Why Do Some Drops Shatter Phone Screens and Others Don’t?


Complete panic. That’s the feeling every one of us knows all too well when we drop our smart phone. As we reach down to pick it up, we cross our fingers and pray to the heavens that the screen isn’t shattered to pieces. Sometimes, we escape seemingly unscathed; other times, the screen has cracks spiderwebbing across it, making the phone unusable until you get it fixed.

While it might seem like a roll of the dice whether or not dropping your phone causes it to crack, there’s actually a science to it. There are certain factors that come into play when you drop your phone that determine whether or not the screen shatters.

The Science of the Drop

Whenever you drop your phone, energy is created and dispersed upon impact. Specifically, a tiny amount of elastic energy is converted into acoustic energy. That’s the sound you hear when your phone hits the ground. Now, the remaining elastic energy that’s in the glass becomes two or more surface energies. This is what causes cracks to form.

Strength and Hardness

So, what can prevent your screen from shattering? It comes down to its strength and its hardness. Think of hardness as the attribute that keeps your screen from getting scuffed and scratched up when you throw it in your purse or jam it into your pocket.

Strength, on the other hand, is a measurable relationship between inner tension and surface compression. Obviously, the higher the strength, the more brutal drops your phone can withstand. Glass breaks when the force of the impact is greater than its strength.

Crash Landing?

Here’s where “the roll of the dice” comes into play. How your phone lands is what often determines whether or not it breaks.

Believe it or not, it’s actually best if you drop your phone face down, directly onto the glass rather than on a corner. When your phone falls face down, it might not crack because the force of the impact is spread and absorbed across the whole surface. This lessens the damage of the impact.

However, if you drop your phone onto its corner, the point of contact is much smaller and much more focused. This intensifies the impact, concentrating it all onto one small point. This is when your phone’s screen is most likely to crack and shatter, forcing you to get it fixed.

Isn’t science amazing?!

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