These days, it seems like every time we upgrade our tech it results in a new shopping list. But when you’re upgrading to a fresh new iPhone, one accessory you can’t shirk is a screen protector. Just as every parent sending their freshman student off to football practice should probably consider investing in a mouthguard, an iPhone screen protector is a crucial piece of protective gear for your new high-tech baby.
The best iPhone screen protectors are usually made of tempered glass that sticks onto your screen. The high tensile strength of tempered glass protects the screen from impact shattering, as well as serves as a scratch guard. Some protectors also feature a rear guard protector that covers your camera. This can be a particularly useful feature, as the camera is often one of the more expensive components of an iPhone to fix. These screen protectors are fully transparent and seal to your phone screen. Most users will attach the screen protector and forget it’s there.
Our phones are often the most expensive item we carry with us, while also being the most fragile. That’s why an iPhone screen protector costing a fraction of the price of your phone is a crucial aftermarket accessory that will widely extend the working life of your phone, and pay for itself after just a few drops and mishaps.
— Best Overall: Spigen Tempered Glass Screen Protector
— Best Budget: amFilm Glass Screen Protector for iPhone SE 2020
— Best for the iPhone 12 Series: 4 Pack UniqueMe 2 Pack Screen Protector
— Best for the iPhone 11 Series: Ailun Glass Screen Protector
— Best for the iPhone X Series: JETech Screen Protector
How We Chose The Best iPhone Screen Protectors
We’ve all been there: we notice a little too late that the iPhone is precariously perched on the edge of the table, accidentally bump a corner, and then watch helplessly as it spins toward the floor. The differences in how the rest of that experience goes often falls to whether that iPhone had a good screen protector installed on it.
To create this list we factored our experience as iPhone users who have loved and broken more than a couple of iPhones over the years, while tempering that experience with our experience reviewing tech. We researched numerous screen protectors from different manufacturers, looking for the best iPhone screen protectors for each contemporary model of iPhone on the market, while also keeping an eye out for the best manufacturers overall. Along the way, we payed attention to a few specific wants:
Protective Strength: This is the ever-important quality in anything that’s meant to protect your phone. Some makers offer iPhone screen protectors made of plastics, but we picked protectors made out of tempered glass because of their high strength and scratch resistance. We also like its transparency and rigid adhesion that gives little room for air bubbles.
Ease of Application: A poorly adhered screen protector does more than look bad — they can’t protect your phone as well if they’re not properly installed. Getting air bubbles and lint off your screen before application is important, and screen protectors that make themselves easy to affix got a bump in our rankings. That said, some of the screen protectors that come with applicators do include wasteful disposable plastic, and for the purpose of sustainability, we did have to mention that as a con. (When do we get recycled paper applicators, guys?)
Extras: An iPhone screen protector is a pretty straightforward accessory. However, products that offer two or three protectors to a pack can be nice. Protectors that offer a second screen protector for your iPhone’s rear camera can offer especially good value, as these cameras can be extremely expensive to repair, especially on the newer phone models.
The Best iPhone Screen Protectors: Reviews & Recommendations
Best Overall: Spigen Tempered Glass Screen Protector
Why It Made The Cut: With its included applicator, strong build quality, and backup screen protector, Spigen delivers.
— Materials: Tempered glass, plastic applicator tray, film
— Hardness: 9H
— Screen Size: 6.7 inches
— Price: $15.99
— Easy to apply
— Oil-resistant coating
— Solid hardness
— Applicator is single-use plastic.
The Spigen Tempered Glass Screen Protector is a tempered glass solution that offers impressive hardness and functionality, while capitalizing on a highly effective plastic alignment tray to offer extreme ease of use. As a two-pack, each standard order features two protectors and one applicator. With 9H hardness and a firm application, the Spigen screen protector will ensure your phone is both highly scratch resistant and shatterproof making it our choice for the best iPhone screen protector overall.
For installation, the protector is loaded into a plastic tray. After the film is removed the applicator will perfectly line the protector up with the surface of your phone so that you’ll get an even application each time.
This two-pack from Spigen delivers you a solid option for screen protection on whatever model of iPhone you use. The model we feature is the best screen protector for iPhone 13 series, but the Spigen EZ Fit line does a great job on any iPhone series. As with all screen protectors, it’s important to order the model that’s designed for your iPhone, as they are usually cut to different sizes.
Best Budget: amFilm Glass Screen Protector for iPhone SE 2020
Why It Made The Cut: This budget-priced two-pack comes with an easy-to-use applicator and solid hardness.
— Materials: Tempered glass, plastic film applicator, wipes, squeeze card, and dust removal stickers
— Hardness: 9H
— Screen Size: 4.7 inches
— Price: $6.99
— Solid hardness
— Affordably priced
— Easy applicator is built into film and uses less throwaway plastic
— Applicator requires somewhat more dexterity than the Spigen model
If you’ve got an iPhone SE, you likely value budget and discrete size. However, chances are most of the rest of us non-SE users do too. That’s why we chose the SE series model of the amFilm Glass Screen Protector as our pick for the best budget iPhone screen protector. amFilm also offers iPhone screen protectors for whatever other size iPhone you use, and they’re just as good.
amFilm’s tempered glass screen protector comes in a two-pack. Unlike Spigen, which offers a hard plastic applicator tray that loads the screen protector and deposits it onto your phone, amFilm solves this problem with the film itself. Each of the two screens has a tab at the top and bottom that protrudes off the screen and helps you position the protector before peeling away. We think that this tab system is also slightly better for sustainability than the large rigid plastic applicator included with Spigen (however, the other included accessories may counteract this boon).
The two tempered glass screen protectors offer similar protection to the Spigen model. They feature 9H hardness, and they’re scratch- and shatter-resistant, all while adhering well.
Best for iPhone 12 Series: 4 Pack UniqueMe 2 Pack Screen Protector
Why It Made The Cut: This screen protector series from UniqueMe is the best screen protector for iPhone 12 series because it not only protects your iPhone’s screen, but also protects your camera lens.
— Materials: Tempered glass, plastic film applicator
— Hardness: 9H
— Screen Size: 6.1 inches
— Price: $9.99
— Protects the rear camera as well as the front
— Has a flash aperture on rear lens cover for uninterrupted flash photography
— Two screen protectors and two camera protectors included
— Hard to install without some bubbling
— Applicator is single-use plastic
Contemporary iPhone dual-lens cameras sometimes cost more to repair than the actual retail price of an iPhone SE, so we thought it was important to include a screen protector kit that also features camera lens protection. The UniqueMe 2 Pack Screen Protector is a reasonably-priced two-pack that features two screen protectors and two camera protector screens. With its included applicator, UniqueMe is a real value pack. All the contents come for a price that competes with screen protectors like Spigen’s and amFilm’s.
That said, it might not be quite as reliable. UniqueMe isn’t as uniform in quality as a brand like Spigen. Though it still features tempered glass with 9H-level hardness, it’s not known for the same longevity and may crack a little sooner. However, a cracked screen or lens protector still does its job if the glass beneath is fine, and the pack does come with two of each. If you’re looking to protect your phone’s front and back with one easily installable kit, then UniqueMe is a good choice.
It’s also worth noting that any lens protector cover can create some issues with your camera. This lens protector has a flash aperture cut out so that the flash doesn’t cause haloing in the dark. However, there may be some subtle distortion when compared to an uncoated lens. Lens protection can also be solved with a great phone case. If you’re looking for a lens protector on its own, Spigen makes a solid dedicated lens protector.
Best for iPhone 11 Series: Ailun Glass Screen Protector
Why It Made The Cut: With just one fault, this screen protector pack from Ailun is an excellent choice for those with a steady enough hand for a clean install.
— Materials: Tempered glass
— Hardness: 9H
— Screen Size: 6.1 inches
— Price: $8.97
— Three-pack for the price of two
— Decent scratch resistance
— Smooth touch
— No included applicator
The Ailun Glass Screen Protector is a screen protector three-pack that does a decent job for most people's needs. Priced similarly to brands such as amFilm and Spigen, Ailun eschews the included applicator for an extra screen protector.
Its 9H hardness is on par with comparable models, and the Ailun protector’s decent build quality easily goes on without bubbles. However, it lacks an applicator system. Instead of providing anything to help with your installation, this screen protector trusts you to clean and place your screen protector. If you’ve got a flawlessly cool hand and three protectors for the price of one sounds like a good bet, then this is for you. If not… it might be better to look elsewhere.
As with most products on this list, the Ailun protector series comes in different sizes for different iPhone series. Make sure you order the model that fits your phone.
Best for iPhone X Series: JETech Screen Protector
Why It Made The Cut: Using application stickers instead of a rigid plastic applicator, this 9H tempered glass two-pack will keep your X series iPhone safe.
— Materials: Tempered glass
— Hardness: 9H
— Screen Size: 5.8 inches
— Price: $6.99
— Uses stickers that affix to phones back for easy application
— Strong protection
— Hydrophobic coating
— Application method isn’t as easy as some
The JETech Screen Protector doesn’t differ too much from the competition. Because of the iPhone X series’ rounded edge, this protector doesn’t cover the entire surface of the screen. However, this isn’t too much of an issue. Working in tandem with a phone case, this 9H screen protector with strong adhesion still offers solid protection that will keep your phone uncracked through multiple drops and falls (or slingshot fusillades).
Applied via stick-on tabs that swing the Screen Protector into place, this protector offers good rigidity and adhesion that results in a bubble-free tempered display. While the stick-on tab method isn’t as foolproof as Spigen’s rigid plastic applicator, it doesn’t result in quite as much plastic waste.
All in all, JETech makes a strong screen protector line that’s worth a look if you’re looking for a new protector for your X, or if you want a protector for that new iPhone 13. Either way, make sure you buy the right screen protector for your iPhone model.
Things To Consider Before You Buy An iPhone Screen Protector
For the engineers among us, an iPhone protector without an applicator may not be a challenge. Without an applicator, screen protector installation requires considerable manual dexterity. One has to clean one’s phone screen, then remove the coating from one’s protector and attach it flush to the screen and without accumulating any dust smudges.
Applicators make the process considerably easier. They are usually designed as rigid plastic devices that hook onto your phone’s body to help you position the screen protector, or as tabs that either adhere to the screen protector, or serve as part of its protective film. Either sort is good so long as it allows you to reliably position the screen into place.
All of the iPhone screen protectors we featured are made of tempered glass. But there are also some decent options made of other materials, such as the pricey BodyGuardz PRTX Screen Protector, which is made out of synthetic glass. In the end, most of the time tempered glass is the best option.
Glass hardness can also vary. Most of the best iPhone screen protectors feature 9H hardness glass. But some make decent screen protectors that still offer decent protection with 4H hardness glass. It’s usually not a good idea to go much below 4H on the hardness scale, however.
Do I Need One?
Most iPhone users should go ahead and get a screen protector. For a minimal price, these devices offer excellent protection that can save you lots of money over the long run. That said, certain types of iPhone cases make a screen protector less important. If you’ve invested in a fully submersible ultra-armored case, like the Lifeproof FRĒ SERIES, a tempered glass screen protector may be less important. However, a little extra security usually doesn’t hurt, so for most users it really is a good idea.
Q: What brand of screen protector is the best?
Spigen is one of the best brands of screen protectors for its excellent construction and easy application. amFilm is a runner-up due to its impressive protection and easy film application. Either brand will deliver an excellent iPhone screen protector for a good price that does its job and is easy to apply.
Q: Is it worth buying a tempered glass screen protector?
We recommend tempered glass screen protectors because these rather cheap accessories offer truly great protective value. They can help prevent cracks, and some kits even come with a camera protector. So is it worth buying one of these protectors? In a word… absolutely.
Q: Which is better, ZAGG vs. BodyGuardz?
While both ZAGG and BodyGuardz offer some high-quality screen protectors, neither made it onto our best of list, and that’s because neither featured products that had exactly the right combination of effective design and value. Many of BodyGuardz synthetic glass cases were over twice the price of other tempered glass options. Zagg similarly prices many of its screen protectors at between two to a dozen times the price of their competition without any decisive justification beyond a warranty. In short, it’s hard to say which is better between the two, because in terms of value, Spigen and amFilm beat them both.
Q: Will a screen protector prevent cracks from spreading?
A screen protector may stabilize an already cracked screen. However, the entropy of cracking glass is beyond any definite predictive fix. Depending on how the crack pattern is spreading across your phone’s screen, a screen protector may keep the crack from spreading further.
Q: Is Otterbox Alpha glass worth it?
Otterbox Alpha glass is a premium screen protector material that may be somewhat better than the competition. However, its 9H hardness is the same hardness as some leading screen protectors that go for up to an eighth of the price per pane. For most users, Spigen’s tempered glass is just as good as Otterbox Alpha glass for much less.
Q: Why are Zagg screen protectors so expensive?
Zagg includes a high-end limited lifetime warranty. In many cases this means that Zagg will replace a broken screen protector free of charge. However, with some single Zagg screen protectors costing five times the asking price of an equivalent 9H tempered glass two-pack from competitors, the question arises of whether the warranty is worth the higher cost per screen protector.
Related: Power up with the best MagSafe chargers.
Final Thoughts on iPhone Screen Protectors
If you’ve got a new iPhone in your pocket, or you're looking to further preserve one that’s been in your life for some time, one of the best value accessories that you can buy is a tempered glass screen protector. These screen protectors offer a scratch-resistant surface with a high tensile strength that can bear the hit from drops or sudden collisions, keeping your iPhone screen crack and scratch-free. We recommend the Spigen Tempered Glass Screen Protector for most users for its great build quality and easy application. However, the amFilm Glass Screen Protector is a similarly excellent runner-up that applies easily without the rigid plastic applicator and still provides excellent protection.
By Gabriel Morgan
This post was created by a non-news editorial team at Recurrent Media, Futurism’s owner. Futurism may receive a portion of sales on products linked within this post.