Update 2: Despite my previous mis-givings, I replaced the screen with one from Amazon (make sure you order the digitizer, not just the front glass – see here) and the replacement screen proved to be MUCH more resilient that the original. I have sat on it numerous times with no cracks. I also bought a tempered glass screen protector for it to protect against knocks and sharp things hitting it – I have broken two of those and both times it clearly saved the screen.
Update: I’ve decided to leave my Galaxy S4 to it’s fate – so many people are having unexplained breaks and I don’t want to spend £200 on a repair only to have it happen again.
So it seems I’ve recently fallen foul of a much reported issue with the Samsung Galaxy S4, that of a weak screen.
There are literally thousands of posts out there about this issue with victims pointing out the screen cracked for no reason and everyone else saying they must have done something to cause it (until it happens to them). For my part, my phone was sat on my desk in my office – the only unusual thing compared to the first month or so of operation is that I’m in the Caribbean and so am going from hot weather outside to air conditioned offices inside – something I would expect the much-vaunted ‘Gorilla Glass’ to be able to handle.
I always carry my phones in my front pocket and I’m not a small guy so my pockets are pretty big. I’ve had numerous smart phones over the years from HTC, Samsung, etc. and never had any issues – in fact I’m back working on my Galaxy S2 now while deciding whether or not to send my S4 to phone hospital or cut my losses and get a stronger phone.
A Tale of Two Cracks
So it seems the people reporting issues are generally split in to two camps; those with the outer glass and the AMOLED (the bit that actually displays the image); and those with an intact outer glass but still have a cracked AMOLED underneath it. Given the sheer number of people reporting both, I suspect both of these are down to a weakness/design flaw within the Galaxy S4 but it’s pretty clear that the latter – cracks in the AMOLED with an intact cover glass – is definitely a fault. After all, the purpose of the Gorilla Glass is to protect the AMOLED underneath.
Some on the web are suggesting that the AMOLED might be cracked from underneath by a swollen battery – another known issue – but this seems unlikely to me as the battery comes out very easily and is really only held in my the back panel which has plenty of ‘give’ in it and also pops of easily too. What I figure is more likely but probably isn’t what people want to hear is that the Gorilla Glass is more flexible than the AMOLED underneath and so flexing the phone breaks the AMOLED, leaving the Gorilla Glass untouched.
Frustratingly – and like many others – I got my phone with a phone contract and so am now paying an increased monthly rate for a phone I don’t have and will continue to do so for the next 18 months.
Unfortunately there’s no way Samsung are going to admit liability or any kind of fault on their flagship phone so all i can suggest is people opt for the Galaxy S4 Mini which is cheaper and doesn’t seem to have many people complaining about screen weakness.