We shattered the iPhone 8

We subjected a brand new iPhone 8 to three drop tests to find out how fast it would break.

Vanessa Hand Orellana CNET Senior Editor
As head of wearables at CNET, Vanessa reviews and writes about the latest smartwatches and fitness trackers. She joined the team seven years ago as an on-camera reporter for CNET's Spanish-language site and then moved on to the English side to host and produce some of CNET's videos and YouTube series. When she's not testing out smartwatches or dropping phones, you can catch her on a hike or trail run with her family.
Vanessa Hand Orellana
4 min read

Spoiler alert: Don't throw the iPhone from a high window.

James Martin/CNET

At first glance, not much has changed on the iPhone 8. Head on, it could easily be mistaken for an iPhone 7, or even a 6 for that matter. But the back is a different story.

This year Apple's iPhone 8 and 8 Plus ditched the iPhone 7's aluminum backing in exchange for a glass plate. Glass is what makes the iPhone's new wireless charging feature possible, and while that's great, it also means there are now two glass surfaces that could potentially break in a fall. The glass backs on Samsung's Galaxy S8 and LG's G6 both shattered in our previous drop tests.

But this is apparently not just any glass. According to Apple, the glass on the new iPhones "are reinforced by a steel and copper structure with the 50 percent deeper strengthening layer using our dual ion-exchange process" making it "the most durable glass ever made in a smartphone."

Exactly how durable? We subjected a brand new iPhone 8 to three drop tests to find out.

Watch this: iPhone 8 drop test: How tough is the glass?

Drop 1: Pocket height (3 feet, about 1m)

Phones fall out of pockets all the time, so for our first test, we dropped a brand new iPhone 8 from three feet -- about my pocket height -- onto a cement sidewalk.

The first point of impact happened on the metal frame. Then the iPhone 8 landed on its back. The frame and the back sustained some minor damage, but the screen remained intact. The metal was scuffed on the side where the phone hit first, and there were two tiny fractures on opposing corners of the glass back.

Having survived our first test, we moved on to the next.

Drop 2: Eye-level (5 feet, 1.5m)

You're going to take that picture and oops, the phone slips out of your hands. That's exactly what our second drop was designed to simulate. We dropped the iPhone 8 from about eye-level onto the sidewalk again.

The sidewalk where we were stationed this time was not completely level, which may have affected the impact pattern.

The corner of the phone hit first, then landed screen-side down before flipping over onto its back. This time the screen was completely shattered. The phone still worked, but tiny shards of glass were peeling off the front.

The back, however, did not sustain any further damage.

Drop 3: CNET's fourth floor (50 feet, about 15m)

In earlier drop tests, we broke the iPhone 8's screen, but the back had very little damage. That's a good sign for normal wear and tear. But being a torture test, we wanted to push the iPhone 8 to the very brink, and maybe past it. So for our final test, we asked the Twitter-verse to tell us about the craziest ways they had broken their phones.

And this is what they came up with:

There are no carnival rides at CNET, but we do have a fourth floor at about the same height described in the tweet. So that's where we went to drop the iPhone 8, again, onto the pavement below.

And you can guess how this went. Just about any object dropped from that height would shatter into dozens of pieces. Definitely any phone would, anyway. And that's exactly what happened to our iPhone 8. This time it landed with the back-side down. Even the camera lens had cracked. The glass was falling off the phone, exposing some of the iPhone's guts, and the screen continued to shatter. It still lit up, but the front was so broken up, you couldn't actually read anything on it.

Most durable glass ever made on a phone?

Maybe. But it's a tough call. The Gorilla Glass 5 back on Samsung's Galaxy S8 cracked after the first drop in our previous test, but the screen, made of the same glass, never broke. The LG G6's Gorilla Glass 3 screen broke when we dropped it from hip height, but the Gorilla Glass 5 on the back survived.

The glass may be durable, but none of these phones are unbreakable and they don't claim to be.

Best iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus cases

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When we reached out about the damage we caused in our first two tests, Apple responded:

"The new iPhones are designed to be durable, but not indestructible, and go through rigorous real world testing... If anyone is concerned about dropping their iPhone and damaging it, we suggest using one of the many beautiful cases available to protect iPhone."  

These tests were meant to simulate real world scenarios (at least the first two), but are by no means scientific, so don't base your purchasing decision on the results. If you just bought or are planning to buy the iPhone 8, add a case to your order, secure the phone on carnival rides and never ever drop it from a fourth story window.