Apple’s iPhone 4 Extremely Fragile but Somehow the Most Reliable


Apple’s new iPhone 4 is the most reliable smartphone on the market. It is also the one most likely to suffer accidental damage. That is what the numbers from SquareTrade say anyway. How does that work out? Let me explain.

SquareTrade—a third party warrant company that covers smartphones—used a sample size of 50,000 smartphones over a year to compile its numbers. (Yes, it does sell warranties so keep that in mind when reading the numbers.) The company came up with two key statistics: the reported accident rate after 12 months and the reported malfunction rate after 12 months. Obviously, the iPhone 4 has not been out that long so SquareTrade had to do some projections for the model to compare it against the rest of the pack.

When it came to the reported accident rate after 12 months, the iPhone 4 has a projected rate of 13.8%. In comparison, the BlackBerry has a 6.7% accident rate, the iPhone 3GS a 9.4% rate, smartphones from Motorola a 12.2% rate and those from HTC a 12.2% rate. Now, Apple’s iPhone 4 projected accident rate isn’t horribly high compared to Motorola and HTC, but still pretty darn high. Apple’s decision to use Gorilla Glass on the front of its new smartphone was good but the decision to use regular glass on the back…not so good.

However, when you look at the reported malfunction rate over 12 months, a very different picture is painted. (Like with the accidental damage numbers, these were projected for the iPhone 4.) Apple’s iPhone 4 has a projected malfunction rate of a mere 2.1% over 12 months.  That’s lower than the 2.3% rate for the iPhone 3GS and Motorola smartphones. HTC comes in fairly close by at 3.7% while BlackBerry has a whopping 6.3% malfunction rate over 12 months. The last number doesn’t surprise me since I’ve seen some BlackBerrys from hell.

What do you think of the figures? Are all of these numbers somehow inflated so SquareTrade can sell more warranties to the clumsy and accident-prone among us or is the company right on the money here?  It’s a tough call. Obviously, making the front and back of a smartphone out of glass is going to make it more fragile. Pretty, but vulnerable. At least you don’t have to worry about it going haywire on its own.

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