The Tell-Tale Part

Open the case of your mobile (cell) phone. Do you see a round white sticker, similar to that in the first photo below?

Water damage sticker

This is a water damage sticker, which changes colour if moisture gets into this bit of the phone, and will be used to void your warranty if your phone stops working for any reason.

A single droplet of water placed on the sticker turns it bright red (in the case of my phone, anyway):

Water damage sticker

WikiHow’s ‘How to save a wet cell phone’ (found via Consumerist) recommends that you:

“Place a piece of satin finish scotch tape over your water damage sticker before you drop your cell phone in the water to prevent the water damage sticker from voiding your warranty… Remove the tape if you ever have to return your phone for repairs or warranty.”

Now, it’s a clever idea on the part of the phone companies, and presumably water-damaged phones being returned under warranty were enough of a problem to make such stickers ‘necessary’.

However, we all know that in practice, any non-working phone where the sticker has changed colour will be immediately classified as ‘water-damaged’ and the customer’s rights voided, even if the actual phone was independently defective.

As a designer, I would much prefer to look at the problem as “How can we improve the sealing of phones so that water ingress is no longer a major problem?” than “How can we design something to cover our backs and shift all the blame onto the user for our design fault?”

But maybe I’m na├»ve.

P.S. My Motorola, shown above, began to work intermittently just a month after the warranty expired, completely unrelated to any water issues, hence I don’t mind getting the sticker wet.

P.S. Hi, visitors from Nokia. Please note, my intention wasn’t to have a go at phone designers (or the engineering teams); and your phones seem superior on the water-protection front anyway. It’s just a commentary on the mindset which says “it’s easier/cheaper to catch users out than it is to solve the problem.”

120 thoughts on “The Tell-Tale Part”

  1. so what happens if your battery has a defect and leaks a bit of acid in the case and turns the stickers pink? is that considered water damage?

  2. take note that this did indeed happen to me and YES the cell phone company did absolutely nothing and simply told me that the battery got corroded due to getting wet at some point during use….

  3. You guys……

    are idiots!

    Im an engineer for a large (unnamed) mobile phone company, so please allow me to expand on the truth of this topic,

    First off, the water indicator you see on the back or under the battery is for the use of retail staff dealing with repair book-in’s etc so as to manage the customers expectations.

    There are (depending on the model of handset) many more water indicator stickers placed at key points of the main pcb etc, these ones you will not be able to cover with tape.

    And lastly, most batterys also have a water indicator sticker on the outside and again on the inside, so as to help determine the fault, be it hardware or user.

    1. What if your phone did not get wet? Does this indicator turn red/pink from humidity? So, does that mean we can’t use our phones on humid days. I believe there are alot of instances where this indicator could turn red but not have been in water. Then what do we do?

  4. I always believed water damage to be the default excuse when trying to return a faulty phone under warranty. I’ve never been rewarded “proof” to this claim. Besides what stops them from wetting the stickers themselves, how will you attempt to prove it didn’t happen in your possession?

  5. How is a battery water damaged?

    I just got a new phone from a used phone store and the phone wont work without it plugged into the charger. It also has other difficulties. Of course Iam going to return the phone but i would like to know what was wrong.

  6. my phone has a series of “x”s on the water damage sticker.. Is it safe to assume that that is equvalent to a red sticker or a water damaged phone?

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