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Drop, dunk, bend and tumble: Breakability campaign puts smartphones through the paces

Allstate Protection Plans' research aims to help shoppers make informed purchase decisions

June 4, 2022

There are times everyone could benefit from a rage room session – you know, those places you go to smash your stress away. But what if you could break things for the good of consumers – or at least the 6.5 billion smartphone subscribers worldwide?

That's what the folks at Allstate Protection Plans have been doing for more than a decade. Their Breakability campaign examines what happens when smartphones are subjected to drop, dunk, bend and tumble tests.

"These are expensive phones, so we figured it would be good for people to know how breakable their phone is if they sit on it, drop it, it falls down the stairs or gets dunked in water," said Allstate Protection Plans Creative Director Jason Siciliano.

The team partnered with a leading robotics engineer to create bots that perform a series of controlled tests on various smartphones. The phones are given a breakability score based on the results.

This research quickly became the go-to source for media seeking unbiased, scientific analysis of the latest Samsung Galaxy or Apple iPhone, Siciliano said.

Mimicking common ways phones are broken

When the Breakability campaign (formerly called SquareTrade Labs) started in 2010, its durability tests were unique to the industry. There were other tests for devices' memory, camera capabilities, storage, apps and functions – but not for durability.

The idea was to make it about more than just fixing broken phones. This kind of innovative thinking put the Breakability campaign on the map. And the key reason for the campaign's long success: It's never been about selling protection plans.

"We wanted to be the good guys in the warranty/protection plan space," Siciliano said. "The Breakability campaign has always been about helping consumers make informed decisions. That's why the tests performed mimic the actual ways people break their phones."

So you won't find the Breakability campaign tossing a new smartphone in the blender or blowing it up – although there are people who do that, too.

Siciliano said that's never been SquareTrade, and it's certainly not Allstate, which purchased SquareTrade in 2017. It's about the Allstate® brand – and being useful, altruistic and newsworthy are a great fit, he said.

That's not to say the campaign doesn't have fun. Like the time they put the sixth-generation iPhones in the ring (figuratively) with then-UFC champion Luke Rockhold. The iPhone 6s and 6s plus stood up to the challenge – up to a point, anyway.

Exploring the campaign's future

As more consumer electronics media perform their own tests, Allstate Protection Plans is evolving the Breakability campaign. They've turned to the tech-savvy minds at SCADpro, Savannah College of Arts and Design's collaborative innovation studio. SCADpro helps Fortune 500 clients solve creative and business challenges. Some of SCADpro's corporate partners have included Google, Mercedes Benz and even NASA.

What's next
The campaign could branch out beyond smartphones since Allstate Protection Plans help cover things like TVs, major appliances and furniture.

The SCADPro staff gathered students from various disciplines to brainstorm how the Breakability campaign can best move forward, explained Kelsey Boyanzhu, Allstate Protection Plans' senior social media and content manager, who works closely with the SCAD class.

"They're pushing boundaries and thinking outside the box," Boyanzhu said. "They even asked if the campaign could branch out beyond smartphones since Allstate Protection Plans help cover things like TVs, major appliances and furniture." (The answer was an emphatic "yes.")

Keeping a quick-turn test schedule

Today, the news and trade media still wait for the Breakability campaign to review iPhones and Galaxy phones, which dominate the market.

Siciliano said new smartphones always come out on a Friday, and the breakability tests are performed and filmed on Saturday, edited on Sunday, with the scores released on Monday. It's been a winning formula for Allstate Protection Plans' mission.

"We take those bad moments and turn them into good," Boyanzhu said. "And we take that mindset and apply it to everything we do – the breakability tests, supplying tips and tricks, and information consumers should know. I love that."

Allstate Protection Plans

Allstate Protection Plans cover consumer goods, including electronics and appliances. The plans help protect against malfunction, accidental damage and life's frequent mishaps.

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ECC Monitor: OK