Wednesday, May 01, 2013

GS4 proves more vulnerable to damage than GS3, iPhone 5

We always recommend folks buy a case for any mobile device. They slip out of hands too easily, and despite the fact that you can't really protect the screen of a touch-screen device against cracks (as opposed to scratches), a case is always a good idea. Based on a Tuesday drop test report, potential Galaxy S4 owners should make that good idea into a reality.

Either that, or they should buy some sort of insurance plan. That's the message behind the test done by SquareTrade, a third-party warranty company that insures Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and more -- even televisions. Notably, the company will even cover rooted or jailbroken devices, and immersion in water, as well.

The test included last year's Samsung flagship device, the Galaxy S III, as well as the new Galaxy S4 and its main rival, the iPhone 5. Among the three, the GS4 received the highest score for breakability. In addition to the drop test (embedded), the company conducted a friction test and water submersion.

On a scale of one to 10, with higher numbers meaning the device is more likely to be damaged, the GS4 scored 7, while the GS3 received a 6.5. Meanwhile, the iPhone 5 received a 5. Interestingly enough, the physical design of the iPhone 5 does not "significantly" differ from the iPhone 4, which in 2010 SquareTrade said was "significantly more prone to physical damage than its predecessor" with "twice as much surface area to break."

In the drop test, which most would say is the most likely accident to occur, the GS4 had more damage than the other devices. It suffered a cracked screen and other broken parts. While the GS3 also cracked, it was to a lesser degree. The iPhone 5 only had a few scratches.

The friction test is used to determine how far a device will slide on a flat surface. The GS3 and GS4 both traveled about three feet, while the iPhone 5 slid slightly more than two feet.

In the water test, the phones were dipped in water for 20 seconds while playing a YouTube video. Only the GS3 had damage, as it lost the ability to play audio. The GS4 and iPhone 5 both did well in the test.

That result is good for non-GS3 owners: An early survey showed that 20 percent of cell phone owners admitted to damaging their phones in a toilet dunking.

SquareTrade said, "Major strikes against the [GS4] 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."

Recently, TechSmartt ran a drop test, but only pitted the GS4 against the iPhone 5. The test was 2.5 times more severe, with a 10 foot drop, and in that case, the GS4 screen nearly completely shattered and the camera was broken. In addition, the device stopped working soon afterwards.

The iPhone 5, meanwhile, had relatively minor damage, with scuffs and a small notch on the top right of the screen. Furthermore, a repeat drop test on the iPhone 5 didn't amount to much more damage, and finally, TechSmartt drove over the phone -- admittedly, at slow speed -- and again the iPhone 5 was functional, and still unbroken.

Of course, the real question is, how much do these staged tests affect your decision when it comes to buying a smartphone. If you are really concerned about a device's fragility, the only solution is something like an Otterbox case, which, in its ultimate form, just kills the sleekness of any phone.

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