iPhone 12 Mini drop test: Ceramic Shield rose to the challenge
The iPhone 12 Mini is a tough phone to crack. We’ve already drop tested the 6.1-inch iPhone 12, but we decided to do it all over again with the 5.4-inch iPhone 12 Mini to see if the smaller phone yielded different results. Mainly, we wanted to see if we could break the screen. Spoiler: We didn’t, but we managed to break other things in the process. Covered in Apple’s new ceramic shield glass, the iPhone 12 Mini’s screen proved to be virtually indestructible in our drop test. It also seems to be even better at handling repeated drops than its larger-screened sibling.
Read more: Is the iPhone 12 waterproof? We took it for a swim to test its water resistance
Even though it looks exactly the same as regular glass to the naked eye, the ceramic shield on the iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Pro and iPhone 12 Pro Max is no ordinary glass. It’s glass that’s been infused with ceramic crystals and, according to Apple, it’s the toughest glass ever on a smartphone. Because our testing methods aren’t scientific, we can’t know for sure whether that statement is true, but our experience with the iPhone 12 suggests it has the toughest screen of any phone we’ve ever tested. The 6.1-inch screen on our iPhone 12 ended up virtually unscathed after falling on concrete seven times at varying heights. The back of the phone, however, is made of the previous-generation glass and we managed to crack it on the second drop.
The iPhone 12 and the iPhone 12 Mini share the same Corning-made glass and aluminum frame (the iPhone 12 Pro and 12 Pro Max have stainless steel), so we weren’t expecting wildly different results, but we wanted to find out if the smaller and lighter phone would affect the results.
Corning says that in general, larger devices may be prone to bending more than smaller ones, and heavier phones may see a higher energy at impact, but they don’t necessarily predict the performance during a fall event as the design can also play an important part.
Chris Parker, CNET senior video producer, dropped a Product Red iPhone 12 Mini onto the sidewalk for our test.
Read more: Here are CNET’s reviews of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Mini and iPhone 12 Pro Max.
Drop 1: 3 feet, screen side down
This is roughly the distance from your pocket to the ground and one of the most common heights from which you might drop your phone. If the ground is rough, like in the case of a sidewalk, this drop can be deadly for your phone screen.
The iPhone 12 Mini hit the floor at a bit of an angle and bounced around before it settled, even though Chris dropped it screen-side down. After wiping off some dust from the sidewalk, the screen looked good as new. The metal frame, however, didn’t look as good. It had a large scrape on the top right hand corner where it landed which rubbed off the red paint, exposing the metal on the bottom. The bottom part of the frame suffered the same visible damage and also had a few small dents. The contrast between the bright red of the phone and the aluminum made the damage to the frame more noticeable than what we experienced on our mint green iPhone 12. This was a trend that we continued to see throughout our drop test.
Drop 2: 3 feet, back side down
Chris repeated the same drop, but this time with the back of the phone facing the ground. This was the drop that cracked the back of the iPhone 12 in our previous drop test, but the Mini fared better.
The phone hit at a bit of an angle again, but this time the side of the phone hit the ground first, then pivoted on the opposite side, which caused it to bounce up in the air again and then come crashing down again with the back facing down.
The damage to the aluminum frame was significantly worse and the top right corner of the phone on top of the camera had dents. But the back of the phone (and the screen itself) still looked to be in perfect condition.
Drop 3: 6 feet, 6 inches, screen side down
While it’s less likely you’ll drop your phone from this height, it’s still within the realm of possibility if you were taking a picture (or even a selfie for taller people) from this height.
Again, the Mini landed screen side down, but it didn’t land completely flat. The top of the phone hit first, causing it to take flight again and complete a 360-degree flip before landing screen side down on the sidewalk again.
The screen survived yet again, but the frame around it had more dents. One of the dents in the aluminum frame seemed to almost penetrate the glass where the two met, and I worried it would compromise the screen going forward.
Drop 4: 6 feet, 6 inches, back side down
Next we replicated the drop with the back of the phone facing down.
This time the back of the phone landed almost flat on the floor, but the impact made it bounce back up and flip over, landing with the screen facing down instead.
The back glass was still intact, but both camera lenses were damaged. The ultra-wide camera had a visible crack running through the side, while the frame and lens on the main rear camera underneath had a few tiny dents. The crack was not visible through the viewfinder when we opened the camera app, but could potentially cause lens flares and could continue to break over time.
Drop 5 and 6: 9 feet, screen side down
With both the front and back glass on the iPhone 12 Mini still intact, we decided to raise the stakes and take the phone to nine feet. Chris had to drop them from a step ladder, and getting them to fall flat as intended became harder.
The first drop was a wash because the screen barely made contact with the floor. The phone landed on the top part of the metal frame and bounced around a bit, so we tried it again.
The second time it did land with the screen facing the floor, flipped mid-air and finally ended up screen side up. The metal frame looked like a war zone at this point, but the screen was totally fine.
The dent on the top right-hand side of the frame continued to grow, but the ceramic shield screen had survived yet again.
Drop 7: 9 feet, back side down
We repeated this drop with the back of the phone facing the floor, but from that high of a drop it didn’t stay put after the initial impact and did numerous flips in the air before landing with the back facing the floor.
This drop finally did some damage to the back of the phone. It had three hairline fractures starting at the bottom right corner: two small ones and one longer one which extended upward along the frame almost to the top right hand corner.
Let’s break it down
Based on our drop tests of the iPhone 12 and now the iPhone 12 Mini, the ceramic shield is the strongest part of these phones.Both the lens and the back of the iPhone 12 Mini cracked in our drop tests, but the sidewalk was no match for the screen, covered in the ceramic shield, surviving consecutive falls from extreme heights.
That said, you may still want to put at least a slim case on the phone to protect the camera and keep the frame looking like new. At least, that’s what Apple suggested when we shared the results.
“The iPhone 12 models have gone through rigorous real-world testing and are designed to be durable, but not indestructible. If anyone is concerned about dropping their iPhone and damaging it, we suggest using one of the many beautiful cases available to protect the iPhone.”