The Singularity

How to rescue your waterlogged iPhone

February 19, 2014

Last weekend I fell in the canal with my iPhone in the back pocket of my jeans. We'll cut quickly to the lessons learned. These are:

1. Don't try and rescue someone else who has slipped off the muddy towpath unless you are certain that you won't do the same. The old(er) guy who fell in trying to stop his Bill Sykes bull terrier from worrying the swans was deceptively heavy, panicky and I am not as strong or agile as I imagined. The river/canal bank is deceptively treacherous at the best of times but especially after the worst flooding since records began. We both could have drowned.

2. Before attempting a rescue, empty your pockets.

3. Keep your iPhone and wallet in a sealed plastic bag in the unlikely event of falling into the water.

No swans, dogs or old men were hurt in this episode. The only casualty was my iPhone. Emergency resuscitation took the following form:

1. I switched off the phone as soon as I realised it had been drowned.

2. I removed the SIM card – to do this, you need a paperclip or that strange little tool provided. Insert the pin/ paperclip into the improbably small hole on the side of the iPhone until the tiny tray opens.

3. Shake the phone vigorously.

4. As soon as possible, bury the phone in a bag of dry, preferably easy-cook uncooked rice ( less dust). Place the phone in a warm place.The rice absorbs moisture.

5. Don't attempt to turn the phone on or charge it under any circumstances. You can tell if the phone has water damage by shining a flashlight into the headphone socket on an iPhone 4. There is a membrane which shows red if exposed to water. This is to tell Apple or your mobile phone provider that despite your protestations to the contrary, you've dropped the phone into water. Usually they'll tell you it's beyond repair, and often they will be right. But often, all is not lost.

6. Wait for at least 24 hours then take the phone to one of those booths/small shops that promise to repair mobile phones. Tell the nice Indian lady what happened and ask her to check if the battery can be replaced. A new battery costs about £20.00 so you might have to consider this the price of discovery in the event that the phone is beyond repair. In my case, despite five minutes of submersion in the canal, the phone responded when a new battery was fitted.

7. Switch the phone off again and resist the temptation to charge it until you have repeated the rice drying process for at least another 24 hours. There may be water damage to the screen but the longer you leave it to dry, the better the chance of recovery.

8. Replace the SIM card after checking that there are no grains of rice or dust in any cavities.

9. Charge the phone. Leave it to dry further and you might even get rid of the water damage to the screen over time.

10. Think about getting a replacement. Even If it survives it is unlikely that it will be quite the same again, but at least you can use it as a spare.

Why am I telling you this? Because this experience has taught me that recycling rather than automatically assuming the worst is eminently possible.

Where did I find this out? From the internet, of course. There are several geeky blogs telling you what to do if you expose your iPhone to water damage. Apple (or other mobile phone providers) don't tell you. Probably for health and safety reasons or possibly because they want to sell you a new phone.