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Summary:

I only ever use my iPod touch (first generation) for working out, because my iPhone is a pampered pet that I try to keep out of danger as much as possible. It would be great to have the iPhone with me on a run, because I […]

moistureI only ever use my iPod touch (first generation) for working out, because my iPhone is a pampered pet that I try to keep out of danger as much as possible. It would be great to have the iPhone with me on a run, because I could still take calls, and use GPS-enabled run-tracking software, but I’ve always been paranoid about what the moisture levels from my sweat might do, even while wearing the sport armband.

Turns out I was right to be so overprotective because, according to a recent report by a local Houston news station, many users are finding that even just the moisture from their hands are causing iPhones to malfunction, and the immersion sensors in the devices to trip, which means Apple wouldn’t replace the devices, even if they’re under warranty. The people cited in the report had used their iPhone while working out at the gym, and when they brought the now-broken devices to the Apple store, employees suggested that the water damage came from holding the phones in their sweaty palms.

Far be it for me to criticize the wisdom of gripping any phone in your hands while you’re running or otherwise working out, but I do think exercising (pun intended) a little more caution when you’re using a $200 to $300 (subsidized) device might be in order. Still, users who’ve encountered this kind of problem aren’t completely out of luck, since Apple has recently introduced a new exchange policy for water-damaged devices that allows people to exchange them for a working unit for $199.

That’s still a little bit pricey, and all replacement units are refurbished hardware, but it is better than nothing. Admittedly, Apple should either stop marketing the exercise aid potential of the iPhone, or improve its moisture resistance, but until that happens, think twice about whether or not you really need that phone by your side when you’re pumping iron. Or, you could take your chances and luck out, like this guy.

Image courtesy wholikespotatoes on Photobucket

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  1. sweat isn’t going to trigger it unless you really drown the phone in it. if that’s happening, i’d probably see a doctor, because that seems like another problem entirely. i’m glad apple can replace them now, but the ones that get wet get wet, not moist.

    side note: the replacement they give you might be refurbished, it might not. the warranty states they can use refurbished hardware (in which case, it’s just the circuit board. their ‘refurbs’ are still built from scratch, and they only re-use that one part), but they don’t always.

    though i imagine this stings a bit for people who had to pay full retail to get their wet phones replaced before, but alas.

  2. Sweat can indeed trigger it. A friend of mine discovered this to his own detriment. What I find odd, however, is that there is a “blame the owner” mentality amongst many Apple fans. I really don’t understand why. Yes, it’s an expensive piece of equipment, and yes, it’s sensitive to moisture … but this is why people buy AppleCare. If the device malfunctions during the course of normal use (and taking an iPod touch or iPhone to the gym constitutes normal use, dropping it in the toilet probably does not), and it is under warranty, Apple should either replace or repair it.

    Further, the fact that many, many of these devices are failing due to moisture exposure is a joke. It’s poor engineering on the part of Apple. They KNOW that the internal workings need to be protected, and should have taken steps to ensure that water can’t enter the most sensitive circuit components. The fact that they bothered to add a water sensor, but not to waterproof the system board is just wrong.

    And to blame the user for Apple’s engineering errors is worse.

    1. Bravo! My daughter just had a situation where she had her phone in her pocketbook and some friends threw water ballons on her. A little water got in her purse,hit the phone and that was the end, $199 to replace it. The phone was only 4 months old and now she has a possibly refurbished phone. I know her friends were at fault but not much got on there and the whole thing is shot.

      They should build these things withstand some moisture. They do it with watches. I think they have a racket going on and they don’t make them better because a big part of the profits are “replacment “phones.

      To add insult to injury they don’t even let you keep the phone you bought orginally. They take that back in place of the supposed new one. My guess is so they can refurbish that one and resell it. YOu have no claom on your orignal phone,it’s like you are renting it because it’s “subsidized” with the plan. So if a phone gets wet they are making 3x $199 on one person. The orignal phone they bought,the replacment phone and than reselling the phone they turned in.

      All cell phone companies do that. I think this should be investigated. There is something wrong with this system!

  3. You said: “all replacement units are refurbished hardware”

    Not true. Apple store employee told me that they are “replacement phones”, not refurbished. Person said there is a difference.

    1. They told me that they take parts of old phones(I assume water damaged phones)and use them for the replacement phones. So they can tell you that that particular “replacement” phone you are getting was never used,true, but parts of the phone are used. If it was a new phone why don’t they give you another one in the original box? They also don’t even give you another charger for the $199,just the phone.

      It is all a gimmick!

  4. The iPhones are actually pretty damn indestructible. My friend dropped his in the tub (be careful reading blogs when taking a bath) and my wife dropped hers in a puddle. Both iPhones were able to return to fully functional state after a couple of days of rest.

    The trick is that you need to turn the device off immediately, remove the CIM card, and then place the phones in a ziploc bag with fresh silica dessicant packets for 48 hours.

  5. Anyone ever try ifrogz iBagz to stow precious cargo. Looks like it should work well though it may bounce around during a workout.
    No. I don’t work for ifrogz, but I love their cases.

  6. If it’s just sweat moisture getting into the headphone jack, you can demand the Geniuses at the Apple Store open the phone’s case and look at the internal water sensors. Most of the time those remain dry because the phone was never submerged in water. That’s how they can tell if it was really soaked or just in a high humidity environment.

  7. Next iPhone Rumored to Have Nike+, Radio Tagging Built-in Thursday, June 4, 2009

    [...] Ever since the release of the 2G iPod touch, I’ve been tempted to grab one just for one feature alone: Nike+ integration. As a runner, I’d love some way to track my progress, and the iPhone apps that work with the device’s GPS would be great, except I don’t want to strap my iPhone to my sweaty arm, for obvious reasons. [...]

  8. Apple News » Next iPhone Rumored to Have Nike+, Radio Tagging Built In Thursday, June 4, 2009

    [...] Ever since the release of the 2G iPod touch, I’ve been tempted to pick it up just for one feature alone: Nike+ integration. As a runner, I’d love some way to track my progress, and the iPhone apps that work with the device’s GPS would be great, except I don’t want to strap my iPhone to my sweaty arm, for obvious reasons. [...]

  9. What if the sensors are not tripped? I have a 1st gen iPhone that keeps popping up a message “this device was not made to work with the iPhone”… except I don’t have any device plugged in. The water-damage sensors have not been tripped. So, the phone shows that I didn’t actually get it wet.

    Will Apple do anything to compensate iPhone users that are experiencing problems due to moisture for an officially non-water damaged unit?

  10. My 4 month old 3GS abruptly stopped working 3 weeks ago. The store told me the water sensor showed it had been wet. After three hours more on the phone, they had me send it in. Sent it back and same result. The phone has never been wet. Surely a trained tech can tell whether a phone has been in water, versus sweaty hands or high humidity (it rained that day). I have had my attorney write a letter, I have written to Steve Jobs and probably will never hear from anyone. Apparently Apple puts themselves above everyone in ignoring this problem, which research has shown is quite common. I can’t justify buying another one–what if the same thing happens. So I’m out $199 I paid, plus I have to buy another phone. Their offer of a ‘new’ (refurbished) phone for $199 is the worst thing I have ever heard! Unbelievable! It’s the idea they ignore this that is so maddening. Any suggestions?

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