I have blogged a bit lately about the plusses of the "camera you have with you". I believe Chase Jarvis was the first person to coin the idea that the "best camera is the one you have with you" and "iPhoneography" is a really hot topic right now, especially since it just became the most popular camera on Flickr. I certainly have been all over this idea recently. I pack my iPhone nearly everywhere I go and I am not afraid to use it!
These past few months I have been doing a ton of mountain biking and the iPhone's been with me on every ride. Of course I would love to bring my DSLR on the rides but it just isn't practical. It's too large, heavy and much more susceptible to damge should I crash. And, oh yeah, I crash. The iPhone on the other hand is small, light and quite robust (more on that later) and yet has a very capable 5MP camera that also records brilliant HD video. It is really close to perfect for on-the-go action. But there is a slight downside to always wanting to have a device/camera on your person - you get so very used to it always being with you that may not always be conscious that it's in your pocket. And that can have some major ramifications under certain circumstances.
This past weekend my partner Jen and I got an invite to stay with friends at their cabin in the mountains over the weekend. We jumped at the chance. We arrived on Friday, quickly settled in, then geared up for our first bike ride. It was supposed to be an easy cross country ride but only a few minutes in to the ride we were already crossing our first creek. As usual, my iPhone was along for the ride. Normally it's in my hydration pack on my back but I kept it in my bike shorts because I wanted to quickly be able to grab shots and video. As we crossed creek after creek and mud bog after mud bog I remained vigilant to be sure my shorts stayed above the water line to keep my iPhone out of danger.
A few hours and many kilometres later we were all back at the cabin tired, sore, dirty and wet but big smiles all around. I pulled out the iPhone for a few more post-ride shots and video. People started to disperse as they finished cleaning up their gear and stowing their bikes but I remained to grab a few more shots. At this point it struck me that I had shot enough stills and video that I could put together a nice video of the trip but just a few more closing shots would be nice to add.
iPhone meets Hot Tub...
The gang was heading to the hot tub and I planned to do the same. I changed in to my suit, grabbed a towel and my iPhone and headed to the tub. Now why would I grab my iPhone when heading to the hot tub? Well, I figured it would be great to grab a few post-ride shots and video to conclude the day. What is interesting is that I told myself "do NOT put the phone in your pocket or you will forget and jump in the tub with it" just moments before I put the phone in my pocket. Hey brain, thanks for trying!
At the hot tub I promptly cracked a beer and submerged myself and the iPhone into a comfortable seat in the corner. Ahhh, such a relaxing feeling after a long day of riding.
About 2-3 minutes later I sprang out of my seat with an utterance of "oh shit"!! Everyone around me was trying to figure out the commotion until I reached in to my pocket and pulled out the drenched phone. The air was permeated with "oh no's" and sad faces.
The damage was done so mourning quickly switched to recovery mode. My phone was on and in stand-by when I hit the tub so I was almost sure the device was fried but regardless I would make an attempt to save it. As I towelled off the phone I knew enough not to touch a single button once it had been soaked. My friends immediately started offering rescue solutions. The consensus was dry off the phone and get it in a bag of uncooked rice ASAP. I headed to the kitchen to find rice. To my good fortune the kitchen had rice. Not the plain, white rice variety which is supposed to be the "best" but Uncle Ben's. I wasn't sure if Uncle Ben's would work as well as the normal rice but I didn't have a choice. I flicked my phone to extract as much water as possible from its bottom before adding the rice. I was shocked at how much water came out of the speaker and cable ports in the bottom. I filled an empty bread bag with rice, chucked in the device and sealed up the bag. Nothing more could be done so I retreated back to the hot tub.
The Next Morning...
The next morning, with the device still in the sealed bag, I shifted the rice around until I could see the camera lens. Just like the night before, it was completely covered in condensation. Sadness followed. Nonetheless I was determined to follow through on the process so I moved the bag to the sunny back porch. I figured heat would help the endeavour. About an hour later as we readied to leave on our ride I transferred the bag to a sunny rock at the back of the cabin but before I placed it down I peeked at the camera lens once more. This time the lens had already shown signs of clearing. There was hope. (One point to note is that while the iPhone was in the sun, no bare part of it was exposed, it was always covered with a layer of rice.)
Upon returning from our ride I checked on the progress a second time. The bag was still in the sun but now the camera lens was completely clear of condensation. A very positive sign.
The following day was time to return home so I packed up the car and placed the bag of rice on the dashboard so it could collect the heat of the sun as we drove. Upon arrival at home I swapped out the Uncle Ben's rice for basmati rice and placed the bag in the sunniest window I could find. Even though the Uncle Ben's seemed to be working I didn't fully trust that particular rice.
As the sun receded behind the mountains the iPhone reached about 48 hours in the sealed bag. From all the Googling we did on the subject, 48 hours seemed to be the minimal amount of time people left their soggy devices to dry in bags of rice. I had scheduled an early appointment at the Apple Store the next morning so it seemed like as good a time as any to try it out. With trepidation I removed the iPhone from the bag, cleaned it off and brought it to my Mac desktop. Before plugging it in, I inspected the camera lens again to confirm that I saw no condensation whatsoever. I also pulled out the SIM card and again found no moisture at all. Good signs for sure.
The moment of truth arrived and I plugged it in and held my breath. After what seemed like minutes the Apple logo appeared on the phone. My partner Jen laughed as she figured for sure we were in the clear. I remained silent. A few moments later the device began synching with iTunes and a few seconds after that my pictures and video popped up in iPhoto. I still couldn't speak. I was taking it all in in stunned silence. I let the synch finish and then copied the pictures and video to iPhoto. Things were looking really darn good but I remained silent.
After all the synching and backup was done and while the phone remained plugged in and charging I started testing the phone. I tried some apps, the network, the camera and even made a phone call. Everything worked! Wow! I let the charging continue until it was 100% before unplugging the phone and testing it some more. I tried the speakers, the headphones and more apps. I couldn't find anything wrong with the device. I was absolutely amazed! I still had trouble believing it could come back to life but there was no denying what was happening. I think finally I started to speak and smile but the only words I could muster to repeat over and over were "I cannot believe it".
Moral of the Story
It's been a couple of days since and my iPhone is still working perfectly. I was really fortunate but I also think taking quick and meaningful action immediately after submerging the phone gave it a fighting chance. I also believe the heat of the sun was instrumental in the recovery but I am also inclined to believe it has a lot to do with a really well made device. Either way I'm grateful my story had a happy ending.
I guess the moral of the story is gadgets and water don't mix but if you do decide (consciously or unconsciously) to mix them just make sure you have a bag of rice handy and sprinkle in a bit heat to complete the recipe of recovery.