How Can an iPhone Survive a Fall From a Plane, But Not From Your Pocket?

Rhett Allain
8 min readJan 9, 2024
Photo: Rhett Allain. Some iPhones have cracked screens. It happens.

Perhaps you’ve heard the recent story of an Alaskan Airline flight in suffered a blowout of part of the fuselage at an altitude of 16,000 feet. However, did you know that at least two phones from passengers fell out of the plane and SURVIVED? Check it out.

You might be surprised that the iPhone survived, but I just find it amazing that in 2024 there are still people that don’t have a lock screen on their phone. I mean…what?

OK, we have some physics to go over here — so let’s get to it.

Why Does an iPhone Break on Impact?

Just to be clear, iPhones don’t always break when they hit the floor. It’s not just iPhones — Android phones can break too. However, it feels like newer phones are much less likely to break than the older ones. Remember when we used to put our phones in those giant cases to protect from both falling AND water? We are in a much better place now.

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Rhett Allain

Physics faculty, science blogger of all things geek. Technical Consultant for CBS MacGyver and MythBusters. WIRED blogger.