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 naïve.

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. my phone has a white sticker inside it with “void” written in red lettering. i’ve no idea what this means – i don’t recall ever getting the thing wet.

  2. Interesting – thanks Jon. So your phone works currently, but if it stops working for some other reason, and you take/send it back, you may well be informed that your warranty is void because the sticker indicates water damage. Tricky.

    P.S. A photo would be great! dan@danlockton.co.uk

  3. Consumerist says that many phones have multiple tell-tale stickers hidden elsewhere in the case, so even if you cover the obvious one, they’ll still find out.

    I repeat my question: Why put effort into punishing the customer instead of improving the ingress protection of the phone?

  4. Why put effort into punishing the customer instead of improving the ingress protection of the phone?

    Because it’s cheap and easy, and saves the company money. Improving waterproofing would be more expensive, harder, and might not increase sales.

    I’m nor saying I like the reasoning, but businesses are generally only interested in making money.

  5. In high humidity areas, the “water-markers” are more than likely to come with the phone having the “red”warning flashing already, if not at the time of purchase, within a few weeks.

    Maybe I just got a crappy phone, but…

  6. While I agree that it’s quite a sneaky way of doing things, you can see why the phone companies would add such an element to their phones – the number of people making false claims about how their phone broke when claiming on insurance must be more than enough for them to consider adding it in (“I didn’t drop it in water, it just broke – honest!”).

    I’m also not sure if I agree with your last sentiment – saying that a phone company will “shift the blame onto the user” isn’t quite right, because, lets face it, it is the users fault! They aren’t “shifting” the blame, as the blame already lies with the user. After all, they’re the one that dropped the phone in water, and most manuals specifically state (the obvious?) that phones should not be placed in water.

    Complaining about this is kinda comparable to dropping your hot-dog on the floor, and then complaining to whoever made the dog that you got clobbered with gastroenteritis. It’s not their fault you made a mistake…

  7. Complaining about this is kinda comparable to dropping your hot-dog on the floor, and then complaining to whoever made the dog that you got clobbered with gastroenteritis. It’s not their fault you made a mistake…

    An enormous amount of effort in product design (and design for manufacture) over the past 30 years has gone into ‘mistake-proofing’, or poka-yoke. The thinking is that by helping users avoid mistakes, companies improve their relationship with users, which benefits both sides.

    Phones aren’t cheap. I’d make a comparison with buying something like jewellery rather than a hot dog. If you went out and bought a diamond ring, and it came packaged in a paper bag with a hole in it, and the ring then fell out through the hole, you’d (rightly) blast the atitude of the jeweller in being so slapdash. Is the phone really much different? If phone companies know that water damage is a significant risk (which it presumably is, otherwise they wouldn’t go to the trouble of producing the tell-tale stickers), then I’d argue that it’s a poor attitude not to try to solve that problem.

    Cheap watches selling for a few quid come with substantial water ingress protection. (How true the “100 m water resist” claims are, I don’t know!)

    I accept that a phone – with keypad, sockets, speaker, microphone, etc – is more difficult to protect than a watch, but there are many levels of possible ingress protection. Designers have been encasing PCBs and sensitive components in potting compound (epoxy resin) for decades. Given that most phones are replaced, whether broken or not, rather than repaired (50,000 tons a year of working phones dumped in the US), why leave the components water-accessible at all?

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!

  8. As a designer, if you drop your iPod in water it breaks as well. It’s time to stop seeing a conspiracy against the everyman in every facet of technology. Cel phones have been around for twenty years. In this current format, five. The economy of cel is that of subscription. You can’t make money off of subscription if every drunk teen / college student that drops their $300 phone in the toilet gets another one for free.

  9. I do see what those who talk about free phones for the clumsy mean, but I think the statement made is still valid- what Dan was saying is why don’t the manufacturers engineer their expensive devices so that if you’re lucky, your mobile would still work after being dropped in water for a second or two. He wasn’t saying that if this happened the mobile phone company should replace it. It’s a different way of thinking.

  10. Thanks Simon, that is what I was trying to say!

    @J-Dan – The cell phone model is not always one of subscription: pay-as-you-go is pretty common. And it’s the network provider which makes money from subscription – the phone manufacturer only benefits indirectly as people replace their phones so often.

    Clearly if people damage their phones through incompetence, I’m not suggesting it’s right for them to get a new phone free because of that. But if phones can be designed to make it less likely that incompetence will damage them, that’s a much better attitude. Sure, the phone companies would sell more phones in the short term if they made them out of dissolvable paper tissue, so they fell apart after a few weeks, but they wouldn’t get many repeat customers once another company started offering proper, long-lasting alternatives.

    People need leeway.

  11. Hi,
    Just for future reference if an item stops working just outside of warranty you are still usually entitled to a repair/replacement. This is because the item was ‘not fit for the purpose’ of what you bought it for.

    Companies can give you any warranty they like but if an item doesn’t continue do work for a reasonable amount of time then they still have to repair/replace it. This is why it is a waste of money to buy extended warranties.

  12. SOny Ericssons have these too… but they’re hidden away up inside the battery compartment (k800i) or behind the sim card (k750i)to the point where it would be actually almost impossible to cover with tape.

    I can confirm this as my 750 which went through the washing machine has a red sticker.

    That said, the insurance on my phone covers accidental damage, including water damage, so I’m not really bothered. Dead sneaky, though!

  13. I repeat my question: Why put effort into punishing the customer instead of improving the ingress protection of the phone?

    Why punish customers by not offering cheaper non-waterproof phones to those who aren’t terminally clumsy? For those who think that waterproofing would be cheap–well, try it sometime.

    And for those of us who are clumsy there are warranty plans that will pay for replacement phones even if we do something stupid. Amongst other ways, I have lost phones by dropping one in a toilet, and my ku-fu master girlfriend accidently crushed one demonstrating a complex move on me. Is the company punishing me for not making phones that are ku fu proof? Or am I just a loser (albeit a loser with an incredibly hot girlfriend)?

    I agree that poorly designed water-detection tech that is used to void warranties illegally is a bad idea, but the concept of coming up with the cheapest mix of policy and technology to solve a problem is perfectly sensible, and punishes no one.

  14. Can one not use something, say a mild bleach, to turn the sensor white again? If bleach doesn’t work then try *drying* the sensor by leaving the phone in a warm ovem for a bit. I’m fascinated as to what the compound they use is! You might be able to reverse engineer it with a little experimentation.

    The alternative? Tipp-ex!

  15. I used to work in a cellphone retail store as “techsupport”, which was really just explaining to customer’s how they voided their waranty. Not only do all manufacturers have these near the battery or on the battery you will also find them, as is the case with Motorola, on the main circuit board of the phone.

  16. Sure, if i drop my phone in water, I expect it to void my warranty, but these sensors are so sensitive that they turn in humid weather – that seems a bit ridiculous, no?

    You can also find these sensors on many cell phone batteries.

  17. Hey, wait a minute. How did you meet your kung-fu practicing girlfriend? The hell with my cellphone.

  18. I recently dropped my phone and broke the plastic clip that holds the battery in place. I was already aware of this little sticker. I NEVER got my phone wet, so imagine my surprise when I saw that my tattle-tale sticker was red! I believe humidity may be to blame; I don’t live in a jungle, I live in central NY.

    I don’t trust these little stickers; if I had been denied a repair because of this sticker I certainly would have been ‘upset’…

  19. @tim

    These stickers aren’t a modern marvel or anything. They are just that: stickers. Underneath the sticker is a bit of powdered dye. When the powder gets wet, it disperses throughout the sticker and dyes it red.

    You can’t reverse it by drying it. Once it’s gotten wet, it will stay red.

    I had this happen to a RAZR phone I put through the spin cycle. My wife has an identical phone, so I though I could swipe her sticker and put it on mine and get a new phone.

    Didn’t work out so well. An on-site tech (Verizon) opened the phone and saw some corrosion from the water and determined it was water damaged.

    My guess is, these stickers are meant to save time (and money) by making this type of damage more evident to techs.

  20. Waterproofing is expensive and perhaps more importantly heavy. Encasing circuit boards in epoxy or potting compound could easily add a couple ounces, and given that most phones only weigh a few ounces already, that would seriously turn consumers off.

    One product that does have waterproofing measures is professional SLR cameras and lenses. Canon’s top of the line DSLR and lenses have water seals that allow them to be used in the rain. But these products often weigh almost twice as much as the equivalent non-professional products without water seals. I’m not saying all the weight difference is due to the seals, it’s certainly not, but the point is that water seals only make sense economically and weightwise for products that are used under extreme conditions and that need extreme reliability.

    I generally agree with the principle of solving problems with design rather than by shifting blame to the consumer. But water damage is not currently something that can be solved by good design alone. Hopefully as new technologies for waterproofing evolve, this will change.

  21. When you buy a phone, remove the sticker and put it some where safe and dry. If the phone goes bad put the sticker back inside the phone. Easy as that… just takes some forethought.

    TH

  22. Thanks for the comments everyone.

    @Marked: You’re right about the weight, of course, and maybe that is the main reason why better waterproofing isn’t common. But some models are presumably better waterproofed than others – e.g. this Nokia (sorry not sure of model) has a rubberised plastic internal cover shielding the battery, and a one-piece keypad moulding. This model seems to be particularly popular with builders here in the UK, presumably because of this protection.

  23. My phone recently stopped working, so I took it to the Verizon store (we don’t have a whole lot of options in Montana). The girl at the counter popped the back off and said, “You got it wet, the warranty is voided.” I replied that I’d never gotten it wet, and she said, “You must have talked while in the shower or something, sorry…” Just like that.

    You can be sure that my new phone has a piece of tape over that sticker. We far from humid in Montana, and I always carry my phone in a jacket pocket, etc… Not in my hip pocket. Just another way to screw the consumer.

  24. My Samsung cell phone accidentally went through a complete cycle in my washing machine. After I removed the phone from the shirt packet where I had left it, I removed the battery, opened the case and let the whole thing dry out completely before reassembling it. Except for a very slight “stain” on the LCD panel, the phone (and battery) worked perfectly for years afterwards.

  25. I drove my car into the lake and it stopped working. What a piece of crap! Why can’t they design these things to be submersible?

    I can tell you from experience designing held held electronic products for the last eight years, making a product submersible can easily increase the cost, size, and design time by 2-5X. It’s never “free.” As you know, time to market is crucial and cost is always an issue. If the cell phone companies identify a market for submersible cell phones, then you’ll see one, but expect it to cost 2-5 times as much.

  26. If the surface of the sticker shows any printing: Be careful with the tape trick! Cut out a matching piece of paper so the glue of the adhesive tape will not make the printing come off (it is designed to to exactly that!). Another way to void the warranty :-(

  27. ‘m not sure what the purpose of this article is. Is it instructions on how tow to break my cellphone so I can get a new one from my warranty?

  28. I have a Sony K750i which doesn’t have the sticker under the SIM card.. but it has a similar looking sticker on the battery, which has turned red (no water damage, but it’s been to some pretty humid places).

    I checked some co-worker’s much newer K750i’s, and their stickers are all red too.

    Just some input.

  29. Those stickers are pretty much THE warranty-void indicator. Cingular, as far as I can tell, will replace a phone under warranty as long as the moisture-stickers are white and the screens haven’t been cracked.

    I had a v180 (crap, I know, but free) that was acting up on me. Was defective in many ways, but I’m sure my tendancy to chuck it when it started dropping calls didn’t help. At one point I totally disassembled it and reseated all the parts. By the time I brought it in for warranty, the flip hinge was wobbly and creaking, all of the plastic was scratched up… they didn’t care.

  30. i used to work on motorola cell phones in my last job. we used to take old beat up phones and turn them into refurbished pieces of renewed junk.

    yes, it is true that this white sticker does magically change from white to red when hit with water, but it’s not that easy. this dot needs to sit in water for a while to be completely emersed in red dye. just a gentle drop or over exposure to heavy humidity will not change its color. (i’ve tried)

    though i’ve seen water damaged phones come in that the dot was not changed yet the humidity messed the phone up. one phone in particular is the motorola 120 series. this group of phones, i have witnessed to be rusted on the inside, yet still work which was remarkable.

    how to beat this? LIE
    yes, lie. do you really think some dipshit talking to you is really going to give a shit and open your cell phone to make sure your phone isn’t water damaged? no. they’ll send the phone to their refurbishing headquaters, still make a small profit by selling someone that same phone and get you to buy another one. wheter your choose not to buy another one is the lack of good salemenship in their part and they get stuck with the bill and you get a new phone (of equal or lesser value)

    how to get away with this? it’s just a white dot. get a sticker and place it on the phone after peeling the old one off and there you go! enjoy~

  31. Next thing you know, it will void the warranty if it breaks at a certain altitude or if it’s on the third Tuesday of each month. If it’s broke…fix it! If it breaks, make it better so it doesn’t!

  32. I’ve worked selling phones for a while and so have to deal with warrenty returns that turn out to be liquid damage. The red spots are used as a quick check, any phone we get back un repaired comes with photographic evidence of liquid damage (corrosion etc).

  33. The red mark is just for store employees to give you a quick answer. The real signs are copper leads with green corrosion or steel screws with red corrosion. It’s really up to the warranty department to decide whether or not to bill you after they see your broken phone.

    Old Nokias used to be water resistant. I’ve heard testimonials about the 6010 surviving the washing machine.

  34. author is correct: it seems cellphone designers are more interested in adding gee-whiz features than making their product tough. the first cellphone i ever fell in love with was the Seimens ME45. it was so tough i could drop it or dunk it with no problems at all. it’s successor – the M75 – feels like a tank.

    no doubt ordinary consumers don’t need this level of toughness (it’s not like they live in a warzone or anything) but certainly some of the R&D that went into these should go into more ordinary phones instead of trying to figure out how to add a twenty megapixel camera or 5.1 surround sound or whatever.

  35. Several years ago, I worked at a place in the Twin Cities that fixed Nokia cellphones. The phones didn’t have any water sticker at that time but we didn’t need one anyways.

    The way to check for water damage was to open it up and look at the circuit board. Water damage leaves very tell-tale signs on electronics. Liquid damage was regarded as unrepairable so we wouldn’t even try to repair them.

    We had one guy that took the examination one very unnecessary step further: he’d try to id the liquid that caused the damage.

    The method used for this required him to lick the circuit board. You’d be surprised how many phones get Kool-Aid spilled on them.

    One day, he got a peculiar look on his face after licking a particularly hideous example of liquid damage. He never said what it was, but he never again tried to id liquid damage after that…

  36. > “our design fault?”

    So it’s the manufacturers fault you dropped your phone in water and it stopped working?

    IT’S TIME PEOPLE TOOK SOME BLOODY RESPONSIBILITY FOR THEIR OWN ACTIONS AND STOPPED TRYING TO BLAME SOMEONE/ANYONE ELSE FOR THEIR OWN STUPIDITY.

  37. Like others have said, the stickers are a quick way to spot liquid damage, any half-ass competent tech can spot moderate immersion in no time flat. Companies offer insurance that specifically covers accidents, liquid, and theft, people are just usually too cheap to do anything to protect a 200-300 dollar investment. Also, making phones water-resistant or proof is a problem, check out nextel’s ones- the i300 series and the i580- all gigantic, heavy phones that are resistant.

  38. My wife’s Nokia came back from the repair shop with the sticker turned red – even though it was white when it was sent in. Luckily our dealer was the one who sent it in, and had checked prior to sending it.

    They did do the repair it was sent in for, under warranty, so I’m pretty sure it got wet at the repair shop.

  39. In response of:
    For those who think that waterproofing would be cheap–well, try it sometime.

    That can not be true. My handheld GPS is quite waterproof and it is quite cheap as well. It can be done. It´s just so that engineers and companies doing electronics are not accustomed to waterproofing. But they can learn.

  40. I can tell you from experience designing held held electronic products for the last eight years, making a product submersible can easily increase the cost, size, and design time by 2-5X. It’s never “free.” As you know, time to market is crucial and cost is always an issue. If the cell phone companies identify a market for submersible cell phones, then you’ll see one, but expect it to cost 2-5 times as much.

    So tell me, o great product designer, if it’s so expensive, difficult, and bulky to make equipment that can resist water, why can I go over to Wal-Mart right now and buy a wristwatch that is very small and 50M water resistant for 5 bucks?

    Seriously, we’re not taking our phones scuba-diving here, we just want something that won’t disintegrate if we make one little mistake.

  41. Over my life time I’ve had 3 electronic devices sent in for servicing and came back with Water Damage – Not Covered. NONE of got wet even by rain. One other was possibly damaged by water but it WAS water resistant (J-class 7) but it did go in the drink so fair is fair. But what about the high humidity enviroments that simply change the sticker regardless.
    Fooey

  42. Ah, here are examples of the two philosophies which are competing to wreck America today. Are you a Republican who thinks the big companies should control citizens, or a Democrat who thinks citizens should control big companies? Should you pay twice for your cellphone and thank Big Brother, or make them pay for their sloppy engineering by defeating their tattletales? Which is better for America in the long run? I’m a moderate myself. . .

  43. I have actualy dropped my phone in the bath, got it out within 2/3 secs. and it still works fine!!!
    Good old Nokie 3210, I have dropped it so many times onto solid floors, walked on it once, and its still going strong:)

    old tech is sometimes better then the new gizmoes

    1. I agree, Nokia have good products!
      My wife has a Nokia 6500Classic mobile phone, it’s kind of very slim, metallic, heavy/solid and so stuffed with gadgets I believe she only uses 5% of them.
      She is a medical doctor and works pretty hard, with kids in hospitals etc.
      The phone has been dropped in water (for tips on rescue contact me) and regularly hits the ground, to such an extent that I had to use super-glue twice to just keep it together – but it still works like a bomb!
      Our standing ‘joke’ is me asking her if the phone already had its daily fall ;-)
      Now although this does not reflect on Nokia’s service, it sure tells a lot about their product!
      G O D bless
      Gabriël Smit

  44. I have a w800 that stopped working, i took it in to Vodacare to have it fixed… but they told me that the phone had water damage and thus they couldnt attempt to fix it. It’s actually as if they have a long checklist of things to look at before even trying to diagnose teh problem! After throwing my toys for a while and realising the brain dead manager wouldnt have it fixed although my phone has NEVER been dropped in water, i took the phone and left…To my surprise it was working again… Since the phoen was ther for 2 days i assume it miraculously got healed on the 2nd day and the guys didnt pick it up because they were just looking for signs of water damage, OR they fixed it but couldnt tell me because of procedure? The latter is a bit of a fairy tail i guess…

    Tip to anyone buying cellphones, take it directly to the brands shop and make them check that it is free of any water damage just in case!

  45. I covered my phones white dot ‘accidentally’ with my ownership info printed on a label maker. I knew it was there and when putting my personal contact info under the battery, it was the only place it would fit anyway. When I checked it out the other day, I noticed that even though it was under the sticker and white when I bought it, and has never not been that way when I check it – it now says void in red letters on the sticker. I bought the extended warranty on this phone, and now I suspect they will not respect it.

    Does anyone know where we can get the raw material used for these in bulk? I would like to see them tested for sensitivity to both moisture levels and other chemicals. Do they go off if I happen to leave it in my car on a cold day and then take it in the office? Do they react to chemicals that might be found in certain environments(including under a piece of tape)? Can we use the “prove it” defense if our phone is rejected for water damage – on the basis of it possibly being something else – or conditions that would not void the warranty?

    1. They told me ours could have turned to to humidity in the air, but it still voided our warranty. My other phone also says void, it has never had water damage either. Everybody bend over cause they are screwing us!!!!

  46. If you’re trying to kill a phone, 2-3 seconds in the microwave is all that it takes. The dot doesn’t change color and the circuits are fried. Don’t ask me how I know.

  47. yeah i work for cingular and there are definitely more than one sticker on the phone. Most are on the charging connection module inside the case (since a lot of people put their phones in their cupholder after theyve had multiple drinks sweating in the tray) and on the circuit board itself. good luck getting some tape on those.

  48. and , no, humidity will not do the trick unless its raining on your phone. let me just be very clear on this: there is no way for the sticker to change color WHATSOEVER without having at least one solid drop of water on it. if youre having problems with the phone and the sticker is red, you got the phone wet, whether or not your stupid a$$ realizes it.

    1. this is a load of bull.
      i have the samsung eternity so i dont know how water may have gotten into my phone.
      it has been in the bathroom while i take a shower but i dont think humidity is the cause.
      I have used my phone in the rain…but i have a touch screen…?
      is the warranty over? or do you think i can get a new one?

      1. My v3 has a a cover that doesn’t exactly lock. So, if you walk in the drizzle, or somehow get the phone lightly wet on the exterior, it will change the dot color, as the sticker is placed at the bottom of the battery cover. Thus, placing the phone on to a wet surface (like a cafeteria table with a soda ring)is enough to void the warranty. Cool?

        Now, Beneath the battery the area is protected by a waterproof coating, so it won’t touch the circuitry unless soaked. Therefore, there are two stickers if I am not mistaken, one inside the phone on the circuit board, and one by the battery on the outside.

        1. “sticker is placed at the bottom of the battery cover”
          ** i meant the sticker is placed at the bottom below the battery terminals right next to the corner of the battery door. A design flaw.

      2. Same thing has happened to my samsung eternity, and the wettest place it’s ever been is my shorts pocket on a hot day. Jon V, you’re completely wrong.

      3. My son has a Sony Erricson 580i which vodaphone refuse to deal with even though it it within its warranty. They claim it has been damaged by water but only on the circuit board not the battery or in the area where the sim card goes. The vodaphone shop told me that I cannot take it in the bathroom or the kitchen due to steam. I cannot put it in my pocket incase it rains and moisture could get in. Yet Sony advertise on its site that it can be used anywhere any time and even advertise a boom box to take to a beach which I believe is a place where you could expect to find a certain amount of water! They will not fulfil their warranty. Have you had any useful info? Thanks Sue

  49. i did see recently that casio is making and marketing a waterproof phone in asia. ads show the phone in a fishtank

  50. I have seen a phone accidently drop into water and fished out immediately and its still working altho it was a very inexpensive simply not phone no where near to being waterproof

  51. Jon V, I’ll have to disagree with you on that. I have a PPC6700 which has never been submerged, or subjected to anything other than, perhaps, rain. However, I discovered a few months after getting my phone that the water-damage sticker had turned pink (It began as a checkerboard of red) indicating that it had been submerged. I would call it a design problem when rain, something that every cell phone will be subjected to at some point will void the warranty.

    P.S. The phone still works perfectly, so the rain aparently caused no damage.

  52. The screen on my LG chocolate is pure white. No display at all. The verizon place said water damage because the sticker was just a tad off white. Im so mad. I NEVER had that phone near water. It is only a few months old and i have taken GREAT care of it. I will never have verizon again after the contract ends. I think they actually put pink stickers on expensive phones just to rip off its customers.
    We paid $200 for that phone of course i didnt dunk it in water or even get a drop of water on it. what a rip off. if i had actually not taken care of it i would not mind paying out of my own pocket to replace it but i took exceptional care of that phone. I was so thrilled with it. hah! verizon can screw other people from now on!

  53. Well I had a new $300. phone that I paid full price for, had it for 4 months when it started doing a lot of haywire things. It continued to slowly get worse & I took it in to Sprint. By the way, I have the full insurance – the most you can get & expected it to be replaced. They told me that it had gotten wet – it most definately has not as I have been very careful with it, had not even dropped it yet! They said that just having it laying anywhere in the bathroom while you shower can do it. Well that is possible but I think it is crap. They should tell you that. They will not cover it, (said the blade at the bottom of the phone showed water damage – never opened it). The last time I took a phone in they said it had been sat on or something (this was also a new phone & had not been – nothing cracked either). They never stand behind anything.

    Questions:

    James – I have not heard of the law about “not fit for the purpose intended” but I like it. Is that a U.K. law? I wish there was something comparable in the U.S.

    Matt – what insurance do you have that covers all damage including water, ect.? I thought that I did but was wrong, now I cannot find a Co. that offers that. Hopefully that is a U.S. Co. also.

  54. I am glad I found this thread. There are major problems with this red sticker being 100% proof of water exposed phone. How about changing the battery with wet hands? I also know Jon’s statement that a minimum of one whole drop is necessary to turn sticker red, is flat out wrong. First off, what it “red?” I go to sprint with a phone that stopped working when I dropped it. The sticker had a pinkish hue with one side of the stiker being solid red. A clear partially exposed sticker. The clerk behind the counter reflexively voided my warrantly for water imersion. Why is this sticker not located inside the phone instead of the battery compartment where people frequently access. Why were we not given NOTICE of the sticker so we could take reasonable precauitions against sticker exposure–I feel ambushed.
    I am also a radio tech and I could pages about wrongfully relying on these stickers to void warranties. We all must wait for a Consumer Action to challenge this customer rip-off. Call me first as I can document my circumstances with photos and such.

  55. I don’t know how all phones are, but I opened up an old phone of mine just to see what this sticker business was all about. Indeed there is a sticker with little red dots on it in my old sanyo. It took a significant amount of water to turn the sticker any other shade than white with pokadots. Eventually it turned slightly pink after I rubbed the water onto the sticker with my finger. The whole point of this thread is to make people realize that the important thing here is to make customers happy, hence the mention of a better design. The best way to do it (from a business standpoint) is to do it the cheapest way possible. Well, as heartburnkid pointed out earlier, they can engineer a 5 dollar watch to be waterproof, so why can’t they give me at least 10 seconds for my $300 cell phone? I actually had an experience with water in my phone. My last phone (a used panasonic off ebay) took a swim with me in a lake for a good 10 minutes. When I realized what I had done, I immediately went home with it, took out the battery, flipped the screen open, set it on its side and layed a hair dryer on low in front of it. I waited about a day until all the fog had cleared from the screen, put the battery back in, powered it up and to my surprise it worked. It was a little squirly after that, but it worked.

    1. haha this story made me laugh because my phone slipped out of my pocket while going up the log flume at Great America. My phone was only 20 bucks, so it’s death was fortunately acceptable

  56. The defect is in the stickers, however, this is a huge asset for the phone companies. The stickers do not indicate that the phone has water damage. They turn red due to normal moisture in the air. All of these companies are tricking customers into buying an insurance plan that is automatically voided under normal conditions. No phone sticker will last in your purse in the bathroom sink when you are taking a shower or when you have the humidifier on in the baby’s room. Humidity, not just water, turns the sticker red. These companies know this, but it is in your contract so that they don’t have to provide any service at all, period. Almost all of the phones that are returned for work have absolutely no water damage to them. This is a cheap way to void the contract on every phone.

    To make a long story short, don’t buy this contract and expect to ever have your phone fixed even though it didn’t get wet. The contract does not say “if your phone has water damage,” it says, “if the sticker is red” otherwise they you would be liable for a lawsuit against them. If anybody knows of a case where the contract is otherwise, PLEASE, SUE THE F@(k out of them and tell us all about it on Fox News. Somebody needs to put these deceivers in their right place!

    On the other side, I assume every company does this, so I would take some precautions. Primarily, I would place a tiny pice of plastic over the sticker that is slightly larger than the sticker and does not contain any adhesive (whick will cause the sticker to turn red. Then I would hold that in place with another layer – this time electrical tape, which will lock out moisture. Another solution is to just say your phone is lost. Hey, if they are deceiving us and saving millions of dollars doing it, don’t you deserve the right to do the same to them for the small cost (on their behalf) of your single phone?

    BY THE WAY, if you really do drop your phone in water, TURN IT OFF IMMEDIATELY AND LEAVE IT OFF FOR THE NEXT FEW HOURS or the circuits will short and the phone (or some portion of it) will never work again! Corrosion occurs when metals and water mix. In addition, microbes will form and begin to grow around the circuitry. To stop this you should use alcohol (rubbing alcohol only!), which is the common way for cleaning computer circuit boards too. Alcohol will help the phone dry quicker too! I would do the following ONLY in this order AND IMMEDIATELY AFTER THE ISSUE OCCURS EVEN IF THE PHONE APPEARS TO BE WORKING (BEST) OR IF THE PHONE BEGINS TO STOP FUNCTIONING LONG AFTER THE TIME OF THE INCIDENT.

    1. REMOVE THE BATTERY

    2. EITHER TAKE THE PHONE APART AND CLEAN THE CIRCUITS (BOTH SIDES) WITH ALCOHOL AND A RAG, BEING CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK ANYTHING

    OR

    FILL A CUP WITH RUBBING ALCOHOL AND DIP THE PHONE IN IT

    3. DO NOT TURN THE PHONE ON FOR ANY REASON UNTIL THE NEXT DAY. YOU MAY SPEED THIS UP BY PLACING IT IN THE SUN OR USE A BLOW DRYER AT A LONG ENOUGH DISTANCE TO KEEP IT FROM GETTING HOT BUT DON’T EVEN THINK OF PUTTING IT IN THE OVEN UNLESS YOU PLAN TO EAT IT!

    4. REPLACE THE BATTERY AND TURN THE POWER ON.

    IF YOU DON’T DO THIS, MICROBES WILL GROW ON THE CIRCUITRY (THEY LOVE THE HEAT) AND SOME FUNCTIONS OF THE PHONE MAY CEASE TO WORK.

    NOTE THAT I LEARNED THIS THROUGH A+ EXAM GUIDES AS THE COMMON TECHNIQUE FOR FIXING BAD RAM STICKS ON COMPUTERS.

  57. mine fell into water and in the course of taking it appart i found a small silver oxide button battery indside[ measuring 1.4volt] !
    These have a shelf life of only 5 years – so you can work out for yourself what the consequences are given that it is not user-replaceable and not rechargeable
    do you think all modern mobile have one in ? !
    What do you suppose that it is really for ? !!!!

  58. My motorla razor has a red sticker on the inside of the back cover and on the battery. Of course my sticker on the inside cover turned red, but i never recall it being in water. The funny thing is that the red dot on my battery isn’t red. So what the f, if a prick of water gets on a white dot a phone warranty is void. I think phone companies need to find a new way to judge water damage, because this is absurd.

  59. Okay, the purpose of this article (since someone said they weren’t sure) is so that people know that there is a possibility that their warranty can be voided due to no fault of theirs: i.e. the whole “humidity can set off the phone sticker” issue. Yeah, sure, there are people who will try to misuse this information and try to get a new phone after dropping theirs in a toilet or something, but I seriously doubt that if you completely submerse your phone, the sticker will not turn red if you put a flimsy little piece of tape over it. So, the PURPOSE of the article is just what I said… to inform people that your warranty may be voided due to no fault of your own. If a little humidity is enough to set the stickers off and screw me out of the $300 I would need to replace my phone, then I should have a right to know about it and be able to cover it up. As said before, if a phone has been actually submersed in water, then the tech can usually tell. The sticker is just another way to screw the consumer out of money, for the most part. The sticker makes it easy for the tech to say “oh, it’s water damaged” without even really looking at it. It’s easier to say that than it is to actually LOOK at the phone.

  60. I had my 2 month old Razr V3 in my pocket while mowing the lawn, in August, last summer…. red dot syndrome, but then again, the phone started acting CRAZY a few minutes later, so this was a real moisture issue, not an attempt by a manufacturer to duck a warranty replacement. Seems I perspire too much, at least, according to Motorola designers I perspire too much.

    I understand these phones are actually held together in places with double sided adhesive tapes (I’ve reviewed a ‘how-to’ on replacing the inside plastic screen in V3 Razrs, this is not coming from my imagination). Tapes are not easily applied in a perfect seal manner (not even by inexpensive chinese labor).

    I, too, would prefer better moisture resistant phones, and Sprint seems to have industrial grades of phones.

    FWIW, I’m on my 3rd Razr, this one has NO visible moisture dots on the phone or my battery; must all be internal, nowadays.

  61. ive had a phone (w850i) stop working from moisture damage through leavin it in the car over nite, now surely sony ericsson should think about a lil protection, it would be nice.
    Also ive done a bit of plumbin in my time and know that all that stops most of ur plastic drain pipes from leaking is a bit of spongy rubber, now surely that could be used in some way to prevent water damage, i know it obviously aint that simple but it cant be too hard for them either. every1 knows prevention is better than cure but the phone companies obviously prefer u to damage ur phone so u end up paying for 2 phones instead of 1.
    the only way they will change is through bad media any1 know n e 1 high up in the media to start this frenzy off.
    i personally have had enough of all phone companies treatin me the customer like crap, the only ppl that could do something about this are way too loaded to care so as usual we’ll av to shut up and hand over our money.

  62. First I would like to state that the majority of these phones are extremely cheap to produce and replacement costs, in and of themselves, are an outrage. This water damage sticker scheme is just another way to make/steal a bunch of money from customers who are acting in good faith.

    I had no warrunty but my phone was not working properly so I called TMobile. They sugary sweet and indicated it was absolutely no problem to have this phone replaced. They asked me all the standard questions such as “was the phone cracked, had it been dropped in water, has it been damaged in any way by me”. Like all the other people who have been ripped off by this scheme, the answer was “No”.
    Much to my surprise, on my next bill was a charge for $100 (this was a cheap $10 phone by the way).

    My contention is, if they took the time to ask me all of the questions about possible damage, why then did they not ask me to remove the battery and look at the little sticker to see if it had turned a different color. I feel like I was set up to be ripped off. This is a 2 part scheme. The first part is the sticker itself, designed to invalidate your purchase or warranty by normal use and the second part is directing customers to send back phones without properly instucting them on examining this easlily found little white or pink or red dot.

  63. I have actually discovered away to reverse the effects of the tell tale red/pink sticker. it is quite simple actually. Just e-mail me at vanessap1@cbemail.ca and i shall tell you how.
    Again once your sticker has turned red or pink i have discovered a way to return it back to normal.

  64. I have actually discovered away to reverse the effects of the tell tale red/pink sticker. it is quite simple actually. Just e-mail me at vanessap1@cbemail.ca and i shall tell you how.
    Again once your sticker has turned red or pink i have discovered a way to return it back to normal.

  65. Um, I have a v3m motorola razr. and my ‘water damage’ sticker is bright red. Does that mean my phone is going to like break soon or something?

  66. hello i have another question my razor says it has water damage this showed up when i droped it last nite but it was nowhere near water…i just droped it and the screen is messing up i was told 2 put a magnet on the top right cornor of the numberpad and i did it reset my screen or somthing of the matter and now its working but i dont knw if it will keep working is this really waterdamage?

  67. It seems to me that the sticker is the result of pretty good design. It’s inexpensive, simple and laughably easy to interpret. To say that the real solution is to make a waterproof phone seems beside the point. Motorola should build the phone so you can drop it in the toilet for 10 seconds?

    And no, a phone isn’t like a watch or even a GPS device. It has speakers and microphones and gives off quite a bit of heat that it has to release somehow.

  68. Well I have to say this. Someone stated earlier that people should not be stupid enough to drop their phones in water. Here’s my issue, (and I think this is where the companies get over on us)I have never dropped my phone in water but I noticed after only having my phone 3 days that the water damage sticker behind the battery was red!!! I got my phone (LG envy) in July. I live in the southeast of the U.S., anyone who lives here can tell you that it gets extremely humid here during the summer months. I believe the humidity is what the sticker detected. That is not my fault, I can’t control mother nature but if my phone malfunctions at some point I’m screwed. I’ll have to pay to get another. I agree, a better design or a better detection device should be used.

  69. ok i just got my phone really wet and its mostly dry and it kinda works i think if i wait like 2 hours for it to dry bettter it will work but how do i know it will work? and not just the little sticker that changes colour when wet is still wight does that mean they wouldnt know it got wet or what… what i really want to know is if my phone will still work?? Please help!!!

  70. May 2nd 2008
    I have been having problems with my Samsung phone not being able to hold a signal. Unless I am standing under a Tower it is very difficult to have enough signal to carry on a conversation. When I bought these phones one of the biggest deciding factors was their durability and warranty according to AT&T anyway. It has been through 7 different AT&T retail stores for diagnostics including having the case opened without any mention of the imposing red dot that is so easily spotted. I operate a small Trucking Company and we need our phones for everyday operations and even with the additional insurance that I am being charged for each month AT&T still says that they will not replace the phone due to the warranty being voided for water damage. My current cell plan runs me $2300.00 each month and they wont even replace a phone. I think it is time to go elsewhere for service, if anyone has any constructive advice or criticism please feel free to fire away.

  71. take bleach poor it into a lid take a q tip put on in , in the bleach and dab the red spot and watch as cthe red from the water dis a pears and it will turn compleatle white and take the other end and dry up the wet ness of the bleach and now your warrenty is no problem try it you will not hurt your phone at all

  72. wat do i do if my fone been water damaged for about 2 or 3months ..!
    and it is a metro pcs strobe..!

  73. IF YOUR PHONE GETS WET READ THIS!!

    i’ve tested this on an old phone and if you get your phone wet and your water detection sticker turns red get a q-tip and put a drop of bleach on it and let is sit until the sticker is white agian…

  74. Once upon a time I did mechanical development engineering of GSM handsets. If you want to prevent water from getting into the phone expect to pay considerably more for a phone and expect them to be good deal larger. forget about things like sliders, flips, etc. Forget about light weight thin walled housings.

    Every hinge, every mechanical joint would need seals. The housings would need to be sealed. The keypad would have to be isolated and seals would be needed to prevent water from getting past it. Keeping the seal intact after being dropped and probably during impact would be another challenge. Much of how a phone absorbs impact is how the housings flex on impact. That flex is an enemy of sealing the phone.

    I could go on, but I think it’s pretty clear where I am going with this. The only customer (Handset makers sell to the carriers for the most part) out there that might pay for a phone like this would be the military.

    It’s not that it couldn’t be done, it would just be expensive and have several drawbacks. With these drawbacks most people would just buy the much cheaper, fancier, slicker looking phone and think to themselves that they would never drop it in water.

  75. Maybe you’re all missing the point that the cell phones are made cheap and the stickers are made to purposefully turn color with the slightest bit of moisture so that you the consumer, who can’t live without a cell phone, will be screwed into buying another one … it’s not the cost of waterproofing … it’s not the weight … it’s that they can and they will get your money … we have 5 cell phones … i work outside … maybe mine got wet … my wife works indoors hers did not get wet … my son’s did not get wet, and neither did my mother-in-laws … but guess what … 7 months after purchase all stickers are red … how? … it’s a BS tactic by greedy manufacturers to get more money … you who design cell phones … get a new job, ’cause you’re not very good at the one that you have … stop trying to defend the company who probably doesn’t pay you what it should be paying anyway while the Fat Cats at the top are treuly making the big bucks … SELL OUT!!!

  76. I CAN TELL YOU ONE THING, CONFORMAL COATING THE CIRCUIT BOARD WOULD COST LESS THAN A COUPLE OF DOLLARS AND WOULD PROTECT IT FROM MOISTURE AND NOT AD MUCH WEIGHT AT ALL. NOT DOING THIS ALLOWS PHONE COMPANIES TO SELL MORE PHONES.

  77. ya also at least on Samsung batteries, they have a white sticker with blue x’s on it and when it gets wet it also turns pink or red. But my charging port on my Samsung u740 stopped working and i just got a new one 3 weeks ago, if that, and they (the phone insurance company) said if the phone sticker was pink then the warranty was void and we would owe them 200$ for false claims. and i don’t remember EVER dropping it or having it near water in the 3 weeks i’ve had it, plus even if you did get it wet, wouldn’t the battery one be pink too? because my battery one is still white. So I’m confused and if the insurance place calls. I’m just gonna tell them about the whole battery and phone sticker thing i just explained

  78. This may have already been pointed out, but some phones (mine, at least) have multiple stickers. I own an LG which is a couple years old, I believe the model # is VX8300 but it’s smeared so I’m not sure, but anyway is has a sticker on the battery, and one on the bottom of the battery case, and I would not be surprised if there was another somewhere else.

  79. Well my experiance with phone designers are not good. I bought A sony Ericcsson W910i for just under a three hundred pounds. it had a years warrentee. It started malfunctioning within 9 months. i took it back presenting them with the warrenty they sent it off and it came back.

    But the problems continued. a month later i took it back and complained i had spent a lot of money on a product. it was under warrenty yet they still hadnt fixed it. This time they were reluctant in sending it away. after puttig pressure on them, they admitted ‘Look mate… all they will do is upload the latest software onto the phone and send it back.’ i complained that wasnt good enough (i had already done that several times) and they shrugged there shoulders!

    They then said i should take it home and attach it up to my computer and set it back to factory standard. I explained i had done that several times. But recently when i attached it to my computer (which isnt a cheap computer) it froze and didnt respond to aything i did. Including pressing the power button. i literally needed to pull the plug on it.

    on the eleventh month my phone finally gave out and refused to turn on or do anything. I took it back for again and ploncked the expensive piece of guano on the counter. they remembered me in the shop. And i explained what was wrong with it. After a minute of scratching their heads they suddenly remembered that a few nights previously it had rained. they asked if i had been out in this. I explained that i had been out in it…for the ten minutes it takes me to walk home from the train station. I explained that i had employed an umbrella and my phone had been in my jean pocket at all times. Nevertheless they assured me that despite the long list of past complaints it was water damaged. And the warrenty was void. No further action would be taken.

    The conclusion is that with businesses they put in place many trips to safeguard their back. And indeed offload poor design problems (which would be expensive to rectify) onto the consumer. The consumers arent ‘falling into cracks’, A crack has been made by somebody then you are being swept towards it.

  80. My service provider wont honor my warranty on my HTC TyTN as they say their is liquid damage. The sticker showing the presence of water is still white, so I argued, their head tech says that the sticker only changes is it is submerged.
    He also said that if you use the phone in a fine mist, or while perspiring, you can cause liquid damage.
    I am very unhappy with them as I loved my phone and now have a piece of crap replacement.

    :( grrrr

  81. Hello,

    I am in the USA and I have nearly exactly the same problem with the HTC. (Although I no longer love this phone, I now hate it!) I have been having small ‘issues’ with the phone since I got it (HTC Touch – got it in april).

    Today I finally had time to take the phone to the store. They looked inside the phone at a small round sticker, just barely inside the phone shell, and said that since it was pink they could not do anything. -Because the phone was water damaged! I told them I have taken very good care of my phone and it has never been in water. They said the warranty is void because of the sticker – no recourse!

    I told the employee that the worst that had ever happened would have been if the phone was in it’s case, in my purse but if my purse was not closed all the way, and I walked from my car to my house while it was a misty day. She said that would probably be enough to do it!
    The phone companies are perpetrating fraud on all of us!!!

    They don’t have to try to take care of the customer over here because we have to sign 2 year contracts. I would cost me over $500 to get out of mine (3 phone lines). I’m considering it anyway.

  82. My wife had a SonyEricsson w580i on which the buttons started to crack she returned it to the Orange shop it was bought from and they replaced the buttons, a month later it did the same and was repaired again, w week later they broke again bu the shop said the warranty is only 3 months?? I looked it up on the web and found this as a common problem and so returned it to Orange UK they came back and said it was water damaged and they wouldnt repair it, they then said i would have to pay to get it back?? i got a feeling thats called stealing but go figure! anyway it came back without paying after some heated talks with a supervisor working ok but still with damaged buttons.
    My 580i then stated playing up it would access the music player in its belt worn carry case even though the key lock was on sent to Orange guess what, yep water ingress, its never been in water suprise suprise then my brother told me his Samsung had multiple problems and he returned it to Vodafone as it was on contract and under warranty and they said…..wait for it…. water ingress, it seems to me to be the stanbdard way of getting out of replacing the phone for any reason i know none of these phones were in or near water so what can we do?

  83. Just had a thought, in the UK the police, fire service, and paramedics all carry mobile phones, when they are sold the provider must know they will be used in the rain, and maybe in puddles or mud during capture of criminals, attending a fire or flood, or treating the injured! do they have some sort of insursnce to cover this? if so can we get the same insurance? or are theres replced without being inspected? might be worth knowing.

  84. i have a htc tytn 2 which i got in july-in january barely 5 months later the battery wouldnt charge so i sent it for repair at my local 3 store -after two and a half weeks i was told by 3 customer service that the phone would not be repaired as it was not covered under warranty as it had liquid ingression in it so it was void and i would have to get a second handset and i would get a running credit of 15 dollars per month-these phone companies are big frauds and something needs to be done as this seems a common get out clause for them which puts them at a distinct advantage over the consumers.i havent had my phone near water at all- i work 6 days a week and it sits in a basket at work which is nowhere near water and at home its sits on my office desk.
    has anyone got an answer to this to how we can get back at these phone companies?

  85. Well, I’m an unfortunate soul. As if my week hadn’t been bad enough with the findings that my ex cheated not once, but TWICE, my cellhone accidentally got soup poured on it tonight. Now, mind you, there wasn’t that much poured on it, so I really don’t understand what happened… it wasn’t completely soaked or anything…. Hmmm… anyway, now I’m sadly looking at my only means of communication (besides Skype, Facebook and email, of course) in dismay. It’s a Korean-built phone(I’ve been living in Korean for about a year now) and NORMALLY, they’re AMAZING, but not this one. It’s an OLD model… :(

    Here’s strange for you, though….

    I used to have a Nokia back in the States that I loved with ALL MY HEART! It was stolen while I was in Germany, otherwise I would still be using it. It was WAY ahead of it’s time, as far as technology goes….

    ANYWAY….

    It survived 2, yes 2, drops in the toliet. The first time 2 of the buttons stopped working. The SECOND TIME, though, it actually FIXED the buttons! I LOVED THAT CELLPHONE!!!

    when cellphones were first made, they were MUCH more durible. Now, they’re just cheaply made. It’s sad, really. Normally, I’m a RIDICULOUSLY clumsy person, but, with this phone, since I’ve been borrowing it from a professor, I’ve INCREDIBLY careful. Only TODAY have I messed something up on it. But, it’s had problems since I first received it, so I guess that it was just LOKKING for a reason to quit….

  86. soo this is what happenedd …
    me and my friend switched phoness , and used different SIM cards . and i got it water damaged and now it doesnt work . i was soooooo nervous to tell her , and when i did i found out that i was without a phone until i buy another pink motorola razr . its 120 dollars ! im only 13 , but i guess i deserve it . my parents yelled at me and i feel sooo bad :/ i dont think she likes me anymore . well , its a very sad story . but the thing is .. i didnt drop it in water ! the back of the phone got set in the sink , and now its completely broken . everytime i hit the ‘end’ button , a white blinks up on the screen . ughhhh , im sooo sad right now :/ i always break all my phones , and i wanted to prove to my parents that i could actually be responsible for once . but now they are mad at me and idk what to do . although it wasnt my phone , i still have to take the consequences , and pay for it with my own money .. that i dont have !! there goes my school clothess :/ if anyone knows how to fix my friends phone , PLEASE TELL ME !! i really need your help :/

    1. sorry for you.
      I’m just glad to have looser company. Dropped my new pre into a glass of iced tea. Then earlier this week had a rock fly up from the car in front of me on the hwy and gashed the hood of my new bmw…I just can’t win. GL

  87. I dropped my phone in the snow,me and my family searched for hours to find it..Nothing. Knowing it was going to rain the next night we decided to wait untill it melted the snow. My uncle found the phone and it worked for a good 20 mintues.Its been 3 days in all and my screen is completely white. Ive taken out the battery, blow dried it and none of it seems to be working. Any tips???

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