New Samsung Galaxy S4 proves easier to break than iPhone 5 or Galaxy S III

If you buy a new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, try not to drop it before buying a protective case

If you buy a new Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone, try not to drop it before buying a protective case or a warranty.

Samsung's protective case for the Galaxy S4.
Samsung's protective case for the Galaxy S4.

The S4, which hit stores over the weekend, is more susceptible to damage from average drops and water than its predecessor, the Galaxy S III, or even the iPhone 5, according to tests by SquareTrade, which sells damage warranties for all kinds of smartphones.

SquareTrade posted a YouTube video on Monday showing three of the 10 tests it conducted multiple times on all three devices. With those results, it tabulated a new breakability rating for the GS4 of 7 out of 10, with 10 as the highest risk of breaking. The S3 was the next most breakable with a 6.5 and the iPhone 5 the least most breakable of the three, with a score of 5.

All three were called at "medium risk" for breakability. SquareTrade said its scientific tests are based on thousands of reports of how a smartphone is damaged, such as sliding off a kitchen counter or having coffee spilled on it.

"You wouldn't believe how many people drop their phones in the toilet," added Ian Twinn, a spokesman for SquareTrade in an interview."We recommend people buy a cover and never take it to the loo." Avoid placing it in a back pocket, too, he said.

The company sells cell phone insurance for $6.99 a month or $125 for two years. The insurance can be added on automatically during a purchase with some retailers, including Amazon.

Larger screen sizes make display breakage a stronger possibility, and the GS4 has a 5-in. display, compared to a 4-in. display on the iPhone 5. In the video, SquareTrade performs a four-foot corner drop test showing the three devices falling onto a concrete floor. The iPhone came out the best with two smaller scratches, while the GS4 had a bigger crack at the bottom and fine cracks along the screen, similar to the GSIII. The GS4's back cover popped off slightly in the video drop test. Sometimes manufacturers want the back cover to pop off to protect the rest of the device, Twinn said.

Overall, the larger size of both Samsung devices made them less easy to grip than the iPhone 5. Grip-ability is one of the criteria that Square Trade evaluates.

In a water dunk test, the GSIII's audio was lost, although its video playback worked. The other two phones retained audio and video playback after the dunk test.

SquareTrade also conducted a slide test in the video, which showed how the plastic back of the GSIII and GS4 proved more slippery than the iPhone, sliding further on a smooth tabletop when pushed precisely.

"Devices with rubber backs are less likely to slide and device dimensions can effect how snugly smartphones fit in pants and jeans pockets," said Ty Shay, chief marketing officer at SquareTrade. "The likelihood of damage due to these common scenarios has never been higher."

SquareTrade said its research shows that Android phones are 13 times more likely to be damaged than stolen or lost, while iPhones are 10 times more likely to be damaged than stolen or lost. Also, one in eight Samsung phones breaks in some way in six months, the company said.

The top five accidents resulting in damage are as follows: Fell out of a person's hand (24%); immersed in liquid (17%); fell out of someone's lap (15%); liquid spilled on it (11%); knocked off a table (9%).

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Matt Hamblen

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