It doesn’t take long after Apple’s latest iPhones hit the streets each year to see various reviewers doing brute force drop tests on them to see exactly how well they survive against the competition, and while the iPhone has held its own in recent years, Apple’s new Ceramic Shield is taking that to a whole new level.
Last year YouTube channel PhoneBuff put up an iPhone 11 Pro Max against Samsung’s S20 Ultra with surprising results that showed that while it endured at least as much physical damage as its rival, it remained fully functional even after multiple hard drops.
Apple versus Samsung drop tests are nothing new, of course, and in fact, they’ve been going on for years, with the iPhone 7 and Galaxy Note 7 going head to head in 2016, followed by the iPhone 7 Plus versus Samsung’s Galaxy S8+, and more recently the iPhone XS Max beating out the Samsung Galaxy S10+.
While the results have been back and forth over the years, and last year’s iPhone 11 Pro Max test was almost a draw, it seems that Apple has pulled ahead in the drop test race again this year with its new Ceramic Shield glass on the iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Of course, every year when Apple unveils a new iPhone, it promises that it has “the toughest glass in a smartphone,” but this year Apple took the unusual move of actually backing that generic claim up by revealing that it had worked with Corning — the glassmaker that it’s long had a quiet relationship with — to develop a specialized glass that it promises is up to 4X more durable than prior models.
These claims have already been borne out by other independent drop tests, but it’s been unclear until now exactly how well this compares to the competition. Fortunately, PhoneBuff has set out to answer that exact question by pitting Apple’s flagship iPhone 12 Pro Max against Samsung’s equivalent heavyweight, the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra.
While PhoneBuff notes that the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro already did really well, those were the smaller and lighter versions of the iPhone, so they might be less susceptible to damage compared to the larger and heavier iPhone 12 Pro Max. After all, the bigger they come, the harder they fall, right?
Well, maybe not.
PhoneBuff opens by outlining some of the design advantages that each smartphone has, specifically pointing to the flat-edged design of the iPhone 12 Pro Max as helping to protect the glass by keeping it flush with the stainless steel frame, but also noting that the Samsung Note 20 Ultra uses Corning’s Gorilla Glass Victus on both sides — front and back — whereas the iPhone 12 Pro Max only uses its Ceramic Shield on the front, and as we’ve already noted, the rear glass remains identical to that used in prior iPhone models.
The first test that PhoneBuff conducted as a simple back drop, from a height of about one meter. In this case, the iPhone 12 Pro Max actually very surprisingly outperformed its Samsung counterpart, despite the latter having the much better Victus glass.
After the first drop, the Note’s back glass cracked on the top left edge with a few minor scratches across the rest of the body, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max showed a “night and day” difference, with the glass fully intact. It was fairly obvious, however, that the flush stainless steel frame helped, as several scuffs along the edges of the frame showed where much the impact was actually absorbed.
The back drop test was followed up by a corner drop, in which both phones came out relatively unscathed, although the iPhone had slightly less visible damage.
In the initial face drop test, both phones also survived with no screen damage at all, although the Samsung Note 20 Ultra got a slight edge here since the curved glass showed no damage at all, while the iPhone 12 Pro Max ended up with some minor scuffs on the frame, which once again clearly took a good portion of the impact force.
So with both smartphones coming out looking like they had barely been dropped, PhoneBuff literally raised the bar by going to a 1.5 meter drop test onto a smooth steel surface in order to test impact and shock resistance.
The Samsung Note 20 Ultra survived all ten of these “bonus drops” without any additional damage or loss of functionality, and even the initial crack on the back of the phone from the first test didn’t get significantly worse.
However, after the same ten bonus drops, the iPhone 12 Pro Max looked like an iPhone that hadn’t even been dropped at all yet, beyond the few telltale scuffs on the stainless steel frame. Both the front and rear glass remained completely intact, the display suffered no visible damage, and both the touchscreen and camera remained fully functional.
Upping the Ante
So with both phones still working just fine and suffering only minor damage, PhoneBuff decided to take things even further with a “bonus bonus round” in which it added the concrete block back into the equation.
In this case, a drop from 1.5 meters finally shattered the screen on the Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, although it otherwise remained functional. The iPhone 12 Pro Max on other hand, still sustained no visible damage beyond more scuffs on the stainless steel frame.
While both phones performed incredibly well — at a level that should be beyond the needs of all but the clumsiest of smartphone owners — the iPhone 12 Pro Max clearly edged out the competition, and as PhoneBuff notes, Apple’s Ceramic Glass “seems like the real deal.”
Of course, PhoneBuff adds the caveat that none of this should encourage iPhone owners to be careless, as “glass always eventually breaks” and things could have been different if they had dropped the phones onto rougher surfaces or from greater heights.
So nobody should think that this means that the iPhone 12 is indestructible, but at least in the controlled environment of these tests, PhoneBuff concludes that the iPhone 12 is the most durable iPhone they’ve ever tested, and Apple has truly lived up to its claims that this year’s Ceramic Shield actually is the toughest glass in any smartphone.