Phones are not getting any cheaper. You can spend upwards of $1,000 for something like the iPhone XS or Galaxy Note 9. So to protect your investment from accidental drops, bumps or scratches, you really need a case.
We invited the top case makers in the market to take part in our drop test at CES 2019.
Each brought a brand new iPhone XR and their toughest case to face our challenge: dropping them from various heights onto a hard surface covered in paving tiles. We also had a special force test involving a ball bearing just in case we had a tie on our hands (like we did in 2018’s drop test with our three-way tie).
We only allowed screen protectors to be used on the phones if they were included in the retail packaging with the case.
We started off the first round dropping phones from 6 feet (1.8 meters). That’s afoot more than the height at which the iPhone XR cracked without a case in our earlier drop test, so we thought it was a good place to start.
Each case was dropped screen side down onto the tiles. These were the results:
iPhone XR cases, round 1
After each drop, we assessed the phones. If there were any cracks on the back, or damage to the screen and camera, the case would be disqualified. But all of the phones survived our first round without any scratches.
This time, we took them to 10 feet. Vanessa hopped up on the scissor lift and made her way up to the set height.
iPhone XR cases, round 2
|Gearlock||Classic (bike mount)||$30||Yes|
Again, we inspected each phone after each drop and there was no damage to any of the phones.
Originally, we had planned to take the phones to 15 feet. But in the interests of time, we decided to go straight to the last round. Vanessa took the 10 phones all the way to the roof, which was approximately 19 feet.
iPhone XR cases, round 3
|Gearlock||Classic (bike mount)||$30||Yes|
All the phones survived from our highest limit, even if some weren’t rated for that extreme height. We genuinely didn’t expect all the cases to survive this last drop height. Seeing as we couldn’t raise the roof any higher, we had to take it to the next level.
Enter the force test. We had a long length of plastic tubing standing by with a 2.5-pound steel ball bearing that was going to help break the tie — literally.
Rather than dropping the ball directly onto the screen which would definitely break the phone, we flipped them over and let the case take the impact of the ball. This meant the screen was face down on the paving tile.
We dropped the ball bearing from 4 feet, down the tube onto the backs of the phones. Here’s what happened.
iPhone XR cases, bonus round
|i-Blason||Ares||Pixel damage from ball impact|
|Gearlock||Classic (bike mount)||Yes|
|Caseology||Nero Pro||Screen protector damaged, but phone worked fine|
Here’s the caveat: the paving tile cracked from the impact from the first ball bearing drop. Each subsequent ball drop caused the tile to crack a little more. We know this was less than ideal and may have given an advantage to the first phones on the surface, but we weren’t able to swap it out.
Also bear in mind this was far from a scientific test and definitely not a real world situation!
With six phones remaining and our time well and truly running out, we went straight to the top of the cannonball tube to determine a winner. We dropped the ball bearing from 16 feet onto the phones.
iPhone XR cases, tiebreaker
|Zizo||Bolt||Screen protector damaged, pixels damaged from impact but phone still intact|
|Gearlock||Classic (bike mount)||Cracked screen|
|Caseology||Nero Pro||Cracked screen, dented|
|Griffin||Survivor Endurance||Cracked screen, dented|
|OWC||NuGuard KX||Cracked screen, dented|
|Catalyst||Impact Protection||Cracked screen, dented|
All the phones were damaged from this final ball drop.
To determine a winner, we decided to choose the phone that was least damaged overall, and that was the Zizo case. But in our eyes, all the phones were winners having survived the initial 20-foot drop.
Watch the entire event unfold in the video on this page to see all the damage and the crowd reactions. Plus, you can also watch the drop test on YouTube.
If you didn’t see your favorite case manufacturer in our drop test, encourage them to enter next year’s competition!