How Scratch Resistant is the Apple iPhone Under Normal Use? | Reports

By: Jonathan Kwan
October 15, 2010

Whether you like it or not, it is a fact that Apple's iPhone is an extremely popular mobile device. Everywhere I go, a quick glance around easily reveals more than a handful of individuals talking, texting, surfing, or gaming on their iPhones. Despite fundamentally not being a fanboy of the company in question (In fact, probably quite the opposite), like many, I have been an iPhone user for the last few years, simply because it truly delivered some of the best smartphone experiences along with superior media handling compared to every other device on the market at the time. Here is the deal though: I have never been a fan of using cases or other protection on most of my electronics. It just seems paradoxical to me that, in order to retain a cell phone's original beauty, bulky and/or ugly cases are usually used to preserve it. This simply does not make sense! What is the point of keeping your iPhone or similar product in absolutely perfect condition, yet never having a chance to enjoy it thanks to the aesthetically challenged accessories, which are subject to scratches as well, as you are going to replace it in a couple years anyway? Therefore, for all the time I have owned my Apple iPhone 3G 16GB -- which I use regularly on a daily basis -- it has never seen any kind of protective accessories over it since day one. While PC World rubbed some keys against the iPhone's scratch resistant glass screen a few years back and came up with the conclusion that "there's no need to coddle this sexy little device", I actually found something just a little bit different in real life usage after a couple years. Read on to see what I have found!

Just for reference, while I have always used my iPhone 3G 'naked', that does not mean I have subjected it to any kind of intentional abuse. My phone always goes into my right pocket with nothing else in it. No keys, no wallets -- nothing. Nor have I done things like sliding it across a table, or dropped it intentionally (After all, it is glass. And you know what happens, haha). Generally speaking, just as I have never taken particular effort to protect it, I have never tried to damage it either. It is simply normal usage.

It is hard to convey fully detailed information on the condition of my iPhone with photos alone, so let me just briefly go through exactly what is going on. Over time, it is clear that lots of small scratches, in conjunction with a few more visible ones, have developed over the glass surface of my Apple mobile device, as shown. The two photos above demonstrate the view from two different angles under direct sunlight for better photographic visibility. But to get a closer and clearer view, let us zoom in a little bit more for a better look.

As aforementioned, some scratches are more visible than others, but without much effort, you can certainly tell that all of them are there. It does not affect everyday usage in my opinion, but this depends on the perspective of how much of a perfectionist you are. Meanwhile, let's turn the iPhone around for some shots on the back.

Surface scratches should not be extremely visible on both black and white units, but they do accumulate very quickly on the back. It is the most visible where the shiny silver Apple logo is located; for the rest of the phone, the swirls will be also visible under appropriate lighting conditions. My main photo, along with the magnified image, should tell the story quite clearly. Again, they are not very significant. However, if you are a perfectionist, then this will definitely be something of your concern. The metal strip around the outer perimeter of the iPhone is also subject to similar scratch patterns.

In the end, this brings us back to the original question: How scratch resistant is the Apple iPhone under normal use? At least for my 3G, I would say it is reasonably scratch resistant for an electronic device under normal usage conditions. It is important to note that although glass itself is very strong, it definitely scratches. Look closely at your car windows, glass table, and the such. And logically, so does the plastic back. Remember this: It is scratch resistant, not scratch proof. One thing that is sure is the fact it is not as scratch resistant as some people like to make it out to be, so I would definitely advise you not to keep your shiny new Apple iPhone in the same pocket as your keys, haha. Look what happened to mine after a couple years with nothing else in my pocket. While I still prefer to use my iPhone without any protection, if you are the clumsy or perfectionist type, then such accessories may make sense to you. Or if resale value is your concern, which is actually surprisingly high on eBay at press time, you might like to do the same.

APH Networks purchased all equipment used in this article to facilitate this report.

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