iPhone 13 Pro: better than it needs to be

iPhone 13 Pro: better than it needs to be

I got an iPhone 13 Pro as a continuation of the iPhone Upgrade Program which I’ve been participating in for a couple years now. We could argue, some other time, about the value of said program, but my math was simple. It’s roughly equivalent to buying an iPhone out of pocket and selling it for an excellent price just before buying a new one a year later, which was ideally what I was doing before the program existed, though sometimes getting a decent price was not easy.

I stay up to date with iPhones for a few reasons, which we could also argue about, but some other time, please. Chiefly,

  • I like having the newest iPhone. I’ll just admit that up front. I’m a gadget nerd. I used to spend whole paychecks on technology gizmos and gadgets. I’ve cut back dramatically on this sort of behavior, and the once-a-year iPhone is one of the few behaviors that hasn’t changed.
  • I do like to stay up to date on what’s going on. I work in software design and development, and having access to TouchID/FaceID so I can understand its impact on a user’s experience is vital to me, so I can design software that works well with such things (this is also true of things like new Bluetooth standards/features, things like NFC being added to the phone, etc.). I also draw inspiration from the way Apple takes these technologies and makes them useful to humans, so even if the product I’m working on doesn’t directly use the technology, I can be inspired by how Apple brought it down to earth.
  • In my mind, most important: the camera(s). There’s a nostalgic aspect to looking at photos I took with my older iPhones that’s endearing, but I sure do enjoy actually looking at the photos I’ve taken more recently, as Apple has really turned the iPhone into an impressive camera system. This feels like the reason that is most important in hindsight. Unless we’re really on the brink financially, I can’t imagine regretting spending the money that enabled me to get these shots of my family.

A cautionary tale

Now, I’ve had the iPhone 13 Pro just over two weeks, having picked it up on launch day (Sept. 24, 2021). This past weekend I took my kids on a tubing trip. If you’re not from around here, “tubing” is floating—mostly at a very leisurely pace, but occasionally through rapids—down a river on an inner tube. We’d never done it before, and I had many fond memories of tubing as a kid, so I really wanted to get some great pictures. I did. We saw ducks and turtles. We captured video of my son scrabbling to get back into his inner tube. We had a video in which we laughed about an incident that happened immediately after we got into the water: I flipped over backwards and fell into the water.

In that incident, I shot up out of the water shouting “my phone!” I found it within seconds and pulled it out of the water. It seemed to be okay. “I need to be really careful with this,” I thought.

Three hours later, we were fast approaching the dock where we were to exit the river and be shuttled back to our car. My daughter wanted to swim a bit, so we tried to paddle over to a bank to park the tubes. She tried to get out of her tube, but fount the water was quite deep, which startled her. I reacted quickly, thinking she was scared, and tried to hop out of my tube. The tube bobbed back and forth from the quick motion, and I barely registered a sliding sensation. My daughter righted herself quickly, and I settled back in and realized, “That was my phone.”

We were in a deeper part of the river (a little over 6 feet deep, though some parts get up to 30 feet deep I would learn later). I asked the kids to hold on to our tubes while I dove down to look for my phone. The current was just strong enough that it was difficult to stay in one place. I already didn’t know if I was still swimming near where I had dropped the phone. The third or forth time I came up for air I heard my kids screaming—the wind was blowing the tubes away (with my car keys attached).

I swam toward them to help, but my son got hold of the tubes fairly quickly, and I turned around to head back and continue looking, now even less sure I knew where I had dropped them.

After a while, I gave up. I really didn’t want this to ruin the day the kids had had, so I moved the conversation on quickly, talking over our favorite parts of the day as we rode the bus back to our car. Not long after we got home my daughter brought her phone to me, my old iPhone 6S from years ago. “You can use mine, Dad.”😢

I did some research. I remembered that theft and loss had been added to AppleCare, and couldn’t remember if it was optional, and whether I had opted in. It is optional, and I had not, turns out. I was either going to be paying for a phone that was sitting at the bottom of a river for the next two years, or I was going to go find that dead phone so I could pay the deductible ($200, I believe) for a replacement.

The next morning I took it to T-Mobile to get a new SIM card. I told the T-Mobile salesperson my tale of woe, and he and his colleague said “You should talk to that Man + River guy!” They told me of a Youtube celebrity that apparently now lived nearby that does scuba diving sessions looking for treasure and/or people’s lost items. I was already heading back to the river (but first to a shop to get some goggles this time), so I figured it was worth reaching out. From my car on the way back to the river we exchanged several emails, and he agreed to meet me there!

I arrived at about 2, and swam around with my goggles for about 20 minutes, finding nothing at all. Dallas, the titular “Man” in Man + River, arrived around 2:30. His camera person wasn’t available, so he recruited me to shoot for him. He geared up and hopped in.

He came up out of the water with “treasures” several times, usually sunglasses.

He mentioned when he’d used a third of his air tank.

More sunglasses. And some vape pens. Really, if you’re just throwing your vape pens in the river when they’re spent, please stop it.

“My air tank is pretty close to empty…”

Finally he came to shore. “I just found another pair of sunglasses… I’m still finding stuff… that makes me want to keep looking. It’s driving me nuts knowing your phone is down there.”

Somewhere along the way one of the folks, a very friendly gentleman named Calvin, came by and I interviewed him a bit. He had been there the day before, and saw me diving for my phone, and the tubes being blown away. He corroborated my theory on where I had been at the moment, which gave Dallas some more inspiration, as well.

“All right. My tank is out. I’m switching to snorkel.”

What a guy.

After another 20 minutes or so, he came back, looking dejected. And then he smiled and held up my phone. Maybe I wouldn’t be out $1000! Maybe they’d take this piece of rusted metal and replace it for $200 or whatever!

IP68

On the right you’ll see a screenshot of the iPhone 13 Pro promotional page on apple.com. If you look closely, you’ll find a red arrow I’ve added that points at the only place on the whole page that mentions that this year’s phones have improved water resistance.

They’re now rated at IP68. You can read all about that rating on Wikipedia, but essentially, IP68 means:

  • the 6 indicates the device is “dust-tight,” a rating that has to be earned by passing a test described as “No ingress of dust; complete protection against contact (dust-tight). A vacuum must be applied. Test duration of up to 8 hours based on airflow.”
  • the 8 indicates the device “liquid ingress protection” described as “Immersion, 1 meter (3 ft 3 in) or more depth” whose test is described as “The equipment is suitable for continuous immersion in water under conditions which shall be specified by the manufacturer. However, with certain types of equipment, it can mean that water can enter but only in such a manner that it produces no harmful effects. The test depth and duration is expected to be greater than the requirements for IPx7, and other environmental effects may be added, such as temperature cycling before immersion.”

Apple’s own site (pictured to the right) claims:

iPhone 13 Pro and iPhone 13 Pro Max are splash, water, and dust resistant and were tested under controlled laboratory conditions with a rating of IP68 under IEC standard 60529 (maximum depth of 6 meters up to 30 minutes). Splash, water, and dust resistance are not permanent conditions. Resistance might decrease as a result of normal wear. Do not attempt to charge a wet iPhone; refer to the user guide for cleaning and drying instructions. Liquid damage not covered under warranty.

https://www.apple.com/iphone-13-pro/

I had no business taking this phone with me in the water, let alone untethered to my person. I had a couple ideas of how I could tether it, but I worried that each of them could lead to the phone being kept under water, rather than kept above it, and perhaps even dragged against the rocky river floor. I thought, stupidly, my pocket was the safest place for the phone.

Please don’t be like me. Be smarter than me. It’s not too hard. Especially on days like Sunday, apparently.

A screenshot of the iPhone 13 Pro site that is about a mile long, showing a tiny two-line heading mentioning "Industry-leading IP68 water resistance"
iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. Huge camera upgrades. New OLED display with ProMotion. Fastest smartphone chip ever. Breakthrough battery life.

Let’s go to the replay

Let’s see that moment that Dallas came out of the water with my dead phone. This is just a GIF because I really don’t want to steal his thunder. His video of this event should be coming soon. I’ll link it as soon as it’s up. But since his camera’s battery had died by that time, I was shooting on my iPad, and I have the video, so… here it is:

This is where the post’s title comes from. The phone was still on. The battery still had 20% charge, probably thanks, in part, to a Shortcuts script that automatically enables low power mode when the battery falls below a threshold.

I’m holding the phone right now. There aren’t even any visible scratches. The only “defect” I could find of any kind between the moment above and now is that the speakers weren’t working. I could barely hear anything when I tried to play music or make a phone call. As they’ve dried out, even those seem to be coming back. The camera lenses, screen, buttons… all fine.

I took it to T-Mobile to get the E-SIM re-activated, and told them what had happened—that it had been under water for 26 hours! They looked at the water damage sticker that’s apparently visible from the SIM tray door. It’s a white sticker that turns pink if it gets wet, and it’s how they determine water damage. It was white.

Dallas said where he found my phone is was actually in a slightly shallower part of the river. Phones can skip around, floating in the water not unlike a feather in the air, and it apparently didn’t land as close to where I’d been as we’d thought. It was only about 4 feet down. Still, I think Apple outdid their IP68 rating.

Thank yous

Thank you Dallas, for finding my phone. You worked hard and didn’t give up. You didn’t expect or want payment. In fact you gave me a t-shirt when this was all over for Pete’s sake! I hope this video blows up and you get a bunch of new subscribers. Very cool stuff you’re doing over there.

Thank you Apple, for making products that sometimes unequivocally demonstrate their worth.

Update: the speakers are now working fine

It took a few hours of playing something through the speakers to shake all the water out—at least I think that’s what was happening. I used a free version of a white noise app set to “Tibetan meditation bowl” for a few hours and that seemed to do the trick! There are now no effects of any noticeable kind on this phone (that I know how to detect).

I probably should have mentioned this important point: I have yet to plug in a lightning cable. That would have been a bad idea, according to Apple’s site, for pretty obvious reasons. This was a great time to use MagSafe.

Update: the video is up!

4 Replies to “iPhone 13 Pro: better than it needs to be”

  1. Came here after hearing about your story on Accidental Tech Podcast. So glad you got your phone back, and I’m looking forward to seeing Dallas’ video about the rescue! I just got the iPhone 13 Pro too, and lemme tell ya, it’s a huge comfort knowing that it’s as water-resistant and durable as it is. I get nervous putting it in my pocket, for fear that I will accidentally put it in the same pocket as my car keys. I’m not going to stop babying my phone, but it is cool to know that it’s not as fragile as I think it is.

    1. Hey, Doug! Yeah, I started clipping my car keys to a belt loop a few years ago, partly because of fear of scratching my phone or AirPods, and partly because jeans styles got a little tighter. 😀

      1. Cool! I had never thought about using a carabiner to clip my keys. Good idea. Up here in Canada we’re just getting into colder weather, which is great for me because now I can put my phone in my jean jacket pocket, far away from keys and other stuff. I know, I know … jean jacket … Canadian tuxedo. I embrace hoser fashion. 🇨🇦

        1. I, too, have donned the Canadian tuxedo. Frequently. I’m increasingly interested in moving to Canada, actually. Texas is where I was born, but it feels less and less like a home for me and my family.

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