Samsung Galaxy S21 drop test results — one drop and it's dead

Galaxy S21 Drop Test
(Image credit: Allstate Protection Plans)

For anyone who recently bought the excellent Samsung Galaxy S21 or Galaxy S21 Ultra, make sure you pick up a case. Allstate Protection Plans, the electronics insurer formerly known as SquareTrade, conducted a series of drop tests on the Galaxy S21, and the findings are not good.

All three Galaxy S21 models suffered cracked screens after one 6-foot drop, with the Galaxy S21 Ultra sustaining the most damage.

The 6.8-inch phone, which is the priciest of the three models, was unusable after one drop that left it with a cracked screen and loose glass. The Galaxy S21 Plus also suffered loose glass and a malfunctioning screen when dropped face first, while the Galaxy S21 emerged as the least damaged model. It had a cracked screen with raised glass, but the 6.2-inch phone was still functional.

The Galaxy S21 fared even better in a second Allstate drop test, where the phones were dropped with their backs down, also from a 6-foot-height. In this instance, the Galaxy S21 sustained some scuffs and scratches, but no camera damage.

Samsung's new Galaxy S21 lineup introduces a new look for its rear camera array, but the change is about more than aesthetics. The contour-cut design also helps better protect the phone's cameras from damage should you drop your handset.

The cameras on the Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra survived in this test, though both phones suffered other damage. The glass panels on the back of the S21 Plus and S21 Ultra both shattered on impact.

There's a reason that the Galaxy S21 emerged relatively unscathed from this particular test than its more expensive siblings. Samsung equipped the S21 with a plastic back that's less likely to shatter the way that glass does. That makes the $799 S21 the most durable of Samsung's new phones while the S21 Ultra seems to be the most prone to damage — at least based on Allstate's testing.

Allstate concludes that while camera durability has been improved, the durability on the front of the Galaxy S21 phones is unchanged from previous models. There's no comparison drawn with the iPhone, but when Allstate tested the iPhone 12 last fall, it called Apple's latest devices the most durable smartphone it tested.

The news about the damage to the front of the Galaxy S21 models might be a surprise, considering that Samsung's latest phones feature Corning's Gorilla Glass Victus. Samsung's website describes Gorilla Glass Victus as "the toughest glass on a Samsung smartphone," with the promise of scratch and damage protection.

Allstate's tests weren't the only ones that found the Galaxy S21 models can pick up damage from drops. Cnet drop-tested the S21 models, too, starting its tests with 3-foot drops. Even then, small cracks appeared at the corner of the S21. When dropped from the back-side down, the plastic of the S21 held up well in Cnet's test, but the glass sandwiching the S21 Ultra immediately shattered. Unsurprisingly, things got worse from higher drops.

Regardless of which Galaxy S21 model you get, you'll want to invest in a case. We've got a look at the best Galaxy  S21 cases as well the best Galaxy S21 Ultra cases.

Philip Michaels

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.