love to drop things, thinking about a new phone
November 6, 2017 8:42 AM   Subscribe

Which iPhone is the least likely to break when dropped? Right now, I have an iPhone SE (which I love and doesn't break when I drop it) but I've been noticing that my photos are terrible compared to everyone else's. I'd love an iPhone X, but all of the media coverage is about how dropping the phone means cracked screen & back doom. I drop my phone multiple times a day, and I don't want to get a case for it. Could other phone droppers advise on the best way forward?
posted by aaanastasia to Technology (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Glass back = smashy smashy in my experience. The last iphone I smashed was the last one with a glass back (4?).

I've got a 7 and have dropped it a bunch of times and it has not smashed, and my 6 did not either, but I am not dropping it from great heights, maybe three feet, and not onto concrete.
posted by corvine at 8:54 AM on November 6, 2017

Smaller is usually better, all things being equal, because there is less force involved. That said, the correct answer is to suck it up and deal with a Pelican case or OtterBox or figure out how not to drop your phone so much. I'd suggest a lanyard, but very few phones (zero of which are iPhones) have holes for a strap any more.

My SO is like you when it comes to keeping her phone from hitting the floor and once durable smartphones stopped being a thing that exists for the most part (thanks largely to giant screens) no combination of screen protector and skins let her go more than a couple of months before cracking her screen. Even thin TPU cases didn't solve it, though they do help somewhat.

Since her work pays for the phones, not her, they told her the last time she either uses the Pelican case they provided or she doesn't get to carry a work phone any more. As in they literally would not hand her the phone until they had already put it in the case. It has held up quite nicely since despite constantly hitting the floor. I'd rather be mindful (or use an old E71 that can't be broken completely) than use such a bulky case, but we all have our limits, so I realize that isn't an option for everyone.

tl;dr: Just get whatever phone you want and put it in a Pelican case or similar armor.
posted by wierdo at 8:56 AM on November 6, 2017 [6 favorites]

Have you considered a case with a wrist strap?
posted by blnkfrnk at 8:59 AM on November 6, 2017

To clarify my question -- I'm not interested in getting a case for my phone. My question is about which current iPhone is the most resistant to be dropped.
posted by aaanastasia at 9:01 AM on November 6, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh, I should have previewed. corvine's answer reminded me that I meant to point out that most phones will survive occasional small drops, even onto hard surfaces, so long as the screen or glass back doesn't hit a rock or land face down. (Face down is even fine if there's a lip around the edge of the screen)

The problems for small drops mainly are direct corner hits on phones that flex too much there and hard pointy objects.

The problem is that every time you drop it and the screen has to absorb some of that energy you weaken it a little bit. After the 50th or 100th time it hits the wood floor, it will eventually crack. That's the problem with phones where the glass provides much of the rigidity, which is essentially every modern smartphone.
posted by wierdo at 9:02 AM on November 6, 2017

Sorry that people aren't answering your question, but this is a deliberate strategy on the part of Apple. My first iPhone, the 3 I think, bragged about the fact that it was rugged and could be dropped with no damage. By the time I upgraded to the 5, I had to spend $40 on a case for a phone that was not as durable, and the AT&T store guy said that it was all an intentional plan to get that extra $40. And my 7 now has a cracked screen from when I once gripped it too hard. You'll need a very early iPhone that is rugged enough to withstand drops.
posted by Melismata at 9:23 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

Stay with me until the end...

Spigen cases are super thin and indestructible, do not impede functioning of phone. It's like a non-case, more like a forcefield. Also, Spigen designs them so it looks exactly like the phone underneath. Also, they are inexpensive. Really, just a super well designed product.

I discovered this genius case years ago when my neighbor would purposely drop her phone on concrete.

I know you said no case recommendations, but I gotta tell you, if you choose a Spigen case you won't at all be disappointed.
posted by jbenben at 9:24 AM on November 6, 2017 [17 favorites]

The SE actually has a pretty good camera. If yours isn't looking good the lens is probably damaged or has foreign matter trapped. The Apple Store will replace the camera for like $59.
posted by fedward at 9:29 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've had my iPhone 7 for over a year and it's in perfect condition. If price matters to you, you'll get the best deal on it since it's the most recent prior model and prices usually drop significantly while upgrades are maintained well.

I only use slim cases (nothing on the front of the phone, and just enough around the edges to create a tiny lip over the edge). I drop my phone all the time. Today, already, my phone fell out of my pocket onto the sidewalk, and off a chair onto linoleum floor.
posted by DoubleLune at 9:34 AM on November 6, 2017 [1 favorite]

I am usually in camp 'No case," because I don't regularly drop my phone but when I upgraded to an iphone 7 recently, I found that the motherfucker was so goddamn slippery, and slightly too large to be used comfortably by my hands. This resulted in a serious uptick in dropped phones in my possession. It seemed to do well with the falls, but it was so slippery it seriously felt like a practical joke. I'd pull it out of my pocket and half the time it looked like I was just throwing my phone.

By adding a case to my 7, it was the same thickness as my old 5c, and I rarely notice it. It does take much better pictures.

Since you're strictly in no-case-camp, I'd at least get some grip-tape to throw on the back, to give it a bit more friction.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:06 AM on November 6, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have dropped my 7 Plus many times and it’s fine. You’d be ok with the 7 or 8 generations. This is the first iPhone model year I have skipped, having bought the original iPhone the day it came out in 2007, because the X is too flawed to buy but still makes the 8 look bad. Way to go Apple, you Osborned yourself.
posted by w0mbat at 10:08 AM on November 6, 2017

I randomly just saw this blog headline and thought of you:

"Following a series of six drop tests of the iPhone X, gadget insurance company SquareTrade has labelled the iPhone X ‘the most breakable, highest-priced, most expensive to repair iPhone ever.’"
posted by jbenben at 10:12 AM on November 6, 2017 [3 favorites]

Thanks for all of the replies so far. Yeah, I think the iPhone X won't be happening for me.

Regarding the SE camera: I'm happy with the rear camera, but the front-facing camera is just not great.

Reasons why I don't want a case include aesthetically I like the feel and look of the phone without one, and practically I already have a hard time fitting this thing in my (women's) jean and dress pockets -- a case would only make that more awkward.
posted by aaanastasia at 10:24 AM on November 6, 2017

iPhones 6, 6s, and 7 all have the aluminum (or whatever it is) back. Starting with the current iPhone 8 they have a glass back instead.

I, too, use a clear Spigen case on my 6. I've found three advantages to the case beyond protection: It's much less slippery now, the volume/lock buttons don't get accidentally pressed (especially when putting it in my car mount), and it actually lies flat (no annoying wobble caused by the camera sticking out). It only adds a millimeter or two to the thickness of the phone.
posted by neckro23 at 10:54 AM on November 6, 2017

There is no current iPhone that satisfies your requirements. Smaller is better, both for durability reasons and for women's pocket reasons. The iPhone SE is likely the most durable current model. The 6/6s/7 all have much better front facing camera. The plus models are all much bigger and therefore more susceptible to breakage.

You've got better answers if you'd consider something other than iPhones, or if you'd consider a case, but you won't - so you don't. So all you're left with is choosing which of your criteria on which to compromise.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 11:00 AM on November 6, 2017 [8 favorites]

I drop my phone a lot more when I'm not using a case; iPhone's are slippery. The thinnest, tackiest, most luxurious case I've found are the Apple leather ones. (Sorry to pile one, I know you said you don't want a case, but I've wrestled with this for years, and am currently in love with my thin leather case. I went with the saddle brown, but it was more expensive).
posted by at at 11:31 AM on November 6, 2017

Oh yeah, you may find if you go with a newer iPhone like the 7 you will want a case. When my husband first got his 6 it was so slippery that I constantly felt like I was going to drop it. We were practically afraid to use it until we got a case. For my 7, I got a Peel case and it's super thin, but seemed to help when I dropped mine on concrete.

If you're solely going for durability, the SE is your best bet. You should definitely avoid anything with a glass back (8 and up). I personally thought about the SE, but went for the 7 for the better camera. If you want the better camera, you're probably going to have to sacrifice your no-case requirement.
posted by thejanna at 12:33 PM on November 6, 2017

While the iPhone 8's glass back may be one more thing to break, according to reviewers it is also much less slippery than the aluminum case of the iPhone 7, so it might help prevent drops.
posted by mbrubeck at 1:35 PM on November 6, 2017

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