True Tales of Extreme Smartphone Survival

This iPhone survived a frozen lake

Key Takeaways

  • A remarkable number of smartphones survive after being lost in extreme conditions.
  • An iPhone 11 Pro recently was found working after spending 30 days deep in a frozen Canadian lake.
  • Phones have become a lot more durable in recent years, experts say.
mobile phone in brown muddy water
weisschr / Getty Images

Smartphones break all the time after being dropped, but some mysteriously end up surviving in extreme conditions. 

Take the case of the iPhone 11 Pro that recently was found working after spending 30 days sunken in a frozen Canadian lake. Angie Carriere was ice fishing in Saskatchewan when she accidentally dropped her iPhone 11 Pro into the lake. It wound up working fine after being retrieved and charged. Experts say phone survival is a combination of luck and design. 

"It’s common to think cold and heat can play a factor in conditions, but the tolerances for electronics in those fields are so high, the major danger is the [permeable] nature of the chassis of the device," Derek Whitaker, marketing manager at rugged device maker Estone Technology, said in an email interview. "Keeping moisture from penetrating your case is the name of the game."

Just Keep Your Phone Away From Water

Carriere is far from the only person to be surprised that their phone survived a regrettable accident.

In another recent incident, an iPhone 11 was found to be working after spending nearly six months at the bottom of a lake. Fatemeh Ghodsi dropped her iPhone 11 in Harrison Lake, Canada and thought she never would find it. But two divers later stumbled upon the phone while searching for treasure. The microphone and speaker were a little wonky, but everything else was still working. 

"Keeping moisture from penetrating your case is the name of the game."

Tim Cavey wrote recently that his iPhone 8 spent eight hours in the ocean and still functions just fine. He and his wife were paddle-boarding off Crescent Beach, Florida, last year, and he took his phone along to snap photos at sunset. 

"The phone slipped out of my fingers," Cavey wrote. "I watched in horrified slow motion as my phone hit the board, hopped once, and then slid into the depths below."

Cavey debated diving in after his phone, but ultimately decided not to because he was afraid of losing his other possessions, as well. The next day, his wife, Kristine, logged into his iCloud account and discovered that his phone was still active underwater and showing its location. 

Phone on the ground that is damaged by water
Jose A. Bernat Bacete / Getty Images

"At first, I couldn’t find it anywhere," Cavey said. "But as soon as Kristine—still logged into my iCloud.com account on her phone—hit Play Sound, one of my stepsons found it immediately. It had a lot of sand on it, but unbelievably, it worked. Like, everything worked. And it was at 58% battery."

Don’t try this at home, though. Apple says its phones are waterproof at a maximum depth of 2 meters (6.5 feet) for up to 30 minutes.

Planes and Phones Don’t Mix

A notable survival story (and video) chronicles the filmmaker who recently recovered his working iPhone 6S after dropping it out of a plane. He was flying over a beach near Rio de Janeiro, Brazil when his phone plummeted nearly a thousand feet.

He tracked down his phone using Apple’s Find My feature and found it still working. The phone even captured the footage on the way down. 

Phones have become a lot more durable in recent years, experts say. 

"Buttons and ports are the major concern these days," Whitaker said. "Screen protection has become much easier to prevent with advanced adhering methods."

Many manufacturers have begun to eliminate the number of ports on devices, and rely on consumers to purchase expansion accessories or utilize wireless technology, Whitaker pointed out, adding that "this helps reduce the points of failure." 

Of course, if you’re planning to drop your phone in a lake or out of a plane, you might want to consider buying a rugged smartphone. The BV9900 Pro, for example, is advertised as being able to withstand temperatures as low as minus-22 degrees Fahrenheit, making it perfect for your next trip to the deep freezer.

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