Judge rules you can't sue Apple over broken glass

Judge rules you can't sue Apple over broken glass

A judge in San Jose has just thrown out a class-action lawsuit that was filed by a group of iPhone 4 owners. Their claim was that Apple misrepresented the strength of the glass used in the iPhone 4. As most probably expected, they lost spectacularly.

One of the members of the suit, Betsalel Williamson, claimed that he had to pay to have the back of his iPhone 4 replaced when it fell off the arm of a chair and the back glass shattered. Well Betsalel, common sense does tell us that glass will break upon impact.

Considering the iPhone isn't the only phone made of glass or the only one that breaks upon impact, the verdict was what most people expected. The plaintiffs argued that Apple advertising led people to wrongly believe that the glass was "20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than regular plastic" when studies released showed that the iPhone 4 actually was 82% less drop resistant than its predecessors.

It was also argued that airing commercials showing the phone in use without a case added to Apple misrepresenting the strength of the glass. The judge quickly threw out the argument:

A “reasonable consumer” viewing a commercial showing the iPhone 4 in use as a phone, but without a cover, would not be misled to believe that the iPhone 4 could withstand any particular level of impact if the phone was dropped.

Furthermore, Apple only charges $29 plus tax for a back replacement in store. The front glass of the iPhone 4 will warrant a complete replacement and weighs in currently at $149 plus tax which is still a pretty fair price considering you'll walk out with a brand new iPhone 4. Third party businesses will repair the screen for you at a lesser price or you could always do it yourself for even less.

In my experience, the iPhone is no more or less durable than any other iPhone or other smartphone on the market. Glass is glass, and it breaks when dropped. If you're a clumsy soul, put a case on it and call it a day.

Source: GigaOm

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Allyson Kazmucha

Senior editor for iMore. I can take apart an iPhone in less than 6 minutes. I also like coffee and Harry Potter more than anyone really should.

More Posts



← Previously

Google updates Gmail and Chrome for iPhone and iPad

Next up →

Apple starts readying Yerba Buena Center for September 12th event

Reader comments

Judge rules you can't sue Apple over broken glass


"In my experience, the iPhone is no more or less durable than any other iPhone or other smartphone on the market."

That seems like a pretty absurd statement to make when the very same article also says "studies released showed that the iPhone 4 actually was 82% less drop resistant than its predecessors." Unless you're of the Apple-can-do-no-wrong mindset...

They never said in the article what "study" claimed that - nor was I able to find them online.

I said "in my experience" and never stated it as a "fact" so I'm not sure how you can classify it as an "absurd statement" - I own a business that specializes in iPhone, iPad, iPod repair. That's my experience. I actually see more broken 3GS' and 3G's than I do iPhone 4's and 4S' to be honest. Some of that I would contribute to the 3GS being so cheap and being on the market longer. It's more attainable for a lot of people. But there's still a significant amount of those coming in with cracked screens every day.

If you're a regular of this site you would have noticed that I'm far from an "Apple can do no wrong" type. I tore them to pieces over the new iPad design and how hard it is to repair. I've also written several articles on jailbreak, etc... so I'm not an "Apple purist" by any stretch of the imagination.

But it's not hard to realize that a phone that is covered in glass is going to be less durable than a phone which has a resistant plastic, kevlar or metallic body for example.

Of course. Glass on both side should probably be common sense and scream put a case on it. Especially if you're clumsy. I think that was their point. That common sense leads the average consumer in the direction that glass breaks. ;) I personally haven't seen more of an iPhone 4 over any other model but I do see backs break, which obviously you don't see on the older generations given they weren't glass.

We have all heard of, just as an example, bullet-proof glass. And Gorilla Glass, Gorilla Glass 2, etc.. It's not hard at all (to me, anyway), to realize that technology is moving on all the time and it is entirely possible that somebody could make a phone that has a back made of glass that actually IS more durable than one made of, for example, plastic. Or metal.

If Apple advertised the iPhone 4 as being more durable than other phones (and I'm not saying they DID - I don't know if they did or not), and it turns out that their phones have been scientifically demonstrated to not meet the claims in their advertising, then, why should they not be held accountable for false advertising?

That's the point. They didn't advertise that. While Gorilla Glass is durable it's also thicker, and heavier. The technology is just not there yet. Some devices utilize "shatter resistant" glass but to my knowledge, no phone manufacturer is currently touting an "unbreakable phone" - because they aren't.

People scream for thinner and thinner devices with more and more features, you have to sacrifice somewhere. The case was thrown out because no advertisement led people to believe that the screen was shatterproof.

So what advertising is this referring to?

"Apple advertising led people to wrongly believe that the glass was "20 times stiffer and 30 times harder than regular plastic""

What did it actually say (or show)?

IIRC both the Palm Pre 2 and HP Pre 3 had gorilla glass. So the techology is there, just Apple isnt using it (I have heard they use a cheaper knock off of Corning Gorilla glass called Dragonfly glass or somesuch annoying if they do this considering what you pay for the phone).

It goes without saying that two pieces of glass is two times the shatterable surfaces to break if you drop a phone. A back of plastic or metal eliminates one of those surfaces. But its easy to see why they didnt want to use plastic which tends to scratch and smudge easier and I'm sure metal can effect how you can design and layout your antennas.

Why more 3 and 3gs ae ending up at repair shops for broken glass might be because of them being off warranty and service contracts by now where many who by 4 and 4S and get the extended service would take them back to Apple.

Depends on what you mean by 'durable'. Apple never advertised the iPhone as shatter proof but they did talk about it being more scratch resistant and it is. It's a general rule of material that the harder they are (more scratch resistant) the more brittle they are. If they made it shatter proof it would most likely be more prone to scratches.

Of course no one wants scratches on the touchscreen of a smartphone so that is most likely going to remain glass unless some other material can better it. However it probably was a mistake to use glass on the back as well as scratches are less important there. Having said that, I have dropped my iPhone 4 on to hard surfaces a few times and it hasn't smashed. With it being glass on both sides it doesn't have any scratches whatsoever and so it has probably kept better resale value.

Or if your trolling and taking statements out of context. She gave the information on the study then merely stated her own opinion. Studies are studies but that doesn't mean someone cannot have differing opinion. "Hey Sewer rat might taste like pumpkin pie but I wouldn't know cause I wouldnt eat the filthy mother f____!" - Samuel L Jackson. See, study vs opinion!

If you're going to report that "studies" show that the iPhone 4 was WAY more fragile, in the way that you did, then it is to be expected that your readers will presume there are, in fact, such studies, and that they are at least somewhat credible.

So, then, following that with your own personal anecdotal evidence that completely contradicts the "studies" can only be construed as an attempt to dismiss facts that are negative to Apple.

The absurdity is in how you published a presumed fact and then attempted to contradict it with your own personal anecdotal evidence.

If you don't want it to be that way, I would suggest, either, doing more research to allow you to discredit the studies you wrote about (based on actual facts), OR, present an actual statistical compilation of the data on the phones that have been worked on in your business.

It's a news post, not a research paper. I reported what the plaintiffs used to argue their case and what my opinion is. I'm pretty sure the average reader can figure out that my opinion is just that, mine. If you can't, that really isn't my problem. I was not trying to prove the study or the plaintiff wrong. I stated my opinion. Sorry you can't differentiate between the two.

When you say " when studies released showed that the iPhone 4 actually was 82% less drop resistant than its predecessors." it implies there was a study that indicated those stats. Because you said STUDIES RELEASED SHOWED.

Please refer to the several comments I've already posted. Or just read the article in the context I wrote it in. I did not see these studies. The plaintiffs claimed them to be factual, not me. Please re-read...

Moving along....

When you put your opinion in it, it's no longer a news post. It's an op-ed piece - which, though typical for iMore - I think does a disservice to iMore readers.

No offense intended, but have you ever taken a journalism class? If you want to be a news reporter (as opposed to yet another blogger with an axe to grind), maybe you should consider it?

"iMore.com, the Fox News of Mobile Tech"

So you're telling me that every single publication you read never reports news then gives their two cents on a situation? Your definition of news is quite warped. You give an opinion or ask others for theirs to engage conversation and stimulate thought. Obviously it worked on this post. So with that, thanks for the page hits!

Actually, that's exactly what you said. But either way, no one is forcing you to read anything you don't want. Feel free to skip over my articles if you'd like. I promise I won't be offended one bit.

I believe you're asserting that I exactly said "every single publication you [I]read never reports news then gives their two cents on a situation".

Please quote from one of my posts where I said that. Your excellent logic appears to continue...

You implied that a news piece can't contain an opinion. That's exactly what you said. It then becomes something else. Whatever you want to call it is here nor there. It comes down to the fact that I reported the story and gave my opinion. News followed up by something to think about and to engage conversation. And again, I obviously succeeded.

Like I said, no one is holding your arm forcing you to read my articles or click on them. Pass them over if you'd like. Just the same, if imore is so "fox news", the same concept applies.

You need thicker skin. If you're going to post articles open to comment on an Internet site, you have to expect negative comments as well.

ps. You didn't answer the question. Have you ever taken a journalism class? I'm seriously NOT trying to offend you. But, I think if you had taken one (and learned anything from it) you would understand the point I've been making.

Yes as an elective at Purdue. As well as a technical writing course for another elective. That's none here nor there. I still fail to see your point. Agree to disagree, move along.

Darling, try a Nokia, it is resistant to glass and body breaks. I dropped my Nokia Lumia 800 at 60 KMPH from bike on tarmac. Nokia glass didn't break and only one scratch. Try it with your iPhone.

I will admit that Nokia phones are more durable than most. Mostly due to their excellent hardware. They've got lots of experience. My N95 was a tank, as was my N82. I can't say the same for Samsung, HTC, etc... as they seem just as prone to breaks as iPhones. I think Nokia is a rare exception hardware wise. Not always though.... We also can't dismiss that a lot of times it depends on what kind of surface a phone is dropped on, how many times it has been dropped as well as many other factors. When you watch drop test videos they aren't all that conclusive for a reason. You can rarely get a phone to hit the concrete at the same angle etc... that impacts results. Personally, phones break, as do all kinds of electronics. If you're clumsy, get a good case.


Call me crazy but I still think Nokia's older devices still had a better build quality than the stuff today. At least they looked nicer. They had that "wow" factor. I just don't see it anymore. Which is a shame. I was a huge Nokia fan for a long time. I just don't care for Windows 8 personally. I was pretty sad when they gave up on S60 instead of moving forward and really going for something different....

Lol. I agree completely Ally. Nokia just isn't exiting right now. They are doing a bang up job marketing however... Probably not with the expected results either :-/

Then I'd have to have a Windows phone. No thanks. Been there done that. I went from an iPhone 3G to a 4. Oddly, the plastic back on my 3G cracked near the dock connector from a fall. My 4 has taken a tumble off a ladder on to concrete and didn't even scratch.

ohhh poor kids! I've owned all iPhone since 3G (because 3G was the first one legally available in Canada) and I've never used any skin nor dropped it. It is common sense, and the way you take care of your own stuff!

I understand the point but the iPhone 4 can get very slippery and hot when in use. One time I couldn't even use the phone for an hour because it was so hot, not everyone wants a case on their phone..

Hello everyone, just wanted to say that my bionic fell four times from a height of 10+ feet without a scratch. Mostly from my lap, when I get out of my big rig and forget that the phone is on my lap. Now you people here might not care about android phones but imagine my horror as my brand new phone went sailing into the air. After I picked my phone of the ground and found it without a single scratch I can say that plastic is far more durable than glass. Before you start hating, because of Android, the same thing happened to my bb storm with nary a scratch, ding or dent.

Stuart? Go do something productive, like play in traffic. Glass is glass, be careful or it will break. Trying to place blame on others because you're stupid, is stupid.

Sure, it has glass on the front and back but seriously, it's not Apple's problem if some butter fingered dope is too worried about his image to put his iPhone 4S in a fully ruggedized case. I did, have dropped mine before, and there was zero damage. That's what they make rugged cases for. They may not be as cute as the bare phone, but I'm trying to hide the Apple logo so some criminal doesn't try to jack me for my iPhone. Not impress college girls and candy asses.