Don't drop that iPhone!

First, it was the iPhone's antenna, now it's the glass: New data shows just how fragile the iPhone 4 really is

Listen up, Apple fanboys: You have a right to your own opinion, but not to your own facts. The iPhone 4 has major design flaws, not the least of which is an all-too-breakable glass case and screen. Like it or not, that's indisputable.

A reputable company called SquareTrade, which makes its living selling warranties on a variety of products, has released data showing that the iPhone 4 is pretty darn fragile. Screens on the new model are nearly twice as likely to break as those of the iPhone 3G S. The data is admittedly from a subset of users, but is based on a sample of 20,000 iPhone 4s covered by the company's warranty -- a very reasonable sample.

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Here are some of the highlights:

  • iPhone 4 owners reported 82 percent more damaged screens in the first four months than iPhone 3G S owners do.
  • The overall accident rate for iPhone 4s was 68 percent higher than for the iPhone 3G S.
  • About 15.5 percent of iPhone 4 owners will report damage within a year of buying their phone. This estimate is based on a straight-line projection of current data, a reasonable statistical technique.

Apple is damaging its brand equity
Apple once had a lock on the new generation of smartphones, but not anymore. The fragile-glass flaw is the kind of mistake that's helping Android steal market share.

What do smart consumers really like about Apple products? In the case of the Mac, it's the fact that it works so much better than a Windows machine. People, including me, love the iPod because it changed how I listen to music and works so well.

The iPhone, however, doesn't always work so well. Admittedly, many of its faults can be pinned on AT&T. When I'm not having connectivity problems, I love my iPhone 3G S.

But the iPhone 4 has issues that go beyond AT&T's overburdened network. Apple made several design choices that haven't panned out as expected. The external antenna and the glass back made the phone look much cooler; indeed, it's a beautiful device. However, the nature of the antenna, as we all now know, leads to dropped calls if you hold it the wrong way, and Apple's handling of the issue was hardly its finest hour.

Which brings me to the glass case -- sure, everyone knows that cell phones are somewhat fragile. But accidents do happen, and I don't think that people shelling out $200 and more for an iPhone are careless klutzes. In fact, anyone who spends extra money for a SquareTrade warranty on top of the included Apple warranty is probably a careful consumer.

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