By CHONG JINN XIUNGbytz@thestar.com.my
WATER is the bane of phones. How many times have you heard horror stories of someone dropping their phone in a puddle of water or the sink? Even the slightest splash of water is enough to send the electronics in the phone into a frenzy.
In such situations, the best you can do is to dismantle the device, dry it up and hope that the water hasn't done lasting damage. However, in most cases the phone ends up dead.
There are ways to protect smartphones from water damage. Rugged casings that are water resistant is one option but they tend to add a lot of bulk to the phone.
That's why one of the highlights at this year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is a nano-coating technology that can make electronic devices water resistant without the use of a casing.
One of the companies that showcased such a technology at CES was California-based Liquipel which calls its nano-coat - what else but - Liquipel.
It got our attention when LQP Asia Sdn Bhd, which is the authorised distributor here and for other countries in the region, offered to give us a preview of how it worked.
To demonstrate how the nano-coat worked, LQP general manager Siew Ai Fern had prepared two tissues - an ordinary one and another coated with Liquipel.
The tissue coated with Liquipel looked and felt the same, and to the naked eye the tissues looked identical.
She then poured water on the normal tissue and it got drenched just like you would expect - no surprises there.
After that she poured water on the Liquipel coated tissue and the water would not pass through it - instead it just beaded up on the surface and remained there. Even when the tissue was sprayed with water, the droplets neatly rolled off it.
After that we touched the tissue paper and it felt dry as if it had made no contact with water at all. The effect was almost magical.
TO protect a device like a phone, it has to be coated with Liquipel both on the inside and outside. This is done using a special chamber called the Liquipel Machine.
Once the smartphone is placed in the chamber, the machine will pump out all the air, creating a vacuum.
A special formulation of Liquipel in the form of vapour is then released into the chamber. The vapour will then permeate every part of the device.
The Liquipel vapour permanently bonds to the surface of the device on a molecular level.
Finally, the chamber is returned to normal atmospheric pressure and the device is removed, ready for use.
The Liquipel-protected phone will now repel any form of liquid, including coffee or soft drinks, according to LQP.
The coating also protects both the internal and external components such as the headphone jack, charging port and speakers. LQP Asia claims the bonding is permanent and will protect the phone beyond the lifetime of the device.
Also, as Liquipel is 1,000x thinner than a human hair, it is invisible to the human eye and will not obscure the screen or compromise the performance of the phone.
Price of protection
Liquipel can be applied to any device such as tablets, laptops and digital cameras but LQP is limiting its service to phones for now.
The process of applying the protective coating will only take about 30 minutes and the phone will be ready for collection within the same day barring any unforeseen circumstances.
Liquipel coated devices are designed to survive accidental splashes of water and the company doesn't recommend fully submerging the phone in water.
LQP plans to charge RM188 to coat a phone when the service is launched by the end of next month. It has yet to reveal the terms and conditions for the use of the Liquipel coating.