Uh-oh: Samsung Galaxy S 4 is easier to break than iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III

The larger screen is likely one culprit in the S 4's greater damage potential from a drop

If you buy a new Samsung Galaxy S 4 smartphone, try not to drop it before buying a protective case or a warranty. The S 4, which hit stores over the weekend, is more susceptible to damage from average drops and water than its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, or even the iPhone 5, according to tests by SquareTrade, which sells damage warranties for all kinds of smartphones.

SquareTrade posted a YouTube video today showing three of the 10 tests it conducted multiple times on all three devices. With those results, it tabulated the breakability rating for the S 4 as 7 out of 10, with 10 as the highest risk of breaking. The S III was the next most breakable with a 6.5, and the iPhone 5 the least breakable of the three, with a score of 5.

[ Understand how to both manage and benefit from the consumerization of IT with InfoWorld's "Consumerization Digital Spotlight" PDF special report. | Subscribe to InfoWorld's Consumerization of IT newsletter today. ]

All three were called at "medium risk" for breakability. SquareTrade said its tests are based on thousands of reports of how a smartphone is damaged, such as sliding off a kitchen counter or having coffee spilled on it. "You wouldn't believe how many people drop their phones in the toilet," added Ian Twinn, a spokesman for SquareTrade."We recommend people buy a cover and never take it to the loo." Avoid placing it in a back pocket, too, he said.

Larger screen sizes make display breakage a stronger possibility, and the S 4 has a 5-inch display, compared to a 4-inch display on the iPhone 5. In the video, SquareTrade performs a four-foot corner drop test showing the three devices falling onto a concrete floor. The iPhone came out the best with two smaller scratches, while the GS 4 had a bigger crack at the bottom and fine cracks along the screen, similar to the damage on the S III. The S 4's back cover popped off slightly in the drop test. Sometimes manufacturers want the back cover to pop off to protect the rest of the device, Twinn notes.

Overall, the larger size of both Samsung devices made them harder to grip than the iPhone 5. Gripability is one of the criteria that Square Trade evaluates.

In a water dunk test, the S III's audio was lost, although its video playback worked. The other two smartphones retained audio and video playback after the dunk test.

SquareTrade also conducted a slide test in the video, which showed how the plastic back of the S III and S 4 proved more slippery than the iPhone, sliding further on a smooth tabletop when pushed precisely.

"Devices with rubber backs are less likely to slide and device dimensions can effect how snugly smartphones fit in pants and jeans pockets," said Ty Shay, the chief marketing officer at SquareTrade. "The likelihood of damage due to these common scenarios has never been higher."

SquareTrade said its research shows that Android phones are 13 times more likely to be damaged than stolen or lost, while iPhones are 10 times more likely to be damaged than stolen or lost. Also, one in eight Samsung smartphones breaks in some way in six months, the company said.

The top five accidents resulting in damage are as follows:

  1. Fell out of a person's hand: 24 percent.
  2. Was immersed in liquid: 17 percent.
  3. Fell out of someone's lap: 15 percent.
  4. Had liquid spilled on it: 11 percent.
  5. Was knocked off a table: 9 percent.

This story, "Uh-oh: Samsung Galaxy S 4 is easier to break than iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III" was originally published by Computerworld.

Copyright © 2013 IDG Communications, Inc.