Don’t Waste Money on a Phone Screen Protector

Don’t Waste Money on a Phone Screen Protector


Phone glass is much tougher than it was in the past. It is very hard to even scratch it, never mind break it.

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My phone is an Apple iPhone 11. It?s a beautiful phone and a major upgrade from the iPhone SE that was in my pocket for three years. The only issue I have is that I am still not accustomed to the larger size, and that has caused me to drop my phone far more often than any other phone I have owned.

Well, that?s not entirely true. Years ago I had Nokia 1610. I was walking in Boston on my way to a client. I was also expecting a phone call from another client concerning a potentially very profitable job. When my phone rang, I yanked it out of my jacket pocket, lost my grip, and sent the still ringing phone bouncing down Boylston Street. I chased after it and kicked it, sending it skidding down the sidewalk again. I wish I had a video of that; it would do very well on YouTube.

I also managed to throw that phone across several parking lots getting out of my car while fumbling for it in my pocket. It was a tough phone, though, and never broke.

I think I dropped the SE four times if my memory is correct. It didn?t break. I suspect the toughness was more due to its lighter weight than anything else, but it was gratifying to pick it up from the sidewalk and find nothing wrong.

The brand new iPhone 11 fell from my hands when I took it out of its box, before I even turned it on. It hit a table first, bounced to a chair, and then landed face down on the floor. It was torque that fooled me: I was used to grabbing my SE toward its bottom. The SE is very light: there isn?t much weight to pull it. Not so with the iPhone 11, it rotated and wrenched right out of my fingers. I made a vow to always grasp in the middle from then on, but that message never fully reached my fingers, so I continued to fumble the phone often.

It doesn?t fit my pocket as well as the smaller SE. I have dropped it several times while meaning to put it into my pants or jacket, and it frequently falls out of my coat when I get in my car.

The most recent fall was while weighing myself on our smart scale. I should not care a bit about the extra seven ounces or so that the phone and its case would add to the scale, but I foolishly tried to put it down on a nearby table. I misjudged, and the phone fell edge first on to the glass scale. The impact noise was loud enough that I expected to find the scale, the phone, or both shattered, but neither was damaged.

That lack of damage surprised me. Apple does advertise the iPhone 11 models as having ?the toughest glass in a smartphone,? but that?s advertising, and there is always puffery involved.

That?s why people put on screen protectors, right? I had a screen protector on my iPhone 11, and the protector did crack, but when I took it off, the phone itself was undamaged. The odd thing was that it shouldn?t have been pristine. It should have already had a scratch on it but it did not.

Waking Up is Hard To Do

My new iPhone 11 had spent its first night with me on my bedroom side table. The battery life on these phones is incredible, so I didn?t bother to charge it. When the alarm went off the next morning, I reached for the phone and sent it flying off the table to skid across our hardwood floor and bury itself in the opposite corner of the room. I was off to a great start.

I groaned, got out of bed, and walked to pick it up. Disgusted, I saw that the screen was scratched. Later that day, I bought a glass screen protector and installed it. I never had a screen protector on my SE, and it never broke or scratched, so if the 11?s glass is even stronger, why did this happen?

I had a theory: one way to make the glass less likely to break is to soften it. Softer glass won?t shatter as easily, but perhaps it would be easier to scratch? I didn?t know, but I put the protector on; better safe than sorry.

Cell phone glass will not scratch easily. When I worked at an Apple store, I?d shock customers by attacking my SE?s screen with my keys. They never made a mark, but that slide across my bedroom store convinced me not to try the key test with my new iPhone.

Sand will scratch the screen because sand can contain tiny little diamonds and other hard minerals. If you?ll be carrying sand with your phone, you might want a screen protector. You may also want a ?privacy shield? version if you want to keep what you are looking at safe from nearby eyes. A hammer will break your phone no matter what, but a good case is the best protection of all.

My SE did have micro scratches. You could see them only with the screen off and in the right light. If those would bother you, get a screen film. I?d always suggest the less expensive soft plastic versions, because they don?t crack and protect from scratches just as well as glass. Admittedly, it doesn?t look as nice.

Yet after the drop onto the scale and the removal of the screen protector, I could see no scratches. Puzzled, I took out my keys and very cautiously tried to scratch my phone. Nothing. I pushed harder. Still nothing.

I could not scratch the screen with my keys, and where the heck was the scratch from that early morning skidding adventure?

One possible explanation is that it was never there. The floor didn?t scuff the phone, the phone scuffed the floor, and that looked like a scratch to me. When I cleaned it to apply the screen protector, I probably washed that away and didn?t notice it because I was concentrating on getting the screen protector on correctly.

The only other explanation would be self-healing glass. If Apple had that, they?d be shouting it from rooftops!

But It Protected the Phone!

We?d get people every day at the Apple store who needed to replace broken screen protectors. They were quite proud that the protector had broken because ?it saved my phone!?

I?d always demur. That protector is fragile glass. The idea that it can crack and distribute impact force to save the phone might be accurate under particular circumstances, but I knew that I had dropped my unprotected SE many times, and it did not break. Phone glass is tough. If you drop it hard enough, you can break it with or without a screen protector. The customers would sometimes protest.

?But it?s guaranteed.?

Sure. If the screen protector breaks, some makers will give you a free replacement. That?s what the guarantee usually is; they are not going to pay for your phone repair if you manage to break both the phone and the protector. Zag is an exception: they will pay up to $100 to fix a screen if protected by their most expensive screen protector. As that protector is a $79 expense for a piece of glass that probably costs a few cents, I think they can afford that, but it won?t help you much.

Do you know what it would cost to fix a broken iPhone 11 screen? With insurance from Apple or anyone else, that?s usually about $30. Without insurance, it?s $200 for the front glass and $400 for the back. Oh, and don?t waste your money on a cheap repair at a Mall kiosk. Most of those people end up at an Apple or Best Buy store a week later because the screen doesn?t work right after the cheap repair.

Reality Check: What Does, and Doesn’t, Protect Your Smartphone

Tech Fix So here’s a reality check on what does and doesn’t protect your phone. To reach our conclusions, we interviewed?

My advice is to skip the screen protector and buy the insurance. I pay $7.99 a month for AppleCare+ on my iPhone 11. Because I pay it through my iTunes account and have filled that with Apple gift cards bought at a discount, I actually spend less, and I can keep that insurance in effect until Apple doesn?t have the parts to fix it. I?m sure I?ll be upgrading to a new phone before that happens.

But if it makes you feel better to have a screen protector, do that. I didn?t replace mine, and I have no plans to do so.


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