Dear Lifehacker, I scratched the screen of my last phone and I want to avoid that on my new one. I'm not a fan of plastic screen guards, but I have been hearing a lot about glass screen protectors. Are they better than plastic? Thanks, Screen Scratcher
Photo by Spigen
Yup, you can get screen protectors made out of tempered glass. As with any technology, they have their own pros and cons. Let's take a look at them:
The Differences Between Plastic And Glass
Price: Plastic screen protectors are much cheaper than tempered glass ones. Depending on the quality, you will pay anywhere between $1 and $15 for a single plastic protector. Glass protectors again start at around $2 for the cheapest variant and go up to $40 or more. The price difference is because of the quality of the plastic or glass, and technologies applied to it like an oleophobic coating (which reduces fingerprints).
Toughness: Tempered glass is almost always sturdier than plastic at the same price. Plastic protectors — especially the cheap models — also get scratched easily, unlike glass ones. Glass protectors are generally around 0.3-0.5 mm in thickness; plastic is around 0.1mm.
Feel: Most smartphones today have Gorilla Glass or some other scratch-resistant screen. When you add a plastic protector, you can feel the difference when you use your phone; especially in terms of how smoothly your finger glides. Tempered glass protectors feel more like the original screen.
Look: Because of their thickness, glass protectors will bulge out a bit more than plastic. This is especially noticeable on devices like the iPhone 5 or the HTC One. The protector is slightly raised from the flush finish of the sides, which can be an aesthetic issue for some. On the iPhone, this also means your Home button is recessed more than you're used to. I know 0.5mm seems like a small number, but you can feel the difference.
Installation: If you've installed a plastic screen protector, you know how difficult the process is. There are different kinds of glass protectors (full-adhesive or bezel-adhesive), but generally, they are easier to install if you use a quality product. Of course, you'll still have to clean the screen first.
Do I Need A Protector On My Glass Screen?
Screen protectors aren't as necessary as they once were, but they can still be useful. Your Gorilla Glass screen can still get scratched with the sand in your pocket, and can crack if you drop your phone. The bad news is that tempered glass protectors are also fallible to the same issues, but it's far easier to replace the glass protector than your phone's screen itself. If you've had one too many scratches in the past, it's a good way to protect your phone and get that superior glass feel.
Which Glass Protector Should I Get?
I'm not a fan of the cheaper variants (read: $10 and lesser) of tempered glass protectors because of bad experiences with them, but there are lots of people who are happy with those. Apart from the installation, I've found two problems with these. First, the oleophobic coating and the quality of the glass is just not good enough. You will see fingerprints, and you'll be able to tell that it's not as good as your actual phone. To me, that defeats the purpose of a glass protector. Second, I have trouble with multi-touch input while gaming when more than two fingers are involved. This isn't a dealbreaker but it can be frustrating at times. If you are buying a tempered glass screen protector, it makes sense to spend a little money and go for the slightly more expensive ones. In no particular order, my recommendations would be the Zagg InvisibleShield, the Spigen Glas.t, or the Armorz Stealth Extreme R, based on several reviews around the web. Of these, the Spigen Glas.t offers a low-cost replacement policy for a year.
No matter what you buy, you have to be careful about one thing: Buy a protector made for your device. "It looks the same" or "it kind of fits" are traps and you'll regret it. Those protectors will come loose eventually, or fit in a way where using them isn't comfortable.
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