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Accident-prone iPhone 4 glass more likely to break than 3GS

The glass on the front and back of the iPhone 4 has made it more vulnerable to accidental damage, according to new research. Have you suffered problems?

The iPhone 4 is far more prone to accidents than its predecessor -- the iPhone 3GS -- due to its glass front and back, according to research from a US warranty provider.

iPhone 4 owners reported 82 per cent more damaged screens in the first four months compared to iPhone 3GS owners, according to San Francisco-based company SquareTrade. Owners of the iPhone 4 reported accidents 68 per cent more frequently than iPhone 3GS owners.

The research also showed that 4.7 per cent of iPhone 4 owners reported an accident in the first four months, while only 2.8 per cent of iPhone 3GS owners made a claim in the same time period. The firm analysed the warranty claims from over 20,000 iPhone 4 owners, and compared it to claims from over 20,000 iPhone 3GS users.

In terms of iPhone 4 accidents, the vast majority involved a damaged screen. In some ways, more screen mishaps were bound to happen on the iPhone 4, as the scratchable and breakable surface area has doubled. But if that was the case, shouldn't Apple have made sure the glass was more resilient than that of the 3GS, on both sides?

There's also speculation as to whether the increase in damage could be due to an alleged problem with slip-on cases, where trapped dirt causes cracks in the back screen. SquareTrade suggested this could be a catalyst, with at least a quarter of the broken glass claims involving the back display.

An anonymous reader commented on our previous story over the alleged issue: "Well, I must say I thought this news was nonsense until I removed the Belkin case Apple sent me due to Antennagate and saw that my back panel IS cracked. It's not a noticeable crack as the ones shown in the images, it's much more discrete, but it's cracked for sure."

This research does suggest that the iPhone 4 is much more vulnerable to accidental damage than the 3GS, but that's not to say it's less reliable. In fact, the non-accidental failure rate for both the iPhone 4 and 3GS were roughly the same.

SquareTrade was quick to point out that the iPhone 4 was still a very well-constructed device, with a non-accidental malfunction rate much lower than most other consumer electronics. In a two-year old study comparing smart phones, the iPhone was far more reliable than other models tested.

"We will be updating this report soon, and we'll have data on the latest Android phone models. It may yet be seen that even with the double glass, the iPhone has an overall failure rate that is still better than the competition," said SquareTrade.

What do you make of the glass on the iPhone 4? Does its dual-sided nature make it more vulnerable? Have you had a screen-related accident? And have any of you suffered problems with the slip-on case? Let us know.