Ask LH: Are Screen Protectors Necessary Anymore?

Ask LH: Are Screen Protectors Necessary Anymore?

Dear Lifehacker, Now that most phones have scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass, do I really need a screen protector? Do they offer any additional protection from scratches? I can never get the things on straight and without bubbles. Sincerely, Scared of Scratches

Dear Scared,

As someone who used to put screen protectors on everything — seriously, everything — I’ve asked myself that question many times. Most devices out there today use Gorilla Glass, or at least something similar (Apple doesn’t publicly state what it uses, but it sure is scratch-resistant). And, while you’ll have a much better protector-less experience than you would have a few years ago, it’s worth noting that screen protectors offer a bit more than just scratch protection on your screen. Here are a few areas in which you may still want a clear plastic shield on your device:

  • Anti-Glare: Gorilla glass is great, but like all shiny glass, it can make your device very hard to see in the sun. While you may not need to protect yourself from scratches, there are still some great screen protectors out there that give a more matte feel to your screen, saving you from the glare and allowing you to see your screen wherever they are. We recommend the Moshi iVisor, which is not only anti-glare, but super-easy to apply without bubbles.
  • Anti-Finger Prints: The other thing you’ve probably noticed is that while these devices look great out of the box, they get covered with fingerprints after just a few minutes of use. If you don’t want to constantly wipe it off with a cloth to make it look nice, you might consider (again) the Moshi iVisor, which not only removes glare, but is pretty fingerprint-resistant.
  • Other Glossy Surfaces: Even if your screen doesn’t need protecting, other parts of your device still do. Most iPod models, for example, still have that beautiful, yet scratch-vulnerable metal backing on them. You could always put a case on it, but if you hate the bulk that cases add to your device — or if you just really like the shiny look of the device — there are a lot of screen protectors that will cover the back of your device in addition to the front. I love the ZAGG InvisibleShield for this purpose; it’s hard to apply without bubbles — though it is possible — and it looks really great. Unbox your gadget, slap one on, and you’ll never see a scratch.
  • Old Devices: If, by some miracle, you buy a three-year-old device that isn’t already covered in scratches, remember that those devices are still vulnerable. Grab a screen protector for any used or refurbished device you get, if it was from the pre-Gorilla Glass days.

Also, remember, that while Gorilla Glass is scratch-resistant, it isn’t magical. If you keep your phone in the same pocket as your keys, your screen is still likely to get a little roughed up. So, if you plan on being a little less nice to your phone, you can always add a screen protector just to be safe. Of course, as much as I love screen protectors, the surface of the device is usually smoother and more responsive without one, so I just opt to keep it separate from my keys, be careful not to drop it, and so on — all it takes is a little bit of forethought and you shouldn’t have to deal with scratches ever again.


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  • I always slap protectors on and use a case because I’m clumsier than a person with Parkinsons who is drunk and also been spun around a hundred times. so the protector and case isn’t to protect the phone from the world its to protect it from me.
    same reason i wont buy a phone that i can not attach a lanyard to some how.
    seriously the number of times Ive almost launched my HTC wildfire S from a sneeze or something stupid is beyond reckoning. that’s why always have lanyard and wrap it around hand when using it. Also helps me find it because i often forget if i put it in my bag so i have a bit of lanyard attach to a clip on my bag so i can see it and not totally freak out when i forget that i put it in my bag (seriously happened 3 times to me this week when i didn’t put it on the clip)

  • I didn’t bother because I had Gorilla Glass on the SGS, boy was that a mistake!

    Who knew a baby dragging the phone face down on floor tiles would leave big scratches on the phone’s screen…

    I am now sceptical about anyone who says get your keys out a try to scratch the screen, I call BS!

    Screen protectors on everything now!

  • I don’t have one on my Desire and that finds it self in the same pocket as my keys. It’s been roughed up and still looks fine, when the screen is on you cant see any marks at all.

    THE SGS2 screen seems to be good also.

  • It is trivial in cost and effort to replace the glass of pretty much every smartphone. This being the case, why uglyify your device for the sake of a few dollars every once in a while if it really does get some good scratches?


  • Definitely necessary for an iPhone 4. The back of mine has quite a big noticable scratch from the first couple of days I used it before putting a skin on. Lots and lots of tiny hairline scratches appear in the right light too. I treat my iPhone pretty well I feel.

  • You also forgot to mention when reselling your phone. If you use a case and a screen protector, you can take them off and say your phone is in a very good condition (and include them in the package for free too – added selling point on eBay).

    I use a case and a screen protector, just for added protection. It could save me $400 on replacing a dropped phone, plus its cheaper than paying $10 per month for insurance – is that worth it? I say no

  • I have had many phones including ones with Gorilla Glass, the only one that really truly could not be scratched by keys or other normal objects was my Sony Ericsson T650i. I used to even show my friends how scratch resistant it was by running my keys over the screen. This phone came out around 2007

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