All this time you thought you were just unlucky when you dropped your phone and it always seemed to land face down, cracking the screen and costing a small fortune to repair. But it's not you, it's science. A new study has revealed the real reason why phones always land on their screens. Luckily it's also discovered the best way to stop a phone screen breaking in a fall.
But first, the fun part. The scientist behind the “why does buttered toast always fall on the buttered side?” research (yes, scientists investigate that stuff), Professor Robert Matthews, has turned his attention to smartphones. Motorola is behind it all, promoting its new ShatterShield glass, but the science is legit. As you may have guessed, it's all in the rotation physics present in a dropped phone.
Think of it like throwing knives. If you've ever tried that pastime you'll know that sometimes you get them all and sometimes you get none. This is because the rotation of the knife remains largely stable, the thing that changes is the distance between you and the thing you're throwing knives at. Get the distance right and you'll be joining the circus within minutes.
The same rotation laws apply to toast and smartphones. Measure the distance between drop height and flat surface and you can reliably predict how many rotations an object will make in that distance. Unfortunately for the smartphone and toast lovers out there, the average height from which a phone (or toast) is dropped results in a much higher incidence of the bit you don't want hitting the floor, hitting the floor.
It's all a little more complicated than that – there's a fancy formula that pivots on you holding your phone with your fingers in a specific place on the back of the phone (slightly below the center of gravity, so the phone is top-heavy), the acceleration of gravity and the angle at which you hold the phone before dropping it.
The good news is that the research also mentions why the rule is not fool-proof. The formula hangs on the fact that you fumble with your phone as you drop it. The research shows that a phone dropped without resistance at the moment it loses contact with your fingers is actually more likely to land face-up, meaning your screen will be more likely to survive the impact.
So the best way to save a phone screen from breaking in a fall is, ironically enough, to just let it fall. Kind of like the way babies (apparently) don't get hurt when they fall out of windows because they're so chillaxed, a dropped phone you don't fumble with is more likely to escape unscathed.
I wouldn't advise you to try this theory out, but if at all possible, the next time you drop your phone, try to relax and let things take their course. You might just save yourself a few bucks as a result.
Have you ever dropped your phone and broken it? Do you think you could just let it fall?