Golden Shellback, waterproof your gadgets?
That’s a Blackberry getting dunked in pan of water, which it apparently survives just fine, thanks to a new “vacuum deposited” polymer coating process called Golden Shellback. You can see the CNET video “Waterproof your gadgets” below, Gizmodo filmed a cell taking a call while in a glass of ice water, and Tekzilla had some fun with an iPhone. But I’m a little confused; all these tech sites talk about “waterproof” but Golden Shellback itself clearly calls its technology “splash proof.” Many of us know from handheld VHF history that there can be a big difference.
Plus the Shellback technology is just in preview mode, with no stated pricing, warranty, or mail-in procedure yet. Yet, according to one of the videos, in a few months you may be able to send in your phone and have it splash/water-proofed for $50 to $75. (And another video mentions the rather shocking guesstimate of $1,000 to do a laptop computer.) Meanwhile I may get to test Shellback on some device from my collection, and John Konrad at gCaptain will be a primary source about all things Shellback. Konrad is also doing Web site design and PR for the company, which adds a bit to the confusion, but he’s out front about his various roles (and the sites look good). If this works out, it good be a very good thing. Yesterday I had my new Centro Smart phone out in small boats, which was useful, but I know from experience that even a dollop of saltwater will probably kill it. Reminder to self: waterproof bag and Bluetooth headset!
I have been following this for about 2 weeks now and I want it NOW. I have managed to avoid getting a cell phone wet, but have had some very close calls and am always worried about it, especially when climbing around the 12 metre bilges using the phone as a flashlight or camera.
If you want a 3g iPhone to have treated and test I think I am confident enough in their product to send mine along.
After visiting Golden Shellback’s site (nice look) and downloading their description of the product, I find I have a few questions. How are buttons splashproofed? I don’t see anything in their specifications that indicates elongation factors or tensile strength or gap-filling ability. And I think I’d want to know that information, since, also according to their description PDF, “Customers are solely responsible for determining the suitability of their product for application of Golden Shellback™ coating prior to any such application.”
I really want a waterproof smartphone, having lost three cell phones in the past to water (one in a sump pit in my house, two others from just a lot of perspiration in humid climates). This sounds great–much better than a waterproof bag. But I’m not quite ready to risk an expensive phone if the company doesn’t bear some culpability.
Electronics have thermal constraints. Sealing it watertight may seal all the heat in as well, eventually causing malfunction or failure and shortening the immediate and long term life of your battery. This is not a step you should casually undertake.
A one micron coating will have little effect on cooling (far less than being in a pocket). As far as their responsibility goes, I would agree, they need to give guidance at least, but we should probably reserve judgment on such issues until they are actually selling to consumers.
I’ll wait until others determine if this is for real. Two comments. The examples use tap water. Tap water isn’t really the big deal for electronics that everyone thinks. If you spill your drink on your keyboard, go take it and flush it out with lots of running water right away, so there are no sticky residues. I don’t know about salt water, but possibly the same thing. At least if the electronics was not running? The second point is that the individual pieces are already waterproof: metal, plastic, etc. It’s the joins between them which need to be sealed, and as drshaddock says, that seems more than doubtful. Perhaps they take the unit apart and encapsulate the electronics, but that is not the impression I got. There are standards for waterproofness and I doubt this will meet them.
I agree that this won’t meet any standards for waterproofness (why they call it splashproof), and I don’t want to go scuba diving with my iPhone, but if it protects my phone from a fall off the dingy, a splash in the launch, a drop into the bilge, or use in rainy/sweaty environments, then it is worth $50 easy.
As far as how they do it, I think they have been fairly clear that it is applied as a gaseous solution in a vacuum to ensure thorough distribution. The only thing I don’t understand is how the keys work afterwords if they rely on unsealed contacts, but if they tell me it works, I will tend to believe them. The Blackberry on NBC morning show certainly seemed to work fine. Tap water isn’t as bad as salt water, but their main goal is salt water splash-proofing for mariners so I have to assume they have tested with salt water.
You pay, they do something that is undetectable other than by putting your device to the water-test, but there is no guarantee. I wonder how many will purposely make that test? Sounds like it has good scam potential. Thanks, but I’ll wait until I hear back from your experiences.
Meanwhile, if you do drop your electronic gadget in the sea, here are a couple websites to help you recover:
If you want to protect your device from sea water,
it seems there are products already available:
http://www.iapltd.co.uk/ (IAP Marine H2O Barrier)
(United States Patent 4336311 “An electronic component is coated with an ultraviolet light cured composition to make it humidity and salt water resistant. The composition contains a urethane, at least one acrylate, a wet adhesion monomer, a photoinitiator, and optionally a thixotropic agent.”)
Longing for a phone I could not drown or crush, I got the unpronounceable “G’z One” offered by Verizon. It is, in fact, waterproof. However, it does not float – but that’s asking a lot. It does have a very husky ring to fasten it to some part of your wardrobe. It looks like I could drive over it, perhaps with my 2000 pound Miata, but I have not attempted that test. The phone has survived a number of six foot falls onto the concrete.
Although unadvertised very much, the phone is built by Casio of zillion watches fame. As you might imagine, the round b/w transflective display on the front of the phone is visible in any conditions, just like a watch. Wow. The phone is Bluetooth enabled, but the volume for various features has not been very well matched so it will shout at you for some functions and then whisper. My trusty Jawbone noise canceling headset seems to overdrive it, resulting in noise-free distorted audio from my end.
The inner, color display where all the phone controls navigate is strictly backlit and completely unreadable in full sun. Now if they would only have put the same type of display on the inside that’s on the outside I’d be really happy. The phone does not play music or purport to show video on a 1.75 inch screen, for which I’m grateful. It voice dials adequately but I’m having trouble getting to recognize “yes”. It does fine with complicated words, however.
The phone has the PTT function which lets you barge in to similarly set up phones like a hand-held radio, but I have no one I wish to annoy that much so the feature is wasted on me.
My advice to this whole waterproofing discussion is to buy something that is actually waterproof in the first place.
Seawater immersion is Mother Nature’s way of saying “Its new phone time”. How else can she ensure the evolution of the species, and provide a living for all those nice Verizon folk that are SUPPOSED to be following you around all day? I seem to have misplaced my crowd, but my G’Zone doesn’t need them.
Golden Shellback is open for business, ready to splash proof iPhones, Blackberry Pearls, and a few other small devices. They have established a warranty, but it is very limited: