Apple's new iPad is as fragile as its predecessor

Warranty provider notes similarities in case design, glass used in new model and the iPad 2 (see video below)

Apple's new iPad will prove to be as fragile to drops and other accidents as its predecessor, the iPad 2, an after-sales warranty firm said today.

Although SquareTrade has no warranty data on the new iPad, the company suspects that the new tablet will break at the same rate as the iPad 2, whose owners filed three-and-a-half times more claims for accidental damage than did first-generation iPad owners during their first year of ownership.

"It seems like the iPad 2 and the new iPad break in the same fashion," said Vince Tseng, SquareTrade's vice president of marketing. "The form factor of the new iPad is almost identical to the iPad 2."

The company ran an unscientific "drop test" where workers dropped both iPad 2s and new iPads from waist and shoulder height, glass up and glass down, onto a hard, flat surface.

Both tablet models survived the face up falls, but their glass overlays shattered when dropped face down. Damage to the new iPad's screen, however, seemed more significant; in one case, the display nearly separated from the case.

Tseng attributed the poor performance of both the iPad 2 and new iPad to design changes Apple made last year when it reduced the thickness of the glass overlaying the touchscreen and modified the aluminum case, exposing that glass above the frame's bevel.

Claims filed with SquareTrade support the higher breakage rate of the iPad 2 when compared with the 2010 original.

In their first year of coverage, 9.8% of iPad 2 warranty holders reported accidental damage, or 3.5 times the 2.8% rate of first-generation iPad owners, Tseng said.

After extrapolating the 5.5% accidental damage claim rate of the first-generation iPad during the second year of coverage, Tseng said SquareTrade expected nearly 20% of iPad 2 owners to report a tablet accident in the same period.

The majority of reported damage was shattered or cracked touchscreens, with 69% of the claims drop- or fall-related.

"The most important factor in the failure rate of the iPad 2 is the thickness of the glass," said Tseng. "That's most likely the reason for the higher rate, since the thinner glass is more prone to breaking."

Apple reduced the glass thickness of the iPad 2 by 23% when it switched to aluminosilicate glass, which is touted as more resistant to breaking and scratching. Apple also uses the glass -- marketed by Corning under the Gorilla Glass brand and by Asahi Glass Co. as Dragontrail Glass -- in the iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S.

SquareTrade's totally unscientific "drop tests" may be hard for iPad owners to watch, but show that the new tablet's screen shatters more dramatically. (Video: SquareTrade.)

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