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

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.

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TOPICS: Apple, Hardware, iPhone
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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

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22 comments
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  • or......

    One alternative may be to buy something more durable, of course, that might be a little heavier, but then, once you add the weight of the case.....................
    TBC1965
    • There's always one

      "Glass isn't brittle... Apple done it!"

      Is article is a good example of how it doesn't matter how much you spend, if your phone has a glass front, it can break.

      Of course as any of us who worked through university in bars know, we probably heard the cause of this one was probably summed up in the article "the same case had saved her phone from similar drops in the past" drop a pint glass behind the bar, if it lands just right it will actually bounce the first impact, maybe even a second or third, then on the final impact with the floor, from maybe less than an inch it explodes into thousands of tiny pieces instead of the more usual larger spikey shards. Each time it was dropped it was weakened and tiny stress fractures opened up. The same happens to both your phone and it's case.

      When I tell our staff they have to pay for us to claim on our insurance for their phones, I always hear the same thing "but I dropped it loads of times before" or my personal favourite "X feature stopped working after I dropped it, but the screen didn't break, so I don't think it's my fault"

      Unfortunately there is no AppleCare plus outside the states; an iPhone 5 costs us 179 screen replacement and takes couple of days to get into the store to do it. Our HTC's cost us less - 155 last cost, but took 5 weeks mail repair. We don't even bother with the blackberry's; the handsets cost around 80 so we only claim for them/send them out in extreme circumstance. It's more often cost effective for the user to pay for a replacement.

      Outside of business, I recommend Vodafone in the UK. I pay my 5.99 insurance each month and when I walked into the sea with my moto razr maxx, then walked into store to sort it out, they gave me a replacement excess free there and then... Even offered to extend my contract - cheeky!
      MarknWill
    • Or maybe an assistant

      I think I shall get an android - and that android can carry the shopping and my iPhone.

      ( android: Noun. A robot with a human appearance )
      richardw66
  • How it lands...

    What is important is the angle at which the device lands. I dropped my Galaxy a couple of weeks back, from a height of 1.8M onto a marble floor. The screen didn't break, even though I don't use any case. It landed totally flat on the ground, glass down.

    The surface was flat and the shock was evenly distributed. I had luck. A colleague dropped his Galaxy SIII a week earlier from less than half that height onto concrete, but the edge hit first and the screen broke immediately.

    Sometimes you are just lucky. ;-)

    Getting out of the car, I always put the phone in my shirt pocket or coat pocket, before even releasing my seatbelt.
    wright_is
  • check out the lunatik tatick. best protection around for iPhones

    Jullian_pdx
  • There's a video on YouTube of an android drop test...

    ...and the GS3 starts having moderate damage already less than halfway through the test (and keep in mind this is an ANDROID fan site not an iPhone site). At the end of the video, he lifts the iPhone over his HEAD and the drop to the concrete floor below STILL does not crack anything. The GS3 was already down for the count by that point in the test having sustained damage so severe it could no longer be operated. I have confirmed this by dropping my iPhone 5 straight onto concrete CASELESS two times already with damage only to the metal ring.

    I believe the whole answer to this in the iPhone 5 lies entirely in the thinness of the glass layers and the lesser amount of glass exposed at the corners where the majority of all hits occur. The GS3 by contrast wraps glass all the way around the edge and experiences disastrous effects with even moderate drops as a result. The 4 and 4S also have thicker, more exposed glass (I.e. the glass sticks out further from the metal rim) causing corner hits to be much more problematic.
    Playdrv4me
    • Usage varies

      See wright_is' post above for better understanding.
      I have dropped my S3 a few times since buying it, mostly with a case on. However two times have been without a case and both times the phone has been fine. Once the back came off but nothing more. Both times it landed on one corner from a over 1m and the only lasting damage was a chip in the plastic. Compare this to my friends iphone dropped from around 1.5m which totally trashed the screen. Judging by his attitude ("man, it doesn't normally do it any damage") it wasn't the first time so it must just have been how it landed.
      It varies by situation, anything with glass components is liable to break depending on how it impacts a hard surface. In my experience, I've found that both alu and poly cases do well in protecting the phone, even when it has smashed the poly case, no apparent damage has been caused to the phone.
      Little Old Man
  • No wonder profits are so high in parts of the world.

    By a stupidly breakable phone, fork out a bucket load of cash in "insurance" for you easily breakable phone, and then feel that you have the best tech in the world as it cracks away.......
    Boothy_p
  • Transitions, transitions, transitions...

    I've broken my phone's screen twice: once when coming out of hyperspace (a Warp 3 jump to Alpha Centauri), and once when passing through a dimensional portal. There's something about time dilation that doesn't sit well with the molecular structure of Gorilla glass. Not sure what it is, exactly, but I suspect it has something to do with tachyon phase-synch. That would explain why the screen also sometimes shatters when travelling to an alternate universe via a trans-dimensional portal, since tachyon phase synch is believed to come into play there, too. I'm surpised ZDnet doesn't offer useful hints for these situations, as I'm told they're quite common.
    dsf3g
  • It's Just Carelessness

    In all my years using a cell phone, I've never dropped one. I also don't put it in my shirt pocket or use a nerdy belt clip. Just slide it into your front pocket and you'll be fine (assuming you hold onto it when you take it out). It's kinda like riding a motorcycle or snowmobile; hold on loosely but don't let go!

    It's really that simple for guys, can't speak for the women though . . .
    Gr8Music
  • No Edit Button

    I would also ask why your wife would have it in her hand getting out of a car? She surely doesn't talk while driving, does she? That is irresponsible.
    Gr8Music
    • Nope

      Like I said in my post, she was carrying it in her hand with a stack of books, papers and other junk as she stepped out of her car. She definitely wasn't using it because I watched the whole event unfold -- in slow motion. Me: "Nooooooooooooooooooo!"
      Jason D. O'Grady
    • I usually have my phone in my hand as I get out of the car

      Whenever I am in the car my phone is sitting on the console, plugged into a charger. Before I get out of the car I unbuckle seatbelt, open door, put purse on shoulder, grab my briefcase with my left hand, & with my right hand grab the keys and the phone.
      RegReader
  • Taktic Lunatik

    There are several great cases out there to protect your phone, but as was already said, if its not protecting the screen, your chances of replacing your phone goes up significantly. Ive had the otterbox which worked well. Not exactly good looking, but great at protecting your phone particularly if its in the holder which protects the screen.
    My newest case, which is pricey,(over a hundred from the company, around 60 on ebay from some who have gotten ahold of some in China) is the best so far. It has several layers, more than Otterbox and would withstand more than you hopefully would put it through on purpose. It also comes with a second screen, gorilla glass like what is on the iPhone, to protect the original screen. The screen is also inset with bumpers protruding on the sides to protect it from a direct flat fall. Im not sure what would happen if the screen impacted a hard service yet, but hope to not find out. The big thing is it is really great looking as well as protective. Check it out. It was money well spent since I did not get the Applecare Plus in time when I bought my iPhone 5.
    shooterntx
  • Jason, your wife needs to get her priorities right

    Okay, that's a bit like the pot calling the kettle black inasmuch I've just finished six years of caregiving to a woman now 90 years old and during that time I landed up neglecting myself as so many caregivers do. But it appears that your wife might be doing the same--in a rush to get inside and start the dinner. It's hard work running a house and going out to a full-time job. I know because I've done it.
    Laraine Anne Barker
  • Or Get An Oppo Finder

    There's video from last year showing this Chinese-made Android-based phone being used to vigorously hammer nails into a plank of wood. The person doing the hammering uses the front face and the edge of the phone, full whack with no holding back. And the phone appears unscathed afterwards.
    ldo17
  • it's also luck

    I accidentally dropped my iphone 3gs from 2nd floor, right on a drum can, dropped it in a muddy rice field 2x, dropped it in a broccoli field and didn't find it until 2 weeks later, covered in leaves and soil and rain. The silent button is broken, but the screen is still ok until now, the only protection was a thin antiglare film.
    5 years old and still working fine.
    rabbids-1d765
  • Otterbox Commuter fits better in my purses & has saved my phone sev times

    That Defender is really bulky - I try to carry the smallest purse possible each day, depending on where I am going and what I am doing. I have dropped my phone on concrete several times and every time the Commuter has protected it from any damage.
    RegReader
  • Confused about Apple care +

    So Apple care costs $99. It comes with 2 repair incidents with a $50 deductible each. You say that a replacement without AppleCare costs $199. So wouldn't 2 replacements cost $100? Why did you pay $200?
    ElgatoNL
  • Go for the Otterbox!

    The OtterBox is by far the best iPhone case I have used. I was walking and talking on my iPhone when I missed a step. I didn't just drop the phone, it literally FLEW out of my hand and across the parking lot. No problem, just a small scuff on the OtterBox! I will never trust any other case.
    rsvp@...