Durability Tests Suggest New iPhones Can Survive Some Drops, But Still Break From Major Falls
Apple says that its new iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, and iPhone 11 Pro Max are made from a more durable glass that's the "toughest glass ever in a smartphone," and warranty company SquareTrade conducted one of its annual drop tests to put Apple's claims to the test.
According to SquareTrade's Breakability Score tests, the new iPhone 11 and 11 Pro models had more durable glass and better handled small drops, but were still prone to shattering in major drops.
In a series of 6 foot drop tests conducted both face up and face down, all three of the iPhones broke and suffered damage of varying degrees. In a tumble test, though, where the iPhones are tumbled around in a metal cylinder, the new devices fared a bit better.
The iPhone 11 and the iPhone 11 Pro Max both suffered from cracks (damage on the iPhone 11 was more minor) but the iPhone 11 Pro survived intact. There was no damage to the front or the back, with minimal scuffing at the corners.
According to SquareTrade, the iPhone 11 Pro is the first iPhone that's ever been able to survive the tumble test intact. SquareTrade says the iPhone 11 Pro is the "most durable iPhone" it's tested in generations.
In a 5 foot dunk test for 30 minutes, the iPhone 11 Pro came out unscathed, while the iPhone 11 and 11 Pro Max suffered from audio distortion. Apple's iPhone 11 Pro also fared the best in a bend test, bending at 251 pounds of pressure. The iPhone 11 bent at 240 pounds of pressure, while the iPhone 11 Pro Max cracked at 232 pounds.
Based on these tests, SquareTrade assigned each iPhone a breakability score. The iPhone 11 received a score of 73, the iPhone 11 Pro received a score of 65, and the iPhone 11 Pro Max received a score of 85, with the lowest score being the best.
Comparatively, in the same drop tests conducted last year, the iPhone XS had a breakability score of 86 while the iPhone XS Max had a breakability score of 70.
"After our robots dropped, dunked, tumbled and bent the devices, we found the new iPhone 11 Pro to be the most durable iPhone we've tested in generations," said Jason Siciliano, vice president and global creative director at SquareTrade. "It's the first smartphone to survive our tumble test, which simulates the effects of multiple, random impacts experienced by a smartphone during long-term use. That's a real achievement when it comes to durability. However, dropping any of the new iPhone 11 models on a sidewalk without a case, face-down or back-down, can still cause serious damage, as we saw with our drop tests."
Several other less formal drop tests have been conducted on the new iPhone 11 models since launch, with mixed results.
Tom's Guide dropped an iPhone 11 Pro right outside Apple's Fifth Avenue store in New York from a height of about 3.5 feet, resulting in screen damage. A second drop didn't damage rear glass, but the original hip-height drop still broke the phone. CNET saw better results in its multi-height drop tests onto concrete flooring.
At three feet, six feet, and eight feet, the iPhones stayed undamaged for the most part, though some suffered minor scratching and pixel damage on the display. At 11 feet, the iPhone 11's camera quit working, but the 11 Pro and Pro Max didn't break.
YouTuber EverythingApplePro saw results that were quite similar to CNET's in drop tests from multiple heights and at different angles onto concrete. None of the iPhones broke from waist or head height, and the iPhone 11 only shattered after being dropped 10 feet.
What happens to one of the new iPhone 11 models when dropped in the real world is going to depend on the drop height, the material it's dropped on, where the iPhone takes the blow, and other factors, so these tests aren't necessarily demonstrative of what's going to occur when you drop your iPhone.
Testing overall suggests the new 2019 iPhones are more durable than previous-generation iPhones, but glass plus a hard surface still has the potential to result in damage, so it's best to use a case.
Apple sells AppleCare+ for the new iPhones, which covers two incidents of accidental damage for a $29 deductible. AppleCare+ for iPhone 11 is priced at $149, and AppleCare+ for iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max is priced at $199.