For water-seeking aquaphiles this summer, the Samsung Galaxy S4 Active on AT&T’s 4G LTE network may be just the perfect companion to take poolside or to the beach. However, as with all marketing, the Galaxy S4 Active may be the latest in a long list of products where caveat emptor, or buyer beware, rules still apply. While Samsung’s and AT&T’s commercials and ads encourage users to take a splash with the waterproof build of the Galaxy S4 Active, Samsung’s legal warranty terms say otherwise.
The Galaxy S4 Active is IP67 rated, meaning it has the highest rating for being dustproof. In water, the phone is rated to be able to survive small dips in water for up to 1 meter (3 feet) deep for up to 30 minutes at a time. This means it should be able to handle spilled coffee, an occasional splash in the pool, and short snorkeling excursions off the coast, and in reality it does so well.
However, should anything happen to the phone, Samsung’s warranty language doesn’t take into consideration the product’s unique design. In fact, the language isn’t much different from the regular Galaxy S4 whereby the non-Active variant is not waterproof nor dustproof.
“This Limited Warranty does not cover: (a) defects or damage resulting from accident, misuse, abnormal use, abnormal conditions, improper storage, exposure to liquid, moisture, dampness, sand or dirt,” the Galaxy S4 Active’s warranty says.
This may be problematic, according to a Giga Om coverage of the device’s water performance. The site noted that several readers on a Reddit discussion forum and a few Amazon.com review of the phone suggests that some users are experiencing issues with the waterproof nature of the device. The Reddit post was started by a person claiming to be an AT&T employee. For these unlucky few, it looks like there is no warranty recourse for the phone from Samsung directly.
This isn’t unusual though. Many of the waterproof cases designed for Apple’s iPhone smartphones are designed with similar waterproofing capabilities and are marketed in a similar manner as the Galaxy S4 Active, and very few of those provide warranty or even optional warranty coverage for water damage. Many of the case manufacturers say they’ll replace the case itself if it fails underwater, but few manufacturers would consider insuring your iPhone against water damage while using their defunct case accessory.
I spoke with representatives from AT&T and Samsung when I had reviewed the Galaxy S4 Active, and it seems like the most important thing about the phone is to ensure that several key steps are taken.
First, users should ensure that the micro USB charging flap is secure so water cannot seep into the port and damage the phone when you’re in or near water.
Second, users should take care in ensuring that the back battery cover is securely on before taking a splash. Sometimes, it feels like the back battery cover is still on, but there may be a section that may have not snapped into place. There are gaskets and rubber seals on the underside of the back cover that prevent water from entering the phone through the back, so this is an important step to take.
And finally, users should take care in pressing in on the area of the battery cover just below the camera. AT&T advises that customers press around the area where the AT&T globe logo is placed to make sure that area is sealed, along with the rest of the back battery cover.
These simple steps should help users avoid water damage with this waterproof phone.
In the waterproof space, a high-end alternative to Galaxy S4 Active is the Xperia Z on T-Mobile US’s network. That phone has less moving parts to deal with, so may be a little safer to consider as it doesn’t have a removable back cover.