• Steve Watson

Data Recovered from Phone Submerged in Water for 5 YEARS

Updated: Aug 4

In 2015, I started an applied research project to understand the effects of long-term water submersion on mobile phones. The first year I pulled devices out of the water each month to test the efficacy of the cleaning procedure. At the one year mark, the project switched to annual retrieval of phones from devices. Last week, the 5-year phone was scheduled to come out of the freshwater submersion. From the initial submersion in 2015, there are still enough devices under water to go out to 2035.

After the phone retrieved from the water, it was disassembled, cleaned and dried through the process we have perfected in our liquid damage device work.


The disassembled phone shows a significant amount of sediment that has collected on the device components and circuit board.

After cleaning, the board looks much cleaner but the circuit board damage is great enough that a chip removal (also known as ‘chip-off’) will be required to access the data.

After the chip is environmentally normalized, the chip is removed via a material removal chip-off process called “lap and polish”. The chip looks clean and even after lap and polish.

A full acquisition of the data is recovered from the phone.

It is possible to retrieve data from devices submerged in water long ago. We have developed proven techniques to address liquid damage from a variety of different liquid types.

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