Taking the iPhone 3G for a swim

Posted on 09 March 2009 by



iphone This weekend brought some relatively nice weather and I thought it would be a good time for a hike. With some friends I went out to a local preserve, hiked up a large hill, and we had a mini picnic and enjoyed the warm weather. On our way back, we decided it would be a good idea to not go back the same way we came (which involved using a bridge to cross a river), but instead walk down the length of the river and find a downed tree or thin gap that we could cross. We came to a ‘good’ crossing point that had a pretty lengthy jump to a lower bank, but it would get us across. A friend leapt across and I tossed him his gear. It was my turn to jump and after a nice running start I was about to go flying through the air to the other side, when the bank gave way. Short story even shorter, most of me ended up in the water. This included my iPhone 3G which was on my belt. My first mistake was not tossing my phone to someone on the other side, and my second mistake was trusting the edge of the bank to be a good jumping point.

Anyway, the iPhone shut itself off immediately and wouldn’t turn back on; I wasn’t surprised. The phone was only submerged for a few seconds, but it was plenty of time to short some important connections. After a wet drive home, I knew what needed to be done. I pulled a bag of rice out and poured it into a bowl, then buried my iPhone in it. The rice quite readily absorbs water, and if there was any hope for the phone, the rice bath would be the thing to bring it back to life. After several hours in the rice spa, the iPhone powered on! This was a good sign, but it wasn’t completely functional yet. The hardware buttons were shorting out, and the phone constantly thought someone was holding the volume down button and the power button. I used the included SIM ejector key to eject the SIM card from the SIM slot on the top of the phone. This was good because there were visible water droplets covering the SIM card which would have caused problems later. I dried the SIM card and SIM card holder separately and put the iPhone back in its rice bath to try to continue to extract water from it, and hopefully get the hardware buttons back to a working state.

By some inconceivable occurrence, there were two grains of rice in the bottom of the SIM slot several hours later when I checked the phone again. I discovered these after the SIM would not go back into the phone. The SIM slot is a very slim space and it was really hard to see inside. I had to close one eye and line it up with an LED flashlight to be able to see the rice down there. The SIM card contact points are springy and jut out into the middle part of the SIM slot, trapping the rice and making it very hard to remove. The slimness of the space made it hard to get tools down there and around the SIM contact points to remove the rice. All-in-all, I spent at least and hour and a half looking into the slot with a flashlight, then trying to get the rice unstuck using a pocket knife and a paper clip. This was not a fun process, but after much toiling, I finally freed both grains of rice from the SIM card slot.

By this point, the phone’s hardware buttons were functioning fine. I did a restore of the software just to be safe, and had to reload all my media, which took a little while, but it was much better than being without a phone for several days and having to buy a new one.

The moral of this story? Rice not only tastes good, but can bring a soaked gadget back to life. If you are ever in a similar situation, get your device into a bowl of rice ASAP and leave it for several days to give it a fighting chance.

So that was my weekend, did any of you do anything fun?

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15 Comments For This Post

  1. Steve 'Chippy' Paine says:

    Taking the iPhone 3G for a swim http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=6163

  2. Robert Basic says:

    mit Reis ein geflutetes iPhone trocknen? Geht:) http://cli.gs/8PeUZb

  3. David Gross says:

    RT @chippy: Taking the iPhone 3G for a swim http://www.umpcportal.com/?p=6163

  4. Jackie says:

    RT @TechIG: Can rice save your iPhone/G1 from water damage? http://tinyurl.com/ddcnf6

  5. turn.self.off says:

    i wonder how much easier it would be to resurrect the phone if one could pop the back cover off and extract the battery…

    i also seem to recall a treatment some company was showing off, that would make just about any portable device water proof.

    i think they had a dap submerged in water playing music all of CES or something, only have to take it out to clean the battery contacts and headphone jack of electrolytic deposits or something.

    Ben Reply:

    As much as people seem to want a removable battery, I would rather have it enclosed in the case of the iPhone. First of all, I don’t think it would be any easier to fix the phone, water would still be throughout. As for the unibody phone, not having a removable battery means less space taken up by all the pieces necessary to make that happen, and more room for battery. My phone lasts me all day and gets charged at the end of the day, I don’t have a problem with it. I think a relatively small number of people would actually tote multiple batteries with them and swap them out as they run out, and Apple knows that. They created a highly aesthetically pleasing, extremely durable unit. I’d rather not have a thin piece of plastic and a latch to hold it closed on the back of the iPhone.

  6. Tim says:

    I’m on iphone number 3 and my first one (iphone 2G) I had for only 17 hours before I was caught in a torrential downpour and it got soaked in a sports bag that it was being carried in. Took it to a shop that dried out the mobo and found it would cost more than the original purchase price to repair… so that’s how I made my move to the iPhone 3G :)

  7. Sam says:

    The best way is to take out the battery and submerge the cell phone immediately into 100% Ethanol. Ethanol is much more efficient in absorbing water within a few minutes. After that just keep it in the open space for few hours as ethanol is also very quick to evaporate. This always works without any damage to the cell phone.

    Ben Reply:

    Interesting technique, have you done it before?

    Domin Reply:

    100% Ethanol or close to 100% – this works. Cleaned that way my Nokia that felt into sweet juice. Rescued walkie-talkie after it was wet with sea water. Only you have to be carefull with chasis of device as sometimes Ethanol might react with surface (especially with plastic glass for screen).

  8. pradyut says:

    This is truly an amazing story… just a matter of time before apple fan boys post links to this all over…

  9. Sarig says:

    Whenever I drop a phone or a gadget into water (or a pint of beer as it once was), I just remove the battery and leave it for drying for at least 24 hours, in a warm dry place. Hadn’t heard of the rice thing before, but it’s certainly something I’ll remember for the future.

    Being able to remove the battery and thus at least being able to prevent further electrical damage is something I would think is important though.

  10. TJ says:

    +1 on the 100% Ethanol… or rubbing alcohol (not 100%) if nothing else. Remove battery if able, dunk and remove. Shake out excess, place on towel in oven on WARM. Less than 150f or use hair dryer.
    3 items brought back to life.

  11. EC says:

    It will over time die on you if it has moisture damage. It will eat up the circuit board connections over time.

  12. Ben Lang says:

    @XavierLanier I dropped mine in some water and its still working : P sounds like either I have good luck, or you, bad. http://is.gd/oA6N

  13. Evi says:

    my iphone 3g fell in the sea at night… no chance to find it until after 4 hours where there was enough light to see at the bottom of the sea… I just washed it with fresh water, dried it with the blowdryer for a while and put it in a bag of rice.. After 3 and a half days I removed it from the bag and still it wont switch on… I have heard of cases that the phone wouldn’t switch on until after several days or weeks and that the phone would be fully operational.. Any suggestions on what else to do?

  14. Sherrilyn says:

    I got an iPhone 3G as a gift from my best friend. This phone is the best phone that i ever had, great style and great features. I luv my iPhone 3G.
    *.

  15. danwix says:

    I love my iphone!