iPhone is the Hardiest Smartphone of Them All

Kudos to the folks over at the independent product warranty company, SquareTrade, for not just offering warranties beyond that of merchants and manufacturers, but for also actually analyzing the failure rate data from over 15,000 new cell phones they covered. Their recent analysis, which is available as a PDF report here, compares the failure rates of iPhone, Blackberry, and Treo handsets, and found that the iPhone was the hardiest one of them all.

Within the first 12 months of ownership, SquareTrade saw a 5.6-percent malfunction rate with iPhones. Blackberry handsets saw more than twice as many malfunctions at 11.9 percent; and Treos saw the highest frequency of malfunctions at 16.2 percent. The study points out, however, that the "greatest vulnerability to replacement costs occurs during the second year of ownership. During this period, the initial one-year manufacturer's warranty has expired, and the customer is mostly ineligible for the heavily subsidized newer models." As such, it is the malfunction rates after the first 12 months of ownership that will have a more direct impact on people's wallets. SquareTrade used data from Blackberry and Treo handsets, but had to interpolate the data for iPhones, since they haven't been around long enough to generate the necessary data for such a comparison. The 12-month trends continue into 24 months, with the iPhone showing the lowest predicted malfunction rate of 9.2 percent after 24 months, followed by the Blackberry at 14.3 percent, and bringing up the rear was the Treo at 21.0 percent.

 Credit: SquareTrade

As to the malfunctions that do befall iPhones, approximately one third of all malfunctions were related to the touchscreen. SquareTrade reports, however, that "an iPhone user is more than twice as likely to experience an iPhone failure due to accidental damage than through a handset malfunction." SquareTrade attributes this to the iPhone's wide form-factor and slippery feel. It turns out that after 12 months, 12 percent of iPhones experience failures as a result of accidental damage. SquareTrade further estimates that after 24 months, almost 25 percent of all iPhones will fail as a result of accidental damage. These accidental-damage failure rates for iPhones are about one-third higher than the average for other phones.

 Credit: SquareTrade

The net of all this is that while the iPhone might be manufactured better than other iPhones, it is far more likely to meet an unfortunate, accidental fate than other phones. If SquareTrade's prediction is accurate, you have a one-in-four chance of accidentally damaging your iPhone. As SquareTrade also happens to sell extended warranties for iPhones that cover accidental damage, is at least one reason why you should take the results of this study with a grain of salt. We're not saying that SquareTrade cooked the books at all--we're just saying to be wary of circumstances when the doomsayers also happen to sell insurance.
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