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Cell phones too vulnerable to water leakage. Makers asked for water-proof products at increasing complaints

6, 04. 2008

   Many complaints are heard about problems of cell phones caused by water leakage. Some of the complaints are: "It is not understandable the users have to pay for repairs of damage caused by water leakage while the phones are not deliberately made wet. " and "Phones damaged by a little wet should be considered defective." Against this background, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan asked the makers of cell phones to make their products water proof. As the cell phones are more and more sophisticated of late, such complains are on a sharp rise. The center has noted that there is a gap of understanding about the cell phones between the makers and the users.

Users must bear repair cost in principle

The board corroded in test conducted in rain (Source: National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan)
The board corroded in test conducted in rain (Source: National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan)

   Pointing out that many complaints have been received about troubles of cell phones caused by water leakage, the National Consumer Affairs Center of Japan announced on May 8, 2008 that it had asked the Telecommunications Carriers Association (TCA) to let the consumers know fully about the water-proof function of the cell phones and to improve the products so that a little water leakage that might occur in ordinary usage does not cause any damage to the products. The center has received a total of 1,013 cases of complaints about damage to cell phones caused by water leakage in the past five years. The section in charge of testing at the center said that the complaints are sharply increasing.

   Notable among the complaints are: "The phones have not be used in such a way that they are deliberately soaked in water. But the maker insisted that the user was responsible for the damage and thus liable to the payment of the repair cost." "The phone has never been wet by rain or sweat. It is not acceptable that it is damaged by ordinary use." "The phone that goes wrong by such a slight water leakage should be considered defective."

   A survey conducted on 489 users of cell phones found that 20% of them have had the experience of dropping their phones into water. It also showed that 10% of them have been told by the shops where they bought the phones that their phones were subjected to water leakage while they could swear the phones have never been put into water." The center conducted a test by using phones in a place where the temperature and humidity are high or holding the phones with wed hands. The result was that some of the phones which were not water did not function properly under such conditions or become unusable temporarily as their push buttons did not work.

   The manuals of the cell phones used for the test, in the meantime, say that the use of the phones under such conditions should be avoided. In case of the phones provided by NTT Docomo, KDDI and Softbank Mobile, the cost for repairing troubles caused by water leakage are to be paid in principle by the users.

   The National Consumer Affairs Center told J-CAST News that:

   There are gaps between the understanding of the consumers about the water leakage and the understanding of the makers about the leakage as stated in the manuals. It is desirable that these gaps are removed.

   The center is calling on the consumers to be cautious about the damage that may be caused to their cell phones by water leakage. It also recommends that the consumers select models of phones that have protection devices against water leakage.

Next-generation models are even weaker against water leakage?

   The high performance capability and fashion trend can also be cited as the background cause for the increasing complaints. A government official pointed out that the "straight type" of the cell phones used to be in the main stream of the fashion in the past, but now it is the "folding type" that is in the main stream. He further said that the phones today are increasing of the "multi-function" as seen in the fact that the phones have the liquid crystal display parts that can be rotated or phones that can also be used as digital cameras. These phones require increased number of different parts to be constructed, he said. A person in charge of the sales shops of a cell phone company said that he is under the impression that the next-generation cell phones would be more susceptible to water leakages. While a cell phone can be completely damaged if its circuit board is made wet, the sliding- or folding-type models of the phones are more likely to be affected by water leakage, he said.

   It is difficult to develop water-proof cell phones, however, and makers are no enthusiastic about making such phones. In reality, only a few models of phones that have protection devices against water leakage are currently displayed at the shops. A person in charge of the public relations at Fujitsu Limited, that supplies the 13,7mm-thick, water-proof type of the pones, F705i, to NTT Docomo said:

"It was difficult to make the phone so thin. The folding-type of the phones that liable to cause water leakage from the hinge section are now in the trend of the fashion. Rugged ones are easy to be made water-proof. But it is difficult to sell them unless the shapes are taken into consideration."

   According to the company, demand on water-proof cell phones is strong and the F705i is a big hit.

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