I’ve done my fair share of drop tests in my time at CNET, and I’ve never come out of one without a broken phone. Until now. The iPhone XS didn’t crack.
I took Apple’s new iPhone XS through my typical four-drop tests, the same one that cracked last year’s iPhone X on the first fall. But while the new iPhone XS looks a lot like last year’s X, with a stainless steel frame and glass on either side, this time it may just be that glass that sets the iPhone XS apart — and above.
At last week’s launch, Phil Schiller, Apple’s marketing chief, said the iPhone XS is ‘covered on the front and the back with a new formulation of glass that is the most durable glass ever in a smartphone.’
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard this from Apple. In fact, Apple also said that last year’s 2017 iPhone lineup had ‘the most durable glass ever built into a smartphone,’ and you know what happened to our iPhone X.
I subjected a brand-new gold iPhone XS to a series of drops on the cement sidewalk outside of CNET’s San Francisco headquarters, the place where many of our phones have met their doom.
To be clear, these tests aren’t scientific, but they are real-world demonstrations of what could happen when your phone takes a tumble. The results tend to vary from drop to drop. And yes, I still plan to see just how much abuse this iPhone XS can take before it finally cracks.
Drop 1: Pocket height (3 feet), screen side down
I started off with a drop from pocket height, or about 3 feet (90 cm). This is a natural height from which people tend to drop their phones. This is also the same impact that cracked last year’s iPhone X.
I wanted to test the most important part of the phone first, so I dropped it screen-side down. The top edge of the screen broke the fall, then the XS bounced on the bottom edge and did a little flip in the air before landing again, this time completely face down.
Our iPhone XS looked intact upon first inspection, save for a few scuffs on the metal frame. But upon closer inspection, I noticed that most of the ‘damage’ was cement debris that just rubbed right off. The glass on the edge of the screen near the top left-hand corner had a tiny dent, but it was barely noticeable, and there were no cracks on either side.
Considering last year’s iPhone X had already cracked at this point, I would say it’s already a win for our iPhone XS — up to now. But the testing continued.
Drop 2: Pocket height (3 feet), screen side up
Next I wanted to test out the glass on the back, so I dropped the iPhone XS from the same height (3 feet), this time with the screen facing up.
This time the phone changed positions in midair and landed on the top left-hand side, not on its face. After this initial impact, it bounced on the side of that stainless steel frame and then onto its back for its final landing.
Again, it was hard to pinpoint the damage. The frame looked like it had sustained a few more scrapes than before. There were tiny dents on the gold finish of the stainless steel, about the size of a grain of sand. The glass on the front and back of the phone was still intact.
With that one out of the way, I decided to go even higher.
Drop 3: Eye level (5 feet), free fall
For my next drop, I wanted to take it up to eye level, which is roughly the height at which it would fall from your hands if you’re taking a picture.
I held the phone in landscape mode with the screen facing me and let it go.
Once again the steel frame broke the iPhone XS’ fall. The first point of impact was the top-left corner of the phone, then it bounced on the bottom corner, rotated to hit the bottom edge and then slid out and landed screen side down on the edge of the sidewalk.
The tiny dents on the top left-hand corner of the frame had multiplied, but I had to inspect it closely to notice. Everything else still looked exactly the same. No major damage.
Drop 4: Eye level (5 feet), screen side down
I was running out of time to shoot our drop test, and the glass on the iPhone XS was still intact. For the last test, I decided to drop it again from 5 feet (1.5 meters), but this time starting out with the screen face down.
Again, the phone did not land exactly how I wanted it to. Instead, it landed on the top-right corner toward the rear-facing camera, then did a couple of flips in the air before landing with the screen facing up.
This time there was a lot of cement debris on the camera, making me think it had scratched. It wiped off easily. The edge of the bump where the rear-facing camera is had a few grain-size dents on the top, but the glass on the camera didn’t break. And everything else still looked pretty much the same as it did before this second 5-foot drop.
Based on how similar the iPhone XS looks to its predecessor, the iPhone X, I was expecting it to crack on the first drop or two. Clearly, I was wrong.
After four falls from up to 5 feet onto the concrete sidewalk, this iPhone XS came out almost intact. It has a few tiny dents and scrapes on the frame and the side of the camera, but the glass is nearly flawless.
Does that mean that the iPhone XS glass is stronger? That’s a tough call to make, given the nature of our tests. But I can tell you it fared significantly better than last year’s iPhone X, which ended up with cracks on both sides and tiny pieces of glass falling off the edges after only two drops from hip height.
I reached out to Apple for more information, but the company declined to give further details about the iPhone XS glass compared to that of the iPhone X. We do know that Corning has supplied glass for previous iPhones, but we don’t know whether or not the iPhone XS is covered in Corning’s latest Gorilla Glass 6. Corning also declined to comment for this story.
I would still recommend putting a case on your $1,000-plus iPhone XS and XS Max for some peace of mind. After all, it will cost you $279 to replace the XS screen and $329 for the XS Max (without AppleCare+ coverage). But maybe this means you can be a little more confident with them out and about.