If dropped from a height, the iPhone will break. Image courtesy of Sam Kohl.
YouTubers have already flocked to Australia and other territories to conduct drop tests on the new iPhone 15. Still, given that the tests usually lack scientific rigor, they are simply for fun.
It has already begun, like every year. YouTubers with money to burn have flown to Australia to try and demonstrate the iPhone’s reliability, or what they perceive to be its lack thereof.
Some testers have conclusions in mind before they even begin work. They’re pretty obvious to spot and aren’t really who we’re talking about. We’re also not talking about Sam Kohl’s Friday Video or other YouTubers who do the best they can with what they have.
More pernicious are those who are adamant that they conduct scientific testing by dropping the device, usually right outside the Apple Store where they bought it. In fact, there are too many variables that they cannot control (or choose not to) for these to be called valid tests.
Ultimately, it’s still just entertainment designed to appease YouTube’s insatiable audience, who probably just want their opinions validated.
Early drop testing begins within minutes of availability
A quick test of an iPhone fresh out of the box starts out innocuously enough. Falling two feet onto a couch or something similar. Either way, these tests are fine.
The testing quickly escalates with drops of four feet onto the grass, six feet onto the ground, and ten feet onto concrete. The end goal is always to demonstrate that a metal-framed rectangle with a lot of glass will break at some point.
In almost every case, the tests conducted within hours of the devices becoming available lack scientific rigor. Phones will fall nearby on uneven surfaces, which act as point contacts, effectively concentrating the force of the fall into a small area. The angle of impact is also usually taken into account.
The testing doesn’t use force meters or any consistency other than height – and even that is sometimes wonky.
And testing is almost always done with the same device used in all “tests”, which is not a good thing since the damage from falling is cumulative. It doesn’t look like the iPhone will recover between hits.
Believe it or not, there are specifications for drop testing.
This is completely contrary to current drop test standards.
One of the most standard tests is MIL-STD-801G. In short, without going into a 100-page manual covering virtually every possible durability test, five test pieces, rather than just one, are dropped under controlled conditions: a total of eight times on the corners, six times on the front and 12 times. once on the verge.
This is all done on specific flat surfaces chosen so that the target does not absorb kinetic energy through bending. Testing is also carried out at strictly defined temperatures. And force meters are used.
How do I know all this? That’s because I’ve seen it every year for over a decade.
We don’t have any support from Apple other than the occasional press release on environmental issues and the like about 15 minutes before release, and that’s our preferred option. However, we managed to get one review of a new Apple device on the day it was released, and we can do it because I know a guy.
Before one of five of these test specimens is thrown, folded, folded or ruined for the US government with scientific rigor, I can use it for a few days. I’ve been doing this work privately since before the iPhone was introduced and went online publicly for over a decade.
In all these years since my use, I have witnessed more real controlled drop tests than I can count at this point. The results are always different from what appears on the Internet.
Drop testing without strict measures is a universal problem.
It’s not just about the iPhone. Many of the same people are going to do the same with the new Pixel and Samsung devices. They are not difficult to find.
It is not surprising that glass breaks when force exceeds its tensile strength. It’s not surprising that design differences between models can shift weak points to different locations from year to year.
A titanium frame is simply a frame made of titanium. Without going into the different ways materials break and the differences between glass, stainless steel and titanium, materials will react very differently depending on the force, surface and angle of impact.
Without the application of scientific rigor or standards, none of these “tests” are of any value except to the YouTuber. If you like destructive porn, go crazy. Otherwise, one should not believe the findings when they say that Model X is more or less durable than Model X+1 or Model X-1, without the same rigor or any standards being applied to the testing.
The only conclusion the average user should draw from all this is that depending on their own level of clumsiness, they should either buy a case or some kind of warranty for their steel or titanium framed glass rectangle. And maybe you shouldn’t stand on the stairs and drop your iPhone on the concrete floor.