How Waterproof Is the iPhone 11? This Family Found out after Disney Returned It from the Bottom of a Lagoon

Troyers iPhone 11 Disney Lagoon Credit: Jake Troyer / MacRumors
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A family from Montana recently discovered just exactly what the IP68 waterproof rating on the iPhone 11 means, thanks to a recent vacation and helpful employees of Disney’s Magic Kingdom.

As reported by MacRumors, Lisa and Jake Troyer took their six-year-old daughter Sophie on a vacation to Disney World last fall to “full a little girl’s dream,” but while there had the unfortunate experience of losing Lisa’s brand new iPhone 11 when it fell out of her bag and sank into the Seven Seas Lagoon.

The incident occurred on the final evening of their trip, after they had attended Mickey Mouse’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party and were waiting for a ferry to leave the park. Lisa assumed that the iPhone was gone for good, and along with it at least some of the treasured photos she had taken during the trip.

Our six-year-old daughter was particularly devastated, as pictures of her and Jack Skellington would never materialize; instead, they sat at the bottom of a lagoon.

Lisa Troyer

After providing her contact information to a Disney World employee, Lisa was told that the park actually has a team of scuba divers who go down to retrieve lost goods from the lagoon on a periodic basis to try and return them to their owners, but Lisa didn’t really expect anything to come of it, and after returning home to Montana, she purchased a new iPhone and mostly forgot about the one in the lagoon.

Two Months Later…

After ignoring some missed calls from the Orlando area on the assumption that it was a telemarketer, Lisa’s father-in-law contacted her about two months later to let her know that Disney had found her iPhone. Lisa contacted the Disney employee, who mailed her iPhone to her, and she was pleasantly surprised to find the device completely functional, despite having been underwater for at least a few weeks.

Notably, the iPhone 11 was only protected by a thin silicone case, but other than “some sand in [the] case and a little algae on the cover,” it worked fine, and Lisa was able to retrieve all of the pictures from Halloween night.

It’s unclear how long the iPhone was submerged, or how deep it was. Reports suggest that the lagoon goes down about 14 feet at its deepest point, but Lisa’s iPhone may not have been down that far, and while the call came two months after they returned from their vacation, it could have been retrieved a bit sooner than that; according to a follow-up comment from Jake, however, the Disney employee said they had “just pulled the phone out of the water,” so it was likely a matter of days rather than weeks.

Either way, though, it’s safe to say that the iPhone 11 survived well beyond its normal IP68 rating, which only guarantees resistance to submersion in 1.5 meters (~5 feet) of water for up to 30 minutes.

MacRumors adds that Lisa sent an email to Tim Cook to describe her experience, who thanked her for sharing the story, while her husband, Jake, sent the story directly to MacRumors.

What About iCloud Photos?

While Lisa’s lament over the possible loss of her photos might leave some asking whether she was using iCloud Photo Library, her husband Jake actually confirmed that she was, but highlighted an important deficiency in iCloud Photos that many users might not be aware of.

By default, iOS only backs up photos to iCloud Photo Library while you’re on a Wi-Fi connection. This means that when you’re travelling, as the Troyers were, the photos you take that day won’t get backed up. In fact, unless you connect to Wi-Fi back at your hotel room each night, you could end up with several days worth of photos that aren’t being stored in iCloud.

If you want to make absolutely sure your photos are getting backed up to iCloud Photo Library as quickly as possible, and you have a large enough data plan to handle it, you can enable the use of cellular data. Here’s how:

  1. Open the iPhone Settings app.
  2. Scroll down and tap Photos.
  3. At the bottom, select Cellular Data.
  4. Tap the switch at the top to enable your iPhone to use Cellular Data for uploading photos to both Shared Albums and iCloud Photo Library.

Note that turning this option on by itself, however, won’t guarantee that everything gets uploaded to iCloud Photos when you’re on cellular data; iOS will still try to be respectful of using too much data, pausing uploads after the first few photos in a batch and avoiding uploading longer and larger video clips. You can tap to resume these manually on a case-by-case basis if the photos are important enough to use cellular data to upload them and you know you won’t be near Wi-Fi for a while.

If you have a massive enough data plan, or if your photos are really important, you can also toggle the Unlimited Uploads option in the above settings, which will basically remove all constraints on data usage, uploading all of your photos to iCloud Photo Library over cellular data just as if you were on Wi-Fi. Be warned, however, that if you’re shooting large videos, this can suck through your data plan like water through a firehouse—one-minute of 4K/60fps video uses 400MB of data, on average.

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