Galaxy s4 vs iPhone 5 drop test (1)

Eight months ago we brought you the world’s first Galaxy S3 versus iPhone 5 drop test. As much as we hated to admit it at the time, the iPhone proved superior to the Galaxy S3 when it comes to build quality and sturdiness. The S3’s plastic cover popped open upon impact with the ground, and its front glass, lacking the protection of a sturdy metal case, shattered. Meanwhile, the iPhone escaped with just some minor bruising.

Samsung has long been criticized for using plastic on its flagship Galaxy S series. Some have hoped that the Galaxy S4 would change that perception, but Samsung stuck with polycarbonate. Predictably, early reviews (and the results of our Versus poll) have criticized the “plasticky” look and feel of the Galaxy S4 more often than not.

But is the criticism warranted? Is the Galaxy S4 better built than its predecessor? Can it hold a candle to the aluminum iPhone 5? Darcy LaCouvee, our international man of gadget destruction, is back to Hong Kong to bring you the answers. Yes, it’s drop test time!

As always, we tried to simulate accidents that are likely to happen to your smartphone in every day use. This means there’s a certain degree of randomness in our testing, but nevertheless, the difference in build quality between the two devices is visible. Here’s the video.

There you have it. History repeats itself. The Galaxy S4 may be better than the S3 in most ways, but the build quality and resistance to damage appear to have remained unchanged. In fact, we will go out on a limb to say that the smaller bezels have actually diminished the robustness of the Galaxy S4.

The iPhone 5 passed another drop test with flying colors, emerging with only cosmetic damage. For what it’s worth, the screen of the Apple device did shatter when we tested it against the HTC One, but that’s another story.

Almost every device is likely to break when dropped face down on hard pavement, no one can deny it. But Samsung’s devices appear to be more vulnerable to shocks than the HTC One or the iPhone 5. Is it due to the plastic build? That’s probably one reason, but don’t forget that the Galaxy S4’s plastic back cover offers access to a removable battery and a microSD slot, two features that are very important for many users. So it’s all about tradeoffs.

In addition, plastic provides many benefits over other materials. It’s lighter, won’t scratch as easily as anodized aluminum or crack as glass does, and when it’s damaged, you can replace a plastic case on the cheap.

With that said, we can’t help being disappointed that we have to give the laurels, once again, to the competitor. The Galaxy S4 is the flagship of the Android armada, and we simply want it to be better than the iPhone in every way.

Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 drop test image gallery

[nggallery id=94]

Bottom line, case it up. Fateful events will happen, regardless of how careful you are. Buy a good case for your device, be it a plastic Galaxy S4, aluminum HTC One, or glass-backed Nexus 4.

How important is the build material to you? Are you disappointed that the Galaxy S4 is still made of plastic? What’s it going to be folks? My goodness!

Bogdan Petrovan
Bogdan is the European Managing Editor of Android Authority. He loves tech, travel, and fantasy. He wishes he had more time for two of those things. Bogdan's phone is a Nexus 6P.
  • monkeypox69

    Almost everyone I know, including myself, puts a case on their smartphone – whether it’s an iPhone or other phone. So who really cares about this?

    • tahpics

      I think they said it’s “for fun”.. nothing scientific or practical about it. Personally, I appreciate phones for design and have never used a case (I definitely don’t count Samsung’s flip cover as adding any sort of protection).

  • First of all, people usually put cases on their phones. Second of all, I know the drops were completely “random”, but when the iPhone 5 doesn’t fall on it’s face even once, It is kinda hard for it to break. Bad test.

    • joe barkho

      He just said its for fun….

    • Jusephe

      Galaxy S4 falled on it’s side but screen shattered, nothing happened with screen of iPhone.

      • AAA


      • Mikael Chuaungo

        Bwahahahahaa funniest thing i read this week!!!

    • Arsenal™

      cases? what *fat* cases?

    • Nicktrance

      From what I’ve seen from other drop tests and this it’s about the same level as the iPhone 5. It’s definitely much better than the SGS III, which is impressive considering the larger screen and smaller device.

    • Jomar

      I’m sorry but neither did the Galaxy S4. It falled on the side. The impact caused the damage on the screen. It’s not durable. I may applaud Samsung’s innovations but the iPhone’s strength is the solid build quality. Let us give credit to where it’s due.

      • hoggleboggle

        except the iphone would have suffered the same damage if it had hit at the same point: however the S4 suffered none of the dents and scratches the iphone 5 suffered, so in that sense it is actually more durable.

      • hoggleboggle

        except the iphone would have suffered the same damage if it had hit at the same point: however the S4 suffered none of the dents and scratches the iphone 5 suffered, so in that sense it is actually more durable.

      • physics

        Take the fall from the head:
        the iphone 5 dropped completely on its side while the gals4 dropped on the corner.
        energy dissipation from a corner source is at time ~30 times higher than an edge dissipation. (depends on the dimensions of the edge/corner).

        I’m sorry but you should learn some physics. as the article states, this was done just for fun, it yields no conclusive evidence whatsoever.

        • This guy knows his stuff bro. My friend dropped his iPhone 5 last week from his lap and it landed on the corner and cracked the top bezel…luckily for him he has insurance on his phone

        • Reezo

          Fucking science bro!

    • tahpics

      Everyone doesn’t put cases on their phones. I for one don’t. Relax, the S4 lost. You still want it? Great. Get it.

      • Atlas7O2

        Piss off.

        • WestIndiesKING

          What an amazing informative response lol. He makes a valid point, not everyone puts a case on your phone and in reality you shouldnt have too. Whats the point of the design of the phone if you have to wrap it in an otter box to protect it. We shouldnt need a case for our phones. Our phones should be water proof, dust proof and scratch resistant. All things that are possible and happenin on phones now. Next year flexible display will be on the phone and should be standard in the future. Lets look forward to a caseless future and not troll people who make good points.S4 build quality is crap compared to the HTC One and iphone 5. Period.

          • Atlas7O2


      • Jillxz

        Maybe you don’t , but most do use cases on their phones.

      • Jillxz

        Maybe you don’t , but most do use cases on their phones.

    • calibre

      regardless result of any drop test, I’ll always put a good case on my expensive smartphone.

      unless you’re really rich,
      no sane people would have their $700+ phone left unprotected.

    • lil bit

      No case, no plans to start using one, so i should be very worried about my expensive flagship, especially since it has deeep integration of tripadvisor and… Wtf am i saying, i forgot my phone is Xperia Z, no worries =)

      Ken: Hi Samsung wanna go for a ride??
      – Sorry Ken, im too damn fragile!

      Im a samsung girl, in a samsung world,
      made of plastic, its fantastic,

      you can call me faggot coz thats just what i am,

      no imagination, plastic is my creation.

      (ken) Come on Samsung lets go party
      NO NO NO

      • hoggleboggle

        shame the xperia z also suffers from cracked screen syndrome when dropped:
        the point is every current gen touch screen phone will shatter if the display hits the corner of the phone. i do love the waterproofing or the xperia z – this should be mandatory on every phone :)

    • Okay, so what happened was on that third drop, the iPhone 5 fell on the back most part of its edge. The Galaxy S4 fell on the front-most part of it’s edge. Still, bad test.

      • Ken

        So I see you like your grapes a little sour.

    • carlisimo

      Plastic is simply more flexible than an aluminum frame, and that means the glass has to take strains it can’t handle. It’s one of the trade-offs of using plastic.

      • more flexable means it should absorb more of the fall energy.

        • Ken

          No. It means when the plastic bends inward from impact, it exposes the corners of the glass, thus broken or shattered glass. It’s not that hard to figure out really.

        • J.L.

          That only works if the phone is completely surrounded in plastic.

    • stevesup

      Here’s the bottom line: Gazelle will buy iPhones 4-5 broken for $50 -$125. Galaxies? Not worth a farthing. What about working phones? Up to $400 for iPhones on Gazelle; at most $223 for Galaxies as of today. Lifecycle pricing has always favored Apple products and rewarded Apple buyers. Think about like landscaping your lot: you get to enjoy it while you own it and get the money back when you sell.

      • CyBrix_21

        Who cares? Will you buy your phone just to know its value after a year?

        Of course you will use it…

        Sorry, Samsung phones get the latest OS always… (Those flagships) Though not as fast as Nexus phone…

  • Karma is a bitch Samsung!

    • Toss3

      iPhone fell on its back edge, while the S4 fell on its front. Not a fair comparison, and proves little. If your phone falls flat on its display its going to break, not matter the logo. They should do front falls from different heights instead of pocket-drops etc, because that just results in a lot of randomness and unfair comparisons, depending on how they hit the ground (the video I posted below is much better and they all break(the SGS3 easier than the iP5 and S4)).

      • I have dropped my droid x without a case more times than i can count, on its front, on its back, all 4 sides. The back now pops off really easy but other than that the phone remains in great condition, the screen doesnt even have a scratch on it.

        • Toss3

          Well, Motorola’s phones might be the exception then. :)

    • This drop test proves nothing!

  • hoggleboggle

    it doesn’t surprise me really, with this drive for ever increasing screen sizes with ever decreasing bezels it becomes obvious that drops that hit the very corner of the screen will inevitably damage the screen. if the iphone 5 (or htc one or xperia z etc) had hit in the same spot it would have suffered the same sort of damage.this was just unlucky. However the plastic casing shows it holds up better for all other forms of impact, so well done samsung.

    • Toss3

      Better controlled tests would result in fairer comparisons. The S4 was just unlucky, and they should do about 30+ drops in order to get any significant results (statistically speaking).

      • Arsenal™

        how would u get that many mobiles? it could be one drop and bang!

  • Toss3

    Plenty of evidence suggesting otherwise:

  • Jack

    the Samsung s4 the screen broke that fast damn good luck next time Samsung

    • Atlas7O2

      It wasn’t a fair test. Idiot.

  • Jusephe

    “Buy a good case for your device, be it a plastic Galaxy S4, aluminum HTC One, or glass-backed Nexus 4.”

    Buy a good case for your device, be it plastic iPhone 3G (S), aluminium iPhone 5 ( or 1-st generation), or glass backed iPhone 4 (S).

  • Guest

    I have a Nexus 4 and would NEVER go without a case, after I dropped my previous phone, a GS2 from chest high, in the street. I got away with just a scratch on the phone’s corner you wouldn’t notice unless it was pointed out. A lucky break – pun intended (my GS2 is now my music/game/video player). Like other comments here, ANY phone falling flat on it’s face on concrete will break. Pointless exercise.

  • Jaiy

    You should drop them in equal conditions, like dropping them back down, corner down, screen down… These random tests prove nothing, expect for how lucky the phones were with their dropping angles.

    • lil bit

      Agreed, i seen ipad droptests where they were attached to a guidance system to give exactly desired impact points, random drops is a waste of phones.

  • CpuKnight

    So much for gorilla glass 3

    • Tom Dauria

      Same glass on both phones not made by either apple or Samsung. I like the plastic removable back so I can add memory. Trade off but worth it to me

    • Mark Mann

      gorilla glass is scratch resistant, not shatter resistant…it’s never been advertised as shatter resistant

  • If you want to break don’t buy SmarPhones. Buy Nokia phones and do these type of tests.

  • Bill

    If that’s the iPhone 5’s only advantage over the S4… Big deal.

    • Guy De Vos

      Agree. What’s more important is repairability. If my display breaks, can I replace it myself? With all Samsung phones, this is a solid YES. Not so with the iPhone 5 or the HTC One.

      • Usually due to how common they are as an individual device iPhone parts tend to be available in abundance.

    • CyBrix_21

      No, that is not actually an advantage… Some drop tests state that Galaxy S4 and iPhone 5 are tie…

  • Terrific camera work, presentation, and music in this video. Drop test turned out as expected really.

    • Atlas7O2

      Are you an idiot?

      • Oh gee, that’s original. You must feel so proud. (it’s a shame you don’t sound intelligent)

  • VIKK

    dude really? drop the S4 on its back twice on purpose? biased test you are an idiot.

  • Will Stewart

    They should’ve done a drop test involving other phones like the HTC One & Sony Xperia Z and see how they compared with the Galaxy S4.

  • Getgo

    You might check want to check battery for Samsung S4 if it was stuck to the body. When these phones fall on impact back cover pops open and battery comes out thereby drastically reducing weight and hence impact to glass. Like yourself said iPhone did not survive in another test against HTC so I will still call this a tie.

  • …It’s not that plastic is bad…it’s Gorilla Glass that’s, once again, and ironically, the weak point…

  • Geeksquad protection! done

  • Great from you guys. I miss the face down drop test.

  • Great Darcy LaCouvee ;)

  • Rippler40

    Well quit dropping your phones you fucktards and it won’t matter which one you have!

  • The camera angle changes during the slow-mo impact shots were amazing! So were the time-lapse shots! Great video guys!

    • How do you make a shot like that?

      • No clue, thats what I was asking myself for the whole day! ;)

  • vampyren

    Obviously this was a fun test to watch but not a test you should take seriously! If you do than i feel sorry for you.
    For one the fall was random so it could go either way. Both devices screen will shatter if they hit it in the right angle/side.

    Also S4 has a bigger screen = break easier perhaps. Either way these are phones and not tanks :) take it for what it is = fun video

  • Fred Chiang

    iPhone 5 didn’t fall on its display once… look at the HTC One vs iPhone 5 drop test and you’ll see how crap the iPhone 5’s display is.

    • Mark Mann

      i didn’t see the s4 fall on it’s screen either…what’s your point?

  • joser116

    I think these drop tests should be done by robotic arms.

  • why

    >buy so called beautiful phones
    >put it in thick butt ugly otterbox case

  • Windows_Freak

    Everyone already knows if you’re going to buy a phone for durability then you’re going to want the Nokia Lumia 920.

  • physics

    If you plan on doing any physics-related tests, design the test so that it’s fair.

    Take the fall from the head:

    the iphone 5 dropped completely on its side while the gals4 dropped on the corner.

    energy dissipation from a corner source is at time ~30 times higher than an edge dissipation. (depends on the dimensions of the edge/corner)

    also – i can’t help but notice your opinionated feelings towards the s4/i5.

    before you dropped the s4 you said “… Now, the galaxy s4 has been lucky so far…”

    that’s all fine and good.

    a word of advice.

    a better test would be an impact fracture test which is used by the FDA for lenses. (i.e. dropping a steel ball from a certain height onto the center of mass of the phone’s screen)

    oh and learn some physics while you’re at it. (or stats because if you’re doing a random test you definitely need more than one sample)

  • bewild

    that doesnt matter to me i guess and its not set in stone that iphone5 will never b damaged in any accident. it depends at which angle u drop the device and what kinda floor it is. superior feathers and light weight S4 is best over bulky iphone5.

  • bewild

    sorry i mean superior features lol and yes its as light as feathers lol

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  • Mick

    This is Samsung strategy as they did when they supposedly “copied” iPhone. Their extensive features make you desire S3. So why build durability – when you make the mistake of dropping it, you go and buy another one! This increases sales.

  • Biavela

    Watch the Htc One vs Iphone 5 drop test here at AA, Iphone screen shattered immediately after falling on its face and later the Htc too, this can happen to any big screen phone without protection.

  • Toni2345346

    My nexus 4 fell a thousand of times and still not a scratch

    • Arsenal™

      lol not sure if serious or just trolling

  • Simples!

    OK the iPhone landed on its side, and the Galaxy didn’t – I think I would prefer my phone also to land on it’s side and survive better – iPhone wins.

  • stevesup

    Here’s the bottom line: Gazelle will buy iPhones 4-5 broken for $50 -$125. Gazelles? Not worth a farthing.What about working phones? Up to $375 for iPhones; at most $200 for Galaxies. Lifecycle pricing has always favored Apple products.

    • hoggleboggle

      here’s an idea, don’t use Gazelle then unless you are selling an iphone. buyback world will give you $60 for a broken galaxy s3 for example and $273 for a S3 in excellent condition whilst the iphone 4s (the same generation as the S3) will get you about $20 more. This clearly shows that lifecycle pricing is no longer an Apple prerogative.

  • Jillxz

    The plastic material doesn’t bother me. Samsung isn’t the only one using plastic. Most makers do use plastic. You just hear more about Samsung than the others.

  • Jillxz

    The plastic material doesn’t bother me. Samsung isn’t the only one using plastic. Most makers do use plastic. You just hear more about Samsung than the others.

  • I have had an iPhone 1, 3 and now on Galaxy S3 and I have never dropped my phone. It is a phone not a bouncy ball, you wouldn’t drop a baby! Let’s do baby drop tests!

  • Question: how many iphones broke during “glassgate?” How many of you bought another iphone? Congratulations, you were their test dummy to help figure out how to build a better phone.

  • Johnny S.

    So many butthurt S-sheep

  • tokky

    good iphone

  • thedude08

    doesnt matter what phone drops like that straight to the ground it still hurts to watch this lol

  • DroidDoesnt_2

    Yet another plastic POS produced by Shamsung…great job!

  • Ahmed

    my poor cosin just buy an galaxy s4 and he no even fall it he just out the phone from his jeans and the screen black . i was going to buy galaxy s4 but since i see what happen i done think so i think i will wait for the iPhone 5s

  • Rafa-riff

    This is not a scientific test guys. That said, My friend has enjoyed of repeatedly drop survivals of her iPhone, while I have gone through two S3’s that did not survive similar falls. My boss lost his S3’s screen to a “survivable” fall… its not scientific, but representative of the odds.

  • guest

    so u people want a tough smartphone…..
    then have a look at this video of sony acro s

    its insane..

  • guest

    in the previously mentioned video the guy actually kicks the acro s and does a lot of other heavy duty stuff to the phone too and the phone works just fine…

    now this is what i call good quality hardware…kudos to sony

    reminds me of the good old nokia days.

    and all this nonsense about having a secure case for the smartphone i think its all bullshit, if i pay a bomb for a phone it better be sturdy and tough…

    moreover if i have to put a protective case on my phone and make it bulky whats the point of buying a so called exquisitely designed slim smartphone….

    i might as well buy a cheap bulky smartphone from among the lower rung brands like wickedleak etc

  • Mikael Chuaungo

    Plastic body folds, which makes glass shattering/cracking easier. However, the fold helps absorb the impacts and protects internal components.
    Its the opposite for Aluminium or any other material, protects glass but ruins the internals
    Check the Xperia Z1 drop test in this site itself. It took all the falls like a BAWS and still looks new. But unfortunately, it cannot be switched on anymore.

  • Galaxy s4 i9500 battery back door replacement made by leather injection, makes the s4 back door part durable and new looking, such as glitter red, green, blue color or pink…about 10 colors,

    source from gadget2us

    it is also to be a wireless charging case

  • well, either way, both phones aren’t indestructible, so you’re going to have to get your iPhone or Samsung Repaired either way.

  • Monica Bker