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iPhone SE takes a step backward in bendability test

Despite being thicker, Apple's new 4-inch iPhone isn't as sturdy as the higher-end 6S, bringing back memories of the 2014 Bendgate controversy.

Sarah Tew/CNET

The iPhone SE bending under pressure.

SquareTrade/Screenshot by CNET

Apple's new iPhone SE is at greater risk of catching the bends than its bigger brethren.

Tests conducted by SquareTrade, which sells extended warranties for mobile devices, found the just-released 4-inch iPhone SE to be weaker than the 4.7-inch iPhone 6S and the 5-5-inch 6S Plus.

Although the iPhone SE is thicker than the 6S or 6S Plus, SquareTrade said Monday it needed only 160 pounds (73 kg) of pressure to bend it -- 10 pounds less than the 6S and 20 pounds less than the 6S Plus. The littlest Apple phone reached "catastrophic failure," the point of no return, at 178 pounds of pressure.

Despite progress, these expensive marvels we carry in our pockets and purses clearly must be treated with care. No wonder the first thing so many of us do with our sleek slabs of electronics is to wrap them up in bulky but protective cases.

This is not the first time an iPhone has ended up all bent out of shape. When Apple began selling the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, the phones were immediately found to bend by consumers who placed them in their back pockets and then sat down. Sparking outrage and concern, the incident became known as Bendgate. Last year's iPhone 6S fared much better under pressure than its predecessors in tests, but it seems the iPhone SE has taken a step backward.

The iPhone 6S also beat the SE when SquareTrade dunked the phones in water. The SE permanently shut off in less than a minute when submerged to a depth of five feet. In comparison, the 6S survived a full 30 minutes and only its audio was damaged.

The SE did beat out the iPhone 6S Plus in one area, a tumble test that knocked around the phones inside a spinning box. The SE suffered minor scuffs after 30 seconds, whereas the 6S Plus was shattered to the point of being unusable. The 6S survived unscathed.

The iPhone SE, which was released Thursday and had a lackluster first weekend of sales, was also more susceptible to damage than its two siblings when dropped on its corner. If you have butterfingers, consider shelling out for a more expensive model or for a bumper case.

The only thing the iPhone 6S can't survive is a face-down smash, according to SquareTrade. That type of fall means game over, no matter what Apple device you have.

Apple did not respond to a request for comment.