The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus Have a Serious Shattering Problem

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When Apple announced the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, it moved away from using metal for the back of its phones in favor of all-glass construction. The company promised that this would have no impact on device strength, claiming its metal backs were more resilient than ever. Multiple reviewers reported the phone scratched just from being tucked into a pocket. Scratch resistance and impact resistance aren’t the same thing, though scratches can make a device more likely to break depending on their severity. Now, there’s additional evidence the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus may not be as strong as what Apple claimed.

Third-party warranty company SquareTrade has tested the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus directly against the Galaxy Note 8. SquareTrade tested all three devices in a variety of tests, including side drops, back-down drops, face-down drops, a “shot test” that simulates a phone flying off the roof of a car, a water resistance test, bendability test, and a repairability test.

SquareTradeBreak

The chart above shows Apple’s scores relative to Samsung’s Note 8, but there are some distinctions between the two. The Galaxy Note 8 suffered much less damage than the iPhones in SquareTrade’s face-drop test, but the test broke the device, rendering it inoperable. The iPhones were badly shattered to the point of being unusable, but were not destroyed by the fall. Both the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus were well-protected from the side-drop test thanks to the metal band around them. But the back-drop test was a disaster for both the larger iPhone Plus and the Note 8. Both shattered and lost glass as a result. The back-glass problem is significant, partly because it’s extremely difficult to replace. Even the repair gurus at iFixit had major problems with the back of the iPhone, and they rate replacing it as “very difficult.”

A video of some of SquareTrade’s test results is available below:

“Like the Galaxy S8 and Note8, our tests show that the all-glass iPhone 8 and 8 Plus break on the first drop on all sides. Wireless charging is the future, no doubt. But it seems that Apple and Samsung have made a choice—to sacrifice durability in the name of innovation.” said Jason Siciliano, vice president global creative director at SquareTrade. “The iPhone 8 is an amazing device and should be quite popular. In our recent Decade of Damage Study, we found that 44 percent of current iPhone owners plan to upgrade to a new model this fall. If you’re one of them, congrats—but hold on tight.”

We’d be remiss if we didn’t note SquareTrade has an obvious financial incentive here — the more people think that a device is prone to failure, the more likely it is people will buy a third-party warranty. With that said, SquareTrade has been testing and releasing reports on various iOS and Android devices for years. You can certainly argue the company has a general reason to portray phones as fragile, but that doesn’t mean it has a specific reason to call out any particular phone as such.

And there are year-to-year improvements–the iPhone 7’s face-down drop results were worse than either the iPhone 8 or the iPhone 8 Plus. It doesn’t exactly strain credulity to imagine a glass back is more prone to damage than a metal one, particularly given the way smartphone vendors have continually offset improvements to Gorilla Glass by making the screens themselves thinner and thinner. If a new iteration of a technology is 20 percent stronger at the same thickness than the prior version, and you promptly make the screen thinner, you’ve offset much of the improved durability you might have otherwise gained. Apple’s decision to raise the price of screen repairs also ensures the same service will generate more profit.

Luckily, there’s a way to substantially prevent many of these issues: Get a decent case, with or without a screen protector, depending on your personal preferences. If you don’t want a physical screen protector, we recommend a case with a bit of a gasket around the screen. This cushions the device from drops and helps prevent the screen from actually coming into contact with the ground if you drop the phone. I seriously recommend every iPhone 8 and 8 Plus owner use a case. According to PC Mag, the glass back on the iPhone 8 and 8 Plus isn’t protected under Apple’s screen repair fee. That means you’ll pay $100 for a replacement under Applecare, and a jaw-dropping $349 for the iPhone 8 and $399 for the iPhone 8 Plus if you break it. Yes, that means you can buy an entirely new iPhone SE for less than the price of replacing the glass back on an iPhone 8 Plus.

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