As I sat in my common room at school today, something tragic happened. My friend Alex, sat opposite, was overcome with a crestfallen look. Clutching his week old iPhone 5, he gestured to me, and so I went to investigate. There it was, right in the centre of the Aluminum back, just below the Apple logo, 2 scratches. Now, before you label Alex as a clumsy fool, know that this phone was bought directly from Apple, and went from its box into a substantial case. It wasn’t scratched when it arrived, and there’s no reason why it should be scratched now.
Had this been an isolated incident, I’d have probably expressed quite a lot of sympathy towards my friend’s situation. No one deserves to have a brand new device scratched like that, especially if it’s been looked after so well. However, this isn’t an isolated incident. “Scratchgate” is a term that has been thrown around ever since the iPhone 5 was released. Reports of iPhones arriving scratched out of the box were surfacing left and right. Notably, Phonedog’s Taylor Martin, his Mother, and several colleagues were all delivered scratched iPhones.
(On a side note, I personally believe that Taylor’s phone was intercepted and damaged by Nickelback sympathizers, but that’s neither here nor there…)
If I was this guy, I’d dismiss the damage, and simply claim that Morgan Freeman had simply autographed the phone with his car keys…
Now, I think we can all agree that getting a scratched iPhone out of the box is, well, unacceptable. I can’t imagine why they’d arrive scratched. The most obvious reason is that they were somehow mishandled during the manufacturing process, or perhaps they were damaged during a massive riot… see yesterday’s piece for details. Because Apple and its respective carriers have been so cooperative in replacing damaged devices, this issue isn’t too significant. What I’m more interested in, is the susceptibility to scratching that users will experience further down the line.
It’s very easy for us to criticize Apple for releasing a product featuring such a vulnerable material. The bigwigs from Cupertino have themselves admitted it. In an email response to a customer, Phil Schiller wrote:
Any aluminum product may scratch or chip with use, exposing its natural silver color. That is normal.
I imagine that on hearing this, the reasoning of most disgruntled users played out something like this:
Wait… what? Apple sold us a product they knew was going to scratch easily? That’s ridiculous! I want my iPhone 4S back!
Maybe the iPhone 4?
Apple sucks, get me a Samsung!
Perfect. Wait, this phone doesn’t do anything…
What I’m essentially trying to say, is that everything breaks. Every phone that has ever been released has been broken or damaged in some way. I’m quite ashamed, but yet proud to admit that I once broke the Nokia 3310. Even that phone, is not indestructable. With that in mind, manufacturers have to create devices that are as durable as the manufacturer wants it to be, whilst at the same time, balancing that durability with aesthetic appeal and functionality. For example:
This phone was created for JCB, for men who operate huge pieces of machinery on dangerous building sites. This phone was designed to be tough, rugged and durable. It will probably never break, but that peace of mind comes at a price. As you can see, this phone looks like the north end of a pig going south.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is the iPhone 4S, I believe that this is an insanely good looking phone, but if you dropped this on the floor, boy did you know about it. With the 4S, Apple appears to have sacrificed significantly on the durability aspect of its phone, in favour of a good looking device.
So where does that leave the iPhone 5? By my reckoning, in pretty good standing. Why? Drop tests…
In the video from Android Authority, the iPhone 5 performed astonishingly well in the drop test compared to the Galaxy S3, a photo of which you can see above. In the same test featuring the iPhone 4S, the iPhone’s screen was completely shattered. On another side note, it still beat the Galaxy S3, but here’s my point. For me, those drop tests prove pretty conclusive, Apple’s choice to go with an Aluminum back has clearly paid dividends when it comes to increasing the durability of the iPhone 5. Sadly, this anodized Aluminum brings with it a very high likelihood of suffering minor scuffs and scratches. iPhone 5 customers are exchanging the day-to-day durability i.e. protection against Key scratches, coin scratches etc., for peace of mind when they drop their phone out of their pocket.
Which would you rather suffer? Smaller, aesthetic blemishes that are displeasing to they eye? Or one fatal blow, that renders your iPhone completely destroyed? I think I know where I stand… but I can’t make that decision for you. So, leave your comments below, are you happy with smaller scratches if it means your iPhone is safe from heavier damage?