If You're Buying A Phone, Buy A Screen Protector And Case

Image: iStock

Let's say you're buying a new phone. If it's an iPhone or a high-end Android phone, you're probably spending easily more than a thousand dollars. You're spending a lot of money on a very intricately designed piece of technology. And it's fragile. Take care of it.

Thinking about it in context, smartphones are incredibly rugged. We really should be marveling over how well they're built, not how fragile they are. But when you drop a phone without a case or a screen protector, chances are pretty good that you're going to damage it, possibly irreparably, but at the very least you're not going to be happy with what happens next.

With that in mind, whenever you buy a new phone, you owe it to yourself and your bank account to ask one simple question: is it cheaper for me to pay for repairs later, or to buy a screen protector and case now? Either option is cheaper than buying a brand new phone again, sure, but I know I'd prefer to replace a case than get a phone repaired and live with a refurbished handset.

Up until a couple of months ago, I hadn't damaged a phone for a very long time, despite changing to a new device every month or so for years now. But after a spate of accidents -- I think I cracked four phone screens in three weeks out of sheer dumb bad luck -- I decided that it's probably definitely a smarter course of action to start using cases and screen protectors on everything. Buying the cheapest accessories isn't a great idea, though.

Since the phone came out, I've been using a InvisibleShield Glass+ screen protector on my Google Pixel XL. And, from the small scuffs and scratches on the screen protector that I can see already, I know it's done its job. These are scratches that would otherwise be on the $1079-plus phone's 5.5-inch display, and I can just replace the screen protector -- not the whole screen -- to get rid of them.

There's a reason to stump up for a decent screen protector, too, rather than the cheapest shittiest thing you can find at the shopping centre mobile phone kiosk. I like glass protectors mainly because they will crack and shatter sacrificially if you drop your phone onto them, distributing all the force that would otherwise be directed into the phone. InvisibleShield will even replace its glass screen protectors if you damage them. But they just feel better in the first place -- it's much nicer to tap your thumbs against a glass sheet than it is plastic.

At the same time, I ordered a couple of Live Cases for my Pixel. Live Cases are Google's first-party covers for the Pixel and its larger Pixel XL variant, and you can customise your own -- choose from a Google Maps image, or upload a photo of your own. They're skinny cases, but they wrap around to cover the edges of the front of the phone -- very important -- and they can take a bit of punishment.

The evening that I put one of the Live Cases on my Pixel, I dropped it while I was getting out of my car. Now my case has a dent in the corner, and it's only a few days old, and that's frustrating -- but that's a dent that's not in the phone, or a crack that's not in the screen. It saves me a difficult chat with the guys at Google (who actually, y'know, own the phone), and that's worth something.

Maybe I'm getting clumsy in my old age. But you'd have to pay me not to use a case and screen protector these days, when you're talking about a $50 investment to save a $1000 device from damage.



    You're just getting old Cam. Cases suck. Screen protectors are needed though.

      Other way around.

      Screen protectors, both the 'glass' ones and the plastic ones are near useless. The glass ones are awfully good at breaking and making it look like they prevented damage.

      A good soft case, however, can prevent breaks. The snappy plastic cases don't do anything. A wallet case with a soft wrap is a good middle ground over the otterboxes and their ilk.

      I fixed phones for about 3 years. Maybe I'm taking a skewed view, but screen protectors are just an easy way of making money on top of other sales.

        Yeah totally agree with you.
        Never bothered with a screen protector and my phones have always been fine.
        But have pretty much always gotten a case for my smartphone.
        Annoyingly though with my current iPhone I didn't replace the case when it cracked and a piece came off. I then dropped it again and it got a little crack on the front. Luckily the crack doesn't go across to the actual display area so I don't worry about it.

        I've got both a case and a screen protector on my iPhone.
        I thought the same about the strength of the glass and after discovering fine scratches and one deep scratch one day, I changed my view on them and got a good quality glass one.

        So far the poor thing is covered in fine scratches, but knowing it's not affected my phone I'm happy.


        Your top-tier mobiles use some form of Corning Gorilla glass which is pretty strong and resistant to scratches/bumps.

        Buy a cover that hugs the edges of a phones front to protect against most hard falls.

        You'd have to be pretty unlucky if the phone falls face down directly onto something sharp (ie: pavement with a stone hitting the screen).

        In any case, with a few scratches/chips, phones end up in a draw, passed down or thrown out when their no longer needed...

        Last edited 29/11/16 1:55 pm

    I saw a guy at a computer store on the weekend come in to pick up his smashed phone, and it turns out he'd added one of those glass protectors to it, and that's all that was smashed.
    He was pretty chuffed it didn;t cost him a new screen, if still somewhat confused.

      I've got a tempered glass screen protector on my phone, i accidentally dropped my phone on the kitchen floor and the protector cracked but the screen behind it is still pristine.

      All i had to do is spend another $20 on a new glass screen protector.

        Is it made of diamonds? haha

        I spent $9 on mine and it was a premium one. Really thick and strong when I felt it before putting it on the phone.

          I went to one of those little mobile accessory kiosks to get my protector, although I did see a whole lot of cheap ones on ebay.

    Have not purchased a screen protector or case for the last 3 phones now. I figured that if I look after them, they will last!
    ...I work in an office.

    I hope Murphy isn't reading this.

    Last edited 30/11/16 11:53 am

    Rawdogging is the only whey. My iphone 7 plus is my third. Zero screen protectors, zero cases, zero damage. I do use siri through my headphones to do most of my tasks so I don't pull it out of my front left pants pocket much. Will be even less when I get the apple watch series 2 soon.

    I also work in an industrial environment before you think I may be a desk-johnny. Maybe I'm just not naturally clumsy. As for screen protectors, over my phones lives, they've only gotten the most minuscule of hairline scratches on the glass that aren't even close to being visible with the screen on. I'm always conscious of getting sand in my pockets to scratch the glass so every now and then through the day I'll pull my phone out and turn my pocket inside out and flap it about to clean it then put it back.

    I just can't stand cases on my phones. If dust gets in between your phone and your case it scratches the shit out of it. You actually get less damage caseless providing you're comfortable with yourself not dropping it. An iphone, or equivalent high end smartphone, is a thing of beauty. Covering them with gaudy bulky cases seems stupid to me.

      I worked as a landscaper for two years with my note 4. not one scratch. Proper care does wonders.

        the note 4 was a particularly tough phone though - The screen on that took a beating and is still as pristine as ever when i used it the other week. That is after I smashed my note 5 so i ended up getting a pixel xl and got a case - still considering screen protector because it feels a bit like they dont make them like they used to

      I agree with you and behave somewhat like you. In the first, the design of these phones and the reason you bought them for are their physical and aesthetic beauty. At the same time, being how much they cost, a scratch to me becomes too visible for my liking. So what i tell myself is to do the glass screen protector and Spigen bulky case for the first year, and be super aware on those days that I decide are 'naked' days (yes, I devote too much thinking time around my gadgets), and then a year later, it goes 100% of the time naked (with care still taken the way you do it a la careful on pocket dedication to the naked phone).

      I guess in the end its just a personal call. It is just a tool, not a piece of precious art, as much as Apple would like you to believe, and it's what's on the inside that counts.

      Btw today is naked day so my Note 4 and 7 plus are rubbing it up against each other in my right pants pocket right now.

      And i'm a desk-johnny :-(

        No... not in the same pocket.... nooooo!!!

        Watch out, they may end up producing a Windows phone!

        Last edited 29/11/16 12:27 pm

    I reject your rational thoughts about protecting my phone and insert it must be someone else's fault I have broken my phone.

    agree cases are great, also a place for credit, opal, biz cards. Saved my bacon a few times and im pretty careful. Except for the time I was in a truck with the aux set at 24 volts - fried Nexus.

      can't happen with my innovative iPhone 7 plus mate. Apple engineered that issue out completely :P

    Wow I can actually post - thanks Cam.

    As my last post mentioned Assange and Russia - I was half thinking I was hacked (or whatever its called)

    I've gotta say, at the risk of sounding like a shill, Samsung and HTC's phones are super rugged.

    I'm currently using an S7 Edge and have dropped it twice. Once was when I went to put it into my pocket, I mis-judged my pants pocket's openness and I sent my phone slamming onto the concrete floor as I walked towards my car. It's got a small scuff on the corner from that. I'm amazed the whole screen wasn't just a spider web.

    Last week I dropped my 2 day old S7 edge off a ledge when I tripped on a loose bit of timber and it fell 4 metres onto concrete. Safe to say, if I hadn't bought a screen protector and case, it'd have been a goner. So happy for that small investment saved me a world of heartache.

    P.S. the phone came out without a scratch!

    Just get insurance - my partner drops/smashes her phone at least once a year. We have accidental damage/theft cover with our home contents insurance.

    Cheaper than with the Telcos and no excess, win!

      How do you get that with no excess?
      We're covered but there is an excess.
      Sure cheaper than buying a new phone if it gets stolen but not worth it for a ding or two.
      Much cheaper to make sure we both have cases.
      Will need to look at my insurance policy now I think.

        Ours is HBF - you have to specify it as an extra on your policy :)

    Don't get a Galaxy S7!
    Their stupid curved edge means you can either get a good screen protector or a case, not both!

    Arguably worse design than an exploding battery!

    Most other things you buy come with protectors for the things you're mostly likely to do wrong (guards on routers, airbags in cars, little plastic covers on power plugs...) why not provide the some level on protection to mobile electronic devices?


    If screen protectors and cases are a necessary part of owning a modern smartphone, then why don't they just, you know, integrate these things into the phone in the first place and design them to be more rugged?

    Glass backs? Exposed screens with no protective bezel? Thinness at all cost? This is the price we pay.

    Last edited 28/11/16 8:32 pm

    I love my glass screen protector. Plastic though? Pass. I'd rather smash my screen than have those awful easily scratched quickly dirtied things with poor sunlight visibility. Had my glass one on the iPhone since the beginning of the year though, a couple of chips at the edges, but barely any scratches.

    I've had my Z3 for a year & a half & only put a glass screen protector on it a week or two ago, getting out of my 4WD yesterday I dropped it onto concrete & the protector cracked but the screen is fine so I'm pretty happy with my $10 investment. I hate cases though.

    never used cases or screen protector. the look of the phone plays a reasonable part for my decision making, for which phone to buy. putting a case to cover the thing up is against the whole point.

    i tend to update my phone at least once a year, and I never really damaged my phone in the scene that a case would make a difference... losing it seems to be a bigger risk for me, no case or screen protector can save me from that.

    having said all that, i know someone who just have slippery fingers and phones just jump out of their hands weekly. everyone is different.

    I wonder how many phone fires are caused by phone cases trapping the heat.

    Glass screen protectors aren't as resilient to scratching or breaking as your phone's own Gorilla glass. Just cause your screen protector is getting scratched doesn't mean your phone would have.

      that much is true. I never use screen protectors. Glass really just doesn't require it. The one hairline scratch I did get on my 6 was only visible with the screen off and held at a certain angle to catch the light. 2 years rawdogging in my pocket and that was it. My iphone 7 plus hopefully will have the same fate.

      The faces people pull when I show them my phone followed by the usual "You don't use a case?!!! or screen protector?!!! ARE YOU MAD!!!". Even the guy at the Telstra store was in disbelief when I demanded I only wanted the phone sans-extras like cases and screen protectors as well as the $15 per month extra for phone protection on the contract. I guess most people just buy into it.

      Really, these things are tougher than you think. Just try it for a while.

      Last edited 01/12/16 11:31 am

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