iPhone 12 drop test: Ceramic Shield is durable, but not indestructible

Shawn Knight

Posts: 12,692   +124
Staff member
Editor's take: Protection plans like AppleCare+ can minimize the out-of-pocket cost associated with repairs. Smartphone cases are also a popular choice for added protection but above all else, simply being cognizant of the fact that you're handing an expensive gadget and treating it as such can avoid many accidents altogether.

Apple’s iPhone 12 launch weekend is officially in the history books. As is par for the course, we’re now starting to see teardowns videos and durability tests hit the Internet. This year’s batch of torture testing is particularly interesting as Apple’s latest iPhones feature a new design and a new Ceramic Shield front cover that is said to increase drop performance by 4x.

The drop tests highlighted here were conducted by Allstate Protection Plans (Allstate now owns SquareTrade). In the first test, a face-down drop from a height of six feet, the iPhone 12 suffered small cracks to the front screen as well as scuffed corners and edges. The iPhone 12 Pro, meanwhile, ended up with major cracks and raised glass on the front surface.

The back-down drop test on the iPhone 12 left the phone with scuffed corners and edges and some sharp metal but no cracked or broken glass. Again, the iPhone 12 Pro wasn’t so lucky, as the entire rear glass panel was shattered, creating raised and loose glass. One of the camera lenses also cracked.

Neither model sustained significant glass damage when dropped on their side from the same height.

Allstate Protection Plans concluded that Ceramic Shield is a leap forward for durability, though it isn’t indestructible. Given the cost of repairs, owners should treat this new generation of devices with the same care they would an expensive camera, the publication adds.

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mattferg

Posts: 87   +54
Not sure why the story keeps saying “larger iPhone 12 Pro” as it’s the same size. This isn’t the Max. Only difference between the two models is steel and aluminium.

Editor's note: Thanks, now fixed. Indeed, iPhone 12 and 12 Pro are very similar this generation.
 
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Tom Yum

Posts: 34   +55
I wonder if the Pro's stiffer steel frame is leading to greater load transfer into the phones skin (screen and rear glass), which is why the Pro consistently suffered more damage. Either way, not a positive marketing point for the Pro over the vanilla 12.
 

BoowieBear

Posts: 8   +4
Newsflash: dropping glass objects might cause them to crack or break!

Comes with the territory... either buy a protective case or get a cheaper phone made of plastic...
Totally agree. Glass screen protector and case for me until they create self-healing nano-machines to repair damage. Unless designed for the purpose of being dropped, electronic devices will be damaged by it.
 
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Julio Franco

Posts: 8,695   +1,575
Staff member
There's something about drop tests that are enjoyable. But honestly, glass on back and front, it's going to break and if it does with a single drop, it's simply not resistant enough.

Motorola used to sell a phone with a "shatterproof" display. I had it on hand and dropped it like 10 times without a hitch. But it's my understanding that the display was more prone to scratches which can be terrible on the long term, and it didn't prove popular enough to be incorporated in more models.
 

BoowieBear

Posts: 8   +4
There's something about drop tests that are enjoyable. But honestly, glass on back and front, it's going to break and if it does with a single drop, it's simply not resistant enough.

Motorola used to sell a phone with a "shatterproof" display. I had it on hand and dropped it like 10 times without a hitch. But it's my understanding that the display was more prone to scratches which can be terrible on the long term, and it didn't prove popular enough to be incorporated in more models.
I remember that phone. It was durable but if I recall, it had either a pure plastic screen or some plastic/glass sandwich. That product was designed to be durable, so it was, I just think it will be some time before material science can deliver materials that can look like the iPhone 12 and not break when it is dropped. That being said....I do not understand why the back is glass, probably for radio waves and wireless charging, but still annoying. Toughness and flexibility rarely live together sadly!
 

Endymio

Posts: 1,079   +901
Eventually I believe Apple -- and other phone makers -- will get the fabrication kinks worked out of large synthetic-sapphire screens, which should be far more scratch- and shatter- resistant than even this ceramic glass. I'd also be interested in knowing if the so-called diamond glass is as tough as claimed (3X harder than Apple's ceramic shield, according to the manufacturer).
 

kiwigraeme

Posts: 165   +118
That's not fair - they must of turned off the Pro's lidar and automatic protection mode , I call shenanigans.
Plus I still want the beach sand test- oh look we can drag a knife across our screens - knives are so sharp - BS rub it with some sand .

Anyway takeaway - buy a case protector for $20 by a 2 or 3 pack of glass protectors for $10 - throw it in your pocket with your tools/keys and every year replace the glass protector.
If you want to show of your shiny then bite the bullet and get just the glass protectors - they seem to take the energy first
 
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p51d007

Posts: 2,565   +1,845
Gee...glass breaks! Thanks Captain Obvious!
I've never had a screen protector on my smartphone since the original Galaxy Note. I keep my phone in my belt case. But, people today seem to have the PIH syndrome (Phone In Hand) and have to carry it in their hands 24/7 which makes them easier to drop.