The iPhone 5 is Apple’s thinnest, lightest smartphone yet. The first thing people notice when they pick up an iPhone 5 is its light weight. It almost feels like a toy instead of a real phone. So if this iPhone is so light, is it more likely to break it if it gets dropped? A group of publications and companies have already taken it upon themselves to toss around some iPhone 5s to see just how durable Apple's newest flagship device really is.
SquareTrade has become known for its almost-sadistic videos - in which it drops, plunges and generally tries to destroy the hottest new smartphones and tablets to see how they might hold up in real-world conditions. SquareTrade’s tests are pertinent as almost everyone who has ever owned a smartphone has suffered that heart-skipping moment of dread when they droptheir device on the sidewalk, hoping that it survives in one piece.
Historically, iPhones have not held up well to the drop test. Made mostly of metal and glass, impact with hard surfaces often made the iPhone's screen crack. Of course, almost all smartphones have fairly fragile glass screens.
So to put things in perspective, SquareTrade pitted the iPhone 5 against its archrival Samsung Galaxy S III in a drop test. Overall, the iPhone comes out ahead, but check out the video for yourself:
If you were watching carefully, you may find that SquareTrade's tests and conclusions seem slightly dubious. The shoulder-height drop test had the S III land on its face, cracking badly, while the iPhone 5 landed on its edge and suffered only some scuffs. It's unclear how the devices might have fared had they landed differently.
The water test offers a fairer comparison, and the iPhone still worked fairly well after being dunked in a pool. The household item drop test again seems a bit unfair as the beer bottle at the end catches the Galaxy S III flush while the iPhone 5 gets only a grazing blow.
Dropping Things Is An Art
Drop tests are not an exact science. They are meant to show how everyday use will effect your smartphone. SquareTrade’s chief marketing officer, Ty Shay, said that its testing of the iPhone 5 was no different from how the outfit normally treats drop tests.
“There was no change to the testing approach we used this weekend versus prior Drop Tests. SquareTrade tests are meant to test day-to-day usage of phones and that's exactly what we do,” Shay said via email.
If you're looking for more evidence, SquareTrade is not the only company that likes to destroy smartphones. A mobile blog, Android Authority, and a company called iFixYouri also published iPhone 5 drop test videos.
In both videos, the iPhone 5 fares very well. In the iFixYouri video, the tester drops the device several times from a variety of heights (from knee height to above his head) on a tile floor.The screen never cracks, though the frame does bend in the drop from shoulder height. In the end, it takes the tester throwing the iPhone 5 at the ground to crack the screen.
The iPhone’s durability speaks to Apple’s quality industrial design. “The iPhone 5 is much thinner and lighter than it's predecessor. Another durability characteristic is the iPhone 5 has an aluminum back instead of the 2-sided glass. We think that both of these attributes make it more durable than the previous model,” said DropTest's Shay.
A Look Inside The iPhone 5
Device repair company iFixIt has done a complete tear down of the iPhone 5, a process it goes through with every new iPhone model to assess the quality of build and repair-ability of the device. iFixIt’s engineers note that the iPhone 5 is similar to the iPhone 3GS in how it is put together - even though it retains much of the shape and design of the iPhone 4/4S (square and flat as opposed to rounded and curved). If you do crack the screen on the iPhone 5, iFixIt notes that it is a lot easier to repair than the iPhone 4S.
Some new iPhone 5 users have complained that the device, especially the aluminum back, is more prone to scratching than the glass-backed models. iFixIt notes that the back is not scratch resistant and notes that the metal band does scratch easily.
Overall, though, initial indications are that the iPhone 5 is more durable than earlier iPhones - and possibly many competeing smartphones as well. As long as you don't go throwing it across the room or hurling it to the ground, it may even survive the occasional drop.