Samsung has had to defend the Galaxy S4’s plastic form factor quite a bit since the device was announced back in March, and one of the ways it has done that is by touting the handsets durability. Plastic, Samsung claims, makes the device much more robust than competing smartphones because it bends and absorbs impact.
But as we suspected all along, aluminum is stronger. In a smartphone torture test performed by warranty provider SquareTrade, the Galaxy S4 fails to beat the iPhone 5 in drop tests, and even proved to be more fragile than its predecessor, the Galaxy S III.
SquareTrade put the three handsets through their paces with a series of nasty experiments, including a drop test, a slide test, and a water damage test. The iPhone 5 was the only smartphone that survived, while both the Galaxy S III and the Galaxy S4 suffered cracked displays.
All three devices did okay in the slide test, which was designed to determine which device is more likely to slide off a table onto the floor. However, the plastic back of the Galaxy devices offered significantly less friction that the iPhone’s aluminum back, with the Galaxy S4 sliding 3.1 feet, the Galaxy S3 sliding 2.8 feet, and the iPhone 5 sliding 2.3 feet.
In the final test, the water damage test, all three devices did surprisingly well. Both the iPhone 5 and the Galaxy S4 appeared to be fully functional when they came out of the water, while the Galaxy S III had lost all sound. As is often the case with water damage, however, components begin to fail over time when the liquid has had a chance to get to them.
Overall, the Galaxy S4 received a “breakability” rating of 7 out of 10 (10 being the most fragile), while the Galaxy S III scored 6.5 and the iPhone 5 scored 5.
While painful to watch, these drop tests do teach us something about the build quality of our smartphones. If you’re the clumsy type who’s prone to dropping your device, then an aluminum smartphone is likely going to be best for you — despite what Samsung says about plastic.
Either that or you’ll want to invest in a good case.