What Kind of Screen Protector Should I Get for My Phone? (2024)

Having a big scratch on your phone is like having an itch in your brain you just can't reach. Plus, it lowers the resale value of the device when you want to upgrade. A screen protector can keep the surface pristine, but buying one is more complicated than it should be. It's also worth asking if modern phones even need one anymore.

Search for "screen protector" on Amazon, and you'll likely beoverwhelmed by the results. There are so many brands, types, and prices that it's enough to make your head spin. Thankfully, screen protectors can generally be broken down into a few simple types, each with their own advantages and disadvantages.

Do I Really Need a Screen Protector?

What Kind of Screen Protector Should I Get for My Phone? (1)

Google Pixel 2 (Credit: Whitson Gordon)

The glass on your phone has gotten a lot more scratch-resistant since the days of the iPod. Corning's Gorilla Glass will not scratch if you rub it with your keys or loose change, which is a big step forward. The iPhone Ceramic Shield screen, also from Corning, is supposed to be even tougher. It is not, however, unscratchable, as some people believe.

Take a look at my Google Pixel 2, for example. The scratches aren't deep, but they're definitely there. These scratches likely come from sand and other particles with hard minerals in them. Quartz and topaz have a Mohs hardness rating of 7 and 8, respectively. Any object harder than your screen will scratch it, and while Corning hasn't officially released its glass'Mohs hardness rating, most testers have found it to lie between a 6 and 7 (the highest value, 10, is as hard as diamonds).

So yes, your screen can still be scratched, and it's probably the sand in your pocket or bag that's causing it. If you want to avoid scratching your phone's screen, you'll need a screen protector. These stick-on screen covers aren't perfect—they typically max out at around a 7 or 8 on the Mohs scale, which is slightly better than Gorilla Glass—but they allow you to pop your phone in your pocket without worrying.

Best of all, if and when the protector gets scratched, you can easily replace it while keeping the actual screen in pristine condition for a later resale. However, which type of screen protector is best?

Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET)

PET is a type of plastic usually found on things like water bottles and food containers. PET screen protectors provide the least amount of scratch- and impact-protection, but they're super cheap, light, and thin, and as a result are less visible once applied to your phone.

They also have a decently smooth feel, unlike the more durable but rubbery TPU. PET is also a bit stiff, so it can't go edge-to-edge on phones with curved screens. If you want to go with PET, I recommend Tech Armor.

Thermoplastic Polyurethane (TPU)

When you think of the screen protectors of old, you're probably thinking of TPU. It's a flexible plastic that's a huge hassle to install (it involves using a spray solution and squeegeeing out lots of bubbles), doesn't feel very smooth (thanks to its almost rubbery texture), and adds an "orange peel" type glare to your phone's screen.

Still, it can go edge-to-edge on any phone, it has better impact protection than PET, and it has limited "self-healing" powers for small scratches. Brands likeIQ Shieldoffer TPU at very affordable prices, whileZagg's InvisibleShield filmis a bit more expensive.

Zagg's comes in a few differentstyles depending on the look, feel, and features you want. However,keep in mind that not all styles are available for all phones, and some phones don’t have TPU options at all. Both IQ Shield and Zagg come with replacement warranties as well, though Zagg's is more all-encompassing, hence the higher cost.

Tempered Glass

These are the granddaddies of screen protectors. They don't have the self-healing abilities of TPU, but they're tougher in terms of scratch- and drop-protection, and these days they are pretty inexpensive.

BothamFilmandMaxboostoffer affordable glass protectors that measure high on the Mohs hardness scale. Zagg's glass protectorsalso come in more varieties with features like privacy or anti-glare. Because glass protectors are thicker, however, they're much more visible on your screen, which isn't great if you prefer that melts-into-your-screen type of aesthetic.

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Nano Liquid

These days you'll also find liquid screen protectors on the market, which claim you can protect your phone just by swabbing a solution on your phone and then buffing it off. These protectors come with a host of quirks that make it hard to recommend. While itmayprovide some level of extra protection, the layer is so thin that tough scratches can likelystill easily get through to the actual screen, which defeats the purpose of a screen protector.

Furthermore, you can't just take this off and swap it with another screen protector. Most products say it will wear off over time (though there's no visible way to tell when). That makes it hard to test because you can't just scratch and peel the product off—it's unclear whether you'd be scratching the protector or the screen underneath. All told, I'd recommend skipping the liquid stuff.

So Which Screen Protector Is Best?

Don't pay too much attention tothe hardness rating that brands advertise—most use theASTM hardness scale, in which the hardest pencil (9H) is softer than tempered glass, making it a useless indicator of protection. The Mohs scale—which does not use an "H"—is much more useful, though it doesn't sound as good on the box. If you're unsure about the hardness of a specific brand, search around to see if anyone has tested it themselves with a Mohs kit.

In my opinion, most people are probably best off with a tempered glass protector. They have the smoothest feel, prevent the most damage, and are available at pretty decent prices. If you're really finicky about looks, you may like PET or TPU better (since they aren't as visible once applied to your phone), especially since films like TPU can provide self-healing, edge-to-edge protection on phones with curved screens. I'd avoid the liquid protection unless you know you aren't going to use any of the others anyway.

If You Want Impact Protection, Get a Case

What Kind of Screen Protector Should I Get for My Phone? (5)

(Credit: René Ramos)

That said, screen protection is just one piece of the puzzle. These films will help you avoid scratches and provide some impact protection, but if you're worried about dropping your phone, get a case. A screen protector will not protect the back of your phone, the edges, or even the corners of the screen. A good case (especially one with a "lip" over the screen) will do more for drops than any screen protector.

I recommend theOtterBox Symmetry Seriescase, but we have more options for this year's flagship phones, including the iPhone 15, iPhone 15 Plus, iPhone 15 Pro, iPhone 15 Pro Max, and Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, and S23 Ultra.

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What Kind of Screen Protector Should I Get for My Phone? (2024)


Which type of phone screen protector is best? ›

Tempered glass screen protectors consistently land among our top-selling products. They provide multi-level protection, minimizing damage from daily wear and tear, as well as occasional drops and impacts, without causing deep-level damage.

Which is better, screen guard or tempered glass? ›


Protection: Tempered glass screen protectors are generally more durable and offer better protection against scratches and cracks compared to plastic screen protectors. This is because tempered glass is thicker and stronger than plastic.

Is Ceramic or glass better for a screen protector? ›

If your only concern is to protect your smartphone from scratches and cracks then a Ceramic screen protector can be a good alternative. But if you are not good at handling your smartphone and it often falls or slips or drops, then a tempered glass screen protector is a good option.

Is a glass or silicone screen protector better? ›

If you prioritize a thin profile and reduced fingerprint smudges, go for a silicone screen protector. If, on the other hand, your key concern is screen protection and longevity, then a tempered glass protector would be the ideal choice.

How to choose glass screen protector? ›

This is why it's important to consider the thickness of your glass screen protector before buying one. Ensure it's not too thick or too thin to do its job correctly. Thin glass won't offer much protection from drops or scratches. Glass that's too thick glass could affect your device's touch sensitivity.

What is the downside of screen protector? ›

DisplayMate found that screen protectors make your phone more reflective. This reduces the quality of your display and requires you to increase your phone's brightness to match the same quality. Over time, he says this will wear down your phone's battery, and give you a shorter daily battery life.

What is the strongest screen protector? ›

BodyGuardz Pure® is made of tempered glass—the toughest protector glass on the market. It is premium, ion-strengthened glass with a hardness stronger than steel (9H). Third-party testing verified that BodyGuardz Pure® is two times more impact resistant than the leading competitor.

Do phones really need a screen protector? ›

Protection against Scratches: A screen protector can add an extra layer of protection to your device's screen, guarding it against scratches, scuffs, and minor abrasions that could occur from daily use or accidental contact with hard objects like keys or coins.

Are phone screen protectors worth it? ›

If you want to avoid scratching your phone's screen, you'll need a screen protector. These stick-on screen covers aren't perfect—they typically max out at around a 7 or 8 on the Mohs scale, which is slightly better than Gorilla Glass—but they allow you to pop your phone in your pocket without worrying.

Do you still need a screen protector with ceramic shield? ›

Even though Ceramic Shield is quite tough, it is still vulnerable to cracks. Ceramic Shields are also prone to scratches. A screen protector can help prevent scratches and cracks, keeping your phone looking new.

Are glass screen protectors worth it? ›

Perhaps the greatest advantage of using a tempered glass screen protector is that the material is thicker and stronger than that of your typical plastic screen protector. As a result, your screen protector will be extremely resistant to scratches and other visible damage.

Why does ceramic break tempered glass? ›


In short, tiles and countertops feel pretty smooth, but are have very small, very sharp points. This means that when these small sharp points encounter tempered glass, they can concentrate a lot of pressure into a small area, resulting in the glass shattering.

How do I know if my screen protector is good quality? ›

Scratch resistance:

A good tempered glass film can be directly scratched with blades, scissors, keys, etc. If the surface is scratched easily, it goes without saying that such screen protector is bad screen protector. A good tempered glass screen protector is difficult to scratch obvious on it.

What are the disadvantages of tempered glass on phones? ›

Disadvantages of Tempered Glass

Although it is much stronger than conventional glass, when tempered glass does break it will completely shatter.

Is tempered glass or hydrogel screen protector better? ›

So if you want maximum scratch & shock resistance combined with great visibility then go for the hydrogel film ; whilst if you prefer slightly higher durability & easier application then pick up a tempered glass model instead !

Which is better, matte or glossy tempered glass? ›

Matte IS anti-fingerprint. Glossy leaves mark but better quality visually. But tempered screen guards are better because its made from thin glass.

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