iPhone 5s vs 5c drop test: is Apple’s plastic better?

by: Bogdan PetrovanSeptember 20, 2013


It’s that time of the year again, folks.

Longtime readers know that we have a penchant for sending brand new phones to their demise. We did it to Android flagships like the Galaxy Note 2, the Nexus 7, or the HTC One, and to Apple devices like the iPhone or the iPad Mini. We admit that sometimes we went overboard with the “testing”, but that’s another story.

If there’s one conclusion we have drawn from our drop tests over the time is that metal, unsurprisingly, trumps plastic. As much as we hated to admit it a year ago, the iPhone 5, with its aluminum unibody, proved superior to the plastic Galaxy S3, which ended up with a broken screen and a popped battery.

But are all plastic phones that flimsy? Apple gave us the perfect opportunity to test this with the dual release of the iPhone 5s and iPhone 5c, two very similar devices that differ through their build material. The 5s is the same aluminum you probably know already, while the 5c is, in the words of Jony Ive, “beautifully, unapologetically plastic”.

Our Joshua Vergara took to Hong Kong to pit the iPhone 5s versus the iPhone 5c in our trademark drop test. Will metal prevail again? Will the 5c’s steel-reinforced polycarbonate unibody help it survive the drops?

To simulate the accidents that occur in real life, we dropped the two iPhones from chest level, on their backs and on their sides, while in the final drop we went for the dreaded frontal impact. These are the results.

So, there you have it. Apple’s tooling and manufacturing processes for their high-end iPhone 5s continue to impress. We have further evidence to support the “metal is more durable and therefore superior” belief. With the iPhone 5C, you’ve got a phone that simply will not hold up in the same way as its higher end sibling.

And for you – would you like to see more manufacturers adopt higher quality build materials like those found in the HTC One or the iPhone 5S? Let us know, down below.

  • Valtheus

    Conclusion: don’t drop your new iPhone 5S or 5C!

    • Piyush

      Same for other smartphone unless you have like me nokia 1110(still working).

      • Valtheus

        I have dropped my S3 more than 10 times… no scratch on it. Can’t tell about other models though.

        • dogulas

          You are lucky. I would be scared to use mine without my case.

          • Valtheus

            You think i am still lucky after so many times? I should go and buy a lottery ticket then! :P

        • SBM_from_LA

          Depends on where you dropped… carpeted floor? concrete? Did the phone land on it’s back, side or display?

          • Valtheus

            Mostly it drops out of my pocket in the gym, so i would say on marble floor. I have no idea how it drops though. I have dropped it so many times that probably all sides of the phone have touched the floor.

        • lil bit

          My Note 2 was dropped twice, face down both times. Second time it only fell from knee height but it was enough to cause a big scratch in the gorillaglass. Lucky it didnt shatter so not a problem really, though the scratch was quite visible.

          Its all about luck, sometimes a phone can survive a high drop just to break next time it fall from only one foot.

          • Valtheus

            Honestly i haven’t seen any scratches in mine yet. Its white though and maybe theres something there that i can’t see but nothing like i saw on this video.

            And of course part of it its luck. I believe the other part its because of the plastic materials used in S3.

  • dz

    iPhone 5S drop on side… 5C on face

  • beboo

    iPhone 5S didn’t drop on his face
    not a fair test

    • MasterMuffin

      We should also throw it on the ground and hit with a sledgehammer!

      These iPhone drop tests are the only ones that I truly enjoy :D

      • dogulas

        I say everyone in the world should join in on the fun and drop their I phones on their face. Tonight at midnight.

        • MasterMuffin

          Sure, go ahead :)

        • Piyush

          Good for apple , MOAR sales!! ;)

      • lil bit

        I seen phones thrown hard and survive. Many years ago i threw my girlfriends Nokia 5110 so hard to the ground that it shattered into very many pieces, so much for “nokia build quality is like a tank”. Much more recently one of my girlfriends didnt have a phone and i bought her a chinese feature phone for like $15. One time she got drunk and was angry at me she wanted to destroy the phone, because i was the one to give it to her, she throw it on the concrete as hard as she could and got more angry when the phone was still in one piece, she threw it again, harder now, and the back and battery separated this time and she was satisfied. A friend went over and picked up the 3 parts, put it together and the phone worked, i could not see even a scratch. Now thats what i call durable modern plastic materials.

        I also threw that phone once but not hard, however it had a long flight and it did land one floor below so the impact was pretty hard that time too. Very impressive phone.

        • MasterMuffin

          My old Nokia (about 8 years old now) got dropped from 3rd floor and got just a little scratch and then it was in a washing machine the whole run and after we took the front panel and battery out and put it back some time later, it worked like charm again :)

          • I had a Nokia 6110 (? not sure I got the model number right — the spring-loaded “Matrix” phone) which shorted out after I used it while sweaty. Mileage varies. The Nokia’s I’ve owned have generally been well-made compared to most, but my Motorola RAZR was the best made phone I owned until the iPhone 4.

          • MasterMuffin

            iPhone 4 may have quality, but not durability

          • You can stick any iPhone in a milspec case if you want durability. By putting the phone in a minimalist package, Apple leaves a lot of options open to the end-user (Nokia allowed — either intentionally or otherwise — colorful replacement shells, but this didn’t actually provide functional options.)

          • Guha Priyadharsan

            that is the power of nokia

    • Balraj

      Call it luck :-P

  • urkel

    The funny thing is that mostpeople will be putting their 5c in a case.

    • APai

      pretty much all of us do the same! :)

  • Vardan Nazaretyan

    Imagine you brake the Fingerprint Scanner on the 5S after dropping it…

    • Nixon

      Yeah I imagine walking with it and pretending to talk just so people can see how cool I am because I have the iphone, too bad they won’t be able to see whether it’s a 5 or 5s but Apple Fanboys problems ftw!

      • Vardan Nazaretyan

        That’s what Tim Cook wants you to do lol :D

      • OMGgary

        I actually know a woman who walks around (and does nearly every other activity) while pretending to talk on the (dumb)phone.
        She’s not really right in the head, but it’s great fun withholding the number and then ringing her when she’s pretending at supermarket checkout or other places where she’s surrounded by people and trying to look cool. Then seeing her squirm and going “oh, I must go, there’s a call coming in on the other line…” when the phone starts ringing up against her ear. This by the way is just a 40 y.o. chav, who is about as likely to have “another line” as she is to have Queen Elizabeth’s personal mobile number.

        • lil bit

          Well, if shes not right in the head it doesnt really count does it.

          I heard a story from an older telecom technician, it was many years ago, while waiting for a car ferry he saw this guy who was talking away on the car mounted mobile phone like a champ, having a very joyful conversation on the phone, but this technician worked with the cell network in the district so he knew for sure that there was no coverage in this place. Now thats what i call fail..

          Anyway, i sometimes pretend i get phonecalls to get away from people bugging me with boring stuff. Wish people would realize that just because they heard about us it doesnt mean we heard about them or is interested in talking to them. It also work well on unwanted vendors.

    • lil bit

      Yes what then? You simply unlock the phone with your PIN instead, i dont see the problem here?

      • Vardan Nazaretyan

        It’s actually like the face unlock, where you can set also a pin.

  • APai

    neither “same” nor “cheap” did particularly well. I guess we need a few more years for the phones to be even more ruggedized. but one thing’s for sure. Apple’s hypocrisy regarding plastic is exposed :)

    • hemorrhoid

      The plastic didn’t break, unlike yo mumma’s birth control!

      • APai

        you forgot your signature:
        “- butthurt apple fan”

      • OMGgary

        /me hands APai a tube of Preparation H…

    • arb

      “Same”, because absolutely nothing changed on it, amiright? Guess no phone has ever changed the past 6 years.

      • APai

        well, not nearly as less as apple.

        • mobilemann

          he means how it’s spanking current android phone’s with it’s internals.

          the a7, which is the first to incorporate a powerVR 6 platform. (as well as being 64bit blah blah)

          don’t let me get in the way of shaming someone for not liking the same phone as you:P

          • lil bit

            All your posts are the same, they basically says that “you are fanboy and i am so unbiased and much better than you”. If you have superior intellect then why not use it to something else than always hitting on someone? This negative attitude to others does not frame you as superior in any way, quite the contrary. How about disagreeing in a less offensive way?

          • mobilemann

            People talk here like one product is the enemy, when it’s all just advancements in mobile technology which we are all into, worse, they don’t even understand the upgrades going on, on both sides. I just think circle jerks are too funny coming from kids who mostly just check their facebook on their phones. The Irony of people who can barely use a smartphone calling iOS users idiots (when i was a IOS user i used to write siri proxy plugins, (to do things like, integrating siri and plex, have you ever asked google now to play a TV show and have it come up on your TV?) and launchers for jailbroken iOS.) it was to funny not to comment.

            Now i know there are tons of android users as smart or smarter than I (there’s always someone better than you;D) And i would welcome good conversation, just sometimes, the circle jerking and talk about stuff they seem to not understand at all, causes me to flame.

            if someone wants to flame back, that’s their right:D

          • APai

            I know, but can’t blame people if they miss dripping sarcasm. it’s a rat race and there’s someone with better internals all the time. the day before the a7 announcement apple was a loser by that definition.

          • mobilemann

            yes they were.

          • APai

            quite frankly, I wasn’t really thinking about the internals here. the topic at hand was the external case and the protection mechanism, and for years apple mocked plastic, and yet they have a “cheap” phone with plastic. so if apple gets mocked at, they were asking for it.

          • mobilemann

            to be fair, (and i mean this quite honestly) wasn’t it zealots saying that? I’ve googled it a few times, and i can’t find anywhere apple themselves says shit about what others use. They mention android in a few funny ways, but i’ve never heard those tirades from them, only from fanboys of the respective sides.

            And let me be clear, pure apple fans (which you might think me to be, but honestly, i’m not. I troll apple insider too, lol.) are 100% as annoying as pure android (or wp7, or bb if there are any left) fans.

            if you find something tho, link me. I don’t wanna be defending them in that right if were being smug.

          • APai


            iphone 4 keynote. they go on and on about how much better glass is over plastic. that was what i remembered. then the whole iIndustry behind apple churns out soundbites to the effect that glass or anything else is better than plastic. their primary competitor always was samsung.

            i don’t remember specifics from that time, but i do remember that apple did mock others for being plastic, directly and indirectly.

          • mobilemann

            Wow they do, so badly. Obvious place to look too, sigh, thx.

          • APai

            I read the full post, apparently apple is so full of themselves. here’s one line ““freedom from porn?””, that’s an apparent dig at android. sure android has every kind of content, and apple is kind of a prude. but doesn’t apple’s browser allow porn. or, why do they insinuate that android users have nothing else to do ? those were the iphone 4 days – they were at their caustic best. now, with steve jobs not around and android giving them a heavy drubbing at least in activations – they are more measured. they still do troll hard, like tim cook the other days said that GB was still dominant, when it’s clearly not the case (android market exploded in the last 1 year or so)

  • Tom O’Neill

    Who’d have thought? Are you going to give the damages phones away? :p

  • Jusephe

    Give me some benchmarks of these bad boys !

    • STR100


      It killed everything in benchmarks, and by significant margins in almost every test. The 5S is a beast, but with only a dual core 1.3Ghz and 1GB of memory.

    • Guest


      It killed everything in benchmarks, and by significant margins in almost
      every test. The 5S is a beast, but with only a dual core 1.3Ghz and 1GB
      of memory.

      • mobilemann

        it’s the powerVR version 6 GPU (first of it’s kind in any mobile device) that’s doing it really.

        it is a beastly little phone though!

  • stitch

    how about a drop test for Xperia Z1? wonder can the metal frame protect the glass panel

    • APai

      sony dint make fun of plastic. that said, I think even the toughest glass available will break if it falls on its face on an uneven hard surface

  • Joseph Remy

    I think we need a drop rig (think Myth Busters) to negate any possible rotation due to timing inconsistencies between fingers on release.

    • dogulas

      Exactly. Too impossible to be consistent at all.

    • lil bit

      Absolutely, someone should construct a rig and send the design specs to AA in Hong Kong, then they can easily have one made by a local machine shop/welder.

  • fonkymonk

    awww… iPhone 5s is all scratched now …. ok, i’ll take it thanX ;-P

  • diego

    el 5c no cayo directamente en la pantalla, y el 5s a pesar de ser de plastico resitió un poco más, aunque otros tipos de plastico son mas restitente al iphone 5s le pusieron el plastico mas delicado que existe

  • xtriker360

    The metal phone didn’t drop as intended, and you need at least a 60 fps recording to really see them drop.

  • Mayoo

    Ah, with a broken screen, now I recognize the IPhone!

    I’m not saying they are fragile but it seems every person I know that has one had their screen broken. ;-)

    • LS650

      You must know a lot of clumsy people!

  • NewTon GaIre

    were those for free… i can’t imagine of buying and they are breaking those… i would except a broken 5s if they give it to me

  • Balraj

    Awesome..iPhone holds up again
    Now AA what about lg g2 drop test???
    Oh wait a min…a lg g2 vs nexus 5 drop test would be awesome
    I really want to know how bezel less “g2” handles drops :-)

  • Joe Sellers

    The sad part is that there is a drop test for any phone. Any phone should be able to withstand a drop from ear high. All these high tech materials and we can’t come up with a face that doesn’t break at 6 ft. My windshield can take a hit from a rock truck. Instead of the latest processor, give me something I don’t need a cover for.

    • dogulas

      Exactly. It really is planned for them to break. There should be some sorry of larger treats to manufacturers who build a phone to last other than customer loyalty. We should pay half the price of the phone when we buy it and if it lasts two or the years we party the rest.

    • LS650

      Or how about some water resistance? I can go swimming with a cheap Casio watch, but if I drop my phone in a sink it’s junk.

      • lil bit

        Strange, my phone is not affected by sinks, maybe you bought the wrong model? =)

        • LS650

          Eh? If you drop your phone in a sink, it keeps working when it gets wet?
          Maybe I should get that phone!

          • MasterMuffin

            Any of the new Xperia models for example

    • lil bit

      Its not only about breaking, people want scratch protection and then a hard material is needed, and as we know, hard materials break in a shattering way. Of course one could have a phone with a Lexar glass, those just dont break easily at all, but then scratch resistance would be insufficient. There is always a tradeoff.

    • gommer strike

      …because a smartphone screen is built to the same tolerances as a car’s windshield? Your car’s windshield cannot double as a smartphone screen. They each go through completely different manufacturing.

      If you want a durable smartphone, they exist – why not look at some of the stuff from Motorola?

  • TS

    Hey! What about a giveaway of the scratched iPhone 5s? I’d take it even for some bucks.

  • OMGgary

    I think we need some further testing.
    I want to see how well the iPhone 5S and 5C hold up against the tracks of a tank. An Abrams should suffice for the test.

  • bob

    Oops, wrong website. I thought I was reading an Android blog.

    • OMGgary

      Breaking iPhones is an Android related pursuit.

      • mobilemann

        if you’re 10.

        • OMGgary

          Aw, your poor butt. I see you’ve got an owie.

          • mobilemann

            Lol I love kids like you. I have a note 3 on pre-order. I just don’t feel the need to freak out about stuff.

          • OMGgary

            Okay. Seriously, boy, girl, whatever you are, you have no idea where you are talking. I have been grey longer than you have been alive. I know this with absolute certainty, because only teenagers will ever bring the topic of another poster’s age or lack thereof into conversation, as you just did in your first post.

          • mobilemann

            If you’ve been Grey that long and your still making this type of posts, you should probably worry about yourself, kid.

          • OMGgary

            … because a sense of humour is solely restricted to under 18’s?
            mobileboyy has spoken! It must be so, for he who has ordered a Samsung must be obeyed…. Be serious ye heathen fossils! No more comments shall ye utter in jest.

          • mobilemann

            i can see you need help with reading comprehension too, angry/excited doesn’t mean i don’t want people to laugh. nothing in my comment says that.

          • OMGgary


          • mobilemann

            sorry, i just have trouble conversing with people who are seemingly in different conversations than I. Maybe you’re just an idiot.

          • OMGgary

            Yeah, just keep making things up. Perhaps I can be a fire engine next?

          • mobilemann

            if english isn’t your first language, let me apologize. If not, you’re an idiot. If you want me to play troll, let me know. *edit* you look a lot like Mike D from the beastie boys. Random, but yeah.

          • OMGgary

            Considering you started this entire thing by being insulting you should be apologising anyway…

          • mobilemann

            I also obviously forced you to reply like an angry idiot, and mis read my posts several times.

            i’m just that sick with the force.

          • OMGgary

            Nice long after edit! ^^^
            You neither excite nor anger me. However, your attempt at serious amuses me. You do not have any idea where you are talking. That is not some kind of threat or whatever you think it means, it is just a plain fact. But if you love kids so much, and you so want me to be a kid, shouldn’t I be more worried about you? I gotta tell you, I don’t look great in pigtails.

          • mobilemann

            “you have no idea where you are talking” lol, are you sure you don’t mean “you have no idea what you are talking about”? My love for kids is satirical.

  • e550mercedes

    I would like to see how the iPhone 5C holds up against a plastic phone such as the Galaxy line up, now that would be interesting.

  • Stan

    This test means nothing. Dear iPhone 5S and 5C owners, feel free to drop your iPhones on any surface whatsoever, everything will be fine, trust me.

  • Anderson Pereira

    Sorry but at the 4:08 / 4:09 slow motion I can’t see nothing scratched.

  • Rafael

    I´m not an iPhone fan but the test is not fair to the 5c. The two phones didn´t landed in the same way. The 5S flipped a little and its side touched the ground first so avoiding a full contact between the ground and the display.
    The 5C didn´t have the same luck. It just landed flat in its screen.

  • carlosfrancoz

    Not a fair test… You didn’t have to post it. This is better drop test:

  • lil bit

    The 5C had a perfect front impact, no wonder it shattered.

    The randomness factor of AA droptests are very high, but still its great entertainment.

  • King Dinga Ling

    There needs to be some type of test that can be replicated for each phone. The drop test is ridiculous for any phone.

  • sa
  • PeterBlood

    Put on a dang case! The main thing is Apple has the best phone going, size notwithstanding. True 64-but and not just a fingerprint reader like other phones had but didn’t work well (you can build it but if it doesn’t work you don’t get the kudos or credit), but a real dependable working one – those are but some of the iPhone features Android will long be waiting for. First Google has to write it’s OS for a 64 chip. You can be sure they’ll take shortcuts as will Seesteal. Going forward from here Apple is pulling way ahead of Android. Maybe Tizen is your best hope now?

    So I’m loving Apple hit Fandroid where it hurts the disingenuous most – the specs. Shamdung doesn’t make Apple’s i7 64-bit chip so they can’t just copy it as usual. They no longer can peak in on what Apple is going to make behind the scenes and make no mistake Apple just got the drop on them. I know many of you will struggle to counter this in your desperate pathetic way but give it up. The iHaters are just frothing at the mouth today and this kind of stuff will make them scurry back into the basement frustrated like the geek cockroaches they are.

    Next year will finally see larger iPhones and whatever slight “advantage” Android had will pretty much be gone. But then you have the “tremendous innovation” of Samesong to help you out and lead the way right? Leading innovation is just what Slavishscum is know for yes? BWAHAHAHAHA!!!

    And oh, by the way, iOS 7 rocks! Most Apple users are able to upgrade, always a real trick with Android where the fragmented few get the latest and greatest. These are GREAT days to be an Apple fan. Love the fact the new 5C & particularly 5S iPhone is selling out worldwide. People know quality when they see it whole others make untenable concessions & only buy on price. Another fantastic Apple quarter that isn’t done yet with new stuff.

    Forgive me another cruel chuckle for the cheap Android knuckleheads & dufuses. Long may they amuse us with their disingenuous misguided device justifications. MUAHAHAHAHA!!!!

    • hoggleboggle

      Nice rant, unfortunately most of your statements are incorrect. Samsung do actually make the A7 processor, Apple isn’t so much pulling ahead as it is catching up, with phones like the Xperia Z1 leave it behind again. As for the phones selling out – easy to do if you limit supply. Anecdotal evidence shows that Apple shipped a lot less that they usually do for launches.
      iOS7 rocks? is that why there are already dozens of bugs and problems that have popped up?
      Oh, and google doesn’t need to write the OS to work with 64bit from scratch seeing as it is essentially based on Linux which is 64bit by nature. All they need to do is optimize the OS, not that it is really needed since the A7’s speed increase comes from the improvements to the underlying ARM 8 chip not the 64bit implementation.

      • PeterBlood

        Yes it is coming to light Samsung is the manufacturer of the A7 but of course in your smugness you didn’t know this any more than I until someone broke one apart and saw what was inside very recently. The other M7 chip Apple is using IS made by NXP. Of course the A7 was made to Apple specification.

        So selling 9 million iPhones, an all time near doubling of the record set by the iP5, is “limiting supply?” Sorry, not. Apple makes as many as possible in the time allowed. The gold iP5S has proven unusually popular and Apple has increased it’s orders for that model. This is all typical business procedure, not some hidden conspiracy as you were disingenuously obviously hoping for. This kind of demand doesn’t exist for Samsung products and it’s difficult to satiate the world demand overnight for ANYONE. But then you already should know that.

        God what’s wrong with people like you? What new software ever released has been bug free from the first moment of it’s release and iOS7 is a pretty radical change. I stand by my statement, iOS7 totally rocks, is the future, and so far I have yet to see any “bugs.” But I’m sure they’re there as they inevitably must be. Just an 7.01 update away after some bug reports and fixes. No biggee. What you said I have to say is COLOSSALLY STUPID. What technology software isn’t fairly constantly upgraded for bug fixes and moving technology since the first computers?

        Good luck seeing 64 bit on an Android phone anytime soon. Apple has the lead and will KEEP the lead. The tipping point has come and 25% of current Android users want to switch to iPhone as soon as their contract’s are up. My own daughter just switched from Android to iP5C and is THRILLED. But use what you like. You have my permission. :)

  • Magnetic1

    Can you buy insurance to cover this?

  • john

    “adopt higher quality build materials”…. Is aluminum the one material and best of the world? You worship apple and you can buy all apple products until sickness, let us choose the material of products we want buy.

  • john

    “adopt higher quality build materials”…. Is aluminum the one material and best of the world? You worship apple and you can buy all apple products until sickness, let us choose the material of products we want buy.

  • R_Fact

    Does the glass really rise above the bezel on both the phones? It is bound to shatter when impacted directly (5c lucked out on this one).

  • raj

    iPhone 5S: Whichever way you dropped, finally it graced the ground on its back (not its display, even when dropped with display down)

    iPhone 5C: Whichever way you dropped, finally it graced the ground on its DISPLAY :| :| :| (Oh Lord, serious design lapse)

  • Cristi13

    So, it means the 5s has better glass than 5c? Because this comparison showed plastic doesn’t scuff as bad as aluminum

  • Bailey

    If you have a Ultimate Shield screen protector by Zagg, then you wont have this problem.

  • wendoe

    Crap Test!

  • guest

    xperia Z is better, the screen never cracks until dropped by a hammer

  • raj

    iPhone 5S: Whichever way you dropped, finally it graced the ground on its back (not its display, even when dropped with display down)

    iPhone 5C: Whichever way you dropped, finally it graced the ground on its DISPLAY :| :| :|
    (Oh Lord, serious design lapse)

  • xiplok

    In the slow motion replay of the 5c face drop you cannot see any glass break when it pops up after the initial drop. Did the damage all really happen on the second rebound? Seems doubtful.

  • SD

    Probably the way 5c screen faced the impact load, 5s will also break in same condition. Somehow 5S screen never directly hit ground surface in whole video.

  • VicoZef

    Strange Test ! I guess the iPhone 5S is more fragile than iPhone 5C. I don’t know why it’s the contrary in your test but it’s okward. Whatever, both are fragile if you drop them :) And it will be the same for the next iPhone 6

  • Leslie Curtis

    You didn’t drop the 5s on it front glass it actually hit the side first so your drop test is voided

  • Jesslynxreay

    The 5c actually got ‘less’ damage than the 5s… the back drop didn’t get damage. And both phones got damage from the ‘side’ drop. However, this test is not truly accurate, because the 5s didn’t drop on it’s face. If you watch carefully, it bounces from each metal edge. The screen doesn’t touch the ground once. The 5c however, landed squarely on the screen.

  • Golden Chen

    the shockproof case is the right one.

  • Step by step disassembly instructions are as follows: remove the back cover by removing the two screws on the bottom of the phone and push up. Next follow the internal instructions below:

  • Kiki

    that moron dropped the 5c a foot higher