Nexus 5 screen hairline crack result of a design flaw?

    We compared the Nexus 5 to the iPhone 5 and noticed a seemingly minor design difference in the speaker cutout. Did it lead to a cracked screen?

    Nexus 5 is Google’s best pure Android phone yet. I like just about everything LG has done with the design (save for that odd camera lens bump on the rear that conspires to keep the phone from sitting flat on a surface). The price–only $349 unlocked–is especially sweet. But recently I discovered a potential design flaw.

    A few weeks back i noticed a tiny, hairline fracture in the screen:

    Nexus 5 Cracked Screen

    In these photos it looks immediately obvious (especially now that it has worsened over the past two weeks). In person though, using the Nexus 5 day-to-day, it is harder to notice. I had never dropped the phone. Almost always kept it in a protective case. So why a crack?

    Over the weekend we hosted a small BBQ. Being in Silicon Valley, there was at least one or two engineers and product designers on hand. I asked them to take a look at it. A consensus formed that the speaker cutout (that small circle with grill) was not reinforced properly and could be a point of weakness, potentially exacerbating the formation of cracks in the screen.

    We compared the Nexus 5 to an iPhone 5 (no shortage on hand, me and my Android were vastly outnumbered yet again). The iPhone 5 speaker cutout was reinforced was a beveled edge, that would, I’m told, provide relief when pressure was applied to the screen. It was an interesting, apparently minor, design discrepancy between Apple and LG (who manufactured the Nexus 5 for Google).

    LG Nexus 5 Design Flaw with Screen Speaker

    Was a faulty design of the speaker ultimately the cause of the fracture?

    Who knows. I have a theory that just having the phone in my pocket creates pressure, especially when I’m seated. A certain amount of flexing could be enough to crimp the display ever so slightly, resulting in the crack you see here. If that’s the case, then, that’s surely a design flaw – after all, we store phones in our pockets all the time.

    Regardless, I’ve been using Android phones since 2009–OG Droid, Galaxy Nexus, Nexus 4, Nexus 5–and this is the first time I’ve had any issue whatsoever with a screen. It’s a bit of a bugger because I like selling my handsets annually, and upgrading to the next great Android. I have read of others who have complained about the fragile build quality of the Nexus 5. This would appear to be one more example. Part of me believes this would never happen with something like, say, the magnificently built HTC One (or even the tank that was the 2009 Moto Droid for that matter).

    Being under warranty I decided to call Google.

    They connected me (efficiently and without drama) to LG. Any warranty claim was a dead end, however. I would need to pay for the repair, shipping/handling. Not to mention, I’d be without a phone in the meantime. I can understand that screen cracks, and physical damage not being covered under warranty; I suggested that since I had not dropped the Nexus 5, that the resulting hair line fracture was not my fault, and likely a design flaw as pointed out by my colleagues. No dice.

    The LG customer service rep noted that the existing screen damage could get worse over time. He said it could also lead to other malfunctions. I wonder if that’s why the GPS performance has been flaky in recent days?

    LG Nexus 5

    Sure enough, I notice the crack getting slightly bigger. And, most recently, there’s significant damage starting to incur at the left edge, perhaps due to the now weakened structural integrity.

    This bugaboo aside I’ve been quite pleased with the Nexus 5. It’s fast, slim and trim (to a fault?), and runs KitKat like a charm. Battery life could be better. And, as it turns out, build quality too. Maybe the gadget Gods are telling me something… Upgrade. Upgrade. Upgrade. Hmmm, no shortage of choices these days. Samsung Galaxy S5. The new HTC One. And, my favorite to date, the intriguing new OnePlus One (running a Cyanogenmod ROM).

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    • Fabian Pineda

      I… don’t know how I even popped up on this page to begin with, but I think it’s pretty irresponsible to claim a design flaw exists in the phone and call it out publicly without evidence to back it up. Unless we count the criteria of “one or two engineers” who didn’t even go into the phone.

      I’m not saying I’m questioning the criteria of your engineers, but I question the criteria of your engineers on this specific case.

      • dleyba

        Engineers break stuff and then study what caused it to break. That is how you find flaws. That is like engineering 101. I totally agree that it is a design flow. The edge of the screen is a sharp corner that is exposed and it takes very minimal to no pressure to break.

        • Fabian Pineda

          I must have missed the part where the… engineers… went into the phone, tore it apart and found this flaw. All I saw was a guy telling the story of how two other guys casually concluded something with no studying and no evidence… Maybe we read different articles you and I.

          • dleyba

            “tore it apart and found this flaw” ? Seriously? With that logic you would rebuild an engine in a car to fix/examine a scratch on the back bumper. The edge of the screen is exposed, no need to take anything apart. It is plain as day.

            He didn’t squeeze it. I guarantee something probably just tapped the exposed edge of the screen and cracked it. That is what happened to mine. I had it resting on my chest and lifted one end less than 2 inches and to see a notification and then let it drop back down, literally less than 2 inches, the screen barely hit the zipper on my pull over and bam. I was extremely shocked at what it took to crack the screen. When you have a screen that will crack from a slight tap, that is definitely a design flaw. I promise that this can be recreated very very easily too.

            • Fabian Pineda

              Oh dear God… You seriously just compared a phone to a car? That’s… wow…

              I think I’m done here, I’m not seeing how I’ll find intelligent comments from you after this…

            • dleyba

              Look here Pinata, you were done the second you opened your mouth. Since you didn’t understand the basics of engineering I kind of figured I would do a simple comparison to explain the error of your line of thought. I did it in a way even you would get, but I guess I was wrong.

              You are not commenting on the content of what I said but trying to attack my intelligence, Soo….. I think your comment is just to get the last word in, hear yourself speak, or maybe make yourself feel better.

            • dleyba

              We all love you Fabian Pinata!

    • Nitish Agarwal

      It’s not just the speaker issue, the whole screen is a problem. Drop it from 1 feet and it breaks, keep it screen down on a table it breaks, actually, you will never come to know how the screen developed the hairline. Test this out- Go to LG Customer Service Department, tell them your phone’s screen is broken and voila, they will guess your model correctly. That is the extent of screen breakage problem with nexus 5.

    • Rick Rimes

      Wow, that photo looks identical to my Nexus 5. I did happen to drop my phone though…with a case on it from a distance of about 6 inches. It was not a fall to the ground, it literally slipped out of my hand on to a hard surface 6 inches away. Come to think of it, it landed on the bottom edge of the phone yet it cracked in the very same spot as yours. Of course I had to pay for the repair since I dropped it, but you bring up an interesting thought about the design. Thanks.

    • Omid Amani

      The phone has clearly been dropped!
      The beginning of the crack you can see the dent mark in the corner of the screen which has obviously caused the phone’s crack.

      If you took this into a phone shop and said this is a design floor they would laugh at you.

    • Sreenath Narasinga

      There is another problem in this nexus 5.. when the phone rings the dial screen does not spear and we will not knowing who is ringing

    • Dylan White

      I love my n5 I’ve had no problems with it what so ever best phone IMO but since you said yours has a hairline crack and it has never been dropped the edge of the phone wouldn’t have the missing glass like that its obviously been dropped

    • davinci..

      This reads as, I dropped my phone and cracked it, and will now write articles claiming a design flaw to pressure Google/LG to replace my phone.

    • WarRaven

      I drive a tow truck, N5 in my front pocket every day since release, no problem.
      Me thinks, you squeezed it between finger an thumb a little hard once or twice pulling it from your skinny jeans pocket, also being you’d have stronger hands then myself being a website writer and all.


      To add, few other drivers I know use a N5 without a crack, but every iPhone I’ve saw, is cracked, go figure.

    • Eric

      I had exact same issue. After 10 years of owning mobile phones I had never cracked a screen until Nexus 5. I definitely think you are on to something.

    • Boston Farmacy

      I work in construction and I don’t use a case I’m a fan of the way the phone feels in general but man I have tossed dropped my N5 and never had a problem but one of my employees gone thru 2 iPhone from pressure in his pocket maybe there’s a lot of things that could crack a screen so many pressure points or maybe it was a faulty phone the was manufactured badly which I seen from all OEMs including Google products and Apple products. Your the first to see complaining about this I wait to see if this is happening a lot then I would believe your theory also suggest a glass screen protector for any phone the screen protector will break first before your screen on the phone

    • dleyba

      I know exactly how the hairline fracture happened and it is definitely a design flaw. I have never dropped my phone. I don’t drop phones hardly at all. I take very close care of my phone since I don’t like using cases.

      Case Study:
      My phone has the very same fracture. It occurred when I laid it on my chest. The bottom edge was already resting on my chest and I let the top end go to drop on my very soft top. The very edge of the screen barely caught zipper and produced a very similar crack that starts from the top of the phone, then goes down and to the right. I bet this could be recreated very very easily with hardly any pressure. My screen cracked because of I let the top part of the phone, w/ the bottom edge resting on my chest, drop less than 2 inches.

      I did not have this same problem with my Nexus 4 since the edges were more rounded. This is a definite design flaw. I would highly suggest getting a bumper case that covers up the exposed edge.

    • thestupidelement

      This phone was dropped. Don’t claim you haven’t dropped it. The cracked started from the side, that’s why there are missing glass pieces

    • Jme Wink

      I will have to upload pictures of mine later. It has to be 100% a design flaw. I have a “pressure crack” from the inside screen of my phone. It has never been dropped, nor is there any damage to the outside of the phone. I was told by LG I text too hard. Meanwhile, my phone is ALWAYS in the vertical position, and the “crack” is on the top right hand of the screen. My theory is a connection with the power button. Overall, I’ve loved the Nexus since first generation, and I’m VERY disappointed by this phone. I had it for 2 months before this. Still a brand new phone! :(

    • Mo

      my phone is all cracked up … it was in my pocket with my keys .. nexus 4 didnt seem to have this issue but my screen looks like a truck ran over it.. this phone is a piece of shit

    • Kristian Benoit

      I have the same problem, a line starting from the speaker, but ending at the bottom. The phone had the official google bumper case when the crack appeared. This really seems like a design flaw. See the photo