Test Finds Samsung Galaxy S4 More Breakable Than S3, iPhone

Published on April 29, 2013
by John Paczkowski

SQUARETRADE BREAKABILITY SCORE When designing its new Galaxy S4 flagship smartphone, Samsung said it considered the question, “How can we change people’s lives for the better?” The answer: By designing a handset that was also a “meaningful life companion.” But evidently that required certain trade-offs, because while the device has been generally well received, it has taken a fair bit of flak for its physical design. AllThingsD’s Walt Mossberg said the Galaxy S4’s “plastic body felt a bit insubstantial,” and The Verge complained about its “unpleasant, cheap design.” Now, consumer electronics warranty provider SquareTrade says that according to its breakability tests, the device is actually more fragile than both its predecessor, the Galaxy S3, and its archrival, Apple’s iPhone 5.

SquareTrade reviewed the S4, S3 and iPhone 5 for susceptibility to everyday damage, evaluating factors like water resistance, grip-ability, edge construction and drop resistance to come up with an overall breakability score. And the company found that the S4 was the most fragile of the three. While the S4 garnered high marks for water resistance and front- and back-panel design, it scored poorly on SquareTrade’s slide and drop tests, as well as the company’s rankings for size and grip-ability.

The S4’s overall breakability score? Seven. That’s half a point worse than the Galaxy S3, and two points worse than the iPhone 5. Now, to be fair, SquareTrade said all three smartphones are at medium risk for common accidents. But it concluded that the Samsung devices are generally more breakable. And the overweening reason seems to be their large size and chassis design.

Those giant 4.8-inch and five-inch displays that the Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 boast might look great, but when you pair their width with a plastic chassis and the increase in weight and damageable surface area they bring with them, grip-ability suffers and breakability increases. It’s worth noting that the iPhone 5, too, lost points for its larger size. But it tempered that loss with better grip-ability.

“Accidents are inevitable,” said Ty Shay, SquareTrade’s chief marketing officer. “We all know someone that has broken their phone. … There is no denying the Samsung S4 is a terrific smartphone, but our results show it is not as forgiving as other devices to the clumsy among us.”

Makes you wonder if fragility is yet another issue that is preventing Apple from shipping a larger iPhone. As CEO Tim Cook said last week, “Our competitors have made some significant trade-offs in many of these areas in order to ship a larger display. We would not ship a larger display iPhone while these trade-offs exist.”

Here’s the video of SquareTrade’s tests:

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