We’ve all been there: it’s the moment when your brand new iPhone slips out of your hand and lands facedown on the ground. In the few seconds between dropping the phone and leaning down to pick it up, all you can do is hope that the screen is still intact. It’s an absolutely gut-wrenching feeling, and you might find yourself wondering if a screen protector would have saved your iPhone’s screen from shattering. Just how much protection does a screen protector offer? What kind of punishment can iPhone screen protectors take?
In the era of smartphones, much of the phone’s surface area is glass, so it’s extremely important for smartphone makers to equip their phones with a strong piece of glass, a piece that can withstand the consumer’s everyday life. Since 2007, Apple’s iPhone line has used American industrial glass maker Corning’s Gorilla Glass for their displays. Corning’s latest version of the product, Gorilla Glass 4, was specifically designed to withstand rough-surface drops (and to win Apple back from GT Advanced Technologies, the company that was widely expected to make the iPhone 6’s display); the company claims that devices equipped with Gorilla Glass displays withstand breaks 80% of the time! But tell that to the millions of people who have broken their iPhone’s display since 2007.
Gorilla Glass is an extremely tough product, but, the fact is, it’s still susceptible to breaking in normal, everyday experiences. Every year, there are hundreds of articles written in an attempt to answer one of the most nagging questions in mobile consumer tech: Do I really need a screen protector? Every year, with each significant release from one of the major smartphone companies, tech pundits take to their keywords and explain why this year, you can say goodbye to the screen protector, or they fill you with a little hope: maybe next year, maybe next year.
The reality is that people are still breaking and scratching screens, and as long as that’s the case, it’s going to be a good idea to put a screen protector on your phone. It’s really not a question of if you need a screen protector or not; it’s a question of which screen protector is right for you.
Last year, ZAGG posted a video that showed the kind of abuse their screen protectors can take. The video shows an iPhone 5S fitted with ZAGG’s invisibleSHIELD Glass withstanding various scenarios. The video seems to show that the ZAGG invisibleSHIELD Glass can protect your iPhone’s display from direct strikes with a full-sized hammer. The video also shows simulates a fall from your pocket; the iPhone is unscathed. While this video seems really impressive, the spokesperson makes sure to mention that though the ZAGG invisibleSHIELD Glass will protect your iPhone, the company does not guarantee it.
In their review of the ZAGG invisibleSHIELD Glass, GizmoSlip takes ZAGG to task for some of their claims, striking an iPhone with a hammer, hitting an iPhone with an arrow shot from a compound bow at close range and slamming it with a cinderblock. The arrow totally destroys the iPhone, despite the screen protector, but it (impressively) survives a direct strike from a hammer.
After receiving a rather grandiose email from Sir Lancelot’s Armor about its Holy Grail screen protector, a reusable screen protector that claims to be made from bulletproof glass, Lee Hutchinson from Ars Technica had to test the Holy Grail. Before putting the Holy Grail to the ultimate test, an actual bullet fired from an actual gun, Hutchinson tests the screen protecter against a few everyday dangers: keys, a screwdriver, a hammer, a staple gun, a drill and a car tire. The Holy Grail doesn’t survives the keys, but can’t stand up to the rest of Hutchinson’s household tests. As you can imagine, the Holy Grail also fails the bulletproof test. If your phone is in constant danger of being attacked by hand tools, this probably isn’t the screen protector for you, but for protection against keys and the occasional drop? Maybe.
Like the ZAGG and Sir Lancelot’s Armor, Bodyguardz claims that its ScreenGuardz Pure Glass can protect your iPhone from extreme impact and scratching, and Omer Correa at Geeksterlabs puts the ScreenGuardz Pure Glass screen shield to the test in its review. Correa drops screws on an iPhone fitted with Bodyguardz screen protecter, strikes it with a hammer and bashes it with a brick. The iPhone survives all of Correa’s tests without a scratch or break.
While screen protecters keep getting stronger every year, the reality usually can’t compete with the advertising. GizmoSlip proved that ZAGG’s claim about its screen protecter surviving an arrow is more than likely false; similarly, Hutchinson showed that though Sir Lancelot’s Armor makes a pretty good screen protector, it will not successfully protect your iPhone’s screen from a bullet, as advertised. But unless you’re James Bond, you probably don’t need your screen protecter to save your iPhone from arrows or bullets very often. Choosing a high-quality screen protecter probably will, however, save your display from the dangers of everyday life, and that’s more than enough for most people.