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Study: iPhone 4 more fragile than previous models

An electronics warranty company says the new iPhone 4 appears more likely to be damaged than older models.
An electronics warranty company says the new iPhone 4 appears more likely to be damaged than older models.
  • The iPhone 4 is 82 percent more likely than older models to be damaged, a report says
  • Apple says the glass it developed for the iPhone 4 is 30 times harder than plastic
  • The higher percentage of damage could be attributed to fewer customers using cases

(CNN) -- The iPhone 4 may be an attractive gadget, but keeping it looking good can be a high-maintenance task.

Owners of Apple's newest smartphone are 82 percent more likely than those with older models to have their digital companions damaged in the first four months they own them, according to a report by SquareTrade.

The company, which sells warranties for electronics products, examined about 22,000 reports from its customers who had iPhone 4s and about 20,000 for iPhone 3G devices, which debuted in 2008.

"The iPhone 4 is a more fragile device than its predecessors," said SquareTrade Marketing Vice President Vince Tseng. "The surface area ... which you can scratch or break has basically doubled."

Is your iPhone 4 giving you trouble?

Whereas the iPhone 3G and the aesthetically identical 3GS were encased in plastic, the iPhone 4's backside uses the same glass that covers its screen. The original iPhone had an aluminum back.

At least a quarter of the reported damage for the iPhone 4 involved the glass pane on the back, the SquareTrade survey said.

But Apple has expressed delight with the so-called aluminosilicate glass it uses -- though the Cupertino, California, company didn't immediately respond to a request for comment for this story.

"We developed a glass that's 30 times harder than plastic," Apple Chief Steve Jobs said onstage during the unveiling of the iPhone 4. The company has also said it's "20 times stiffer than plastic."

The glass is "comparable in strength to sapphire crystal," Jonathan Ive, Apple's senior vice president of industrial design, said in an online marketing video.

Some reports have indicated that Apple's use of glass on the iPhone 4's back has posed a problem for customers using protective cases.

When Apple announced it would give away free cases to help customers with cellular signal issues, Jobs said fewer third-party manufacturers offered cases at the product's launch. If fewer iPhone 4 owners are protecting their devices, then that could explain the increase in damage, said Tseng of SquareTrade.

"Some customers didn't want to use a protective case," Tseng observed, based on reports, "because they wanted to admire the beautiful backside of the iPhone 4."


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