I am exploring the possibility of using my phone as the main navigation device for touring. The phone (Pixel 2) is IP67-rated and I was planning to use it without any additional waterproofing, just attached to a Quad Lock handlebar mount.

I am now wondering whether serious rain is going to kill it or at least render temporarily unusable (touchscreen issues come to mind)?

Since I don't really want to find out the hard way, I thought I'd ask here in case any of you have relevant experience.

For comparison, my Edge 810 is IPX7 and has been fine in all sorts of conditions.

As an alternative to putting my main phone at risk, I am contemplating getting a cheap IP68-rated rugged phone (like BV5800 Pro). Not really sure whether it's likely to fair better (higher ingress protection rating) or worse (presumably cheaper construction).

P. S. Having looked into this further, I came across MIL-STD-810G. There are quite a few devices that advertise this, but I am not sure how much attention to pay to it (given that it's self-certification just like IP ratings are)?

P. P. S. There are phones that are specifically advertised as being operable with wet or gloved fingers (for example CAT S41). Not sure whether this in any way relates to MIL-STD-810G, or how much attention to pay to it. Would love your input.

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    If you have a Garmin Edge, why do you need the phone on the bars for navigation? – Argenti Apparatus Aug 8 at 19:00
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    @ArgentiApparatus: Much prefer the functionality and the usability of OsmAnd over Edge 810 so am looking to replace the latter with the former. Have done some riding with the phone, and it's just about perfect for my needs. Weatherproofing is the only open question (even though, on paper, Pixel 2's IP67 is at least as good as Edge's IPX7 and IP68 would be even better). – NPE Aug 8 at 19:19
  • @ArgentiApparatus: I wear a 920XT on my wrist for telemetry and track recording, so the Edge was just a mapping and navigation device (and, quite frankly, rather lacking at that). – NPE Aug 8 at 19:31
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    From general observations, phones on handlebars suffer more from systemic failure due to ongoing vibrations or from coming loose and hitting the deck. If you want any phone on display while riding, consider a top tube bag with a window on top, a handlebar bag with a clear map pocket on top, or even stick your phone in one of those jogging arm bands and put it on your forearm like an oversized watch. Note most phones use much more power to have the screen on, so you will want a power source too. – Criggie Aug 8 at 20:13
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    I was curious about power sources, maybe a good answer can indicate if waterproofing is affected by charging cables, given touring context – Swifty Aug 8 at 20:21

Easy bit - Touch screens don't usually work when wet, you can easily test it, sprinkle some water on the screen and see how it goes.

Because phones are high volume consumer goods designed as life style toys, not outdoor equipment, as far as IP ratings, I personally believe the claimed IP ratings are based on marketing need for a bigger number than the other guy, tempered by engineering squealing that IP99 is not a real rating, and Finance insisting at that price point they have a budget for X returns out of Y sales. The exception are devices sold as ruggedised. Read the warranty fine print - I bet it excludes water damage.

IP67 is 1 meter for 30 minutes, but the test is done in factory conditions on a new phone, not after they are a few years olds and lost elasticity, and the user has contaminated the seals with dirt and dust. I had an IP67 phone with a single o-ring seal for the battery cover. I was happy to get it wet in the rain, but would not have left it on handle bars for hours in driving heavy rain while riding. Driven rain on a fast down hill could exceed the pressure of 1 meter of water.

I would also be concerned about "solar driven" moisture entering the phone. It gets wet, sun comes out and shines though the water onto the phone. The water close to the phone surface heats and vapor pressure increases, driving water vapour (not water droplets) into the phone. The expanding and contracting of air inside the phone from changing temperatures can also cause a negative pressure that sucks water in.

Although the risk is small, if you plan on riding with the phone on the bars in all weather, put it in a case or accept you might need to buy a new phone. But in a case, the touch screen may or may not work - you would need to test it.

  • Thanks for the very thorough answer! I guess what I really want is an Android phone (or a small tablet -- don't really need cellular connectivity) built as outdoor equipment, not as a lifestyle toy. Assuming such a thing exists, I wonder how to tell the two categories apart? (Googling "ruggedised android phone" just turns up a bunch of reviews based on IP ratings and no real-world testing.) – NPE Aug 9 at 5:09
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    @NPE By the time you're looking at buying a phone specially to mount on your handlebars to use as a navigation computer, why don't you just... buy an actual navigation computer? They are properly waterproof and you'll probably get double or more the battery life, which is important when touring. – David Richerby Aug 9 at 10:44
  • @DavidRicherby: I much prefer OsmAnd to any Garmin solution I have experience with (features, usability, map coverage etc). Even when I'm riding with my Edge, I often find myself pulling the phone out of my pocket just to find a nearby toilet, or a water fountain, or to read the Wikipedia article about the place I am passing, or to check a train timetable. At the same time I'm not using any Edge features that my phone doesn't offer (I already have a Garmin watch for all the ANT+ stuff etc). So my thinking is: "Why use two navigation devices when I can just use one, the phone?" – NPE Aug 9 at 10:55
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    @NPE The point is that there are many manufacturers of GPS bike computers besides Garmin. – David Richerby Aug 9 at 11:16
  • Upvoted but my take requires its own answer – Chris H Aug 9 at 11:29

I use a Sony Xperia z3 compact as my bike computer/GPS, in all UK weather. It's described by the manufacturer as waterproof, but not for immersion, and I've never had any water ingress issues (even washing it up). You do have to be careful the seal is tight on the sim card slot.

As for using it in the rain, the touchscreen isn't completely useless, but it is rather unpredictable. I have navigated through storms with it but have also occasionally needed to stop, turn the screen off, wipe it, and turn it back on. This can be done without stopping (in an appropriate place) but an unlock code/pattern is quite hard to enter going along even if your phone is behaving perfectly. You may want to think about how you lock it (unlocked in proximity to your garmin might be good but I don't use anything Bluetooth at the moment).

A combination of rain and sweat dripping on areas of the screen that do stuff can be quite annoying even in light rain.

This particular phone has a special charge cable that can be used in the wet (in practice, no idea about in theory). For the new one I'll have to either top up when out of the rain (not great as I'm heading towards a dynamo system), protect the charging socket, or get wireless charging working, but battery life should be better than what I've got now. My rides can be 12+ hours at the moment, and I'm looking at doing longer rides. When navigating the screen dims to save battery, waking on touch

This phone is getting old and tired now; the replacement will be IP68 based on other specs.


An update after yesterday's ride: The rain started in earnest while I was having lunch, so getting back on the bike everything got wet, and I decided to do some testing. On the handlebar mount the phone was glitchy and annoying but just about usable, so I tried the toptube bag (where I keep snacks). With 5 minutes the clear plastic was completely fogged up. The only way I could read even a small area of the screen was to press the plastic against the screen, and it fogged back up in seconds. After missing a turning quite badly, and having to stop to check the map, I put it back on the bars. Normally if I miss a turning I can check the map without sopping if the road is clear. It was still glitchy and annoying but better than in the bag. It seemed much worse in town or uphill, when going slower; the big drips off my helmet or mixed with sweat off my face are the worst for activating the touchscreen while an even film of water has much less of an effect. Moving quickly the big drops fall behind the phone, and light rain seems to miss the screen.

  • Thanks for sharing your experience! This is exactly the sort of information I'm after. (If you already have some ideas for what IP68 device you might be getting, I'd love to hear about them.) – NPE Aug 9 at 12:38
  • I'm thinking moto X4, based on the fact that anything else I can/want to afford is running an obsolete Android (waterproof phone seem to be behind others in terms of product updates). But they're not easy to get hold of. The blackview looks interesting too, though the BV7000 with its slightly smaller screen would suit me better at first glance – Chris H Aug 9 at 13:54
  • One more question: would you consider MIL-STD-810G relevant for this type of use (not really sure what this means in practice, given that it appears to be self-certification)? Also, there are some phones that are specifically advertised as being operable with wet or gloved fingers (for example CAT S41) - might be something to look into? – NPE Aug 9 at 14:22
  • The sony has a glove mode and I didn't find it very useful. I found it much better to get touchscreen-compatible bike gloves for winter (mine are the hi-vis version of these As for self-certifying to a standard few people understand, I'm sceptical (see wikipedia for example) – Chris H Aug 9 at 14:40
  • It's a bit of a long shot, but I've asked for device recommendations on hardwarerecs.stackexchange.com/questions/9606/… – NPE Aug 9 at 15:19

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