Screen protectors are sold as a necessity, but they’re not as useful as they used to be. In fact, ditching the screen protector can save you money and make your phone more pleasant to use.
Update, 12/20/21: Verified links and content still good.
The original iPhone was the first smartphone to use a glass screen instead of a plastic screen. But Apple didn’t use just any glass; the company relied on a “Gorilla Glass” developed by a company called Corning.
Today, Corning supplies Gorilla Glass for most smartphone manufacturers. Gorilla Glass 6, the newest of Corning’s formulas, is tougher than the glass that came on the original iPhone (or even the glass that came with your last phone). Gorilla Glass is harder than the common metals that you’ll find in keys and knives, and it can handle being thrown at the ground multiple times.
In other words, your phone’s screen is a lot harder to break than it used to be. Screen protectors used to be an essential item, but they’re hardly a necessity these days. But Gorilla Glass isn’t perfect, right? Aren’t there some situations that call for a screen protector?
Screen protectors look disgusting. They get scratched up quickly, and they make your screen less vibrant. Plus, the plastic screen protectors are really good at holding onto finger grease, which is a gross reminder of humanity’s myriad bodily functions.
But screen protectors aren’t useless yet. Gorilla Glass may be strong enough to withstand a good drop, but it can still be scratched by rocks, sand, and rare metals (like diamonds). Your phone will look like hell if it ever skids across a gravel parking lot, and it’ll be covered in micro-scratches if you ever stick it in a pocket full of sand.
When’s the last time that either of those things happened to you? Freak accidents just don’t happen that often. Sure, it’s nice to have a screen protector when something terrible happens. And hey, if you work in a battlefield or you have terrible luck, then a screen protector’s probably worth buying. But for most people, freak accidents are so rare that a screen replacement may be cheaper, easier, and more tolerable than installing a new screen protector every month.
Screen protectors aren’t nearly as important as they used to be. They add a bit of extra protection to your phone, but that additional protection isn’t always necessary. Think of it like wearing knee pads while riding a bike. They’re super ugly, but they might come in handy during a freak accident.
The thing is, phone screens are pretty easy to replace (easier than your kneecaps). A local repair shop should be able to replace your phone screen for around $100—and that’s not too far off from what you might pay for a year’s worth of $15 screen protectors. If you don’t mind walking into a store and interacting with a real human being, then the screen protector may be worth skipping.
You can take this a step further with carrier insurance or AppleCare. Most carrier insurance plans offer screen replacements at a discounted rate–usually between $20 and $30. Sure, these insurance plans are a bit expensive (around $100 a year), but they also cover lost, stolen, and defective devices at a low rate (or for free).
Either way, screen protectors are no longer a life-or-death decision. They’re a form of protection that can be replaced or supplemented by carrier insurance or your local repair shop, and you probably won’t miss your screen protector should you choose to ditch it.
If you work in construction, have terrible luck, or want to resell your phone at the end of the year, then a screen protector may be worth using. But screen protectors come in all sorts of flavors, so we’re going to go through each type of screen protector to make shopping a bit easier for you.
Here are the four types of screen protectors:
- Tempered Glass: These bad boys are way tougher than plastic screen protectors, they feel nice, and they’re really easy to apply to your screen. But they can make your phone feel like a bubbly kids’ toy.
- Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET): These plastic screen protectors are super cheap, thin, light, and smooth. They’re difficult to install, and they’re not that tough, but they’re nearly invisible once they’re applied to your screen.
- Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU): Most plastic screen protectors are made of TPU. It’s a thin, flexible plastic that feels weird and is challenging to install. But it’s thinner than glass and tougher than PET screen protectors, so there’s that.
- Liquid Screen Protectors: Yes, liquid screen protectors are a thing. They can prevent some scratches, but that’s about it. A liquid screen protector won’t save your phone from a disastrous accident, and it’s kind of hard to tell when you need to reapply the stuff.
We suggest sticking with tempered glass or PET screen protectors. If you’re tired of whatever screen protector you’ve been using, try pivoting to a different type to see how you like it. Or, you know, stop using screen protectors altogether.