We show videos from three different organizations who did comparative drop tests of the new iPhone 5 versus the Samsung Galaxy S3. The pattern is clear: The iPhone 5 is an especially resilient phone and the Galaxy S3 breaks without a lot of provocation.

Larry Seltzer, Contributor

September 30, 2012

4 Min Read

No doubt to Samsung's delight, the Samsung Galaxy S3 is shaping up to be the chief nemesis of the new iPhone 5. One area in which it outperforms the iPhone is crash tests. Several have been performed comparing relative damage after drops. A clear picture develops in the tests: The iPhone 5 is an especially resilient phone and the Galaxy S3 breaks without much provocation.

The first one we'll look at is from PhoneDoctors, a company that sells parts, tools and repair services:

As someone with many years of professional testing experience, I'm a bit put off by their testing techniques because they don't do identical drops of the two phones. But it's certainly worth something.

Basically, they toss the phones up in the air and let them drop on a concrete sidewalk many times. The iPhone 5 keeps working. As John Cameron Swayze used to say of Timex watches, it takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

There is considerable and increasing damage to the black casing and aluminum backing of the iPhone 5 with each drop. But only when the tester throws the phone down on the pavement with force does the phone completely fall apart and stop working.

The Samsung Galaxy S3 doesn't last anywhere near as long. On the second drop it falls apart. The announcer implies that the screen has actually broken, but he's not completely clear on it.

The next drop test comes from Android Authority:

These guys try to be a bit more methodical with their drops. They drop each phone three times, once roughly from pocket level, once from chest level, and once from ear level. What they can't control is how the phones land: on the edges, flat, or even partially on the pavement and partly on a stone, but such things are difficult to control out on the street. These tests show isolated video on the drops as they happen. The video is much better than the PhoneDoctors' attempt.

From pocket level, about 2 1/2 feet, neither phone is significantly damaged, but the scratches on the iPhone are more noticeable. From chest level, the iPhone 5 gets another nick and keeps on working. But the Samsung cracks badly. The phone keeps on working, but the plastic in the case is shattered. From ear level, the iPhone 5 once again suffers just another nick to the case.

Finally, we have some interesting tests from SquareTrade.com:

SquareTrade.com sells extended warrantees for electronic devices, covering the sorts of accidents we see portrayed in these videos.

These tests have more variety in them. Also, they don't say so explicitly, but it seems they are using a fresh Galaxy S3 with each test. The other testers seem to use the same phones. The testers do one simple drop test on pavement from what seems like about 3 1/2 feet. The iPhone 5, as with the other tests, gets some scratches on the edge of the case, but keeps on working. The Galaxy S3 screen gets all smashed up.

Next, SquareTrade drops both phones in a pool. The iPhone 5 comes out of the drink in good working order, but the Galaxy S3 seems to have drowned. Finally, they drop a series of objects from a fixed height on to the phones. When they drop a bottle of beer (it looks like Corona), the Samsung screen breaks. The iPhone 5 remains intact.

It occurs to me that part of the difference in the resilience of the phones might have to do with the iPhone's sealed case and sealed battery, as opposed to the Samsung's (and everyone else's) being user-accessible and, therefore, softer materials. Just a thought. It might also be that the new touch screen's design, which is slimmer and more integrated, might make the overall unit more shock resistant.

It's hard to miss the pattern here. Apple seems to have designed the iPhone 5 for resilience against physical damage. When it does sustain damage, it's mostly scratches and dents to the case. An external case, which most people buy for their phones, would make that even less of a problem. This is a major improvement over the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S and you have to tip your cap to Apple for it. It has clearly learned a lesson and fixed an old problem.

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Larry Seltzer


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