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Drop Test: What's the Toughest Smartphone?

Photo (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Your smartphone is your most personal gadget and it's also the most likely to get damaged. You probably won't be holding an unboxed video card in one hand while you walk to work or bringing your PSU with you into the bathroom. But your phone is a constant and vulnerable companion so, if you can get a more durable device, you should.

To find out which handset can take the most abuse, our sister site Tom's Guide put 12 of the today's most popular phones through a series of escalating drop tests. The staff dropped devices onto wood and concrete from heights of four and six feet, recorded the drops in slow-mo and measured the damage after each fall.

They also did different drops where the phones landing face down or on their edges. Finally the team tossed each phone into an (unused) toilet to determine whether it could survive underwater.

Some say this is where iPhones belong. Photo (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

After damaging $18,000 worth of handsets, the results are in and the most durable phone, by far, is Motorola's Z2 Force. The Force withstood a 6-foot face drop onto concrete without getting a scratch on the screen (it got some scuffing on the case from edge drops). However, the toilet was Motorola's literal Waterloo, as the device shut down and appeared to die after a few seconds in the tank (it came back to life after drying off but we wouldn't trust that).

Photo (Image credit: Tom's Guide)

If you don't want a Z2 Force, you should invest in a good screen protector and rugged case for your phone. Every other device, including the iPhone X and Galaxy S9, got serious screen damage during the tests, though the budget-minded LG X Venture endured the 4-foot face drop onto concrete without issue.

Really pushing things to the limit, the team at Tom's Guide also put all of these phones onto a drone and dropped them from 100-feet in the air onto a wood panel. Again, Motorola's phone survived, while others smashed to bits and others (perhaps because they didn't hit face first) actually took less damage than when they were dropped from 6-feet onto concrete.

To see how all the phones fared, check out Tom's Guide's article.

  • Lutfij
    The toilet seat... :D
    Reply
  • hixbot
    The toughest phone I've ever owned was an old Blackberry Bold. I couldn't kill that thing (and I wanted to).
    Reply
  • Simon Anderson
    Someone should build a phone with little rubber "bumpers" in each corner... slightly protruding from all sides... That would surely protect the majority of drops. I hate the whole concept of cases: products should (and are) designed to be stand alone, not have some horrible third party piece of plastic wrapped around them
    Reply
  • arif1752002m4a1
    The legend nokia 3310.
    Reply
  • anbello262
    This is really interesting.
    I understand it's almost impossible to measure accurately, but I'm also interested in knwoing for sure how much extra shatter protection (if any) does a screen protector provide?
    Reply
  • derekullo
    20989303 said:
    This is really interesting.
    I understand it's almost impossible to measure accurately, but I'm also interested in knwoing for sure how much extra shatter protection (if any) does a screen protector provide?

    The entire goal of a case / screen protector for your phone is to sloowww dooowwwnn acceleration from impacts.

    Let's give a terrible example just so you can get the idea.

    If I encased my phone in bricks, and dropped it on the floor, what do you think is going to happen?

    My phone is going to get crushed by bricks due to bricks not having any softness or give in them, they are rigid for all intensive purposes.

    Any shocks that the bricks take are instantly transferred to my phone due to how rigid the bricks are.

    So now you may be thinking ok perfect ill just encase my phone is the softest material known to man, soapstone,

    That may not have immediately come to mind, but its really really soft.

    The problem with that is its so soft it disintegrates upon impact with almost anything making it a one time use case, you're phone would be protected for that first drop though.

    So the middle ground here is a hard outer shell that can actually take a hit and a soft inner lining that can dissipate any hard shocks turn them into quite literally good vibrations for the phone.


    And also they make a device made to measure these forces ... an accelerometer - Thanks Mythbusters.
    (They started using shockwatch labels when they didn't have to be precise with the measurement)

    You want the acceleration to be low.

    To quote a cliche .... It isn't the fall that kills your phone it's the sudden stop

    High acceleration going from about 10 mph to 0 near instantly, assuming a 1 meter drop.



    If you are just in the market for a screen protector you want to get one that uses soft clear plastic so that any impacts are minimized, but due to how thin most screen protectors are you can't expect a miracle, a case+screen protector is really the way to go.
    Reply
  • AndrewJacksonZA
    No Sony devices?
    Reply
  • Anarkie13
    20989208 said:
    Someone should build a phone with little rubber "bumpers" in each corner... slightly protruding from all sides... That would surely protect the majority of drops. I hate the whole concept of cases: products should (and are) designed to be stand alone, not have some horrible third party piece of plastic wrapped around them

    Samsung S8 Active. Missing from the list but it's a full spec S8 Series phone with bumpers built on and is a hell of a durable phone. Surprised it's not on the list. Would have loved to see how it fares against the Z2 Force.
    Reply
  • Karadjgne
    Any of the Samsung Active series really. Comes with the corner bumpers etc. I'm currently typing this on a S5 Active.

    Honestly, the best, toughest phone is the one you do not drop. My wife's phone seems super slick, she's dropped it half a dozen times, this S5 Active seems to be far more 'sticky' to the grip.

    Best screen protection is Gorilla Glass. Unlike clear plastic, it does not squash when hit by sharp objects like rocks, so does not transfer the impact to the actual screen. Plastic will. However, plastic is better at incidental impacts, like found in a purse, where keys or other sharper/harder objects hit at severe angles. The give of the plastic absorbs this better, and may or may not scratch. Glass can scratch, or crack, reducing its usefulness.
    Reply
  • TJ Hooker
    20990690 said:
    Best screen protection is Gorilla Glass. Unlike clear plastic, it does not squash when hit by sharp objects like rocks, so does not transfer the impact to the actual screen. Plastic will. However, plastic is better at incidental impacts, like found in a purse, where keys or other sharper/harder objects hit at severe angles. The give of the plastic absorbs this better, and may or may not scratch. Glass can scratch, or crack, reducing its usefulness.
    The fact that a glass protector doesn't transfer the force of an impact as much as a plastic one is linked to the fact that glass can break. If your glass screen protector cracks/shatters, it's because it absorbed the force of an impact and broke in the process, sacrificing itself to (hopefully) save the screen.
    Reply