How to beach-proof your phone

Protect it from sun, sand, and seawater.
Protect it from heat, water, and sand. Pixabay

On a hot summer day, the ocean beckons. So you slap on some sunscreen, grab a towel, and head for the beach. Just as you stretch out on the sand to soak up those sweet rays and scare up some vitamin D, your hand itches—you need to grab your smartphone. Maybe you want to snap a photo of the churning surf, or blast the latest pop hit, or video-chat with your unlucky friend who couldn’t make it to the shore this weekend. Whatever the urge, you’ll need your phone to satisfy it.

The problem is, those things that make a beach a beach—the hot sun, gritty sand, and briny ocean—can also wreak havoc on electronic devices. To keep it safe at the shore, take these precautions before you load your phone into your beach tote. And bear in mind that there’s no way to completely beach-proof a phone. Carry it ocean-ward at your own risk.

Beat the heat

On a hot day, the sun beats down from above and the sand radiates warmth from below. Leave your phone exposed, and this heat can crack its screen, drain its battery, or even make it explode. To protect your device, keep it out of direct sunlight and off the ground. For example, you might place it on a towel and fold a corner of the fabric over the phone, toss a t-shirt on top, or keep it in a tote bag.

Activity can make your phone produce its own heat. Keep it quiet by shutting down power-hungry apps such as mobile games. If you receive a heat warning (or simply notice your phone getting too hot) try turning off location, Bluetooth, and Wi-Fi; putting your device in airplane mode; or even shutting it down until it cools off. You can even aim a hand-held battery-powered fan at the phone when it starts overheating.

In a pinch, you can place your phone in a cooler (provided the cooler has a dry area or the phone is wrapped in a waterproof case) for a few minutes. Don’t leave it in there for too long though—while too much heat may harm your device, too much cold can kill it too.

Keep sand out of ports

Sand always manages to sneak into every available nook and cranny, and your phone isn’t immune to this phenomenon. It’s best to keep the silica grains at bay with dust plugs. In a pinch, you can grab an old cable, cut off the part that plugs into your phone, and use that as a DIY solution.

Even if sand stays out of your phone’s ports, it can still scratch up the screen and creep around the edges of buttons. Luckily, most waterproofing solutions (more on those in a minute) involve wrapping your phone in an impermeable case, which should also keep out sand.

If worse comes to worst and some sand sneaks into your phone, let gravity help you shake it out. If a few stubborn grains stick around, try drawing them out with a cheap plastic cuticle pusher.

Don’t get wet

Briny seawater accelerates corrosion more than relatively clean tap water. So, even if you have a waterproof phone, you don’t want a wave to hit it.

The easiest, cheapest way to protect your phone from wayward splashes is a humble Ziplock bag. Toss your phone in, squeeze out as much air as possible, and seal the zipper shut. Water and sand won’t get in, and the plastic is so thin that you can actually use the device through the bag. Its fingerprint sensor may not work, but once you type in your PIN or password, you can swipe, type, and even chat on the phone without exposing it to the elements. This hack has the added benefit of keeping the screen safe from your smeary sunblock- and salt-covered fingers.

If you want to level up, invest in a waterproof case. From the one-size-fits-all DryCase to more structured options like LifeProof, you can find your phone an ideal beach buddy. Just check the specs before purchasing to make sure that the case will protect your ports from sand as well as water.

Now you’re all set. Go forth and beach it up!