back to article Bloggers swallow iPhone 4 screen weakness claim

You have to take care with statistics, and that is certainly the case with the report from US computer warranty house SquareTrade headlined "iPhone 4 glass breaking 82 per cent more than iPhone 3GS four months in". Says the company: "SquareTrade analysed iPhone accidents for over 20,000 iPhone 4s covered by SquareTrade Care …


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  1. Carl Fletcher

    Love how there was a "you're holding it wrong" reference at the end...

    Isn't this the exact point though, Apple have chosen to make their phone out of an unsuitable material - glass, on a surface that doesn't need to be transparent. I'd say that's a design fault.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Now let the fanbois say you're biased

    Perhaps Apple will now let my favourite source of IT information have some, as its only their sales that suffer.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many deliberate claims?

    I'm sure a fair portion will have put in a claim in the hope of getting a 'better' iphone if they're convinced proximity issues, camera tints etc are particular to their handset.

  4. Dan 55 Silver badge

    Form over function

    It doesn't matter if there are one, two, or 50 plates of glass in an iPhone 4, I shouldn't need to handle the iPhone 4 in any especially different way to other models of phone in the same way that I shouldn't need to put the Mighty Mouse that came with my iMac back in the box after a month and buy a cheepie Logitech because the Mighty Mouse was just unusable.

  5. Anonymous Coward

    Erroneous maths

    "In fact, you can argue that because the iPhone 4 claims haven't demonstrated a 100 per cent increase in broken-glass claims despite the presence of a second glass panel - a 100 per cent increase in the handset's glass area - that the aluminosilicate in the iPhone 4 is actually more resilient than the screen in the 3GS."

    You can't argue that. Double the amount of glass doesn't double the chance of a glass breakage. You can't just multiply the probability factors here, as they're co-dependent probabilities, a "glass breaking incident" is still likely on a 3G/3GS if you strike it with enough force on the back.

    Equally, I wouldn't say that the drag co-efficient on the new model makes a difference. Bear in mind that the total area making contact on the back of the iPhone has *increased* due to it no longer being convex and tapered. You can experiment with this on a 3G. When on it's back (screen up), it's actually easier to slide it around than when it's on its front (screen down). It follows that the iPhone4 should actually have increased friction, due to the surface area making contact with the couch/table/leg being increased.

    1. The First Dave


      Only thing is, friction doesn't work quite like that - an increased area does NOT increase friction per se, weight is the most important factor here - is the new handset heavier or lighter, and if lighter, does that cancel out the decreased coefficient?

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Cases protecting the glass on the back?

    It would seem that unless some kind of butter-side-down effect is in action on smartphones that there would have to be some reason for the front glass breaking so much more often. My own guess is cases that cover the back, but leave the front visible for use and therefore vulnerable to damage.

    This just further reinforces the image of the iPhone 4 as a beautiful but impractical design that needs to be hidden in a case to be used in a normal manner.

  7. uhuznaa

    Accidents happen

    I have a first gen iPod touch since three years now. I'm using it mainly as a PDA, book-reader and internet terminal, so I usually have it on or around me all day long. I'm usually rather cautious with my gadgets, still in these three years I had about half a dozen cases of the thing being dropped, slipping out of a pocket or swiped off a desk and clattering down on hard floor (tiles, concrete).

    This iPod has a steel bezel around the screen and this bezel has about four deep dents and notches now (and lots of smaller scratches). Nothing serious, but I guess each of these would have been enough to shatter the exposed edges of the glass on an iPhone 4. I've come to see my iPod touch as nearly indestructable but I really wouldn't think the same about the iPhone 4. With the iPhone it's just imperative to *never* drop it, I'd say.

  8. petur
    Dead Vulture

    One thing you forget

    Since the iPhone4 has this antenna problem, many users use a bumper or external case, and STILL the iPhone 4 has more broken glass incidents.

    So I wouldn' t play it down like you do, unless you are an Apple fanboi, of couse.

    (I smelled your bias already in the title and it stinked)

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: One thing you forget

      I was waiting for this addlepated argument. If we say something positive about the iPhone, we're fanboys. If we say something negative, we're hopelessly biased against Apple.

      I have seen *lots* of people using iPhone 4s in London since the handset's launch. Only a handful of them have been cased, and only one with an Apple Bumper.

      When asked, most people (a) hadn't heard of the free case programme or (b) didn't want one anyway because they had no reception problems.

      I suspect cases are not a factor in all this.

      1. Justin Clements
        Thumb Up

        Aye aye

        Fanboy ;)

      2. Mike 134
        Dead Vulture

        Re: Re: One thing you forget

        Wow. One comment and the big guns come out crying that they're boxed into a corner and are damned if they do, damned if they don't. We even get bonus anecdotal evidence with no scientific grounding! How about just reporting the news based on facts? I know 'El Reg' has an image to keep up but if you cannot see why the title is provocative then you really are beyond help. I get that you're (intentionally or otherwise) becoming a tabloid, but you'll only lose more of your readership as a result and it's just sad really.

        1. ian 22
          Thumb Down

          Fact-based news?


          I (and I assume many others) read El Reg in part for the bald news, and in part for the opinion, with which I may or may not agree. If I wanted "unbiased" news, there are other sources. Which do not interest (or amuse) me.

          1. Alex 14
            Thumb Up


            I agree. Personally, I prefer Ars Technica as a source of actual news. I've been reading El Reg for years partly because nowhere else has perfected the art of these vaguely factish rants.

            Long may they continue!

      3. Sentient


        Well the thing is the register is supposed to be biting the hand that feeds IT. I cannot remember reading any other its-not-so-bad articles here?

        Which makes this article seem a rather biased towards apple.

  9. Wang N Staines


    Users' fault, use a harder case.

  10. bluesxman

    easy to fix

    I'm sure they'll be rushing out a firmware update to address this issue whereby the back is displaying an incorrect coefficient of friction.

  11. JaitcH

    Could it be the differential between the rear cheek and the flat glass?

    I see a number of iPhans keeping their favourite piece of hardware hard nonchalantly stuck in their rear pockets so other iPhans can see the outline in the shape of their rear jeans pockets.

    Given that the underlying body member has a radius that is different to the Applewear it is obvious that stresses and strains that occur whilst walking and sitting will be translated into pressure points on the glass that, despite claims of ruggedness, produce cracks.

    Possibly this is why the HTC model with a solid alumin(i)um body offers defence against this. Unfortunately Apple opted to cut the metal in their body to accommodate the Death Gaps.

  12. Him over there


    "Fail to take good care of it and, yes, one or both of its glass panels is more likely to break than the one on the 3GS was. But look after your iPhone 4 and it's no more likely to break than its predecessor."

    So, the argument now is "don't drop it and it won't break so much"? The common sense dept just called, they want to hire you.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      The fact is that the glass used is so much more fragile than any other phone on the market. How many times have you ever dropped a phone? Once? Is that enough to make a user careless?

      I upgraded the missus phone about a week after they came out over here - within 3 weeks it had it's first fall.

      Did it fall on concrete? No.

      Hard wood? No.

      Carpet? Yes.

      Did it fall 4 feet? No.

      Did it fall a foot? No.

      Did it fall 3 inches? Close to, actually from the height of our footrest (4.5 inches about) where it simply slid off.

      The entire screen shattered on impact. This is unacceptable from any phone on the market today - why should we accept it on one of the most expensive ones???

      1. Anonymous Coward

        @AC: Bollocks

        Is what I say to that. Literally, unbelievable.

      2. robin thakur 1

        Seriously? expect us, many of whom own Iphone 4's, to believe that your wife's IP4 fell 3 inches onto carpet and the screen shattered? Whereas mine fell 5 ft onto a bathroom tiled floor and survived completely unscathed the day after I bought it. Therefore i'm willing to go on record here and say that you are a liar, and you're supposed experiential evidence is utter garbage. Gorilla glass does not shatter when it is dropped on carpet from 3 inches, how stupid do you think we are?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @how stupid do you think we are

          Oh I think you've proven for yourself.

          If you had the brains - and no, I'm not suggesting in anyway that you do - you would go ahead and look at what gorilla glass actually IS instead of spouting crap like a possessed toilet. Gorilla glass is not glass, and is not the entire content that is your screen.. it is in fact a polymer covering that is usually layered on top of a screen to prevent scratching, warping, etc.

          Further, Gorilla glass protects against direct impact, scratches and other direct damage. It also stops warping when you bend a screen in your pocket... and yes, I've tested this with my Galaxy. So, if the phone always falls on it's face it'll likely take the blow for a few times. Catch it on the corner (which, if you thought about it, is the most likely since the weight-balance is designed so) and you're dealing with the tensile strength of the screen, not the toughness of the covering. In this case, it is NORMAL GLASS.

  13. bill 36

    I am surprised

    that nobody else has reported antenna problems on the 3GS, similar to the 4.

    After 3 months of having this Jobsian controlled handset, which is beginning to really annoy me, low and behold i find that whenever i pick it up in this admittedly, weak signal village, the reception falls off to zero with the resulting loss of service notice.

    Put it down and suddenly.....3 bars again. And i'm talking leaning on a bar here so you can imagine how far the phone is moved between picking it up and laying it down.

    Of course, i have no scientific evidence, but 2 and 2 has always been 4 and the iphone, at least the 3GS and the 4 BOTH have problems with antennas and how you hold it.

    I really do regret not buying an Android machine. The HTC Legend would appear to be miles in front of it.

  14. Vaidotas Zemlys

    sampling error?

    If we convert to proportions we are getting the jump from 1.5 percent to 3 percent of bad iphones in all population. If the sampling error is one percent, the increase is not so drastic. This looks more likely to usual pitfall of comparing small probabilities (compared to zero independently they are zero, though they can differ multiple times, think 0.01 and 0.001), than the actual problem with the new iphone model. I am a statictician, not the apple fanboy, so Į suspect that the probability of iphone 4 breaking is higher, but probably not by significant number to justify the decision to withhold the purchase.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    Problem with that analysis

    There's a psychological factor too, which shifts the 4 to hardier than it is compared to 3GS.

    People tend to be more relaxed with outdated gadgets than new ones. It isn't their pride and joy anymore so they don't protect them as well. If the timeperiod for both phones aren't just after the release 3GS will look weaker than 4, just for being outdated. Some of them are secretly hoping that phone is destroyed beyond repair and they get a new one.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Stop deceiving people with maths.

    There are 82% more claims for screen breakages, this is true, but there are more claims overall. The likelihood that a screen will break is nothing like 82 more. We'd need to know the number of policies held to draw a useful comparison. So far all we can be sure of is the iPhone 4 is more popular than the 3GS.

    1. Tony Smith, Editor, Reg Hardware (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Stop deceiving people with maths.

      To be fair to SquareTrade, it used a sample of 20,000 3GS warranty owners and a sample of 20,000 iPhone 4 warranty owners.

      The numbers are the same, so it is a useful comparison.

      But, as I say, the results don't paint the overly negative picture of the iPhone 4 that many people who've only glanced at the report's headline will assume it does.

  17. Matt Hawkins

    1001 Ways To Hold Your iPhone

    How are you meant to hold an iPhone these days? I keep losing track. There must be a special Apple "grip" placing specific fingers on specific parts of the phone.

    Luckily my HTC Desire lets me hold it however I like. It just sort of ... well ... works!

    Some times I even swap hands during a call.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Well Obviously

      YOU need to keep swapping hands when the other one's getting tug-ache.

      Tried using an iPhone 4 to see the difference for yourself? Thought not.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Well, I have

        used a variety over the years - iPhone 2G, 3Gs, 4G, HTC Desire and Samsung android variants. Out of all of them only one phone ever stuck out as problematic with signal and that's the 4G.

        The 4G is not so bad in Europe as the network is fairly well constructed - ok, well, compared to the US AT&T crap-net I mean. The issue is that in the US the network is so shabby that ANY compromise to the signal will cause an immediate affect, so it's more of an issue there than in Europe.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      My mind to your mind

      "How are you meant to hold an iPhone these days?"

      Think Vulcan mind meld....

      live long and prosper!

  18. pete23
    Gates Horns

    cased and slippy

    Hmmm. I actually got a case due to the fact that the iPhone 4 slid off everything, landed face down and scratched the screen. I'm unsurprised by the headline, as my 3G managed two scratches of significance in 2Y and my 4 managed 10 in a month.

    Anecdotal evidence may cause cancer.

    1. mego

      Weakness and scratch attraction

      Are two very different things...

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Any fanboi worth his salt knows...

    ...that El Reg is hardly ever unnecessarily hard on Apple... it's the audience of self-satisfied commentards that identify with the Reg's snarky tone - without having the nous to back up their own use of it, of course - who are the real Apple-bashers. I'm glad to see these 'statistics' outed as the warranty-hawking spiel that they are.

    I have to admit, I do get annoyed sometimes when the Reg mines its hapless audience (as well as the equally hapless zombie fringe of Apple's fanbase) for clicks by posting some Apple-baiting headline, as it often did during the iPhone antenna saga, but hey, we all have to make a living. And if you're going to have to deal with all the morons in the world, surely the best way to approch it is to work out a way to use them to your benefit.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Oh my gosh

      A post from king Stevie himself! Hey Steve! How's it hanging? Sorry? I can't hear you I'm on my iPhone; hold on I'll transfer you to my Android so we can talk

  20. justkyle
    Jobs Halo

    More anecdotal evidence.

    Dropped my shiny iPhone from a height of 4 feet. (About half a meter?)

    Onto the concrete driveway. It landed face-down after hitting the right edge towards the top corner first.

    No break in glass. However; a few little "dings" on the very edge of the glass that doesn't affect display, or even safety for the glass splintered off cleanly...

    Biggest issue was the mistake of putting a screen protector on. To this day, even after removing the screen protector, it looks kind of dirty.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It landed face-down

      Yup. There's no tensile issues when it's flat. I've actually dropped a pane of glass before (a thick pane to be fair); from about 3 feet up; that had the blue cling-plastic film on it still. Didn't get a scratch.

      Glass can deal with shock quite well as long as you don't expect it to take a hit on the corners. Crumbs, why do you think they use the stuff in those "self locking" safes that have a glass pane which activates the deadlocks? Because it's strong??

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