WATCH: Which Smartphone Is Tougher? Samsung Galaxy S5 vs. Apple iPhone 5s

Dan Tynan
April 14, 2014

Can your smartphone survive a tumble onto the asphalt or a swim in the toilet? That’s the question posed by SquareTrade’s Breakability Face-Off, the results of which were announced today.

(Images: Thinkstock)

In the latest round of testing, the aftermarket warranty specialists pitted three expensive smartphones — the Apple iPhone 5s, the HTC One (M8), and the LG Nexus — against the just-released challenger, Samsung’s Galaxy S5

On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being best (strong like bull), and 10 worst (fragile as a newborn kitten), the winner by a nose was the iPhone 5s, which earned a breakability score of 5.5. It just edged out the Galaxy S5’s score of 6.0. 

The biggest reason for the iPhone’s top score, says SquareTrade, is that the iPhone is slightly smaller and easier to hold onto.

SquareTrade evaluated each unit on its size, design, and gripability, and then put them all through torture testing:

But so much for the numbers. Let’s go to the video, shall we?

Round 1: The Big Drop
In the first round, SquareTrade dropped each of the phones simultaneously from a height of four feet onto the concrete roof of the company’s San Francisco headquarters.

As SquareTrade biz dev manager Chris Trewin explains, the Samsung Galaxy S5 survived nearly unscathed, save for a few nicks on the back cover. The HTC and iPhone did as well if not better.

As for the Nexus, well, remember that old Rolling Stones song “Shattered”? That should be LG’s theme song. (Shadooby.)

Round 2: The Cuban Slide
So you toss your pricey new smartphone onto a well-polished conference room table, hoping to impress your colleagues. The next thing you know your uber-gizmo has skittered across the table and knocked over the CEO’s doppio soy latte.

Test number two measures how “grippy” each phone’s back cover is, the better to avoid such career-killing incidents.

The verdict: Give the Nexus props for being the least likely to go careening over the precipice, traveling a paltry 1.7 feet. The HTC, on the other hand, traveled nearly a yard before coming to rest. The iPhone and Galaxy were neck and neck at around two and a half feet each.

Round 3: Everybody in the Pool
SquareTrade saved the best for last. In the dunk test, the video apps on all four smartphones were turned on and the phones submersed in 3 inches of water for 10 seconds.

Two of the phones, the Galaxy S5 and the iPhone — never stopped playing video and audio while in the drink, and resumed normally when removed. The HTC’s video continued to work while submersed, but its audio was bollixed when it emerged.

The Nexus was dead in the water — literally. After being rescued, the handset was able to resume the video, but without the sound.

The good news is that the S5 is sturdier than the S4, which earned a score of 7 after failing the drop test. Still, none of these four contenders managed to best the breakability champions, an older HTC One and the Moto X, which each garnered scores of 4.5 in earlier testing.

Bottom line: iPhone 5s and Galaxy S5 owners are slightly less likely to suffer a phone- (and heart-) breaking incident. And if you own an LG Nexus, you’d better get a waterproof case — and maybe some accidental damage coverage — pronto. 

Questions, complaints, kudos? Email Dan Tynan at