Skydiver's iPhone survives 14,000-foot fall from a plane

Posted:
in iPhone
A TikTok video shows a skydiver dropping his iPhone from a plane during a dive, with it somehow surviving the 14,000-foot fall to the ground.

[TikTok/@capt_rumcoffee]
[TikTok/@capt_rumcoffee]


Dropping an iPhone can be a fear-filled occasion for most users, worrying over potential cracks to the screen or other damage. In a video doing the rounds on TikTok, a skydiver showed what could possibly be the most extreme version of that situation.

Published to the video-sharing service on February 20, the video by Hatton Smith titled "When your phone falls out of your pocket at 14,000 feet" shows him leaping from a plane, and quickly being separated from his device just after exiting. The iPhone is seen to spin and flutter away from the camera at speed.

The short video cuts to a shot of the iPhone, partially wedged into the ground "like Excalibur" as one off-screen voice put it. The iPhone is then pulled from the ground and deemed "completely fine."

@capt_rumcoffee When your phone falls out of your pocket at 14,000 feet #fail #screammovie original sound


It is unclear what model of iPhone was shown, but it was placed inside a reasonably rugged case. More importantly for its survival, the iPhone landed in ground that was very muddy, giving it a softer landing than typical.

While Apple doesn't offer a height the iPhones can survive a drop from, most rugged cases are marketed as capable of fending off a drop of about 6 feet.

This is far from the first instance of an iPhone being dropped by a skydiver during a dive, but the survival makes it a rarity. The iPhone has also encountered other tough survival situations over the years, including numerous instances of being submerged in lakes for long stretches of time.

Much like a rollercoaster or other high-octane activity, AppleInsider recommends participants stow their iPhones and other valuables safely and securely, preferably away from any activity that may cause damage or loss of the devices.

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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 28
    bsimpsenbsimpsen Posts: 399member
    JP234 said:
    Wondering what the terminal velocity of an iPhone is? Guessing that a fall from 20-25 feet might generate the same impact force as falling from 14,000 feet.
    This isn't the first iPhone to fall from a plane.
    You are not the first person to wonder about terminal velocity.
    I think your guess is in the ballpark.
    The characteristics of the surface the phone lands on are probably the most important for determining survivability.

    https://www.wired.com/2011/04/what-is-the-terminal-velocity-of-an-iphone/
    Anilu_777JP234watto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 28
    larryjwlarryjw Posts: 1,031member
    Running this info thru a terminal velocity calculator: iPhone 14 pro max is 8 oz, drop height 14,000 ft, air drag, .2 kg/m.

    1,400 seconds to hit ground, maximum velocity 3 m/s, terminal velocity also 3 m/s. 
    JP234watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 28
    charles1charles1 Posts: 82member
    JP234 said:
    Wondering what the terminal velocity of an iPhone is? Guessing that a fall from 20-25 feet might generate the same impact force as falling from 14,000 feet.
    What do you mean? African or European iPhone?
    GrannySmith99JP234dewmemike1williamhexceptionhandlermacgui
  • Reply 4 of 28
    davidwdavidw Posts: 2,074member
    larryjw said:
    Running this info thru a terminal velocity calculator: iPhone 14 pro max is 8 oz, drop height 14,000 ft, air drag, .2 kg/m.

    1,400 seconds to hit ground, maximum velocity 3 m/s, terminal velocity also 3 m/s. 

    That's not right. 3 m/s comes to about 7MPH, which is why it takes 1,400 seconds (about 23 minutes) to hit the ground when dropped from 14,000 ft (2.6 mi) up. I doubt an iPhone would take 23 minutes to hit the ground when dropped from a height of 14,000 ft.  If that were the case, the skydiver (that dropped the iPhone) would have pass it on the way down and maybe had time see where it was falling after landing and get there to catch it.

    I think you misplaced a decimal point somewhere. It should be closer to 30 m/s (70 MPH) and take 140 seconds (2.3 minutes) to hit the ground. 
    edited May 2023 JP234pscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 28
    charles1 said:
    JP234 said:
    Wondering what the terminal velocity of an iPhone is? Guessing that a fall from 20-25 feet might generate the same impact force as falling from 14,000 feet.
    What do you mean? African or European iPhone?


    It would also depend on if the iPhone was laden or unladen...
    dewmemike1williamhpscooter63watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 28
    laytechlaytech Posts: 338member
    It's a funny story because no one was hurt in the outcome but it was pretty incompetent of the skydiver. Had his phone hurt some seriously, it would have been a different story.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 28
    tshapitshapi Posts: 371member
    Survivability also depends on how the iPhone landed, I think it has a better chance of surviving such a fall if it hit the ground on a corner or a side. Also your not taking into account wind factor. The phone will have a better chance of surviving if there was wind to slow down velocity. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 8 of 28
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    tshapi said:
    Survivability also depends on how the iPhone landed, I think it has a better chance of surviving such a fall if it hit the ground on a corner or a side. Also your not taking into account wind factor. The phone will have a better chance of surviving if there was wind to slow down velocity. 
    A horizontal wind would slow down a vertical drop? That's a new one. And then you say that the faster the wind the slower the velocity when it hits the ground - that's also a new one. I won't actually argue with you because I don't believe any argument is required here. I'll just let you reconsider.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 28
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,036member
    JP234 said:
    Wondering what the terminal velocity of an iPhone is? Guessing that a fall from 20-25 feet might generate the same impact force as falling from 14,000 feet.
    I think it would be quite a bit higher than 20-25 feet to reach terminal velocity.  I think it would take closer to 10 seconds of fall to reach terminal velocity.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 28
    williamhwilliamh Posts: 1,036member
    I believe this took place in the UK and the place the phone landed looked pretty soft. I don't know about Wales but some of the ground in the Scotland is so soft it feels almost like walking on a mattress.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 28
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,020member
    tshapi said:
    Survivability also depends on how the iPhone landed, I think it has a better chance of surviving such a fall if it hit the ground on a corner or a side. Also your not taking into account wind factor. The phone will have a better chance of surviving if there was wind to slow down velocity. 
    A horizontal wind would slow down a vertical drop? That's a new one. And then you say that the faster the wind the slower the velocity when it hits the ground - that's also a new one. I won't actually argue with you because I don't believe any argument is required here. I'll just let you reconsider.

     
    I'm a Part 107 Unmanned Aircraft pilot and commercial drone pilot.  I also fly fixed wing electric ducted fan jets.  Based on the above, I don't think you should be criticizing anyone.  You clearly have little understanding of how the principles of airflow work.   



    1. Wind is not "horizontal."  It comes from a cardinal and intercardinal (sometimes called "ordinal") direction, but is never "horizontal" (at least for long) due to all sorts of factors, including thermals, gusts, etc.  

    2. Almost any object dropped from a plane is not going to be "vertical" in its fall, either.  Even if you are dealing with a high mass, high density object with minimal wind resistance, you'll have some variation in the fall.  

    3.  Putting the above aside, yes, wind will absolutely affect a falling object, particularly an iPhone.  This will happen because of the velocity of the object and the wind resistance as it gains speed and hits terminal velocity.  Like any airframe, speed increase resistance.  It also will generate some degree of lift as the object flips about.  

    4.  Yes, in reality, increased wind would slow down the object's descent (assuming there wasn't a downdraft).  Such slowing could be significant if there was a thermal, gusting or rotational winds, etc.  It's not hard to understand why.  If moved "off course" laterally by wind, the object would no longer be taking a straight path to the ground.  Even if it only was blown in one direction consistently...any horizontal movement would lengthen the path to the ground.  Of course the chances of that one direction "push" are not good...it would obviously move back and forth with the wind.  

    Let me put it this way...do you think the rate of descent would be slowed if it was dropped into a hurricane? A tornado? What about just a WNW 45Kn wind?  

    chutzpahwatto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 28
    MustSeeUHDTVMustSeeUHDTV Posts: 305member
    Looks like he has case as well, so the case manufacturer can say it was the case that helped save the phone from breaking.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 28
    anonymouseanonymouse Posts: 6,872member
    sdw2001 said:
    4.  Yes, in reality, increased wind would slow down the object's descent (assuming there wasn't a downdraft).  [...]  If moved "off course" laterally by wind, the object would no longer be taking a straight path to the ground.  Even if it only was blown in one direction consistently...any horizontal movement would lengthen the path to the ground.
    Hmmm, I think this part is wrong. If the phone reaches terminal velocity it will continue falling at x m/s until it hits the ground. The time it takes to do this is simply distance / speed — e.g. at 30 m/s  from 3000 ft it will take 3000/30 seconds = 100 seconds to reach the ground. Since the vertical speed is unaffected by any perpendicular (horizontal) forces, no amount of horizontal wind (if we are ignoring lift) will change the rate at which it falls or how long it takes it to reach the ground — i.e., even if the wind were driving it horizontally at 30 m/s, it will still reach the ground in 100 seconds, ignoring outlandish factors such as the curvature of the earth. The path traveled (the hypotenuse) may become longer, but the distance traveled vertically (the side), the speed it travels that distance, and thus the time required, remains the same; it's a simple vector problem.

    Meanwhile, based on the accompanying picture, did the phone really "survive" this fall?
    edited May 2023 watto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 28
    Ecky-ThumpEcky-Thump Posts: 65member
    Nicholas  Alkemade a Lancaster rear gunner in WW2 fell 28,000 feet without his parachute and received only a sprained leg, thanks mainly to fir trees and snow.

    williamhwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 28
    macguimacgui Posts: 2,383member
    JP234 said:
    Wondering what the terminal velocity of an iPhone is? Guessing that a fall from 20-25 feet might generate the same impact force as falling from 14,000 feet.
    WTF? Are you serious? Take your iPhone outside and drop it from 25'. Inspect the damage. Now throw it up in the air as high as you can. I'm guessing you can get it higher than 25'. Now inspect the phone. See if the impact seems even similar let alone the same.

    I'm guessing the speed of the phone, i.e. terminal velocity is much faster than that achieved dropping it 25'.

    A lot of variables are at play to determine both terminal velocity  and potential damage from altitude since this didn't occur in a vacuum. But the difference in impact force will be significantly different from 14,000' that 25'.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 28
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    sdw2001 said:
    tshapi said:
    Survivability also depends on how the iPhone landed, I think it has a better chance of surviving such a fall if it hit the ground on a corner or a side. Also your not taking into account wind factor. The phone will have a better chance of surviving if there was wind to slow down velocity. 
    A horizontal wind would slow down a vertical drop? That's a new one. And then you say that the faster the wind the slower the velocity when it hits the ground - that's also a new one. I won't actually argue with you because I don't believe any argument is required here. I'll just let you reconsider.

     
    I'm a Part 107 Unmanned Aircraft pilot and commercial drone pilot.  I also fly fixed wing electric ducted fan jets.  Based on the above, I don't think you should be criticizing anyone.  You clearly have little understanding of how the principles of airflow work.   



    1. Wind is not "horizontal."  It comes from a cardinal and intercardinal (sometimes called "ordinal") direction, but is never "horizontal" (at least for long) due to all sorts of factors, including thermals, gusts, etc.  

    2. Almost any object dropped from a plane is not going to be "vertical" in its fall, either.  Even if you are dealing with a high mass, high density object with minimal wind resistance, you'll have some variation in the fall.  

    3.  Putting the above aside, yes, wind will absolutely affect a falling object, particularly an iPhone.  This will happen because of the velocity of the object and the wind resistance as it gains speed and hits terminal velocity.  Like any airframe, speed increase resistance.  It also will generate some degree of lift as the object flips about.  

    4.  Yes, in reality, increased wind would slow down the object's descent (assuming there wasn't a downdraft).  Such slowing could be significant if there was a thermal, gusting or rotational winds, etc.  It's not hard to understand why.  If moved "off course" laterally by wind, the object would no longer be taking a straight path to the ground.  Even if it only was blown in one direction consistently...any horizontal movement would lengthen the path to the ground.  Of course the chances of that one direction "push" are not good...it would obviously move back and forth with the wind.  

    Let me put it this way...do you think the rate of descent would be slowed if it was dropped into a hurricane? A tornado? What about just a WNW 45Kn wind?  

    I specifically did not argue with him - I asked him a question and I asked him to reconsider. Then you put a huge effort into arguing with me and you asked me some questions. Hurricanes and tornados are out of scope because I was talking about "horizontal winds." So tornados and hurricanes are irrelevant. But they do have vertical components so they will affect vertical speeds of falling objects. In that sense, you win the argument, but that's because you changed the explicit parameters of the argument which was a horizontal wind. If you consider that a win, good for you.

    A falling object doesn't even know if there's a horizontal (or vertical) wind component or not. There is no physical mechanism you can carry with you (other than a GPS device) which can tell you when you are falling if there is a horizontal wind component or not. It's like Einstein's relativity - you can't tell if you are in an accelerating elevator in space or standing in a stationary elevator on a planet. If the wind is zero or perfectly steady, the falling object will have no way of knowing the wind speed. That's the only condition I was talking about. I was not talking about tornados or hurricanes or tidal waves or earthquakes or any other conditions you care to talk about.
  • Reply 17 of 28
    rundhvidrundhvid Posts: 126member
    You are all mistaken!

    Terminal velocity is zero m/s 😉
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 28
    chutzpahchutzpah Posts: 392member
    22july2013 said:

    In that sense, you win the argument, but that's because you changed the
    explicit parameters of the argument which was a horizontal wind.
    You are the only one who mentioned horizontal wind, something that basically doesn't exist in nature.  And you also said you weren't making an argument either, because apparently you were so confident in your correctness it wasn't necessary.  You've made yourself look a right tit here.
    muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 19 of 28
    22july201322july2013 Posts: 3,612member
    chutzpah said:
    22july2013 said:

    In that sense, you win the argument, but that's because you changed the
    explicit parameters of the argument which was a horizontal wind.
    You are the only one who mentioned horizontal wind, something that basically doesn't exist in nature.  And you also said you weren't making an argument either, because apparently you were so confident in your correctness it wasn't necessary.  You've made yourself look a right tit here.
    When the falling object approaches the last hundred feet above the ground there is no vertical wind. I'm sure the original poster will realize that when he reflects on my question to him. And notice that I have refrained from calling people offensive names who disagree with me.
  • Reply 20 of 28
    sdw2001sdw2001 Posts: 18,020member
    sdw2001 said:
    4.  Yes, in reality, increased wind would slow down the object's descent (assuming there wasn't a downdraft).  [...]  If moved "off course" laterally by wind, the object would no longer be taking a straight path to the ground.  Even if it only was blown in one direction consistently...any horizontal movement would lengthen the path to the ground.
    Hmmm, I think this part is wrong. If the phone reaches terminal velocity it will continue falling at x m/s until it hits the ground. The time it takes to do this is simply distance / speed — e.g. at 30 m/s  from 3000 ft it will take 3000/30 seconds = 100 seconds to reach the ground. Since the vertical speed is unaffected by any perpendicular (horizontal) forces, no amount of horizontal wind (if we are ignoring lift) will change the rate at which it falls or how long it takes it to reach the ground — i.e., even if the wind were driving it horizontally at 30 m/s, it will still reach the ground in 100 seconds, ignoring outlandish factors such as the curvature of the earth. The path traveled (the hypotenuse) may become longer, but the distance traveled vertically (the side), the speed it travels that distance, and thus the time required, remains the same; it's a simple vector problem.

    Meanwhile, based on the accompanying picture, did the phone really "survive" this fall?

    I am not a physicist, so I'm not sure.  You may be correct, at least scientifically speaking.  In reality, wind (among other things) absolutely does affect a falling object.  It depends on the cross section and flat surface area, as well as mass...of course.  Because if what you're saying is true, then a "horizontal" wind wouldn't affect the rate of descent of a hot air balloon.  
    watto_cobra
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