Samsun galaxy s3 phoneThe Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) iPhone may have had problems with its antenna and its map software, but it is rare that anyone claims it is not a sturdy piece of hardware. Samsung cannot claim the same of its new Galaxy S4. It has a important and damning count against it - the Galaxy S4 is easy to break.

A high-end smartphone can cost the consumer as much as $200 when attached to a two-year subscription plan. That large out-of-pocket cost comes with a few expectations. Among these are that it operates on 4G networks and it has basic features that include a fast processor, high-definition screen, a camera and an ability to download the tens of thousand of apps available for iOS and Google Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android-based phones. Another feature is that the smartphone will be sturdy enough for daily use.

According to a new study on the breakability of smartphones from a carefully followed research firm that is considered a strong evaluator of the devices:

Comparing the Samsung Galaxy S4 to the S3 and Apple's iPhone 5, the iPhone 5 was the clear winner. SquareTrade's Breakability Score revealed the following:

  • While the S4 proved slightly more water resistant than its predecessor the S3, Samsung's new Galaxy phone actually performed worse in most other categories. Major strikes against the S4 include high breakability during SquareTrade Drop Tests, a slippery back panel, and a wider screen that reduces grip-ability, especially compared to the ultra-slim iPhone 5. Breakability Score: 7
  • While the Samsung S3 screen is more durable, it is less water resistant than the S4 and its plastic back and wide width decreases its grip-ability. Breakability score: 6.5
  • The iPhone 5 scored the highest of the three phones tested. While it lost points for its larger size due to more breakable surface area, its excellent grip-ability and low friction coefficient make it far more durable overall. Breakability Score: 5

Samsung may have to contend with a big flow of consumer complaints if the Galaxy 4S quickly gets a reputation as an overly delicate smartphone. And bad reviews to this effect will hurt sales. Samsung may have to upgrade the device, or suggest that people sheath it in a rubber case. Any combination of these will put off many possible buyers.

The early assumption about the Galaxy S4 is that it would drive adoption of Samsung smartphones and give the South Korean company a widening market share advantage over Apple. It only takes one mistake to halt the advance of a product that was supposed to do well. That is that it has a major flaw.


Filed under: 24/7 Wall St. Wire, Consumer Electronics, Research Tagged: AAPL, featured, GOOG

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