the right word, but compared to traditional entertainment gear, phones are pretty damn rugged.

All of which brings us to the phone in the picture. This is a Sony Xperia Acro S. Please note that this is my own phone. It isn’t a loaner I-don’t-care-if-it-explodes press review sample. It’s my own phone that lives in my own pocket. And my pocket gets wet, hot, cold, sweaty, sandy, dirty, muddy - you name it. And that’s the reason why I have an Acro S in my pocket and not some other phone. As with a few other smartphone, it brings the meaning of electronics durability to a new level.


You can read reviews of the Acro S elsewhere, but let me make a few comments. The Xperia Acro S is a followup to the well-received Xperia S; they signalled Sony’s intent to do battle in the smartphone market. The new Xperia Z confirms that Sony really does mean business. But what’s interesting about the Acro S is how it successfully fills diverse design criteria, and in particular how its ruggedness challenges our perception of high-tech electronics.


The Acro S is a medium-sized, unlocked phone with all the features and specs you would expect. It has a HD screen to die for, HDMI and DLNA, and a 12MP camera (with dedicated shutter button) that is an incredible shooter. Of course, it can house your music collection or access it in the cloud. But, the reason why the Acro is in my pocket is because it is IP55/IP57 compliant. In particular, is protected against dust. More impressively it can be submerged in water to a depth of 1 meter for 30 minutes and can also be subjected to pressurized sprayed water from all sides. According to Sony, the Acro has a highest level of water resistance of any smartphone. Also, of course, the Acro’s display is scratch resistant, and unlike most touchscreens, permits wet-finger tracking (very handy when it’s raining). Another thing that I, as a rugged outdoor type, appreciated: the display is readable even in the brightest sunlight, while wearing sunglasses.


The phone isn’t perfect; by today’s standards it is a little thick (.47 inches), it lacks LTE, and its 3G won’t work on T-Mobile’s network. Its water and dust resistance come with a downside; its various ports and connectors are covered by flaps; this keeps out the bad things, but it also inhibits quick access. Wisely, knowing that it would be a hassle to pull a flap every time you charged the phone, Sony includes a cradle; just drop in the phone and voila.


This smartphone has specs that rival those corresponding to big audio/video gear. But unlike traditional gear, you can go swimming with it or grind it into a sandy beach. In the history of audio/video hardware and software, that is unprecedented. Moreover, because the phone won’t go belly up in a downpour, your precious media content tucked inside the 16GB internal memory won’t go belly up either. Protected hardware also protects the software.


Building a product with excellent feature performance, reasonably compact size, and ruggedness, is a terrifically difficult design challenge. Most engineering teams would ask you to pick any two of the three, but these engineers designed in all three. Bravo. Certainly there are many excellent smartphones on the market, but only a few can stand up against the slings and arrows of everyday life. After decades of babying electronic gear and media and constantly worrying about their well-being, that comes as a revelation to me. Yet another reason why smartphones are taking over the world.


And now you’ll have to excuse me. I’m going to swim a few laps, and make a few calls.


Disclaimer: Do not put your phone in water. Do not put it in sand. Ice cream - bad idea. Soda - not good either. Molten lava - very bad. Quick run through a lawn sprinkler - maybe okay. But don’t try that either.