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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