Should I get my phone replaced by insurance?
April 28, 2017 12:09 PM   Subscribe

This morning I dropped my Pixel XL into a couple of inches of water, with a chunky but not advertised as water resistant case on it. I did the rice thing, now it turns on and seems fine, but I'm concerned there's less obvious damage and I should claim a replacement.

I shoved it in rice right away, let it sit for an hour, probably-foolishly turned it on because it looked dry and there hadn't been water in the case at the time, it turned on and then immediately back off, and then I shoved it back in the rice. Just turned it back on to make sure it was broken before I went to make a device protection claim, and it seems to be working fine --- no screen oddities, no slowness, no noticeable misbehavior. But I'm concerned that there's some subtle damage that won't be obvious. Is this a reasonable fear, how would I check it out, given the inconvenience of reestablishing 2 factor authentication etc should I treat it as damaged and claim for a replacement?
posted by PMdixon to Technology (8 answers total)
Just let it dry for a few days. If it works, it's unlikely to be somehow subtly broken.
posted by so fucking future at 12:18 PM on April 28, 2017

Can you get some diagnostics run on it? When I dropped my phone into a few inches of water, I didn't notice the problem right away but actually the front-facing camera was broken. There are a lot of things that could be broken and it's hard to tell without a checklist or diagnostic.
posted by mskyle at 12:36 PM on April 28, 2017

Stop turning it on. If there is even a tiny droplet of water inside, when you turn it on, the water can cause the electricity in the phone to create little sparks and short out the electronics, permanently damaging the phone.

Leave it off to dry for a couple days. The water will probably dry perfectly and the phone will probably be fine. But the act of turning it on before it is 100% dry can absolutely ruin it at this point.

Once it dries completely (I'd give it 2-3 days), you can assess the damage and maybe decide to get it replaced.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 12:38 PM on April 28, 2017 [1 favorite]

Moisture generally damages electronics by causing corrosion on exposed parts or (if it's still wet) causing shorts between traces on the circuit cards. It may still be at risk after it completely dries by having deposits of previously dissolved material (especially salt) left on the cards, so if you dropped it in the ocean I'd be more concerned than if you dropped it in your sink. You won't really be able to tell if anything's been left behind without opening the phone.

Leave it for a few more days (don't bother with the rice, it's not doing anything - just leave it somewhere with airflow) and then turn it on. If it turns on (considering you already had it turned on, it probably will again), I would test the following things:

-plug it in and make sure it charges
-make sure the touch screen works, try some of the multi-touch gestures and make sure those work
-plug in headphones (better yet the combo earbuds/microphone) and make sure they work
-try to place a phone call, make sure the earpiece and mic both work
-connect to wifi and bluetooth
-check the camera and flash/flashlight
-open a maps app and make sure the GPS works

I'm not really sure how water/salt may damage the integral antennas, but everything else should either work or not work.
posted by backseatpilot at 1:02 PM on April 28, 2017

I wouldn't, but I'm someone who carries a phone without a case, and also just bought the samgsung s8+new so my tolerance of danger may be high.

The highest risk of damage was the first time you turned it back on. There is no water connecting circuits or your phone would already be toast.

Moving your phone around could cause moisture already there to
connect circuits, which is why people are recommending you dry out out for a few days before turning it on again.

It's up to you. I'd check the things most likely to be effected by water manually after drying:charging, headphones, camera, sdcard slot, buttons. If those are fine you are good to go.

Most likely your phone has little moisture indicator dots on the inside, you could open the back of phone and see if they are the right color by looking in a techincal manual if you can find one.
posted by AlexiaSky at 1:04 PM on April 28, 2017

backseatpilot* is correct!

Additionally, the ingress of water could lead to latent failures due to corrosion, so if you have the option of getting a replacement now, I would do so. If the unit fails after you no longer have this protection, you will end up having to pay for a new phone.

It is not simply a question of whether there was salt in the water, but there are residues on the internal electronics that can become corrosive when wet. Drying out these residues may not stop them from continuing to be chemically active, so there is always a possibility of the unit failing earlier than it would have had it not been exposed to water.

* I went and checked their profile and found that we both went to RPI, so I feel somehow emotionally bonded. Hi, backseatpilot!
posted by blurker at 1:53 PM on April 28, 2017

You need to let it sit in rice for at least 24 hours. If you've already turned it on, it may have already damaged the phone, though...
posted by My Dad at 2:59 PM on April 28, 2017

It depends on what the cost of getting a replacement is. If it were $100? I'd definitely get a replacement. The corrosion will only get worse over time, though it generally takes years for things to start failing in a situation where there was little water contact and it was quickly dried. The problem is that concrete predictions can't be made since water damage is so variable.

Well, if it were my $700 phone I'd open it up and clean it up with some alcohol and q tips, but that's because I'm comfortable doing that sort of thing as long as it doesn't involve trying to replace broken glass on phones that have the glass and the display fused together.

What is ridiculous, though, is that the Pixel phones are a step backwards in water resistance from the Nexus 6, which has a conformal coating on the board. You can mess up the headphone jack, but that's about it.
posted by wierdo at 8:10 AM on April 30, 2017

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