Smartphone Gets Injured
Our smartphones go everywhere with us—on errands, around our house, the beach, and more. These handy little devices help us complete a variety of tasks all day, every day.
Their utility is one of the reasons it’s so painful when our smartphone gets injured, such as a cracked or scratched screen. Another reason we wince is that it’s expensive to fix or replace them.
Fortunately, there are a variety of smartphone cases available to help protect the body of the phone from accidental falls. But what about the screen?
A cracked or shattered screen can make it hard to use your phone, even if the rest of it survived the fall. Have you ever watched someone trying to look past fracture lines on their screen to read an email or look at a picture of a loved one? It’s a painful sight.
Also, fixing a broken screen can be costly if your phone is no longer under warranty. The cost will vary based on your phone’s model, but the price to fix your screen can easily reach $100 or more.
Therefore, some people buy a screen protector to keep their phone’s screen damage-free. But, do screen protectors actually help prevent scratches from everyday objects or prevent your phone’s screen from shattering if you drop it?
What Are Screen Protectors?
Screen protectors are an accessory you can buy to cover your phone’s screen, primarily to protect it from scratches.
If you have an older smartphone—think 2013 or earlier—screen protectors were a must. At that time, the screen’s glass wasn’t able to withstand scratches from everyday use very well.
That said, newer smartphone models typically have screens made from Corning’s Gorilla Glass or other durable, scratch-resistant glass.
Newer versions of Corning’s Gorilla Glass can resist scratches from everyday metal objects like keys and coins and can withstand some types of drops. There is even a newer version, Gorilla Glass 6, that withstood up to 15 waist high drops during the company’s testing. Newer smartphones will likely start incorporating Gorilla Glass 6 soon.
These advances in the durability of the glass used for smartphones has led some to question whether screen protectors are still worth buying.
But, no glass can withstand all falls or scratches from all materials. Screens are likely to shatter when a phone’s corner takes the brunt of the impact from a fall. Unfortunately, this is a common way that a dropped phone hits the ground.
So, can a screen protector help?
Do Screen Protectors Work?
Screen protectors can help prevent your smartphone’s screen from being scratched and sometimes may help prevent a screen from being busted when dropped, particularly when it hits face down. However, protectors are less likely to help if a corner of your phone hits the ground first.
The protectors are adding another layer of protection to your phone’s screen, which is not a bad idea given how often smartphones phones are dropped. Ideally, the screen protector will fit your phone’s screen exactly, which also helps make it unnoticeable. Therefore, if you’re considering buying one, it’s important to find a style that is designed precisely for your phone’s model.
Additionally, even though smartphone screens today are made from highly scratch-resistant glass, some materials will scratch the glass. For example, sand or other materials with hard minerals in them, like quartz, can easily scratch screens. So, if you get sand in your pocket or purse, the sand will cause damage when it rubs against the screen. If you have a screen protector on, however, the screen would be protected from the sand.
But no screen protector can prevent all damage. Also, sometimes, the scratches that appear on a screen protector would not necessarily have scratched the phone’s glass.
How well a screen protector works will depend on the type used.
Types of screen protectors
A search on-screen protectors can quickly become overwhelming, given the variety of options and features available. Fortunately, protectors are relatively inexpensive, especially if you compare it to the cost of fixing or replacing your phone’s screen. So, it can be relatively inexpensive to switch to a different type if you don’t like the first style you picked.
Here are the most common types of screen protectors available.
Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)
PET screen protectors are a clear film of plastic that you apply to the screen of your phone. They’re often sold in packs, so you get more than one. This style protector can help prevent some scratches and drops.
They are light and thin, so you typically don’t notice them or feel them when using your phone. Most are designed so a smartphone case will fit over the edges of the film to help prevent dust from getting beneath it. These covers are easy to wipe clean.
On the downside, they often don’t provide as much scratch-resistant protection compared to tempered glass. Additionally, you have to be careful when applying them to prevent getting bubbles underneath, though some brands are designed to minimize bubbles.
Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)
These types of protectors are made from flexible plastic. They can fit from edge-to-edge on your phone. The edges typically fit under your case and have some self-healing abilities for minor scratches. Some people report feeling this type provides better protection than PET-style protectors, but there is no definitive research to date.
Unfortunately, some people find this style difficult to apply since it involves using a spray or liquid to wet-apply the cover. Some reviews indicate that this style can feel rubbery and have more finger drag when using the phone, which could interfere with some types of gaming. Some brands might yellow with time due to exposure to the sun and other elements.
However, some products, like the IQ Shield brand, report their protectors do not yellow and have a more natural feel.
Overall, most reports indicate tempered glass has the best durability and scratch-protection of available screen protectors since these products are thicker than the plastic film style.
A great company that produces vandal and bulletproof glass for buildings is Riot Glass. I just watched a YouTube video on their vandal-proof product with rioters trying to break through the building’s glass with concrete and they could not get through. So this is an incredible technology and they have a really informative article that explains “The Differences Between Laminated Glass & Tempered Glass”.
Additionally, tempered glass is very transparent and provides a clear display. It is sensitive to the touch and offers an experience similar to using your phone without a screen protector.
These products are easy to install and to keep clean. They come in a variety of sizes, so it’s important to find a product designed for your particular smartphone model.
However, while it does offer good scratch and drop protection, it can break due to a drop. Fortunately, tempered glass is designed to crumble into small pieces if it’s shattered so your original screen should be protected in those situations.
What Screen Protector Features Do You Need?
If you decide to buy a screen protector, you’ll see lots of terms describing different features such as oleophobic nano-coating, 9H hardness, and more. But, what features do you need and what do they mean?
- 9H Hardness is a test to see whether a 9H pencil will scratch the screen. A 9H pencil is much harder than a 2H (or #2) pencil commonly used in households. This is not a perfect test, but it does show the company tested the screen protector.
- Military Grade Protection may not translate into everyday use, as even this grade protection can still break if it hits the ground just right.
- Privacy Layer is a feature of some protectors offer. This feature helps reduce the viewing angle so people sitting beside you can’t see what’s on your screen.
- Anti-glare or Matte feature helps reduce mirror-like reflections and glare on your screen.
- Oleophobic Nano-coating repels oil so your fingerprints won’t stick. This can be a useful feature for tempered glass screen protectors and will make them easier to clean.
Benefits of Screen Protectors
The main advantage of a screen protector is that it will absorb the damage from scratches or falls instead of your phone’s screen.
When a scratch occurs, it’s easier and less expensive to replace the screen protector than to repair your smartphone’s screen.
Plus, screen protectors can give you peace of mind. You don’t have to worry about the screen if it scrapes up against something if you carry it in a pocket or crowded bag. You can simply plop your phone into your carrying place of choice and go, knowing the screen is safe.
Keeping the screen pristine by using a screen protector can also help you down the road if you like to resell your phone when upgrading to a newer model.
The Downside of Screen Protectors
Some people do not like the feel of any protectors and report it changes how your screen looks. While tempered glass most feels like your actual screen, some people don’t like how it looks due to the added thickness.
Other people feel since smartphone glass is stronger and more durable than earlier smartphones, screen protectors are no longer necessary.
Please some of our other related articles “7 Questions About Wireless Charging With A Thick Smartphone Case” and “Can Wi-Fi Interfere With Mobile Phone Signal?”
Who Needs a Screen Protector?
There is no one right answer. However, if you live by or visit a beach regularly, you may want to invest in a screen protector since sand will scratch the surface of your smartphone’s screen.
Additionally, if you tend to drop your phone frequently, you may want to buy a quality screen protector.
Some people may decide that using a high-quality case will be enough. This decision can be good for people who rarely drop their phones, don’t have small children, and who want the feel of the original screen.
However, if you’d like the extra protection, it’s important to buy a high-quality screen protector that fits your needs. It will be more likely to protect your screen and provide a touch screen experience that is close to the same as an unprotected screen.