What is MIL-SPEC Drop Protection?

Uneven smartphone surrounded by rocks
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If you are looking for an uneven case for your phone or tablet, you may have seen the terms MIL-SPEC or MIL-STD. But what do they mean? This is a simple standard, but its appearance on the product packaging is a complex issue.

What does MIL-SPEC mean?

These terms may sound fancy, but in reality, they are quite simple. All MIL-SPEC and MIL-STD means that a given product is designed according to the details that come from a long document detailing the MIL-STD-810G standard.

How long have we been talking? The document is 800 pages long and details many tests covering everything from solar radiation to “acidic environments”. When it comes to protecting our phones and tablets, however, the most important thing we think of is Method 516.6 Method IV, which is detailed in the standard. It covers drop testing.

For example, if you see MIL-STD-810G or MIL-SPEC listed in the iPad case, you will know that it is specifically talking about drop testing.

MIL-STD-810G is the latest version of the document, which was updated in 2012. Earlier, the manufacturers tested against the MIL-STD-810F standard. If you see it in a modern phone, tablet or case, you should probably avoid it because it has been tested against a standard that is almost 10 years old.

MIL-STD testing explained.

MIL-STD testing has little to do with any type of military. As we mentioned above, it comes from a publicly available document that outlines the testing methodology.

This does not mean that when you see the MIL-STD-810G on an uneven phone or case it is mentioned that a military agency has tested the device. This does not mean that any standard equipment has been used in the test. It simply means that a manufacturer designed a product to theoretically test this type of test.

For many manufacturers, this also means that they test their products according to the method described in the MIL-STD-810G standard. This does not mean that any product that the manufacturer tests in this way will actually stand up to heavy use.

In fact, looking at the MIL-STD-810G badge does not mean that a manufacturer has ever tested a product. It simply means that the manufacturer intended a product to avoid these tests. There is no actual product testing organization to verify these claims.

What is involved in MIL-STD-810G testing?

Method 516.6 MIL-STD-810G Standard Method IV is specific to how a manufacturer should test a given product. Specifically, the test outlines a 26-drop test procedure, ensuring that testers drop the product on every face, every edge, and every corner.

The test goes further, outlining the type of surface that should be used for the drop test. Specifically, the drop test surface should consist of two inches thick plywood based on concrete.

Again, no government agency or military agency actually goes around regulating how manufacturers approach these tests. All you have to do is say the word manufacturer.

Can you trust the word of the manufacturers on testing?

Urban Armor Gear Monarch iPhone Case
Urban Armor Gear

Since there are no governing body testing phones, tablets, cases or other devices to ensure that they meet the MIL-STD-810G drop test standards, you only have the manufacturer Has data. But how reliable are they?

It varies from manufacturer to manufacturer, but there are two things to focus on. First of all, how much information do they offer about their testing methods? Second, what kind of warranty do they offer?

Some manufacturers are more forthcoming than others when it comes to how they test. For example, UAG has this to say about its testing method:

UAG cases have been specifically certified military grade by the NEBS Certified Testing Laboratory. To achieve this certification, a device must be dropped 26 times from a height of 48 inches on each face, corner and back. The device should work properly after the test so that no damage is done to the screen.

Note that the company does not specify the type of surface used in the drop test. That said, it’s still more informative than what other manufacturers offer.

Lastly, note that the warranty offered by the phone and tablet case manufacturers only covers the case. If the case fails and your phone or tablet is damaged as a result, you are out of luck.

Related: Should You Purchase an Extended Warranty?

What about IP ratings?

On many rugged phones and tablets, you’ll see IP ratings like IP57 or IP68, for example. Here, IP stands for “English Protection”, and these standards are designed by the International Electrotechnical Commission. It has absolutely nothing to do with MIL-SPEC or MIL-STD testing.

The toughest devices are going to see a lot of tough conditions, so it only makes sense that manufacturers would test against different standards. That said, the MIL-STD-810G drop test device and case used by manufacturers has nothing to do with water proofing.

Again, just because your device has an IP rating doesn’t mean it’s actually waterproof.

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