Things That Go Bump In The Night

How to protect your tech from disaster

Ghosts aren’t the only thing we need to worry about over Halloween: there’s also the ever-present risk of dropping or damaging your device. Whether it’s lumps, bumps or ending up underwater, all kinds of horrors can affect our phones, tablets and laptops.

One way to prevent problems is to look for hardy hardware in the first place. For example, many smartphones (e.g. a recent Samsung Galaxy or iPhone) now boast what’s called IP68 certification, which means they’re water and dust resistant. If you have an older phone, you can buy protective cases that promise IP68 protection for around £15.

It’s important to understand what IP68 and its sister rating, IP67, actually mean – and remember, water resistance is not the same as waterproofing. IP67 and IP68 tell you that a phone can be immersed in a specific depth of water for a specific amount of time: one metre deep and half an hour for IP67, rising to one and a half metres for IP68. This means that when new, your phone can be dropped in pure water and survive for a short time.

Pure is important, because chlorine in swimming pools or salt in the sea is very corrosive. Repeated exposure to either will eventually wear away the seals and damage your phone’s water resistance.

One of the biggest dangers for devices is being dropped or scratched. Solve the former with a protective case, and the latter with a screen protector. Plastic screen protectors are harder to fit properly because of air bubbles, but glass ones can crack and can be hard to remove when they’ve been scuffed.

Protective cases come in a variety of flavours, styles and prices. The trick is to think about what kind of protection you want, so for example if you’ve got kids it’s worth looking for a relatively thick case with very large lips, so when – and it’s a case of when, not if – the device gets dropped, the case keeps the screen well away from the floor. Some kids’ cases include carrying handles that make them less likely to be dropped in the first place.

For grown-ups, it’s about striking a balance between substance and style: you want protection, but not so much protection you can’t fit it in your bag or pocket. Slim cases can still do a very good job of protecting your phone’s back and sides, but they do leave the screen relatively exposed: it’s a good idea to look for one that still has a bit of a lip around the screen and to put a good screen protector on too.

No matter what protection you use, it’s designed for relatively minor things – so for example most protective cases are designed to protect from drops of a few feet, not from the top of a ladder. If the worst happens and your phone is seriously and expensively damaged, check your home insurance: it may well cover the damage to your phone. If you have a bank account that offers various rewards for a monthly fee, you may have phone insurance in there too.