KDDI to launch world’s first washable smartphone


Tired of those unsightly smudges and other dirt on your bacteria-laden smartphone?

A Japanese firm says it has the solution with what it describes the world’s first smartphone that can be washed with soap and water.

Waterproof smartphones have been on the market for a while. But telecom company KDDI Corp. says its new Digno rafre phone — to be launched in Japan next week — is the only one that can withstand a soapy bath.

“Our development team washed the smartphone more than 700 times to test its durability,” a company spokesman said.

An online commercial aimed at proving its credentials features a child dropping the phone onto a plate of food topped with ketchup. His mother assures her shocked family that those red globs are nothing to worry about as she soaps up the phone under a running tap.

The ¥21,600 ($175) gadget is mainly aimed at parents who want to keep their smartphones clean for their small children, a KDDI spokesman said.

But he also cautioned that only certain types of foamy soap could be used on the device, which will only be sold in Japan for now.

  • Charles

    Honestly, it seems like a pretty dumb idea. Waterproof phone? Fine, yeah, that’s a good idea, but I’ve never wanted to wash my phone. When it gets dirty, I simply dab it with a slightly wet tissue and then polish it with a dry tissue. It looks pretty much good-as-new, and I’ve never broken a phone this way. Even if I did have some faint urge to wash it, having to go out and buy a “certain type of foamy soap” would be enough to make me continue using the slightly-wet-tissue-followed-by-a-dry-tissue method.

    I think the real reason behind this is economic. Sure, the phone can withstand being washed–for a year or so. Eventually, a crack might form on the case (from it being dropped), the parts might not fit so tightly together, etc. and then the phone isn’t as waterproof as it once was–resulting in some water getting in eventually, and the user having to buy a new phone (from KDDI, of course).

    • Steve Jackman

      Yes, this is yet another example of a useless and gimmicky feature that nobody wants. Just goes to show the dire straits the Japanese tech industry is in and how in the absence of any real innovation it is grasping at straws.

      Anyone who has taken Marketing 101 knows that a basic principle of marketing is to identify a need and then develop products to fill the need. Japanese industry still does not understand this basic concept, so it develops products in need of a solution, rather than the other way around.

      This approach of throwing everything at the wall in the hope that something will stick is also behind the low ROI at Japanese companies. It points to a lack of discipline, lack of innovation and new ideas, lack of creativity and a lack of understanding of what customers want.

    • tisho

      Apple did a similar thing last year with their new macbook air that has a single usb port. Customers now have to buy an external cable with which you can plug in your external devices to the laptop’s usb. Sounds like a practical idea to a certain extend, however i STRONGLY suspect within a couple of year they will come up with a new charger and their new macbook will have slightly different port, thus forcing everybody else to buy their new macbook. If i were KDDI, i would’ve focused my attention on trying to come up with something new and innovative, instead of making your phone washable, why not make it self-cleaning instead? Maybe they can use a material that cleans itself or does not allow the dirt to stay. Sounds like a cool idea to me.