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Consumer Reports’ iPhone 15 Pro Max drop and bend test contradicts previous findings

Published Oct 2nd, 2023 6:50AM EDT
iPhone 15 Pro on a shelf.
Image: Jonathan Geller, BGR

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Soon after the iPhone 15 went on sale, we saw the first drop and durability tests surface online. Unsurprisingly, they showed that glass can break depending on various factors (drop height, angle, contact surface). But one of the clips also indicated that the rear-facing glass of the iPhone 15 Pro Max can crack during what’s known as a bend test.

The iPhone 15 models do not bend. We haven’t seen this happen since the infamous iPhone 6 bendgate tests. But the unexpected glass breaking made me reconsider my stance on cases. After the iPhone 15 launched, I said I was tempted to go caseless whenever I ended up upgrading my iPhone 14 Pro.

The combination of strong titanium and glass and a new design that allows a much cheaper repair process made me rethink the use of cases. Apple will reuse the iPhone 15 Pro design in future models (and improve it). Hence, my interest in dropping the case in the future.

A week after the iPhone 15 models hit stores. Consumer Reports (CR) went ahead with their bend and drop tests. They found that the iPhone 15 Pro Max is much more durable than we thought. The handset survived the bend and drop test, which is great news.

CR addressed the viral clip that showed the iPhone 15 Pro Max’s rear glass panel breaking during a bend test. That was JerryRigEverything’s test, a YouTuber who puts all new smartphone releases through the same tests.

It’s unclear why the unit JerryRigEverything tested cracked so easily. It might have suffered from a different defect that made it prone to cracking. But, Consumer Reports was unable to verify the YouTuber’s finding. CR actually contradicted JerryRigEverything, as the iPhone 15 Pro Max survived 110 pounds of pressure in a bend test:

We measured the force using a high-precision Instron compression test machine, applying pressure in the center of the device and along the length of the phone to see whether that might cause the glass on the back to break.

The handset survived with no cracks.

CR then tested a different iPhone 15 Pro Max using a lab test designed to replicate a waist-high drop. They put the iPhone 15 Pro Max in a tumbler with a top and bottom made of stone. The test’s purpose is to simulate regular smartphone drops on concrete surfaces. CR repeats the test 100 times to see what a handset can withstand various types of drops:

All phones in CR’s ratings undergo this test. We remove the device after 50 drops to check for damage, then submit it to 50 more drops. We’re not trying to be cruel. We’re simply ensuring that each phone is exposed to impacts at a wide range of angles, including the corners and edges.

The iPhone survived with minor scratches after the 100 drops.

Separately, CR accidentally dropped the iPhone 15 Pro Max twice while reviewing the handset, and it survived without a scratch.

“What we found in our labs contrasts with a series of videos from online reviewers that showed the glass breaking in improvised drop and bending scenarios, at times resulting in a web of cracks across the back of the phone,” CR concluded.

If you were looking for an excuse to avoid using a case with your iPhone 15 Pro/Max, Consumer Reports just provided it. Still, drop experiences vary, so don’t be surprised if your device breaks when dropped from a certain height against a certain type of pavement.

If you’re not getting a case, you should know that replacing the rear panel costs $169 or $199, depending on the Pro model. AppleCare+ discounts that cost to $29. I would still consider using a screen protector even if going caseless.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.