Are Cell Phone Screen Protectors Necessary?
Screen protectors are very popular accessories among cell phone users. They're also high-profit up sell items, making them popular with retail phone store operators, as well. But are they really necessary?
Many phone owners wouldn't even think of not protecting their expensive phone's screen with a quality screen protector. Others believe they are unnecessary, or even harmful, and refuse to use them at all.
So who's right? Does your phone need a screen protector or doesn't it?
As with many technology-related questions, there is no single correct answer to that question. Whether or not you need a screen protector for your phone depends on the phone, your lifestyle, your budget, and the environment in which the phone will be used.
Let me explain it to you.
Advantages to Using a Screen Protector on Your Phone
Let's start by looking at the benefits and purposes of screen protectors.
In a practical sense, screen protectors protect your phone's screen from scratches and impact damage by being a sacrificial layer between the screen and the environment. The screens of newer phones, especially those that use Corning's Gorilla Glass, are pretty tough in their own right; so a screen protector may or may not be tougher than the screen it protects.
The difference is that unlike the phone's display screen, a screen protector (except for nano liquid ones) can be easily peeled off and inexpensively replaced should it become scratched or damaged. That's the real benefit to screen protectors. In most cases, they're no less likely to be scratched or damaged than the phone's display is. They're just easier and cheaper to replace.
What are Screen Protectors Made Of?
Most screen protectors are made from one of four materials:
- Tempered glass screen protectors are preferred by many users because tempered glass has a very smooth surface, is very clear, and doesn't yellow. It also provides very good scratch resistance and some protection against impact. Tempered glass screen protectors are probably the most popular after market mobile phone accessory.
- Thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) is another popular material for screen protectors. It also provides very good scratch resistance and some impact protection. TPU is also self-healing to an extent: Very minor scratches often disappear on their own. TPU may yellow over time, however, and isn't as smooth as tempered glass.
- Polyethylene terephthalate (PET) is a less-durable plastic than TPU, but it has a much smoother surface and tends not to yellow. It's also very thin, so a properly-fitted PET screen protector will be almost invisible on your phone. It is less scratch-resistant than tempered glass or TPU, however; so if you use a PET screen protector, figure on replacing it a few times over the course of your phone's life.
- Nano liquid screen protectors are applied as a liquid to a thoroughly cleaned screen, allowed to dry, and buffed out. They bond with the surface of the screen to form an invisible layer that provides some minimal protection against scratches. Unfortunately, because they bond with the screen's surface, the nano liquids can't be removed if they do scratch; so in the end, you'll still have a scratched screen. For that reason, I really don't see much point in using nano liquids except possibly on curved screens.
How Effective are Cell Phone Screen Protectors?
That depends whether we're talking about scratch resistance or impact resistances.
A high-quality screen protector made of any of the three solid materials will be close to 100 percent effective at protecting your phone's screen from scratches due to the most common causes, such as coins, keys, or sand in your pocket. That's not to say the screen protector will never scratch, but rather that it will prevent the screen under it from being scratched. It will take life's insults on the chin to protect your phone's screen.
The story's not so optimistic as concerns impact resistance. Tempered glass and TPU will provide some degree of protection against impact, but not very much. There's a certain range within a screen protector will absorb enough of the force of impact to protect the screen under it from damage, but a force that exceeds that range will damage both the screen protector and the screen underneath it.
Still, considering how inexpensive they are, I think screen protectors are worth the investment. This is especially true if your financial situation would make it difficult to afford to replace your phone's screen. Screen protectors are inexpensive and at least reduce the chances of your phone's screen needing to be replaced.
On a personal note, a few days before this most recent revision, I dropped my phone, face down, on a gravel driveway while working on my car. The impact broke my phone's tempered glass screen protector, but the phone screen itself was undamaged. I peeled pff the old screen protector, applied a new one, and all was well. It was a Supershieldz screen protector, which is one of my favorite brands.
Reasons Not to Use a Screen Protector
There are a few reasons why you may not want to use a screen protector. For example:
- Many people (especially gamers) don't like screen protectors because they affect the screen's responsiveness and precision. It may be harder to type the correct letters, for example, when using a virtual keyboard.
- Some people don't like how screen protectors affect the appearance of their phone's displays. Personally, I don't notice very much difference, but some people do.
- Tempered glass and TPU screen protectors will noticeably increase your phone's thickness, especially if you don't use any kind of case. They may also reduce the amount of protection afforded by the lip or recess of some bumper cases or back cases.
- Some phones have very finicky under-screen fingerprint readers that simply won't work if a screen protector is used. Most optical fingerprint sensors will work through a screen protector, but you may need to re-enroll your fingerprints after installing it. Ultrasonic fingerprint sensors are more hit-or-miss.
- If you're using a case with a built-in screen protector, then you don't need (and shouldn't use) a separate screen protector on the screen itself.
- Finally, your phone may come with a screen protector pre-installed. Most OnePlus phones, for example, come with a plastic film screen protector already installed.
I personally didn't care much for the feel of the factory screen protector on my OnePlus 7t, so I replaced it with a Supershieldz tempered glass screen protector. But in terms of both clarity and scratch protection, the factory one was perfectly adequate. I just prefer the feel and responsiveness of tempered glass.