Commercials for the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge showed hip-hop’s Lil Wayne pouring Champagne over the phone and dunking it in a fish tank. The Active version of the S7, which is available to AT&T customers for $800 and up, is being marketed as equally water-resistant. While Consumer Reports generally doesn’t evaluate phones for this feature, we do perform an immersion test when a manufacturer claims that its product is water-resistant. When we recently evaluated the Galaxy S7 Active, it failed this test.
Since the phone didn’t operate as claimed, it doesn’t make our list of recommended models—even though it performs extremely well in other tests.
Companies that label their devices “water-resistant” can cite a variety of benchmarks. In this case, Samsung says its phone follows an engineering standard called IP68 that covers both dust- and water-resistance, and that the phone is designed to survive immersion in five feet of water for 30 minutes. That’s the spec we used in testing the Galaxy S7 Active.
What We Found
Consumer Reports technicians placed a Galaxy S7 Active in a water tank pressurized to 2.12 pounds-per-square-inch, the equivalent of just under five feet of water, and set a timer for 30 minutes. When we removed the phone, the screen was obscured by green lines, and tiny bubbles were visible in the lenses of the front- and rear-facing cameras. The touchscreen wasn’t responsive.
Following our standard procedure when a sample fails an immersion test, we submitted a second Galaxy S7 Active to the same test. That phone failed as well. After we removed it from the tank, the screen cycled on and off every few seconds, and moisture could be seen in the front and back camera lenses. We also noticed water in the slot holding the SIM card.
For a couple of days following the test, the screens of both phones would light up when the phones were plugged in, though the displays could not be read. The phones never returned to functionality.
What It Means
Samsung says it has received “very few complaints” about this issue, and that in all cases, the phones were covered under warranty.
“The Samsung Galaxy S7 active device is one of the most rugged phones to date and is highly resistant to scratches and IP68 certified,” the company said in a written statement. “There may be an off-chance that a defective device is not as watertight as it should be.” The company says it is investigating the issue.
The Active is one of three versions of the Samsung Galaxy S7, and it was the only one to fail our water-immersion test. The standard Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge claim the same level of water-resistance, and both of those models passed. Those two phones currently top our smartphone Ratings, with Excellent scores for their displays, battery life, cameras, and other attributes.