Shattered 2.0: How to avoid the tragedy of iPhone on concrete

Summary:Most iPhone shatter incidents occur when transitioning from one situation to another (like getting out of your car). Here are a couple simple tips for extending the lifespan of your iPhone.

Pictured is the damage my wife's iPhone 4S sustained over the weekend — and she was using a case.

iphone-4s-shattered-ogrady
Image: Jason D O'Grady

It was Friday, and she was getting out of the car after a long commute home from work. I'm not sure if it was the excitement to be home on a Friday after a long week of work or the basic human instinct to optimize her trip into the house by carrying as many items in her hands as possible. But as I stood helplessly watching, her iPhone slipped out of her hands (and the stack of stuff she was carrying), where the screen met its demise on our concrete driveway.

I hesitate to malign the case vendor (it was a Candy Shell from Speck) because the same case has saved her iPhone from other similar drops in the past and very few cases companies will guarantee that your iPhone will survive a drop onto a hard surface. In fact, my personal iPhone case of choice was a Speck FabShell — until Friday.

The first lesson learned is that most iPhone shatters happen when transitioning from one environment to another. A typical scenario is getting out of the car. (I validated this from my own personal experience and in my conversation with the Apple Genius who replaced my wife's iPhone 4S on Saturday.) Getting out of your car is a high-risk situation because your iPhone moves from the center console, cup holder, or passenger seat (usually charging) to your hands when arriving at your destination. Most people hastily scoop it up from their vehicle (with a bunch of other items) while quickly going from sitting to standing to walking.

The risky part is that most people don't take the time to secure their iPhone during this key transition. It ends up in a pile of other (less expensive) items that you try to carry — usually with the iPhone on top — from the car into your house, office, or wherever. This is typically when the iPhone likes to take a dive.

iPhone, meet pavement

The obvious answer is to fully secure your iPhone before transitioning from one environment to another. Before getting out of the car, its imperative to put your iPhone in a pocket (at a minimum), but preferably in a pocket with a zipper, or in a zippered bag, case, or purse. This simple step will greatly reduce your chance of an impact-related incident, and the resulting trip to the Genius Bar and $200 expenditure.

The other thing you can do is to purchase AppleCare+ with every new iPhone. It's easily the best $99 you can spend, because it includes up to two device replacements for a reasonable $50 deductable (each). Without the protection, an iPhone replacement usually costs $199. We've had to replace my wife's iPhone twice now, so we've made our money back on the protection plan and two replacements which cost $200, but would have cost $400 without the AppleCare. (One day, I'll write something about not cleaning the pool with your iPhone in a pocket.)

Since she's out of incidents on her AppleCare plan, she got upgraded to an OtterBox Defender Series case ($49) and I'm currently looking to make a move into something a little more protective. Stay tuned.

Have you ever shattered your iPhone? Did it motivate you to get a case?

Topics: Apple, Hardware, iPhone

About

Jason D. O'Grady developed an affinity for Apple computers after using the original Lisa, and this affinity turned into a bona-fide obsession when he got the original 128 KB Macintosh in 1984. He started writing one of the first Web sites about Apple (O'Grady's PowerPage) in 1995 and is considered to be one of the fathers of blogging.... Full Bio

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