AAPL Stock: 118.3 ( + 0.49 )

Printed from

Apple's iPhone tops Galaxy S4, S III in SquareTrade 'torture test'

updated 02:00 am EDT, Wed May 1, 2013

S4 did not even beat predecessor Galaxy S III in slide, dunk, drop tests

In addition to news from Consumer Reports that Apple's iPhone provided the best after-sale support, insurance firm SquareTrade has reported that the hardware is pretty solid as well. Tested against both the new flagship Samsung smartphone the Galaxy S4 and its predecessor the Galaxy S III, the S4 score very poorly on a "torture test." Though all three smartphones were considered "medium risk" on a scale of 1 (hardy) to 10 (fragile), the iPhone 5 scored a 5, the S III scored a 6.5 and the new S4 rated a 7.

The tests were devised to reproduce conditions that might cause accidents with smartphones in real-world circumstances. To that end, the devices were rated for grip, weight and size and then tested for durability by being dropped, skidded across a table and dunked briefly underwater. None of the tested phones were in any kind of case.

One area in which the Galaxy S4 outperformed the Galaxy S III was in the "dunk" test, where it continued to function after being momentarily dropped in water. Like the iPhone 5, all functions worked; the Galaxy S III lost the use of its speakers in the same test. A four-foot drop test showed both the S4 and S III's screens being cracked, while the iPhone tended to fall on its edge which helped protect the screen. The iPhone 5 had previously gone head-to-head with the Galaxy S III last September and won out, but the fact that the S4 actually performed worse than the S III comes as a surprise.

The S4 has received mixed reviews since its debut, with most reviewers saying that while it is a worthwhile competitor to other premium smartphones, it still doesn't quite match up to offerings from Apple and HTC. Many of the new features are seen to be "gimmicky" and the plastic casing of the phone gives it a cheaper (and apparently slipperier) feel than either the iPhone 5 or HTC One, both of which have metal bodies.

The slide test used by SquareTrade showed off the issue with plastic casings, allowing the S III and S4 to be skidded much further than the iPhone. The two Samsung phones also fared poorly on a grip test. All three models were rated about the same on weight ("neutral") and all scored badly on size, the latter being something of an odd result as all three models offer different screen sizes. Despite doing better on the dunk test, the Galaxy S4 was seen to be a regression on durability from the Galaxy S III.

SquareTrade, which is in the business of offering third-party warranties on tech devices, said that smartphones (or more accurately, their owners) fare poorly overall in durability tests. The company estimates that one in three users will break their devices within the first year, and one in eight owners will damage their device within six months. Apple and others have recently modified their warranty policies to allow for one- or two-time exceptions to the "user abuse" clause with a small additional fee of around $50 per incident, but only if the consumer purchases the extended warranty.

by MacNN Staff



  1. Makosuke

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 08-06-01

    Interesting test, and since they're in the business of selling warranties they have no particular reason to skew their results. In fact, they have a very good reason to be truthful--if they encourage people to buy a more fragile product (along with a warranty from them), it's going to cost them more. If they convince people to buy the heartier product (with, of course, a warranty) then they'll save money on having to repair broken things.

    The only exception would be if a product is TOO durable--they would want to make the indestructible product sound more fragile than it is so they didn't hurt their own sales. But that clearly doesn't apply to any of these products.

    What's up with them all being the same on the "size" line, though? If they're comparing smartphones, the iPhone and S4 are pretty significantly different. And for that matter, is bigger (easier to hold onto) better? Is a 1-pound brick the ideal size and weight on that scale, or a tiny flip phone?

  1. revco

    Fresh-Faced Recruit

    Joined: 05-10-05

    Friction coeffiecient. Lol. Big words. So what is their friction coeffiecient?

  1. climacs

    Mac Enthusiast

    Joined: 09-06-01

    we're a long ways from the days of the Motorola flip phones. You could not drop any of these early cellphones any distance whatsoever. Instant brick, even if externally there was no physical damage.

  1. jdonahoe

    Forum Regular

    Joined: 07-05-06

    It's funny, but I have seen quite a few iPhones used by women with shattered fronts. It would drive me crazy not to have a clear, unobstructed view. I'm not trying to be sexist, but facts is facts.

  1. Charles Martin

    MacNN Editor

    Joined: 08-04-01

    jdonahoe: I imagine those women would prefer to use a phone with an unobstructed view as well. :)

Login Here

Not a member of the MacNN forums? Register now for free.


Network Headlines

Follow us on Facebook


Most Popular


Recent Reviews

Ultimate Ears Megaboom Bluetooth Speaker

Ultimate Ears (now owned by Logitech) has found great success in the marketplace with its "Boom" series of Bluetooth speakers, a mod ...

Kinivo URBN Premium Bluetooth Headphones

We love music, and we're willing to bet that you do, too. If you're like us, you probably spend a good portion of your time wearing ...

Jamstik+ MIDI Controller

For a long time the MIDI world has been dominated by keyboard-inspired controllers. Times are changing however, and we are slowly star ...


Most Commented