Does your smartphone really need a screen protector?

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Smartphones are expensive – you wouldn’t want to spend up to $1,000 or more and end up with a scratched screen. Many people still buy screen protectors to protect their purchase, but are they still necessary with the advancements in modern display?

It is true that there was a time when it was practically essential to put a screen protector on your phone. However, the materials used in modern smartphone screens have changed a lot over the years. There’s certainly no harm in using a screen protector, but you might not need one.

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Screen Protectors 101

A screen protector is simply a sheet of clear plastic or very thin glass that you stick over your smartphone screen. The protector is cut to fit the exact shape of your device with cutouts in the appropriate places. That’s why you buy different screen protectors for different devices.

To apply a screen protector, you typically clean your device’s screen with a microfiber cloth, apply a little soapy water to the screen protector, and then press it onto the top of the screen. You can use a squeegee to get the water and bubbles out, leaving a perfectly flat surface that should make the protector invisible.

The idea behind a screen protector is that it takes the abuse rather than the glass screen. It’s much easier to apply a new screen protector than to replace a scratched or cracked screen. However, there are two display types that aim to make screen protectors unnecessary.

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Gorilla Glass explained

Galaxy S22 Ultra screen.
Karlis Dambrans/

The vast majority of Android phones today use Corning’s Gorilla Glass. It is a hard tempered glass with high scratch resistance. Corning has actually released new versions of Gorilla Glass over the years. At the time of writing in March 2022, the most recent version is Gorilla Glass Victus.

There are two things Gorilla Glass tries to protect against: scratches and cracks. Generally, one should be favored over the other. Some versions were more scratch resistant but easier to break, and some were easier to scratch but harder to break. It’s a constant balance between the two, and Corning has continued to push the boundaries.

According to Corning, Gorilla Glass Victus has been tested to withstand drops on hard, rough surfaces up to 6 feet. Scratch resistance is measured with the Knoop hardness test. Victus held firm against an 8 Newton load, while other glasses failed around 4 Newton.

Ceramic Shield Explained

Apple does not use Gorilla Glass for iPhones. Instead, it uses a glass exclusive to iPhones called “Ceramic Shield”. Introduced with the iPhone 12, Ceramic Sheild is also made by Corning.

Ceramic Shield isn’t just a fancy brand name – glass actually includes ceramic. Ceramic Shield glass is embedded with ceramic nanocrystals that are smaller than the wavelength of light, making it as transparent as normal glass.

The result is a strong material that resists drops and scratches. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t share many technical details about Ceramic Shield. It just says it’s “four times better” than pre-iPhone 12 models. There’s really no way to compare Ceramic Shield to Gorilla Glass, but it’s safe to say they’re both durable screens made by Corning.

Disadvantages of screen protectors

The big thing screen protectors do is change how the screen feels to the touch. Obviously, plastic doesn’t feel as good to the touch as glass, which is why glass screen protectors have become more popular.

Placing a sheet of plastic or thin glass between you and the screen can subtly change the appearance of your device’s screen, especially if the screen protector fades over time. And since screen protectors aren’t as tough as Gorilla Glass or Ceramic Shield, they pick up unsightly scratches that wouldn’t actually scratch your smartphone screen.

All of this assuming you apply the screen protector correctly. If you’re not careful, you may end up with bubbles and cracks under your screen protector, and you may need to apply a new one.

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So when do you need a screen protector?

Some common materials can scratch the screen of any smartphone. One of the most important things to watch out for is the sand, it’s surprisingly hard. If you go to the beach and end up with sand in your pocket, that sand can rub against the glass screen of your smartphone and scratch it. Unsurprisingly, hard rock works the same way. Other types of glass, rare metals, and very hard materials like diamonds can also scratch a Gorilla Glass or Ceramic Shield screen.

Screen protectors also have anti-fingerprint coatings, but modern smartphones have “oleophobic” coatings that repel oil from your fingers, reducing unsightly fingerprints. Even if you get fingerprints, all you need to do is wipe the screen down quickly, ideally with a microfiber cloth.

Screen protectors are no longer a must-have item. You can safely use a modern smartphone with a “bare” screen, and even if you put it in the same pocket with your keys and coins, you should be fine.

Of course, you’ll probably want to keep your keys and coins in another pocket – there’s a chance they’ll scratch it. other part of your phone.

About Michelle T. Friesen

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