Has Samsung’s Cheap Build Quality Made The Galaxy S4 Active Unreliable?


The Samsung Galaxy S4 Active promises to be a “perfect companion” for those who need a high-end smartphone but have a tendency to get things wet and dirty. But is Samsung’s notoriously cheap build quality affecting its reliability? According to one AT&T employee, getting the Galaxy S4 Active wet is a bad idea, and could render your brand new smartphone useless.

Samsung has received lots of criticism for sticking with flimsy plastic form factors for its latest crop of smartphones — particularly as its competitors shift towards glass and aluminum. It’s not just that plastic makes the handsets feel cheap, but in the case of the Galaxy S4 Active, it also makes them unreliable.

According to an anonymous AT&T employee, the Galaxy S4 Active “is not truly waterproof.” Its “flimsy, rubber USB door” has a tendency to let water into the device, which will ruin its internal components and render it useless. What’s more, water damage is not covered in the handset’s warranty.

“Here is my story. I bought the Active on Thursday. The first thing I did with it was ensure the back was closed and made a video in my fish tank so I could show customers how it works underwater, and how good aqua mode is. That worked out perfectly except the video was a little dark, so I figured I would retake it,” the AT&T employee wrote on the XDA Developers forum.

“Now cue today. It was sunny outside so I thought it was the perfect time to reshoot the fish tank video. I ensured the back was secure, yes, including pressing down on the back where the AT&T logo is. I then submerged the phone in the tank while taking the video. Almost instantly the phone screen went black and said dock mode was enabled so I took the phone out of the water and everything went back to normal.”

At this point the handset seemed okay, but a short while later, is started “tweaking out.” Its physical buttons became “really sensitive,” then stopped working altogether.

“I opened the battery cover and there it was, everything was soaked. but luckily none of the water damage indicators were colored. I then opened the USB door and it was like a fountain, so that’s where the breach happened. The flimsy, rubber USB door.”

It’s worth noting at this point that the Galaxy S4 Active isn’t just splash proof — it has an ingress protection rating of IP67, and should withstand water at a depth of 1 meter for up to 30 minutes. In fact, Samsung has even added a new “Aqua” mode to its camera app that allows users to take the best possible pictures underwater.

It’s not like the water resistance is just a safety measure then; Samsung actually encourages you to get the handset wet. What’s more, the guy behind the story above claims he has be trained on how to use the handset’s features properly, so that he can tell customers about them and show how they work.

“The first thing we are trained on is how to properly close the back cover and how to show the customers Aqua mode to take pictures underwater. We actively use this as a main selling point, this is per Samsung,” he says.

Fortunately for him, he was able to go back into work and swap the Galaxy S4 Active for a regular Galaxy S4, but other users may not be so lucky. If the water triggers those liquid protection indicators inside the device, then you won’t be able to return the device.

Water damage isn’t covered in the Galaxy S4 Active’s warranty, either. That’s not unusual — no smartphone warranty covers things like this — but you might expect some kind of protection given that the Galaxy S4 Active is supposed to be water resistant. Don’t assume that just because it’s designed to be water resistant, then, that you’ll be covered for water damage.