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First Look: HzO internal waterproofing for gadgets

updated 04:30 am EST, Wed January 11, 2012

Tech eliminates the need for bulky cases

When Motorola introduced the Droid Razr, the handset's internal water-resistant coating appeared to be a unique feature in the smartphone market. Electronista spoke with a separate company, HzO, that has taken the technology much further, enabling smartphones to be completely submerged underwater without the need for an external case.

HzO's WaterBlock system coats internal components with a waterproof layer using vapor deposition to form an extremely thin coating that is claimed to quietly protect circuitry without affecting factors such as heat dissipation.

Motorola carefully words its description of similar technology in the Droid Razr, labeling it as resistant to water splashes. Most phones without water-resistant technology can take a few splashes without destruction, as long as users pull the battery quickly if water enters the housing.

HzO showed us a demonstration of the Razr compared to a separate Android phone that was protected using WaterBlock. The Razr screen began to glitch within a few seconds before the phone appeared to completely shut down. The WaterBlock device kept running even while completely submerged.

Although we could not personally verify the details surrounding the HzO test, we did witness a iPhone 4 casually tossed into a fish tank. The phone continued to operate without a problem, even sending an audio signal to a dock via a 30-pin connector and sync cable.

We prodded HzO representatives to tell us which smartphone makers have signed up for partnerships to integrate WaterBlock technology. As expected, however, manufacturers have insisted that the discussions be kept quiet.

Many smartphone makers have completely dismissed the thought of waterproofing their phones, but some are likely thinking that such a move requires complex adaptations, such as o-ring seals, throughout the external housing. We expect the technology to follow the same path as Corning's Gorilla Glass--mostly ignored until its enhanced value clearly outweighs the slight cost increase.

HzO is working directly with manufacturers to place the vacuum deposition machines in the existing production facilities. Hopefully smartphone manufacturers will see the value in the technology, which will help eliminate one of the most common service issues that frustrates customers and leads companies to place water-indicator decals inside housings to fight users who demand a warranty replacement for a device that was dropped in a puddle.

by MacNN Staff



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