iPhone 4 + Water = Oh God!

Thursday night I was frantically looking for my USB restore drive for my MacBook Air — my wife in the other room was rushing to get ready for dinner with some friends. The next thing I hear from my wife is:

Oh God! Oh God! Oh God!

I rushed into the room after asking what was going on and getting no response. Her iPhone 4 had just gone for a wee little swim. Oh God indeed. I quickly dried the phone off with a paper towel and tried to get it to force off (the screen wasn’t working and I had no way to tell if it was on or off). Next I popped the SIM card out and the tray, filled a Ziploc bag with uncooked rice and buried the phone in the rice.

We left the phone like that while we went to dinner, when we came back the camera flash LED was stuck on and nothing else on the phone worked. Again I tried to force the phone off and got nothing. Back into the rice it went.

Fast forward to the next morning: I checked the phone and it was working, but there was visible condensation in the camera lens. The screen was functional and the touch based input was working well. I powered off the phone, cleaned rice out of the open ports. Scavenged up some old silica gel packets that I keep in my camera bags 1 and I wrapped the silica gel packets against the phone with a paper towel. Again I put the entire thing back in some rice.

Friday night, about 24 hours after the phone was gasping for air while drowning in a pool of water, we pulled out the phone. We put in the SIM card and powered it up. 10% battery life left, but no side effects that we could see. Cool.

That night when we both went to bed and the iPhone started to act up. The screen wouldn’t stay on and started flickering. Not good. I took a look at it and noticed the the WiFi radio read in Settings as “Not Available”. Ugh.

We turned off the phone and put it back in rice for the night. The next morning the screen worked fine, but still no WiFi. Again on Saturday night the screen started to act up, but Sunday morning everything was fine again. I didn’t think much of it, figuring it was just the last bits of water drying out.

Then Sunday night it started to act up again, but you could always get the lock screen to display. Upon unlocking the device the screen would go black. Hmmm, seemed to me like it might be the light sensor acting up. We went into a bright room and unlocked the phone and the screen worked fine. I had my wife turn off the auto-backlight adjustments and the black screen and flickering issues ceased.

Her iPhone is anything but perfect after taking that swim, but so far the only things not functioning are the WiFi and the light sensor. All in all that is not the worst outcome we could have had. Rice: never dry a gadget without it.

  1. Great way to store your camera gear BTW.
Originally posted for members on: January 10, 2011
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