Imagine that you've walked around with your phone in your pocket all day long, and when you grabbed the device to make a call, it slid out of your hands and onto the ground. Can you envision the scuffs and scratches and cracks appearing before your eyes?
Every little ding on the surface of your phone represents a vulnerability. Get enough injuries, and they could band together into a web of cracks that renders your phone useless. And even a few could seriously drop the resale value of your phone.
Screen protectors are a line of defense between the front of your phone and the outside world. But do they really work? And if they do, which one should you buy?
What Is a Screen Protector Anyway?
Every part of your phone is precious, but it's the screen that needs the most protection. Scuffs and scratches can interfere with the taps you use to make the phone work. Cracks can also let moisture in. Corroded wires are soon to follow. A screen protector is made for this critical part of your phone.
Screen protectors have been around as long as cellphones, but the technology has changed as phones changed.
Early versions were thin and made of plastic. They helped a phone to stick together if it cracked, and they did that work due to an adhesive that connected the shield to the entire surface of the phone. They were crucial because early phones really offered no scratch protection. Almost anything could mar your phone.
Modern phones are made of scratch-resistant glass. They can stand up to a great deal of abuse from:
Almost anything you have in your pockets won't scuff up your phone, but there are exceptions.
Head to the beach for the day, and you could walk away with sand in your pockets. That grit can and will grind away at the surface of your phone, and if left in place long enough, it can cause your phone to be nearly unworkable.
Modern screen protectors can help with this issue, and they're made with a wide variety of materials. Some retain the thin plastic look and feel of the protectors of yesteryear, but others are made of tempered glass or treated plastic.
How Can You Choose a Screen Protector?
Most modern smartphone screen protector companies make models that are appropriate for different types of phones, so you don't have to look for Motorola-specific companies or Apple experts. Once you find a company you like, you can probably find a model that fits your phone.
But you'll need to think hard about your screen protector's:
- Cost. Thin, plastic models are much less expensive than tempered glass sets. If money is an issue for you, some types of protectors will be out of your reach.
- Application. These delicate pieces of protection should install at home, but some require precision and delicacy. Some even work best with tools sold by the manufacturer. If you have shaking hands or poor vision, it will be hard for you to use a product like this.
- Feel. We're accustomed to the glide of fingers across glass. A piece of plastic can lead to a skipping or dragging sensation you might find unpleasant.
- Aesthetics. Finding a truly invisible protector is hard. Most have edges or corners you can spot or hinges and brackets that trap lint or dust. If you can't stand anything marring the appearance of your phone, you might struggle with protectors.
- Added features. Some screen protectors do more than block scuffs. They can reduce glare or enhance privacy. If you want your phone to do even more, a loaded protector might be right for you.
Just as you thought long and hard about your phone before you made your purchase, you should do the same with your screen protector.
5 Screen Protectors to Consider
There are literally thousands of different screen protectors vying for consumer dollars. One that is right for you might be different than the perfect protection for someone else.
Even so, there are companies with solid reputations for building a great product for 2019. These are five worth investigating:
Spigen: The GLAS.tR Slim HD product line is made of tempered glass rated at 9H hardness; most Gorilla Glass products stand at a 6, just for comparison. It's made to work in concert with Spigen cases, so you don't have to choose between protecting the front or the back of your phone.
Packets include cleaning wipes and installation wings, so you can prep your phone quickly and put on the protection in just minutes. Once applied, the product shouldn't change the feel or sensitivity of your phone, so you may not notice it’s there. Expect to pay about $30.
Ringke: The Dual Easy Film Cover promises full protection through a series of films. The multiple-layer technology offers a strong amount of protection without changing the way your phone looks. The protector is marketed as "nearly invisible," so it shouldn't impede the view.
Best of all, this product is sold in packs of two. If you're not happy with one or it wears out, you have another on hand for a quick replacement. Expect to pay about $15.
Moshi: This company offers a tempered glass screen protector with an enhanced privacy feature. When your phone is in your hands, you'll see all of your data clearly. But someone standing off to your side will see only shadows on your phone. If you do a lot of online banking or sensitive texting in public places, this could be very helpful.
The protection is also significant. Heat-treated tempered glass is difficult to scratch, even with a knife. Expect to pay about $45.
amFilm: The tempered glass screen protector comes with an applicator kit, including a case. Slip it over your phone and know that you'll get the protection in the right place on the very first try. Few other products offer this kind of help, and it's ideal for those with shaking hands.
This product is made of silicone gel, so you might feel it underneath your fingers. But people say it's easy to get used to. Expect to pay less than $20.
Belkin: This company has an exclusive contract with Apple, and if you've invested in an iPhone, you've probably been encouraged to buy this product. It's made of glass, and it's chemically strengthened to provide superior protection.
Your phone will work perfectly beneath your fingers due to the very thin construction of this product. The company claims its three to five times better at resisting scratches than other products, and that it can help reduce screen cracking when you drop your phone. Expect to pay about $40.
What Else Can You Try?
If you're not interested in putting film over your phone, you're not alone. Plenty of people resist the idea of putting a sticker or a piece of glass over their beautiful devices, and they don't expect great protection in return. If you opt out of a screen protector, there are some things you can do to prevent scratches from appearing on your phone.
To keep the glass free from scratches, be sure to:
- Store it carefully. Your pocket isn't the best place for your phone. Choose a special part of your briefcase, purse, backpack, or carrier bag for storage on the go.
- Secure it safely. Choose a secure spot for your phone at work and at home. A desk drawer, a deep bookshelf, or a stable side table could all be good choices.
- Protect it always. Don't let kids or pets play with your phone. Sharp claws and clumsy fingers often lead to scratches.
- Consider your destination. Are you heading to a sandy spot for the day? Can you leave your phone at home? A disconnect could let you enjoy the scenery, and you'd keep your phone free from the grit of sand.
Remember that newer phones do come with some scratch protection, so if you're living with an older model now, this could be a good incentive to trade up. And once you have, consider slapping protection on the top to make the most of your investment.
Does Your Smartphone Really Need a Screen Protector? (July 2017). How-To Geek.
Are Glass Screen Protectors Better Than Plastic Ones? (July 2014). LifeHacker.
This Might Be the Best Tempered Glass Screen Protector for the Galaxy S8. (September 2017). Forbes.
iPhone XS Screen Protector. Spigen.
Galaxy S10 Screen Protector. Ringke.
Best Galaxy S9 Screen Protectors. Android Central.