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Algae-covered iPhone 12 recovered from 3-month dip in river, still works

iPhone 12

A diver cleaning a river in Northern California found an iPhone 12 submerged and covered in algae but managed to power it on even after spending three months submerged.

Apple rates the iPhone 12 and newer at IP68 under IEC standard 60529, translating to a maximum depth of 6 meters for up to 30 minutes. The devices aren't meant to be intentionally submerged but have proven surprisingly resilient despite the water resistance rating.

A man named Lee reached out to AppleInsider to share his story of discovering an iPhone while cleaning the Stanislaus River for chinook salmon. On November 10, he found it coated in a layer of algae amongst some rocks.

Lee cleaned up the iPhone 12 and set it aside to dry out for a few days. On November 16, he managed to power it on after connecting a charger.

The device apparently didn't have a passcode, as Lee could unlock it and view information like recent photos and contacts. The most recent item in the Photos app was a video captured on the river on September 4, suggesting it had been submerged there for three months.

Lee hasn't been able to find out who lost the device but plans to reach out to some of the contacts listed within the iPhone 12.

Apple may only rate the iPhone 12 and newer for protection against splash damage or temporary submersion, but the devices can withstand a lot depending on a few factors. Water and debris ingress is prevented by gaskets in the iPhone, so as long as those remain intact, an iPhone won't sustain lasting damage while submerged.

Issues arise when that gasket material is damaged, usually through drops, repeated submersion, or exposure to steam. Devices like the one in this story tend to have intact gaskets and land in a way that prevents long-term damage.

Apple doesn't cover water damage, even if the device can handle three months in a river. It is best to avoid intentional submersion, even for an instant to take a photo, because there is no way of knowing if or when the gaskets will fail.