GlassGate report: iPhone 4 breaks 82 percent more than iPhone 3Gs

The so-called GlassGate problem with the iPhone 4 is, in fact, very real, according to a study, but that doesn't necessarily mean the iPhone 4 problem is large enough for the widespread concern.
Written by Sam Diaz, Inactive on

Fellow ZDNet blogger David Gewirtz took some heat over a recent post about "GlassGate," the unofficial name given to yet another problem with the latest iPhone. He wrote - based on some blog chatter that the glass on the back of the iPhone 4 is susceptible to breaking.

Now, there's some meat behind this GlassGate allegation, beyond some blog chatter.

Warranty provider Squaretrade analyzed iPhone accidents for more than 20,000 iPhone 4s covered by one of its plans and found an 82 percent jump in reports of broken screens in the device's first four months, compared to the first four months after the iPhone 3Gs release.

How bad is it? Using a straight linear chart, the iPhone 4 is on path to see twice as many damage reports as the iPhone 3Gs by the end of its first year.

But before we go sounding off the alarms and crying out for a product recall, it's important to take note of a few facts presented at the tail end of the report. It reads:

With just 4 months of data, it's clear that the iPhone 4 is significantly more prone to physical damage than its predecessor. The aluminosilicate glass seem to crack at least as often as the old glass, and there is now twice as much surface area to break. Despite this troubling increase, it's important to take the accident rate into perspective. Overall, the iPhone is still a very well constructed device, with a non-accident malfunction rate much lower than most other consumer electronics. In SquareTrade's previous study comparing smart phone reliability from November 2008, we found iPhones to be far more reliable than Blackberrys and Palm Treos. We will be updating this report soon, and we'll have data on the latest Android phone models. It may yet be seen that even with the double glass, the iPhone has an overall failure rate that is still better than the competition.

So there you have it. Reports of cracked screens are up significantly and yet, the iPhone still does better than the competition. Sure, "GlassGate" may be alive and well, though it's certainly not the sort of problem that's worthy of a "-gate" title.

That 82 percent number looks pretty big - but in reality, the 82 percent jump actually amounts to 3.9% of iPhone 4 owners reporting a cracked screen within 4 months, compared to 2.1 percent of iPhone 3gs owners.

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