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Samsung Galaxy S4 loses to iPhone 5 in 'breakability' test, and here's why you should have seen it coming

One of the most definitive Samsung Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 drop tests ever conducted has concluded with the S4 losing to the iPhone -- as well as its own predecessor -- and we think we know why.
April 30, 2013
Samsung Galaxy S4 cracked
Have you seen the Samsung Galaxy S4 vs Apple iPhone 5 drop test video that we posted recently? If so, then chances are that you already know how well the latest flagship smartphone from Samsung fares against the latest iPhone from Apple when it comes to kissing the pavement (spoiler: it doesn’t fare very well at all). But in case our video with panning slow motion replay still wasn’t enough to convince you, then we’ve got something new to show you.

SquareTrade, a company that sells insurance for mobile phones, recently conducted its own Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 drop test — it was part of an even bigger test to find out the so-called “breakability score” of these phones — and yielded some very interesting results.

First, not only did SquareTrade pretty much settle the debate on which device can handle drops better, but it also delivered drop test results that corroborated the results from our own. So what exactly came out of SquareTrade’s tests, anyway? In terms of breakability, which smartphone scored the highest?

Numbers don’t lie

Here’s the answer. When pitted against its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy S3, as well as the Apple iPhone 5, the Samsung Galaxy S4 performed poorly in terms of durability and garnered and overall score of 7 out of 10 on the SquareTrade breakability scale. It’s nearly 50% more breakable than the iPhone 5, and it actually scored worse than the S3 which came before it.

This short infographic from SquareTrade, which is titled, “How breakable is the new Samsung Galaxy S4?” says it all.

SquareTrade GS4 infographic
As the infographic says, “Samsung takes a step backward with the Galaxy S4” since the older Galaxy S3 turned out better after going through the SquareTrade breakability test. While it did deliver better results in certain parts of the test — such as water resistance — it still failed in the overall test. And this finding is not something that’s limited to just SquareTrade’s test. We’ve seen it happen time and time again, in Samsung Galaxy S4 drop test videos available all over the Internet.

First, take a look at the SquareTrade breakability test video from which all of the above-mentioned information is based.

Then there’s this video from YouTube user GizmoSlip, which tests the Galaxy S4 against the Galaxy S3 and iPhone 5.

And of course, don’t forget to check out our own Galaxy S4 vs iPhone 5 drop test here.

So what’s the problem? Well, the problem is really quite clear. The Galaxy S4 is just a little too breakable for something that ought to be the best of what’s out there right now. And not only does it have a higher breakability level than one of its main competitors — not to mention its very own predecessor — it also seems to scratch easier and also scores worse in terms of grippability.

But in all fairness to Samsung — as well as Corning, which is the company responsible for the Galaxy S4’s Gorilla Glass 3 screen — they can’t really take all of the blame here. It’s just nature at work. And every time a smartphone screen bends or breaks, it’s really mostly due to the the laws of physics.

Gravity, how does it work?

We have a theory that perhaps the reason why the Samsung Galaxy S4 is categorically worse than the iPhone 5 when it comes to drop tests is simply because it is not only bigger but also heavier. It’s both half an inch taller and half an inch wider as well as 20 grams heavier than the iPhone 5. And it’s also a wee bit thicker, which explains why a .50 caliber round from a sniper rifle can easily breeze through its center and make the screen peel right off in (mostly) one piece, as seen in one of the more extreme Galaxy S4 teardowns we found online.

The bottom line is, the fact that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is somehow able to score high on a breakability test shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone at all. And if we had to pick the three biggest lessons we’ve learned about this whole thing so far, we’d say these are:

  1. Your “life companion” isn’t at all immune to the laws of nature; so
  2. You shouldn’t bring a Samsung Galaxy S4 to a gun fight; and
  3. If we can all just keep our smartphones in our pockets, that’d be great.

You may now read the detailed findings from SquareTrade’s breakability test in the press release embedded below.


SquareTrade’s Breakability Score Debuts as New Richter Scale for Device Danger – New Samsung S4 Rated a Dangerous 7

New Scorecard Fills Gap Left By Traditional Product Reviews and Calculates Danger in Everyday Situations

SAN FRANCISCO, April 29, 2013 /PRNewswire/ – SquareTrade®, the top-rated protection plan trusted by millions of happy customers, today announced its Breakability Score™ for the new Samsung Galaxy S®4. The SquareTrade Breakability Score ranks today’s top devices based on how prone they are to break due to accidents. Evaluating key elements such as front and back panel design, edge construction and materials, size, weight, friction quotient, water resistance and grip-ability, SquareTrade’s Breakability Score fills in the missing gap left by traditional device reviews: it tests devices in everyday danger situations brought on by our lifestyles and habits.

“Our Breakability Score creates a new Richter Scale for accidental damage to help consumers assess when, where and how their phones are in danger,” said Ty Shay , CMO at SquareTrade. “It’s been two years since we created the first Drop Test video for the industry and we thought it was time to expand the concept.”

The SquareTrade Breakability Score is based on a number of factors, from physical characteristics to the results of our SquareTrade Drop Test. The higher a device scores on a scale from 1-10, the higher the risk of it breaking due to an accident.

Comparing the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the S3 and Apple’s iPhone®5, the iPhone 5 was the clear winner. SquareTrade’s Breakability Score revealed the following:

While the S4 proved slightly more water resistant than its predecessor the S3, Samsung’s new Galaxy phone actually performed worse in most other categories. Major strikes against the S4 include high breakability during SquareTrade Drop Tests, a slippery back panel, and a wider screen that reduces grip-ability, especially compared to the ultra-slim iPhone 5. Breakability Score: 7
While the Samsung S3 screen is more durable, it is less water resistant than the S4 and its plastic back and wide width decreases its grip-ability. Breakability score: 6.5
The iPhone 5 scored the highest of the three phones tested. While it lost points for its larger size due to more breakable surface area, its excellent grip-ability and low friction coefficient make it far more durable overall. Breakability Score: 5

“Our research and experience shows that even the smallest device characteristics can dramatically affect its breakability: the weight balance of a device can affect the way it spins in free-fall, making it more likely to land on its screen; devices with rubber backs are less likely to slide, and device dimensions can effect how snugly smartphones fit in pant and jeans pockets,” continued Shay. “The likelihood of damage due to these common scenarios has never been higher.”[/press]