Smartphones are undeniably more delicate than the mobile phones of the past. In recent years they’ve gone through a period of intense vulnerability as manufacturers competed to offer the most eye-catching design as well as the best technology. Apple is no exception; for the beauty of their products has sparked quite a cult following over the years. However, the iPhone 4 saw a dramatic rise (82% to be exact) in the number of cracked phone screens in comparison to the iPhone 3GS.

The vulnerability of the iPhone 4 and 4S made companies that specialise in iPhone 4 repairs very popular indeed. A report by electronics insurer SquareTrade in late 2012 shows that since 2007 the iPhone repair business in America has surpassed $5.9 billion. The cost of repairs out of warranty is around $199 for new models and $149 for older versions. These figures don’t even reflect the true number of damaged phones as the survey revealed that many people will put up with broken and cracked phones. Respondents’ answers showed that 30% of iPhone users had experienced damage to the iPhone in the 12 months previous to the survey.

Aesthetics of smartphones seem to take precedence over their durability, despite the initial expense of the devices and the expense and hassle of fixing any damage. But why bother making a beautiful phone if it has to immediately go straight into a protective case? For consumers this can be very frustrating. Sure your digital devices shouldn’t be flung about but it seems a little ridiculous that your phone has to be swaddled in rubber or foam, covered in protective plastic and handled with the same care as a new born baby any time you want to use it. The nature of mobile phones should mean you can take them out and about no problem.

iPhone 4s Broken Screen

Thankfully it appears that the demand for more durable devices is prompting manufacturers to produce better handsets. The iPhone 5 shows some improvement, especially in drop tests, taking quite a beating in several videos online. The glass back has been replaced by coloured aluminium in a unibody structure that adds considerable strength. Unfortunately the iPhone 5 appears to suffer more greatly from light wear and tear. Users report that the phone appeared scuffed and scratched around the edges in a matter of weeks. The scuffing seems so serious that it has been dubbed ‘Scuffgate’ online. Scuffgate not only highlights the iPhone 5’s tendency to scuff and tarnish but calls into question the long term durability of the anodised aluminium case. Time will tell on this one. We will certainly see fewer screen and glass back replacements but as the iPhone 5 ages will we see the entire case weaken?

Rumours of the iPhone 6 design are already buzzing around. Some believe that a plastic case may be re-introduced; either as a design feature to show off the internal systems through clear plastic or as a cheaper alternative to the high-end, high-cost handset. Whatever the new models look like I do think Apple are taking note of the public demand for stronger cases and will act accordingly. Whether the speed of new releases will allow for significant changes in the iPhone 6 is yet to be seen. In the meantime the business of iPhone repairs will likely continue to flourish.