back to article iPhone plunges 13,500 ft from skydiver's pocket - and lives

A Minnesota skydiver's iPhone 4 slipped out of his pocket at 13,500 feet, landed on a factory rooftop, and lived to tell the tale. Jerrod McKinney told CNN that he was "just absolutely shocked" when his high-flying iPhone still worked after the fall – especially considering that its glass had cracked when his toddler had …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Why is this news?

    Surely the skydiver should be fined now? What if the phone had fallen and hit someone on the head?

    The rest sounds more like advertising for the Incipio cases.

    Also didn't see the antenna being discussed in CNN's original story. I'd appreciate if El Reg would provide references to such claims, thanks.

    1. ukbabz

      USA

      As far as I know its perfectly legal in the US to jump out with objects you intend to drop (such as rafts, inflatable animals, bicycles..)

      If it does hit someone then you may be in trouble, or at least sued.

      1. Stevie Silver badge

        Bah!

        Well, notfer nuythin' it's illegal to toss anything of a roof in NYC. This leads me to believe that being a total twat and dropping garbage from umptytump thousand feet over a metropolitan area might be a bit more worrisome in the being called to account department than that.

    2. dssf

      Hit on the head by the iPhone?

      Then the hit party would be called, collected ET'd (existentially telephoned) and phoned home.

  2. FozzyBear Silver badge
    Happy

    Must be verified

    Could have been a one in a million circumstance. I purpose that we verify this by dropping a thousand Iphone users with their phones glued to their ears from 13,000 feet and testing their phones after they land

    Good chance with the fanbois should get a few ipads and ipods in the mix too

    1. Evil Auditor Silver badge

      @FozzyBear

      Yes, it must be verified, but in a different way. The question is whether a fanboi will survive a drop from 13,000 ft if he is covered in jesusPhones. So, take a couple of, let's say at least 100, fanbois, who more or less volunteer for this experiment. Randomly put them into two equally sized groups, take the members of one group and glue iPhones to every bit of their skins. Then bring both groups up to 13,000 ft and drop all of them out of a plane. Count those who survive with iPhones and those without.

      If not conclusive, i.e. no significant difference between the two groups, adjust your hypothesis and repeat the experiment accordingly, e.g. with less iPhones per fanboi or higher altitude.

      Repeat until you either reach at a plausible conclusion or no fanbois are left.

      1. Miek
        Coat

        Why not ...

        Offer them an iPad to jump, if they survive they get an iPad

      2. Arctic fox
        Happy

        @ Evil Auditor. Re: "or no fanbois are left."

        "'Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished."

        1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Real Name
      WTF?

      Eh?

      Wait - So he's a fanboy because he has an iPhone and it survived?

      I thought you were a fanboy because you're an up arse apple snob?

      How times are changing......

      1. steviesteveo
        Thumb Up

        Quite understandable fanboy

        If I was dropped out of a plane and survived because of my iPhone I'd be a fan for life.

    3. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      One in a million chances

      always crop up, well known fact

      Just ask Sergeant Colon

      1. Matthew Anderson

        or..

        Nobby Nobbs

        1. Openminded Cynic

          One in a million chances.....

          ...happen 9 times out of 10. It has to be 1 in a million though. 1 in 999,999 and you've got no chance.

  3. xxlyyk

    terminal velocity

    I don't find this very remarkable, given the low weight the terminal velocity of the phone is not that high I'm guessing. Then with the right bounce and the fact that the aluminium body is pretty sturdy I guess the odds are much better than one in a million

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Boffin

      Re: terminal velocity

      Agreed, but fanbois don't believe that the laws of physics apply to their iDevices. Just look at Apple's antenna design for the iPhone 4 for example.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Stike Vomit

        I can confirm, the laws of physics do not apply to iphones. Those law showed, empirically, that you can drop an ol'n'ugly Nokia phone several times onto concrete floor, whatever, and it won't take any damage. (Even if you wanted to deliberately destroy it, to have it replaced by a shiny new iPhone...)

        With the iPhone, well, you cannot.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Ol'n'ugly Nokias

          Aside from my wife's ol'n'ugly Nokia - you can drop that from a mere couple of feet onto the finest and softest of shag, and it still explodes and dispels the battery cover, and ejects the battery and SIM card as far away from itself as possible. I swear the battery thinks it's an ejector seat.

          1. Barticus
            Coat

            Did anyone else read that as...

            ...my wife's ol'n'ugly Norkias. Bit unfair I thought.

            Sorry...no, its not the one with all the iPhones on it.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

      1. Anonymous Coward
        FAIL

        Double-fail

        You were obviously never taught what a vacuum was, since we don't live in one. For instance, have you tried the ball-bearing and feather exercise in your own home (not in a vacuum) - you'd be surprised (or not).

        Have a read about terminal velocity at some point.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          IT Angle

          Triple-fail indeed.

          1/ Fail1: The terminal velocity is not a function of the weight --- a 200gr ball bearing will gladly smash through an unfortunate bystander's skull, while a 200gr air mattress will flutter to the ground.

          2/ Correct1: The Galileo experiment is relevant: everything with the same shape will fall at the same rate. Fail2: That experiment (and the parachuting) has nothing to do with vacuum and/or feathers.

          3/ Correct2: Vacuum has nothing to do with it; but that doesn't mean the original remark was right.

          Terminal velocity will indeed quickly be reached, so 500ft or 13K ft don't really matter. The iphone being a rather rigid & solid (high relative density) object, you'd expect it to reach a good terminal velocity and to be severely broken.

          The roof would be my prime concern --- you can easily do a few hundred of pounds of damage to it, if no more.

          1. John Robson Silver badge
            FAIL

            Physics 101

            Correct1 above: "everything with the same shape will fall at the same rate" is incorrect

            The air resistance will be the same, but the gravitational force (weight) will not be. Two 10cm spheres, one massing twice the other will not fall at the same rate though a viscous fluid. The more massive sphere will fall quicker, due to the air resistance being less significant as it is acting on a greater mass of object.

            1. passportholder
              Thumb Up

              Re: Physics 101

              I can't believe you got downvoted

              1. Stoneshop Silver badge

                @passportholder

                I can. Without much effort.

          2. atippey
            Boffin

            Potential Energy

            I agree that its density would probably mean an iPhone's terminal velocity would be relatively fast. However, the potential energy of a falling Jesus Phone is still 1/2(m)(v^2), so mass does factor into the energy release into said phone upon impact with factory roof -- though quite a bit less than velocity does.

            1. Steven Jones

              Mixing up your energies

              @atippey

              The formula you give (half mass times the square of the velocity) is that for kinetic energy. The formula for potential energy in this case is m x g x h where m is the mass, g the acceleration due to gravity and h the height above the reference level you are measuring the potential energy (ie where this blessed phone would land).

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Pint

            Re: Double-fail

            I'm the AC from 12:48, and I stand by my statement.

            I wasn't referring to the Galileo experiment, I was referring to the AC at 11:57 who brought up the vacuum experiment, which isn't relevant here because the iPhone was not dropped in a vacuum. I'm not throwing out the theories behind it, just the relevance.

            The reason I mentioned reading up on terminal velocity is because, outside of a vacuum, it is relevant - at some point the iPhone will experience enough drag (mg, in fact) through air to prevent any further acceleration, which was the OPs original point.

            If you substitute "weight" for "mass" in the OPs message, do you feel happier? I tend to assume people say weight and mean mass, and I don't feel any worse off for it, in the same way that most people use kg instead of kgf (or N).

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Pint

              Re: Double-fail

              "I'm the AC from 12:48, and I stand by my statement."

              OK, I apologise for the tone and have retracted my comments. My apologies to the OP as well. I accept that terminal velocity is directly proportional to the mass of the falling object - I went through the equations in the bathtub and figured it out - and I should have digested that before posting.

              Beer because I obviously need more of it. Thanks for your patience!

  4. Player_16

    This is why...

    ...you don't put phones in your top shirt pocket.

    1. Fred Flintstone Gold badge
      Joke

      No, no, no..

      .. parachute jumping <> visits to the bog. At least not for for those who choose to jump voluntarily..

    2. Gleb
      Devil

      This is only so true

      The one time I decide to wear a posh jacket and jump a few fences - well, that's when my iPhone 4, too decides it knows a shorter route down. That day I managed to crack the back on three separate occasions. I was about to mail his Holiness, about how it's his personal fault that iphones and top pockets don't work well together. But I decided to chug that up to good old user-error.

    3. Trygve Henriksen

      Top shirt pocket?

      But...

      This is a product from St. Steve, and all true believers know that the correct attire is a black turtleneck sweater, not a shirt.

      Therefore, anyone who drops his iPhone this way is not a true believer and really deserved to have his product taken away from him anyway!

  5. Neil 7
    FAIL

    Another one?

    How long until someone has their head stoved in by one of these wayward Jobsian flying machines? Maybe that would be news, but this article certainly isn't.

    As for the "ultradurable" glass - don't make me laugh, I've seen iPhone 4's smash their glass after being dropped just a few feet. Apple should be sued under trade description laws for claiming their product is ultradurable when clearly it's anything but and always comes off second best in a straight fight with concrete.

    If you want ultradurable - and not some made up nonsense from Cuppertino - get a Nokia, they use real Gorilla Glass on all their high end devices (inc. N9, N950).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Pint

      Really

      I was under the impression that Corning's "Gorilla Glass" and Apple's aluminosilicate screens where made in very similar ways, it's just that one has marketed it as a product to other manufacturers who want a tough screen and the other has their own which they use exclusively themselves in their own products.

      1. Neil 7

        @Really

        Gorilla Glass can survive a drop on to a hard surface, Apple's "aluminosilicate screens" cannot, therefore they are not in any way, shape or form, the same (or even similar, except that they're both glass of course).

        If Apple had to substantiate their claims of how tough their glass actually is, they'd surely fail as there is plenty of evidence around the web that confirms it is as fragile as regular glass and is certainly not anything special, and is nothing like Gorilla Glass.

  6. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    It is of course illegal

    to permit anything other than fine sand or pure water to leave an aircraft in flight - and a parachute is considered an aircraft. This guy will no doubt be having words with the relevant authorities.

    The story should rather have been 'factory workers in near miss'. What's the terminal velocity of an iphone?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    And if an Android phone had fallen?

    I guess it would've broken into a thousand pieces on its way down, infringed a few fundamental patents, had some malware remotely installed onto it, accidentally sniffed a few Wi-Fi networks, blatantly copied Apple, and ultimately disappeared into dust (just after sending your personal information to a server in China).

  8. Tricky Dicky
    Devil

    Advertising Opportunity

    I am old enough to remember the Timex adverts, maybe Apple will reinvent them.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Coat

      What's the terminal velocity of an iphone?

      It depends on whether it's laden with malware.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Facepalm

      Parachute

      " It is of course illegal to permit anything other than fine sand or pure water to leave an aircraft in flight "

      Then how can a parachute leave the aircraft ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Facepalm

        short attention span

        Read the next 7 words...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Facepalm

          RE: short attention span

          Your next seven words suggest that a parachutist can *also* only drop sand or water. But you're still making it sound like you'd not be allowed to parachute from an aircraft.

          You didn't list a parachute as an exception - just that it's classified as an aircraft.

      2. Neil Barnes Silver badge

        There's an exception for parachutes

        But you have to have the appropriate certification for the plane.

        To be honest, I never fly (paraglider) without a phone - but it's in a fitted and velcroed pocked on my flight suit. Come to think of it, the one time I did pile in - wing collapse at 70 feet, bounced six feet into the air - it came out of it a damn sight better than I did. Though it was of course a Nokia.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Coat

      @Neil Barnes

      'What's the terminal velocity of an iphone?'

      African or European?

    4. Anonymouslemming

      You're wrong

      In the US it is legal to jump with objects that you intend to release. This is how raft jumps happen.

    5. Dorobuta
      Linux

      Can you cite the relevant FARs?

      Can you cite the relevant FARs on anything other than sand or water?

      Having been involved in a number of rescue drops of food, clothing, radios, first aid gear, as well as a few flour bombing competitions, I'd like to hear about this absolute set of rules.

    6. Robert E A Harvey
      Coat

      Old enough

      ...and the Donald Campbell coda

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    even if your phone is screwed up.

    the part where the government can spy on your location still works.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Angel

    Biblical

    Would have been more of a story if you drop [sic] the iPhone from the title "Skydiver plumets 13,500 feet - and lives".

    However, I believe what we have here is the begins of a new religion and this will be one of many miracles ascribed to St Jobs in years to come. The biblical parallels are already there. IPhones one to four are in fact John the Baptist phones and herald the even greater iPhone that is yet to come.

  11. skeptical i

    If true, that's pretty impressive ...

    ... considering how much kit goes kerblooey if you even THINK of giving it the stink eye.

    1. Patrick R
      Angel

      It was written.

      What's next ? "iPhone seen walking on water"?

      1. Trygve Henriksen

        You mean...

        Skipping on water...

        Get the right spin and enough force and it should skip at least 6 or 7 times...

  12. Anthony 13
    Facepalm

    Well I can confirm...

    ... an uncased iPhone does NOT survive a 25 story drop down an elevator shaft ... I should have had me one of those cases it seems.

  13. JimC Silver badge

    Not that suprising.

    Its light, it has a large surface area. The terminal velocity isn't going to be that great. It would certainly be tumbling like a falling leaf going down. It probably wouldn't get any faster after about the first 50 or 100 feet or something in that region. I wouldn't want it falling on my head, but it may not have hit that hard.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Mushroom

    So

    My E90 would have gone through the roof.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remarkable result, that's for sure!

    BUT.......... 130 feet would probably not have been any different to 13,000 - the phone would hit the ground at same speed (given its terminal speed).

  16. Winkypop Silver badge
    Joke

    iFell

    ...and lived to Tweet about it.

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Meh

    Consumer Reports impartial?

    Consumer Reports impartial? They seem to just jump on any anti-Apple story perhaps to get a few headlines / links?

  18. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Why?

    Why take the phone with him? What I have seen of skydiving on TV, he couldn't use it on the plane because of the noise, (don't know about the legal aspect of having mobile on a skydiving plane).

    Was he waiting for an important call and going to answer it on the way down?

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Trollface

    Hmm.... Interesting...

    My nokia got run over by a (fairly hefty) lorry and guess what, I could still make calls (keypad ftw). He couldn't.

    Nyah nyah nyah and all that...

    1. Anonymouslemming

      I always carry a phone

      If you have an off landing (land away from the designated landing area) it's nice to have a phone with you to be able to call the DZ and let them know that you're still alive.

    2. InITForTheMoney

      Likely because it hit the sides of the shaft...

      A falling object that experiences a single impact as it hits the ground is likely to fare better than a falling object which bounces off the sides of a solid concrete lift shaft several times. Also there is no mention as to the type of roofing on the factory. A tin or lead lined flat roof for example would probably have some give and would deform easier than the iPhone, likely lessening the force of the impact. A concrete roof on the other hand would deform less easily than the iPhone and probably have dessimated it.

      A slanted or curved roof would also have been more forgiving providing a sort of skimming effect for the phone (as opposed to a straight bounce as the heaviest corner of the phone hit the flat roof), allowing more of the energy to be absorbed over a greater surface.

  20. Fred Flintstone Gold badge

    I'm astonished..

    My (somewhat older) iPhone gives me "no SIM" the moment I as much as *think* about knocking it. Maybe I'll buy a newer model after all. But then again, I might wait for the iPhone 5 - buy only the odd numbers. After all, I do use Linux :-).

  21. CraPo
    Gimp

    @ac 07:27

    Sometimes skydivers land off of the intended area and a phone is handy to arrange a pick up or help in the unlikely event of injury. He was probably playing Angry Birds on the way up. Or texting. Skydiving aircraft are generally a little less sophisticated than commercial jets so having a phone on is not so much of an issue. Also probably too lazy to switch it off/to aircraft mode each time.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      fair enough...

      didn't think of after the landing! My only experience of skydiving is watching it on the TV, or at air shows

      Thanks

      ac 7:27

  22. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Goes to show...

    that an iPhone is as good as a Timex. Takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

  23. Sampler

    Here was I hoping..

    He'd left the camera recording - that'd been an awesome bit of footage!

    1. ukbabz

      Cameras are durable

      Check out the go-pro... there's a few bits of footage of them getting knocked off and recording til impact and after..

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a6mXMRJmQas

      (This one looks like it was knocked off the canopy opens so will have fallen around 3,000ft..)

  24. The BigYin

    I see...

    ...an opportunity. The "iChute" case. A bit bulky, but if the phone detect free-fall it deploys the chute and comes down safely, also sending SMS updates to a designated phone of its current position.

  25. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

      Maybe Stephen Fry's explanation of GPS was used

      init?

  26. Sargs
    Trollface

    Product Placement Much?

    Let's see- ignoring the iPhone, iPad and "Find My Phone" mentions, we have prominent references and links for FORD F150 RAPTOR and INCIPIO CASE, neither of which added much to the understanding of the story, although maaaaybe they added to someone's bank balance?

    Okay, perhaps the case link is useful if you want to know what case not to use next time you go sky-diving?

  27. Nick Galloway
    Facepalm

    Was is the ground height?

    So 13,500 feet!?

    I assume this is above mean sea level and if so, what is the hight of the ground above mean sea level, not to mention it fell at some point in the downward transit. The bloke should be charged for endangering those on the ground (as noted by others, what if someone had been struck by the falling lump of Apple)!

    I must note that only in the USA would someone brag about being a complete pillock!

    Why do you want or need a mobile phone during a sky dive event. Some people are truly addicted to their technology 'toys'. It will be idiots wil falling iPads next, you mark my words!

  28. yoinkster
    Thumb Down

    13,500ft ... or less

    The article seems to suggest that at some point during the descent the phone fell out of this guy's pocket because it says he checked his pockets when he was safely on the ground. So basically, the phone could've easily fallen from just 100ft as the bloke has no idea when he actually dropped it. I was hoping to see him saying "as I jumped out the plane I saw my phone disappear off" but no, all we know is that at some point it squirmed away.

    Not quite as exciting a story as it could've been.

    1. Alex King
      Paris Hilton

      Apart from...

      The fact that he was a quarter of a mile away from his phone when he landed, so if it had been dropped from only 100 feet he would then have had to travel very sideways from that point onwards. Even if there's some exaggeration, he missed the factory roof. Perhaps this will regain you some level of excitement...

      1. yoinkster
        FAIL

        ahem ...

        "his iPhone was LESS than a quarter mile away." (my emphasis)

        so still not all that exciting or accurate a story.

    2. dssf

      "Why do you want or need a mobile phone during a sky dive event?"

      If any others jumped with him, they might know whether it was really mounted as a helmet cam. It might be unlikely that he actually held it, since eventually he'd have to become "unmesmerised" and concentrate on landing more than on shooting footage.

      If the FAA or relevant bodies can get ahold of the phone and determine whether it was used to dock or tele transmit jump footage, THEN he'd have some serious answering to do -- especially if it as determined the footage was hand-held rather than helmet or chest mounted.

      Do drafts of air actually get into pockets? Don't jumpers were jump suits and check each other's gear and pockets? Maybe he had it Velcro'd on and the wind finally ripped it off in a gust...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Stop

        You'd be suprised

        We are quite strict in this country over requirements to jump camera. In america the approch is more scatter guns, with some Dropzones wanting a minimum no. of jumps some dont care... Anyway thats besides the point.

        I dont understand why the FAA would care whether its in his hands or not. In the US this isnt an issue.

        My guess is he had it in his pocket and forgot to zip it up - either within his jump suit or not.

        Skydivers don't wear airproof suits so the "drafts" of air can get into your pockets and work things out (also the decelartion from 120mph* odd -> 20mph*)

        So in summary:

        - Yes he can jump with objects in his hands

        - Yes he could have had it in his pocket and worked out

        - Some skydivers do jump in jumpsuits, although its a bit nicer this time of year to wear shorts and t-shirts.

        *120mph figure is approximate and may vary due to the fatness of ones arse.. the 20mph depends on the size of canopy..

  29. Anonymous Coward
    WTF?

    Missing...

    Lots of mockery for owning an iPhone, but nobody has yet to point out the absurd vehicle the guy owned.

    FordTESTOSTERONE!

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Unhappy

    It is Incipio that should take credit...

    The Incipio case clearly absorbed sufficient energy to break before transferring the remainder to the phone. If it had been a naked iPhone, it would've been toast.

    Sorry. Bad reporting. Bad!

  31. Tom 7 Silver badge

    13.5 thousand shmousand

    Given the said phone reaches terminal velocity after a couple of hundred feet - I've seen them in a worse state after a trip down a stairwell - its not really an 'achievement'.

    Repeat the same in a vacuum and get back to me.

    1. Rob - Denmark
      Coat

      Agree on the terminal velocity thingy, but...

      Probably not a lot of skydiving being done in vacuums.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Coat

    Jobs proves Newtons Theory of Gravity

    Nice to see after hundred of years someone has recreated the "Apple falling from a height" experiment made famous by Sir Isaac Newton.

    Next they'll be trying to tell us that E does equal MC2

  33. Maty

    case?

    Looking at the case - flat one side, rounded edges on the other - it is probable that falling a considerable distance actually helped.

    A longer fall would give the phone time to stabilize from a tumble, and the shape suggests that it would have completed the fall face up in something between a spin and a spiral. Given the amount of surface area involved I doubt air resistance allowed anything like full terminal velocity to be reached.

  34. Christian Berger Silver badge

    When will Apple sue?

    After all he destroyed Apple's property.

    On the other hand. Falling down is a typical use of a mobile device. It should have been designed to withstand that.

  35. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    That's pretty fuc*king impressive!!!

    Nice build, although I understood "Gorilla Glass" could take anything.

    Oh, Mama, that's seriously good!!!!

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Gimp

    Will it bounce?

    Bet that wouldn't work with an Ipad/Ipad2.

    On the flip side, that would have made one AWESOME video from the phone's POV.

    :-)

    AC/DC

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Holmes

    Blah, blah, blah

    I've seen people throw eggs out of planes from 10,000 feet. Guess what? Most cracked but some of them survived. A lot of it depends on how it lands, where it lands and how the force is distributed through the object. People have fallen from this height - when the reserve parachute failed to open and survived with fairly minor injuries. The fact that his iPhone still lives is not a Jesus phone miracle, just a bit of lady luck.

    @ AC 11:26 - I think there was a joke in there, but you do know the whole Apple-Newton story is cobblers? I'd hate to see the inventor of the milled edge coin tarred with an Apple cloured brush.

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