Accident-prone iPhone owners are killing their smartphones

23 Jun 2009

An iPhone owner has a projected 33pc chance of having their iPhone die in the first two years of ownership. Nearly two-thirds of all of these failures will be the result of a drop or fall, resulting in cracked, unusable screens.

According to a report by SquareTrade, the largest independent warranty provider in the US, which selected over 11,000 iPhone, over 7,000 Palm Treo and over 9,000 BlackBerry devices covered by its plans, iPhones experience the fewest hardware malfunctions.

Only one-third of iPhone failures were malfunctions from normal use, the rest were from accidental damage caused by their users dropping them.

Out of the three smart phones, iPhones are still the least likely to malfunction, with 9.9pc of owners reporting a malfunction in the first 22 months. Over the same period, 15.3pc of BlackBerry owners and 19.9pc of Treo owners experienced a malfunction.

However, the real problem with the iPhone is accident-prone owners.

Over 20pc of all iPhone owners reported an accident in the first 22 months. Overall, taking into account malfunctions and accidents, an iPhone owner has a projected 33pc chance of having their iPhone die in the first two years of ownership.

In terms of the cause of accidents, nearly two thirds of failures were caused by a drop or fall, resulting in cracked, unusable screens

However, a notable number of failures occurred from devices that experienced a fall when the vibrate setting caused the iPhone to vibrate and thus career off the edge of a table or counter. SquareTrade recommends the use of iPhone protective cases, which are widely available in metal, hard plastic and silicone, and may help prevent some of these failures.

Water damage was the next most frequent source of failure, accounting for over a quarter of reported accidents. In the majority of these cases, the iPhone was dropped and immersed in water or other liquids.

Reports logged by SquareTrade ranged widely from fishing trips gone awry to users getting pushed into swimming pools, but the most common incidents were iPhones dropped in drinks, sinks and toilets. Spills, ambient humidity and weather were also notable causes of water damage.

iPhones damaged by vehicles (cars, bikes, riding mowers) accounted for a small percentage of accidents, and fire, pets and other assorted issues accounted for the rest.

The iPhone 3G appears to be significantly more reliable than the original Edge version, with 2.4pc of 3G users reporting a malfunction in the first nine months, compared to 3.4pc of Edge users.

If current trends continue, the malfunction rate of the iPhone 3G would fall well under 10pc at the two-year mark, thus comparing even more favourably against the other smartphones than the Edge did.

Given that the newly released iPhone 3G S model shares much of the same hardware as the 3G, SquareTrade anticipates that it will show a similar failure rate as the 3G.

In its conclusion, SquareTrade said that it is now quite evident that Apple has created a device marred by relatively few hardware defects in its first foray in the mobile phone market.

Furthermore, the first nine months of the 3G, data shows the first hardware revision to experience even fewer malfunctions.

“However reliable iPhones are in their construction, they are still quite prone to accidental damage. They were especially susceptible to dying from drops, whether on hard surfaces or into liquids,” SquareTrade warned.

By John Kennedy