Waterproof phones may be all the rage now, but people in Japan have been used to their devices being able to take a swim for over a decade already.
Users in the country got used to having smartphones years before Western counterparts. Manufacturers had to make phones waterproof because Japanese women were so attached to their phones they brought them into shower.
As a result, nearly every phone in for the Japanese market has been made waterproof, to meet standard expectations.
Even Korea’s LG, which doesn’t make — and doesn’t plan to make — its phones waterproof for the global market, has been doing so in Japan.
This is why the company didn’t bring its heavily promoted modular G5 phone to Japan, because you can’t have a sealed device with removable parts.
“In Japan, being waterproof is far more important than being able to remove your phone’s battery,” said Ken Hong, LG’s global communications director.
“For a smaller Korean brand like LG, we need to be able to check all the key boxes to be as attractive as possible to Japanese consumers.”
It all started with waterproof feature phones
As more phones began doing away with removable batteries, Samsung’s Galaxy S5 in 2014 set the precedent for high-end waterproof devices.
This year, the world got the Samsung added the Note7 to its waterproof lineup this year, ahead of Apple’s also waterproof iPhone 7.
The Samsung phablet’s waterproofing was one of the reasons the phone was so tightly put together, making it impossible for users to easily swap out the faulty batteries for new ones when manufacturing issues resulted in multiple devices catching fire.
The process to make a phone waterproof can be rigorous and adds an additional layer of cost, requiring the device to go through stringent testing.
LG acknowledged during a factory tour for the press, that the conversation has changed dramatically in the past six months, and LG may not be able to swear off waterproofing indefinitely.
“If the rest of the world trends the same way, we’ll have to figure out a way to make waterproofing and modular parts coexist (at an acceptable cost) — or choose which one is more important to us,” said Hong.