Apple-hate myth: 'Glass-gate' makes headlines

Post 'antenna-gate', Apple-haters have a new myth. This morning's anti-iPhone info-blip sees claims that the "iPhone 4 breaks 82 percent more than iPhone 3Gs". Which sounds like quite a headline -- particularly given the mind-share wars between Apple and Android -- except it isn't strictly true. These claims are based on data from a firm called SquareTrade and is based on claimed analysis of 20,000 iPhone warranty customers. But this is a storm in a teacup -- though likely to attract the usual critics.

[This story is from Computerworld's Apple Holic blog. Follow on Twitter or subscribe via RSS to make sure you don't miss a beat.]

SquareTrade analyzed iPhone accidents for more than 20,000 iPhone 4s covered by one of its plans and found an 82 percent jump in reports of broken screens in the device’s first four months, compared to the first four months after the iPhone 3Gs release.

Described as '82 percent' of course this sounds like a big deal, but in reality it means 3.9 percent of 20,000 iPhone 4 owners reported a cracked screen rather than 2.1 percent of 20,000 iPhone 3GS owners.

Before rolling with these figures, do consider the fact that the iPhone 4 has glass on the back as well as the front of the product, while the iPhone 3GS carried it only on the front of the device.

It would be easy to conjecture that Apple should be seeing cracked screens twice as often with the iPhone 4 than with the iPhone 3GS. /it isn't. This makes for a small testament to the strength of the aluminosilicate Gorilla glass used in the new iPhone.

As for the extent of the problem, we're looking at just 427 iPhone 3GS broken-screen claims and 771 iPhone 4s.

Squaretrade's figures show "at least a quarter of the broken glass claims involved the back screen". This makes for 193 incidents out of 771 broken-glass iPhone 4s, leaving the front screen to blame for most cracks.

Face(time) this -- the front screen is the place where all the action happens, the most touched part of the device and the most likely point of failure in any touchscreen smartphone.

Despite these screen problem claims, SquareTrade also notes, "It's important to take the accident rate into perspective. Overall, the iPhone is still a very well constructed device, with a non-accident malfunction rate much lower than most other consumer electronics."

Indeed, a previous (November 2008) study by the company declared the iPhone to be more reliable than BlackBerry and Palm Treo devices.

"We will be updating this report soon, and we'll have data on the latest Android phone models. It may yet be seen that even with the double glass, the iPhone has an overall failure rate that is still better than the competition," the company promised.

In any case, if you know your iPhone's made of glass doesn't it make sense to be a little more careful with the device?

Meanwhile, it now seems that Apple will indeed be offering the iPhone on networks beyond AT&T starting from early next year.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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