iPhone SE drop test: You’ll want to get a case

Dropping new phones on the floor — on purpose — is an age-old tradition here at CNET. So when Apple proclaimed that the new 5G-enabled iPhone SE was made with “the toughest glass in a smartphone,” my ears naturally perked up.

The Apple iPhone SE is an update to the 2020 release, but most of its changes are inside. The phone has the same body design as the 2020 SE and iPhone 8, including the back home button.

CNET’s Patrick Holland calls out the new iPhone SE an inexpensive way to get a familiar design iPhone while still getting improvements like tougher glass and the A15 Bionic processor from the iPhone 13. Still, new features like Face ID or MagSafe aren’t included in this phone.

The iPhone SE intact before the test

Remember what it looked like when we started.

Chris Parker/CNET

Glass may be the biggest change for anyone concerned about phone durability, even though it’s not entirely new. It’s the same glass that’s used on the back of the iPhone 13 and iPhone 12 lines. But on the SE, it’s used on the front and back.

The front glass of the new iPhone SE differs from that of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 lines, however, with Apple choosing to use glass from previous iPhone lines instead of Apple’s Ceramic Shield coating, as seen on the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12. the iPhone 13. We put that Ceramic Shield glass to the test during our iPhone 12 drop testduring which the screen came out almost unscathed while the back had some cracks.

This difference in screen material became apparent quite quickly when we started testing.

Drop 1

For the first drop, I held the iPhone SE at about pocket height, about 3 feet off the ground, and dropped the screen.

Some might say the test was over at this point, as the glass covering the screen suffered numerous cracks from top to bottom. Although the screen was still functional, the glass was jagged enough in places that I could cut my finger.

Drop 1 results: The front looks dangerous, but it's still technically usable.

Chris Parker/CNET

While the front of the phone was basically destroyed at this point, the back was still intact, so I moved on.

Drop 2

For drop #2, I stayed at the same 3-foot mark and dropped the phone onto its glossy Product Red back. Or at least I tried.

On my first attempt, the phone landed right on the top edge of the aluminum frame and cartwheeled towards my feet. It only had a few minor scuffs on the frame and no damage to the rear glass, so I declared a refurbishment. My test, my rules.

Drop 2a was a little more precise, but the side of the phone absorbed most of the impact.

Drop 2: scuffed corners, a few more cracks, but the back is still solid.

Chris Parker/CNET

At this point, the back of the phone only showed a small crack in the glass near the camera lens and some minor scratches around the edges. Not bad, considering he’d been dropped three times now.

The front of the phone continued to deteriorate. The crackle was prominent all over the screen. In the lower right corner, small pieces of glass started to completely detach, but the screen continued to function normally.

The lesson so far seemed to be if you’re going to drop the iPhone SE, try aiming for the back.

Drop 3

Standard procedure at this point is to change the height to 6 feet and continue descending. Since the front was already such a mess, I opted to skip that side and drop it to the rear from 6 feet instead.

What followed was yet another case of carrier error, as the phone landed solidly on the top right corner of the frame instead of lying flat on its back glass. Another quick inspection showed a thin crack emerging on the upper portion of the rear window.

I was sure I had a better drop in me, what is called an audible and I walked away.

What we’ll call Drop 3a now (or technically No. 5) wasn’t my best work, but I passed it on. Mainly because I couldn’t bring myself to punish this phone anymore.

Cracked product iPhone SE 2022 red stand: there are cobwebbed cracks all along the lower half of the back

Chris Parker/CNET

The lower half of the back of the phone has developed a significant set of cracks cascading from left to right. Two larger cracks intersected in the upper right corner. Nothing a bargain can’t cover, as long as the front was OK. Of course, this is not the case.

Drop 3a or 5, depending on the account: The front looks really bad.  You can cut yourself out on this phone right now.

Chris Parker/CNET

There was now a gaping hole in the front glass to the right of the home button. Whole pieces of glass had fallen off and I could see straight into the innards of the phone under the black bezel. Surprisingly, the Retina HD display still worked and responded to touch controls. The best is to keep sweeping to a minimum.

Invoke the Rule of Mercy

Normally at this point I would climb the stepladder to drop the phone from 9 feet, but I decided there was no point. The iPhone SE had suffered enough. Our iPhone 8 drop test, which is the last time we’ll drop test a phone with this design, was equally spectacular.

So it wasn’t a great day for my iPhone SE, but does that mean it’s not really “the toughest glass in a smartphone”? I can’t really say one way or the other. This is not a scientific test performed under controlled conditions. It’s just an experiment to demonstrate what could happen if you do what I did. But maybe Apple should have splurged and used Ceramic Shield after all.

As always, the biggest advantage of these experiments is that, no matter how strong the glass, Assumed be, the best way to protect your investment is to put your phone in a case.

And it looks like Apple agrees. When contacted for comment, an Apple spokesperson said: “iPhone SE offers incredible durability and is protected by the toughest glass in a smartphone on the front and back. .All models have undergone rigorous real-world testing and are designed to be durable, but not indestructible.If anyone is worried about dropping their iPhone and damaging it, we suggest using one of the many beautiful cases available to protect the iPhone.”

You can find video of this drop test and many more on CNET’s YouTube page.