Cases protect from falls, screen films do not
NY Times, Reality Check: What Does, and Doesn’t, Protect Your Smartphone
Screen protectors are a partial solution
A shattered smartphone screen is always a sad sight. Makers of screen protectors, the plastic or glass films that can be adhered to a smartphone display, say that their products will safeguard your screen from scratches and cracks when it falls face down.
But screen protectors are an incomplete solution.
A majority of broken smartphone screens come from impact on the corners and edges, according to a survey of smartphone owners by iFixit, a company that sells components for repairing electronics. When a smartphone’s corners or edges hit the ground, the impact is in a concentrated area and more likely to cause shattering, whereas if it had fallen face down on the ground, the impact would have been spread out over the width of the screen.
On the other hand, screen protectors help protect screens from scratches, which weaken the structural integrity of a display and may eventually lead to large cracks. But don’t expect them to save your phone if you drop it on the pavement.
So screen protectors save you from scratches, but not cracks.
Why you should buy a case
For overall device protection, a case, which covers the corners, edges and back of a smartphone, is your best bet. A good case will protect your phone from scratches and absorb impact in those areas when your device is dropped.
There are hundreds of cases available composed of different materials, including plastic and leather. The Wirecutter recommends $11 Silk cases, which are slim, inexpensive and composed of a flexible plastic that is easy to grip.
There are trade-offs to cases and glass protectors. A case adds a bit of bulk to the device, making it heavier and heftier in your pocket, and a screen protector adds some thickness.
If you were to go with just one accessory, a case is more important than a screen protector given the case’s reach over more parts of the phone.
“We’d definitely recommend a case before the screen protector,” said Nick Guy, the mobile accessories reviewer for The Wirecutter. “We don’t think most people need a glass protector, but because they’re so affordable, there’s no serious downside to having one.”
Within one month of getting it, I got my Galaxy S6 knocked out of my hand. Not hard at all, it simply fell 90 cm / 3 feet to the ground. crack Busted screen from an impact that indented the side of the phone.
So I went and got a rather heavy duty case (Otterbox Symmetry if anyone is interested). Since then I have had the phone fall 5-6 times to the ground in the same manner, and not taking any damage. The real proof came when I failed to notice an outdoor path stair step, that made me unexpectedly drop about 10 inches straight down.
My hands shot down on reflex to catch the fall. In the process the phone I was holding was released by the hand and thus effectively thrown hard into the ground. The phone impacted — corner first — on rough concrete paving. I have absolutely no doubt that had it not been for the case, the phone would have been seriously damaged, with the screen and maybe even the display broken.
The result: the case was slightly chipped/dented, the phone was fine.
So there it is: cases will provide a measure of protection from falls. How much depends on the case, the phone, and the circumstances of the fall. Screen protectors will not do that, but they will protect against scratches, and cost so little that most customers can afford to use one anyway.