We've probably all been there at some point. Whether our fingers slip while we're trying to walk and dig a phone out of a bag at the same time, or we get a bit over-excited when watching the football and send our handset flying, that sinking feeling as it falls to the ground will be familiar to anyone who owns a prized and costly gadget.
If we're lucky, we can breath a sigh of relief when we examine the gadget and realise it's fine. All is well and the panic is over. But what if you're not so fortunate and the surface it landed on wasn't as soft as you hoped?
This can leave you having to deal with a phone with a spiderweb of cracks across the screen until you're due your next upgrade – or worse, costly repairs if the phone turns out to be unusable.
What's at risk?
Any handheld gadget needs to be looked after carefully to minimise the risk of breakages, whether it's a phone, tablet or laptop. But did you know that your choice of phone can be a factor in determining how likely it is be to be damaged?
A recent study by SquareTrade found that it's Apple owners who are most likely to live in fear of a mishap, because three of the top five most breakable gadgets were made by the fruit-themed manufacturer. The brand's tests examined the design and construction of each device, as well as subjecting them to a dunk in water and a drop from height on to concrete, before the gadgets were given a breakability score – with higher numbers indicating more fragility.
Top of the list was the iPad mini with a score of 7.5, while the slimline iPad Air was third (6.5) and the iPhone 5C fifth (six). But before fans of other big brands get too smug – Samsung owners, we're looking at you – it should be pointed out Apple products weren't the only ones to fare poorly.
In fact, the Samsung Galaxy S4 and its older cousin the S3 took second and fourth place respectively, with the Galaxy Tab 3 coming in seventh, just behind the first-generation Nexus 7.
Insulate your phone from harm
What the results might show is that no matter what brand you've got, you can't guarantee it'll be safe if dropped – though Apple and Samsung owners in particular might be handling their devices with a little more care. Therefore, it will be prudent for any gadget owner – whether they have a smartphone, tablet, MP3 player or anything else – to take steps to protect their precious possessions.
One great way to do this is by insulating your device in a protective case that's able to absorb the shock of an impact – and the good news here is that no matter what you own, there's bound to be something to fit it.
If you're an iPhone owner worried by SquareTrade's tests, for instance, we've got cases in a range of materials and styles, such as our iPhone 5/5S Leather Case with Carbon Fibre Lining that combines toughness with a luxurious, stylish design.
For fashion-conscious butterfingers, we've also got cases by names such as Ted Baker, Barbour and NAF NAF, while if you prefer the personal touch, you can also customise your case with your own images.
If you're expecting to head into the great outdoors, a waterproof case might also be a great idea, as there's nothing more likely to damage a smartphone that an unexpected dip into a lake or river – unless you've invested in a device such as the Sony Xperia Z, which promises water resistance as a matter of course.
What if the worst happens?
While a good, strong case can protect your device from most accidents, sometimes even the most prudent phone or tablet owner might drop it so hard or far that it's still damaged. So what can you do to lessen the blow on your wallet, if not the ground?
There are a lot of companies now offering specialist mobile phone insurance, so this may be something to consider. However, it won't be for everyone though. If your phone is brand-new, expensive and locked into a long-term contract, having protection can be a great idea – especially if you have a history of klutziness. But if you're careful and using an older device, it might end up working out cheaper to pay for any repairs/replacements.
Another option is to ask your home insurance provider if they have an option to include portable gadgets. This can be a cheaper way to get coverage, but the downside is your home insurance premium might go up at renewal if you've made a claim – so some people may prefer to keep this separate.
Whether you go for a home or specialist insurance option though, it's important you know exactly what your device will and won't be covered for – water damage and general carelessness are two of the most common exclusions, so make sure you read the small print.