Why do phones land face down?

A physicist working at Motorola actually did this experiment as part of a promotional push for shatter-proof screens. This same physicist had previously written a paper on the same question, applied to the classic "buttered toast" problem (does toast really land butter side down?).

The short answer is: the way the phone lands depends on how it is oriented when it leaves your hand. People tend to hold their phones the same way: face up, at an angle, fingers on either side, slightly below the phone's center of gravity, at just about chest-high. The phone also tends to "fall" the same way: slips out of your hand and you fumble slightly trying to catch it.

Given all those parameters, when the phone drops out of your hand, it typically flips over a half a revolution by the time it contacts ground. If you were holding the phone flat, or upside down, or lower to the ground, the result would be different. But given the relative uniformity of the way people hold the phones, there's a corresponding relative uniformity in the way they land when dropped.

I think one of the commentators summed is up nicely, that you are more likely to forget the times when it lands face up.

It's a psychological phenomenon that Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons touch on in their book: "The Invisible Gorilla".

In short, it comes down to the fact that a phone falling face-down tends to be much more traumatic for the owner of said phone, and the mental trauma caused tends to leave a bigger impact on your memory. Whereas a phone landing face-up is quickly forgotten. Thinking back, one is therefore likely to only recall the phone falling face-down.

The answer by @KutuluMike gives a good reason.

Psychology can enter in the way one holds a phone even if not chest high to be given a half rotation. The crux is that the phone always faces out of the palm of the hand. It would be an unusual owner who would have the palm on the screen face, so even from low levels where rotation is not possible the probability of the palm letting go downwards is higher than on edge or back of phone.

Seldom a phone will be ejected from the palm ( falling downstairs?) in a random direction. If the palm faces up, the phone is safe, if down , as it is always held face out hitting with the face down is the most probable outcome.

So ultimately the answer to "why do phones land face down" is "Because they are held in the hand face up."