Galaxy S21 drop test results are in — do you still need a case?

Samsung Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Plus, Galaxy S21 Ultra phones lined up showing damage following drop testing
(Image credit: Allstate)

Samsung's Galaxy S21 phones represent the current top-of-the-line in the Android world despite the company making some cuts to deliver a welcome $200 price drop across the board.

However, Samsung didn't skimp when it came to screen protection using Corning's new Gorilla Glass Victus, which is meant to be more scratch-resistant and able to withstand a drop of up to just over six feet. Well, Allstate Protection Plans' (APP) put this durability claim to the test with a series of controlled drop tests to illustrate what might happen if you go case free with your new Galaxy S21.

All three phones were subjected to a face-down drop test from six feet and a back-down drop test from six feet, conducted by a machine to limit variability. Each device was then thoroughly studied to assess any superficial or functional damage.

Face-down drop test

Marked improvement was expected in the face-down drop test compared to the Galaxy S11 lineup given the new display protection, but that wasn't borne out by the testing. 

The Galaxy S21 took the least damage of the three with a cracked screen and slightly raised glass, but was still functional. Next up was the Galaxy S21 Plus with a malfunctioning screen that was both cracked and loosened. The Galaxy S21 Ultra followed the old adage, "the bigger they are the harder they fall" with the display completely dead after a single drop with cracked and loose glass.

Samsung Galaxy S21 Plus showing display damage from face-down drop test

(Image credit: Allstate Protection Plans)

Back-down drop test

Regardless of how you feel about the premium look of glass versus plastic on a flagship smartphone, there was little doubt that plastic it would prove more durable, and this test thoroughly proved that with the Galaxy S21 coming out virtually unscathed compared to its pricier glass-backed siblings. 

The Galaxy S21 showed some relatively minor superficial damage and no functional impairment. The Galaxy S21 Plus and Galaxy S21 Ultra both had shattered rear panels with spiderwebbing extending across most of the back of the phone. Notably, though. across all three devices, the cameras remained intact and functional following the drop, suggesting the new Contour Cut camera housing has delivered more than an aesthetic upgrade.

These results largely mirrored what we saw with APP's testing of the iPhone 12 and iPhone 12 Pro back in October with the less expensive model winning the day there, too. It seems most likely that this can be attributed to the weight difference as you move up the line, with more cameras, larger displays and larger batteries, the scales tip in favor of the smaller phones in a drop test. 

Now, for the most part, this is just a good reminder that a case is a solid investment to protect your phone. Improved or not, there are limits to what a device that is largely made of glass can handle. However, if you insist on going caseless and are waffling between the Galaxy S21 and Galaxy S21 Plus, which have few feature differences, I would definitely suggest considering these results carefully.

Sean Riley

Sean Riley has been covering tech professionally for over a decade now. Most of that time was as a freelancer covering varied topics including phones, wearables, tablets, smart home devices, laptops, AR, VR, mobile payments, fintech, and more.  Sean is the resident mobile expert at Laptop Mag, specializing in phones and wearables, you'll find plenty of news, reviews, how-to, and opinion pieces on these subjects from him here. But Laptop Mag has also proven a perfect fit for that broad range of interests with reviews and news on the latest laptops, VR games, and computer accessories along with coverage on everything from NFTs to cybersecurity and more.