iPhone 12 Ceramic Shield display has one big flaw

iPhone 12 review
(Image credit: Tom's Guide)

Apple made a big deal of the iPhone 12's Ceramic Shield displays, but a new test has shown that Apple's been very tricky with how exactly the new screens help.

Zack Nelson of YouTube channel JerryRigEverything has just published his durability test of the iPhone 12 Pro, with its teardown counterpart coming later. However the thorough test of the iPhone's toughness has revealed that Apple's choice of words around Ceramic Shield is quite deliberate.

The smoking gun is Nelson's display scratch test, which he measures with the Mohs hardness scale using a series of mineral picks. The majority of modern phones can withstand scratches up to 6 or 7 Mohs, which is exactly what we see on the iPhone 12 in the test. Nelson does say he thinks the 6 Mohs scratches were "a tad fainter" than normal however.

iPhone 12 scratch test

(Image credit: JerryRigEverything)

So if Apple's Ceramic Shield displays are somehow meant to be 4x tougher than previous displays, how can this be? The answer lies in Apple's specific claim that Ceramic Shield, combined with the screen sitting flush with the side rails, provides "4x better drop performance." Therefore the only place you'll notice a difference in theory is if you actually drop your new iPhone on the ground. 

iPhone 12 scratch test

(Image credit: JerryRigEverything)

Perhaps we should have expected Ceramic Shield to not match up in scratch tests, since Apple didn't specifically call out this durability feature. Nonetheless, it's a little disappointing that something that's taken up a fair chunk of the iPhone 12's promotional material is potentially insignificant.

Of course, there are still plenty of things to like about the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro. Both bring 5G to iPhones for the first time, and continue Apple's streak of high-performance chipsets and excellent photography skills, with the 12 Pro's new rear LiDAR depth sensor helping this immensely.

We plan on conducting our own drop and durability tests with the iPhone 12 and 12 Pro, so stay tuned for more.

Richard Priday
Assistant Phones Editor

Richard is based in London, covering news, reviews and how-tos for phones, tablets, gaming, and whatever else people need advice on. Following on from his MA in Magazine Journalism at the University of Sheffield, he's also written for WIRED U.K., The Register and Creative Bloq. When not at work, he's likely thinking about how to brew the perfect cup of specialty coffee.