The Tropics May Be Too Humid For Apple’s iPhone

moisture_sensor

Apple is adding moisture sensors to everything, from iPods and iPhones to MacBooks and even its latest keyboards.

But recent reports suggest the sensors may be too sensitive, and may even be triggered by high humidity.

The moisture sensors, or Liquid Submersion Indicators (LSI), are small stickers that change color from white to red if submerged. Apple refuses to honor warranties on products with triggered sensors, assuming they’ve been dropped in a swimming pool or doused with Mountain Dew, no matter what the owner says.

The sensors, which are found in the dock connector ports of iPhones and under the keys of Apple’s latest keyboards, are controversial. There have been complaints that they’re triggered by sweat.

Now, there are reports out of Singapore that high humidity is killing iPhones, but positive LSI indicators are allowing the local carrier to reject warranty claims.

According to forum posts on HardwareZone, Singapore’s wireless carrier Singtel is rejecting warranty claims of iPhones that appear to have suffered water damage, but owners swear up and down their iPhones have never been submerged.

Singapore is one of the most humid cities in the world. Humidity ranges between 75 and 90 percent all year round, and can reach 100 percent after periods of prolonged rain.

According to Apple, LSIs aren’t triggered only when exposed to liquid. Apple’s manual for technicians says:

Damage due to liquid exposure is not covered by the Apple one (1) year limited warranty or the AppleCare Protection Plan (APP)….
The indicators trigger only with direct contact to a liquid. The indicators will not be triggered by temperature and humidity that is within the product’s environmental requirements described by Apple. A triggered indicator will turn red or pink,
as shown in the examples below, indicating that the module(s) to which the indicator is attached has been exposed to liquid.
Important: If you see a triggered LSI, inspect all adjacent modules for liquid damage. Components or modules that do not work due to liquid contact are not eligible for warranty service. Furthermore, the resulting damage may be so extensive that the cost of repairing the product may exceed the cost of replacing the product. Inform customers about this possibility.
Customers are responsible for the costs of servicing products that are damaged as a result of liquid contact. This includes, for example, the cost of replacing keyboards that stop working due to liquid spills.

The iPhone’s technical specs state that the acceptable humidity range is between 5% and 95%, but conditions must be “noncondensing.” Trouble is, leaving an air conditioned building will often create condensation.

In addition, according to tech specs from the manufacturer of the LSI sensors, 3M, days exposure at 95% humidity will change sensors slightly pink. (See the sensor’s product brochures – PDF).

3M says LSI sensors should be stored in conditions not exceeding 60-80°F and humidity 40% to 60% — which Singapore and other tropical cities never are.

These are storage conditions, not usage conditions, but one wonders whether it’s best to avoid hot humid climes with your brand new iPhone?

Via MacBidouille and MacNN.

Here are some of the locations of LSIs in keyboards and MacBooks. Pictures from MacBidouille.

About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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