There are many new features you'll want to enable on the Galaxy S20 when you get your hands on one of Samsung's new flagship phones. But the very first thing you should do is pick up a case to protect your new S20 model.
That point was driven home by SquareTrade, an extended warranty provider, which just performed drop tests on all three of Samsung's new phones. The Galaxy S20 proved especially vulnerable to damage, being rendered unusable after both of Square Trade's drop tests. The Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra fared better in drop, bend and tumble tests, though neither phone came away unscathed.
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"Our tests revealed the new enormous camera housing ‘bump’ design is susceptible to damage when dropped," said Jason Siciliano, SquareTrade's vice president of marketing and creative director in a statement accompanying SquareTrade's test results. "Given the cost of the Galaxy S20 phones, and the cost to repair them, it should probably be handled with the care of a high-end camera rather than a phone—and getting a case is a must."
The $999 Galaxy S20 received a breakability score of 81 from SquareTrade, which indicates a medium-high risk of damage. The $1,199 S20 Plus and $1,399 S20 Ultra only carry a medium risk of damage, with breakability scores of 71 and 70, respectively.
To put those scores in context, none compare to the iPhone 11 Pro, which was the most durable iPhone ever built when SquareTrade tested it last fall. That device boasted a breakability score of 65 (lower numbers are better), while the iPhone 11's 73 score is in line with what SquareTrade found for the Galaxy S20 Plus and Galaxy S20 Ultra. The iPhone 11 Pro Max's breakability score of 85 is higher than the Galaxy S20's rating.
Blame the high breakability scores on the glass materials phone makers favor for high-end handsets these days. Camera arrays on the back of the phone have also gotten large and protrude slightly from the backs of phones, increasing the odds that they'll suffer damage when dropped.
We can definitely see that in SquareTrade's drop tests for the Galaxy S20 20 family. All three phones shattered when dropped on the sidewalk, both face up and face down, though with differing degrees of damage. Dropped face down from 6 feet, the S20's screen shattered, leaving the phone unusable, while the back-down dropped cracked the S20's back panel and shattered its camera housing.
The S20 Plus shattered in the upper right and lower left corners when dropped face-down, while its camera housing survived the back-down drop. SquareTrade said the S20 Ultra's face-down drop produced hairline fractures, but the back-down drop shattered the back and camera housing leaving the phone unusable.
Galaxy S20 bend test and repairability
On SquareTrade's Bend Test, it took 184.6 pounds of pressure to make the S20 bend and suffer a cracked screen. (The iPhone 11 Pro Max didn't bend until 230 pounds of pressure were applied.) The S20 Plus and S20 Ultra bent at 170.8 and 200.7 pounds of pressure, respectively, but both phones were still usable, Square Trade said.
SquareTrade also puts the phones in a tumbler for 60 seconds, which shattered the front and back of the Galaxy S20, cracking its OLED screen. The Galaxy S20 Ultra needed repairs after the tumble test, thanks to cracks on the front and back and a malfunctioning screen. Only the S20 Plus emerged from the tumbler still usable, though with a cracked front and shattered back.
You'll be happy to know that water is unlikely to fell your Galaxy S20. All three models still worked after a 30-minute dunk in 5 feet of water.
If you have to repair your Galaxy S20, SquareTrade says the new phones are about as repairable as previous models from Samsung, which the company rates as medium-to-difficult to fix. In the Galaxy S20's favor, the new models have identical screws for all their fasteners, which SquareTrade says should simplify repairs.
Galaxy S20 durability bottom line
If anything, the SquareTrade is a reminder that accidents happen and as much care as phone makers put into their designs, a drop onto concrete usually ends poorly for most smartphones. We'd suggest if you're thinking of paying $999 or more for a new Galaxy S20 that you also invest in some protection, whether it's a Galaxy S20 case, Galaxy S20 Plus case or Galaxy S20 Ultra case.
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Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.