Why Get a Screen Protector?
A scratched or damaged screen is a very sad event for your smartphone or tablet. We toss our phones into a pocket or purse with keys and other sharp objects and it’s a small wonder the screens do not end up more damaged than they do. And that is not enough for us, oh no, we have to treat the phone or tablet like a rubber ball and bounce it off the ground for good measure. Given the level of abuse we put our screens through, what do we make them from? Glass! That same stuff thats shatters so nicely when it hits a hard or even semi-hard surface.
Why Use Glass?
We use glass because it offers great optical clarity and an excellent surface for our fingers to push, tap and wipe across on. We have special coatings that help resist fingers and glare. We use it flat or we use with a bend to the surface of the glass. And with some of the custom glass like Gorilla Glass, it can withstand a fair amount of abuse.
But consumers being what they are can always find a way to ruin whatever the engineers can send our way. And we find ourselves scratching, pitting or outright breaking our glass surfaces covering our phones and tablets. So what is the consumer to do? Buy a consumable screen protector!
You can buy from an amazing array of protection for your phone or tablet. There is cheap plastic which is about one step away from cling wrap to thick PVC or you can move to stick on glass covers. Even the aftermarket glass covers come in an array of quality with the cheapest being just plain glass stuck on using static cling to a multi-layered safty glass with special top coatings like oleophobic which is fancy way to say it resists finger prints.
I wont even discuss the plastic covers in this article, there is virtually no reason to consider them for the average consumer. In an industrial environment, one can make the argument that the durability of the vinyl surpasses the glass and is worth the trade off of sensitivity and clarity. But that is not this article’s topic.
I will go over some salient details of the glass screen protector for phones and tablets. Let us get one thing out of the way. Do NOT even for a moment consider any glass protector is not safety glass. Safety glass covers are glass and at least one layer of plastic much like your car windows. If the glass breaks, the plastic keeps all the chunks attached and not embedded in your hand or finger. Along the same lines, you want Tempered Glass for the screen protector. Tempered glass is chemically treated or thermally processed in a way that when it breaks, it breaks into small chunks and not large shards. The very cheapest imported glass screen protectors have neither of these safety features.
A 3rd feature to look for is rounded edges on the protector itself. This is as much good engineering as it is nice to feel. The round edge helps reduce the chance of fracturing the edge of the glass screen which would put a sharp edge into contact with your hand as you hold the phone.
Look for that fancy anti-fingerprint coating, oleophobic is the word to look for on the package. Otherwise, the screen will work but be obscured by all the fingerprints smudging across it.
Often times people neglect to notice how thick the screen protector is. If it’s too thick, the responses from your fingers can be spotty. You want to see about 0.3mm thickness and a hardness around 9H. The hardness rating is a balancing act, too hard, the glass becomes very brittle. Not hard enough and it will be scratched too easily and become useless too fast.
Stuck on You
A point of contention with some folks is how the screen protector is attached. You will see everything from using soapy water to get a static cling going on to silicon based “glue” to real adhesive that might take the real screen off the phone if you try to remove it incorrectly. The best one’s I’ve used are using a transparent “wet” silicon adhesive that you peel off a backer and then careful lay it down on the screen and let gravity do the work.
The deal breaker for many people is the cost. When they get their device, the sales staff will automatically try to up sell you a screen protector which IS a good idea but not at the 30 dollars they charge. You can buy high quality screen protectors like Tech Armor Ballistic Glass or some of the clones on eBay like the ones from Autolizer. You will pay something from 3 dollars to 10 dollars depending which device and which seller you get the product from. Often times on eBay, the clones are “buy 1 and get one at 50% off” which is great deal for families with kids dropping the phones with regularity . In my own case, I have had about a dozen of the ebay clone screen protectors with three kids under 13 with phones. I have yet to replace the actual screen of the iPhone and at 3 dollars a protector, it’s money well spent even if it only lasts 3-6 months of being abused. I use the Tech Armor on my iPhone and iPad. In the case of the iPad, it has a protector because I use a graphics pen on it with Astropad for photo editing.
Alternative Screen Protection
Not only can you protect the screen from damage but you can protect your screen from prying eyes with a privacy screen protector. This is a screen protector that also filters the light so only you can see the screen by looking straight into it. Anyone looking from the side will see a black screen.
The big maker of these screens is 3M and they offer versions for many smartphones, tablets, laptops and monitors. The filter is basically a polarizer that only allows the light to move one way. These are not nearly as cheap as the plain screen protector. You can expect to pay from 20 to 40 dollars for the privacy screen filter. But if you travel a lot or do any kind of work in a public setting, you really should consider one of these privacy screen protectors. The hottest theft of data right now is the simple act of looking over a shoulder (shoulder surfing) or using a mirror or other device to see what you are doing on your device. One of these protectors can easily defeat the casual and not so causal shoulder surfer.