Here’s How the iPhone SE Survived a Torture Test

April 4, 2016, 2:57 PM UTC
Apple Inc.

The iPhone SE was just tortured—and it didn’t hold up quite well.

The folks over at SquareTrade, a company that sells third-party extended warranties for consumer electronics, decided to put the iPhone SE to the test in water, under pressure, and at heights of six feet and above. Unfortunately for new iPhone SE owners, the company quickly discovered that the smartphone can be damaged somewhat easily.

The 4-inch iPhone SE, which comes with a similar design to the iPhone 5s it is replacing, was “bricked,” or rendered useless, “almost immediately under five feet of water.” By comparison, SquareTrade found that the iPhone 6s, the 4.7-inch handset Apple (AAPL) launched last year, was able to survive for 30 minutes without much trouble.

But that wasn’t where the torture ended. Next up, the iPhone SE, which has a metallic spine and back plate, was able to walk away from a “tumble test” without too much damage, topping the 5.5-inch iPhone 6s Plus, which saw its face shattered during the evaluation.

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During the iPhone SE’s first battle against the sidewalk, the smartphone lost. SquareTrade dropped the handset face-down on the sidewalk at six feet, immediately shattering the smartphone’s screen. Things didn’t get much better after a drop on its side, when after five drops, it had cosmetic damage, and the display started to shatter. By the tenth drop, the device was practically torn apart.

Apple’s iPhone SE launched on March 31. The device comes with some updated components, including the A9 processor and a 12-megapixel camera. While the SE’s design is a bit boxier than its successors, and it sports some metal framing that should protect it to some degree, the latest iPhone is by no means designed to be rugged. In fact, Apple has not provided much insight into how well the device could hold up under extreme conditions, or even in the event of water damage or particle intrusion.

The iPhone SE is a smartphone, in other words, that should be handled with care.

That said, SquareTrade’s evaluation provides some critical insight into how well a device would hold up in the event of mistakes. Far too many know the sick feeling of dropping a smartphone from one’s ear or dunking it in water. SquareTrade’s idea is to determine how well a smartphone can resist damage under abnormal circumstances.

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Just for fun, SquareTrade decided to put the iPhone SE through the paces of its “bendbot,” a device that places pressure on the middle of a screen to see how well it can bend before it incurs damage. It took about 178 pounds of pressure on the center of the handset to crack the device.

So, what can be said about the iPhone SE’s durability? SquareTrade’s findings suggest a case may be a worthwhile investment.


As the SquareTrade team concludes in its review, “In the end, the iPhone SE may give you the smarts of an iPhone 6s in a 4-inch body, but you sure don’t get its durability.”

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