Military Grade Protection - The Biggest Lie in Phone Case Industries?

military grade protection phone case is a lie

Finally, you received your brand new iPhone 7 Plus. You are so much fascinated with its surprisingly beauty and style that you are eager to protect it with a good phone cover.

Then you hurriedly search for a case at Apple Store, Amazon, eBay, or any gadgets stores nearby your home or wherever. You will stop at a case that written "military grade protection" or "MIL-STD", being told that how great this case is. That sounds incredibly cool! You cannot wait to buy it because you know your phone needs protection right now.

But wait. What's that? What's MIL-STD protection? What's military protection grade phone case? Do you really need that?

1.What’s Military Grade Protection and Its Test Method?

So I search at Wikipedia and here is what I found. Military grade protection, referring to United States Military Standard, is usually called a military standard, "MIL-STD", "MIL-SPEC" for short, which is the standardization objectives by United States Department of Defense. Particularly in phone case industries, military grade currently refers to MIL-STD-810G, which was issued on Oct 31st, 2008. It is a series of tests on equipment with its "tailoring environmental design and test limits to the conditions that it will experience throughout its service life”, addressing a range of 29 methods including pressure, temperature, humidity, vibration, shock, gunfire shock, etc.

So which methods should be applied to a certain product? According to Wiki, these methods are not mandatory, but rather the appropriate method is selected and tailored to generate the most relevant test data possible. It points out:

"MIL-STD is not a fixed but flexible standard that enables users to tailor test methods to match the application, that's to say, a vendor's claim of being in compliance to MIL-STD-810G can be misleading. Suppliers are able to, or some are, take significant latitude with how to test their products and how to report the test results. When queried whether they take real tests, those commercial vendors just replied that their product is designed in accordance with the military standard, though no testing has actually been done because most of the test methods in MIL-STD-810G bear expensive costs or need special facilities."

Interesting, right? That means, whenever you buy a "rugged" product with a nicely designed "MIL-STD" logo, the ruggedness can be vary. It means an "MIL-STD certified" product may not be as durable as you expected. And this is why when applying to "military standard ruggedized" consuming products, Wiki suggests consumers verify which test methods that compliance is commanded and which parameter limits were chosen for testing. If some testing was actually implemented, the commercial vendors should clarify three points:

  1. Which test methods of the standard the compliance is claimed against
  2. Which specific parameter limits the items were really tested to
  3. Whether the testing was done internally or externally by an independent testing facility."

Then let's go further on the phone cases with "MIL-Grade" protection. What tests methods do those brands apply on their cases?

2."We Make Military Grade Protection Phone Case"

we make military grade protection phone case

The answer is MIL-STD-810G 516.6, or nothing.

To avoid confusing, let's find out what is MIL-STD-810G 516.6 first. According to the official documents of MIL-STD-810G, it is one of the 29 testing methods for MIL-STD-810G, including eight procedures:

Procedure I-Functional Shock,
Procedure II-Materiel to be packaged,
Procedure III-Fragility,
Procedure IV-Transit Drop,
Procedure V-Crash Hazard Shock Test,
Procedure VI-Bench Handling,
Procedure VI-Pendulum Impact
Procedure VIII-Catapult Launch/ Arrested Landing,

In addition, of all procedures above, manufacturers could select a single test procedure, a combination, or a sequence of procedures. In most cases, one or more procedures will be applied. When talking about the "drop tests" for phone cases, it means the Procedure IV-Transit Drop, which is taken to measure how well an equipment or a device can endure the impacts after being dropped from a certain height (usually 112cm or 4ft. for phone covers) with different hard-surface for 26 times.

Yes, it is 26 drops from 112cm or 4ft.! Now you get something that sounds wired from your expectation? The tests are not that "challenging" as they sound like, right?

Just Google "MIL-STD phone cases", and you would be returned with a list of the military grade protection phone cases, such as OtterBox, SpeckProducts, Zazzle, Urban Armor Gear and more. Let's see how they advertise their "MIL-STD" certifications:

"The case is rigorously tested to meet MIL STD 810G-516.6, a third-party test that drops the case on all faces, edges and corners from four feet", says OtterBox.
"Spigen Cases Now Certified MIL-STD 810G-516.6 Military-Level Protection", yells Spigen.
"The MIL-STD-810G U.S. Military Standard used to test the Speck protective Candy Shell cases involves a series of 26 hard-surface drops from multiple heights", falters Speck.
See? Even though it is not that "challenging", when talking about the tests for MIL-STD, it is just a short descriptions less than 50 words. None clarifies the key points of tests (methods&parameter limits&tests lab) as a complete test report does, which could be critical for the clients looking for rugged products.

OtterBox says it's tested to meet MIL STD 810G-516.6, it never states how many drops they have done; Spigen yells it certified MIL-STD-810G 516.6, it tells you nothing; Speck falters it used The MIL-STD-810G U.S. Military Standard, the height of their "26 hard-surface drops" is unknown.

The only exemption we got here is UAG:

"Urban Armor Gear Cases are approved by Met Laboratories, Inc., a NEBS Certified testing laboratory. This testing confirms devices protected by UAG cases are compliant with MIL-STD-810G 516.6. To achieve this certification, a device must be dropped from a height of 48 inches, on each face, corner, and back. The device has dropped a total of 26 times and must function properly after the test, while not sustaining any damage to the touch screen."


It is the only brand I found, who tells their clients what tests they have done and who did those tests. Even though, a product survives from 26 drops from 48inches may be not as rugged as you imagined.

3. The conclusion

falling phone

Yep, you need a case for your phone. You need it to protect your phone from drops, scratches, scrapes, etc. Definitely, for the sellers, it is the easiest way to build awareness by boasting of "super protective". However, when you are attracted by "MIL-STD protection", be careful. It is probably a misleading delusion. A "military grade" phone case is probably not as protective as you imagined, or, for some of them, even means nothing if they have never done any tests accordingly. Remember any producers could put that logo legally on the package without any reliable tests. And this is why most of the "MIL-STD" protection cases are carrying with a nicely designed "MIL-STD" logo without explaining what does it mean. It makes consumers excited without questioning what it is.

Now back to the situation at the beginning of this article: you have a new phone, and you find a case with an "MIL-STD" logo on the package, where says tests of 26 drops from 4 feet height were applied. Then, is that protection that you really need? Or what is the protection you actually need? We will talk about it in the coming weeks.


About the Author

Love of tea, movies, video games, and writing. I've been writing hundreds of online articles over the past few years, mainly about technology. If I'm not writing, you can probably find me reading or playing video games.

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