Glass or plastic? Blue light filter or anti-glare? These are our favorite iPhone screen protectors

Jacob Krol, CNN Underscored
Thu February 14, 2019

Story highlights

  • A screen protector is an extra layer of protection that can shield your glass screen from scratches and drops.
  • With iPhone prices rising, you'll want to guard your iPhone X, iPhone 7, iPhone 6 and more.

You want to protect your expensive purchases, and that definitely includes your iPhone -- especially since Apple has opted for glass backs and fronts, increasing the chances that a drop could do expensive damage.

In addition to buying a case that is as protective as it is fashionable, it's a good idea to have a screen protector on the front. This extra layer of plastic or glass on top of the display doesn't block usability, but it can take the brunt of drops or collisions.

However, there's no guarantee that a glass or plastic film protector will stop your screen from cracking. It has a strong chance of protecting it from shattering, but there are just too many factors that could affect an iPhone drop.

Here are the key things to look for when it comes to screen protectors.

Glass vs. plastic

An iPhone has a glass screen, like most smartphones, and since a screen protector is essentially a film placed on top, you'll want a comparable material. Plastic and the nature of the film can make the screen look worse, and colors might not be as vibrant. It's also a different feel from the phone screen. On the other hand, plastic can offer more protection if you drop your phone, since it's less breakable than glass.

Glass protectors cost more, but they provide a better experience. For starters, glass is the same type of material as the display, so you can expect it to be similar quality. It will also be a similar feel when you're using the iPhone. The downside is that if you drop an iPhone with a glass screen protector, that extra layer will likely crack, and then you'll have to buy a new one.

Scratch protection yes, drop protection not guaranteed

Either a plastic or glass protector will most certainly help protect against scratches. Since the protectors are usually at least a millimeter thick, a hairline scratch shouldn't touch the display of the iPhone itself. Instead, the protector will absorb it and likely show it as a battle scar.

But a glass screen protector is not guaranteed to save your phone screen from cracking. There are a number of factors, from height to force and even the type of surface it hits, that can affect the screen. At the end of the day — or rather the end of the drop — a screen protector is an additional thin layer on top of your phone screen.

Here are a few of our favorite screen protection options for iPhones.

Totallee's Tempered Glass Screen Protectors for iPhone

Totallee is an accessory brand that specializes in cases that are as thin as they are minimalistic. Like any good case, these let the iPhone's design speak for itself. Totallee's screen protectors measure just two-tenths of an inch thick and are crafted from clear tempered glass.

It's rated as a 9 on the Mohs hardness scale for minerals, which means it should stand firm against scratches. Totallee offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a two-year warranty.

  • Totallee iPhone XR Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone XS Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone XS Max Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone X Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone 8 Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($6.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone 8 Plus Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone 7 Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($6.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone 7 Plus Tempered Glass Screen Protector — 2-pack ($9.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone 6 Plus/6s Plus Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)
  • Totallee iPhone 5 Tempered Glass Screen Protector ($7.99; amazon.com)

Otterbox Alpha Glass Screen Protectors for iPhone

It's no secret that Otterbox cases are built tough, and their screen protectors also get high marks. The company's Alpha Glass screen protectors work with Otterbox cases or a naked iPhone. With a tempered glass build, they're strong protectors that also show off the iPhone's clear screen. Otterbox also throws in a layer of fingerprint resistance for a clean screen.

  • Alpha Glass Screen Protector for iPhone X/XS ($39.95; otterbox.com)
  • Alpha Glass Screen Protector for iPhone 8/7/6s/6 ($39.95; otterbox.com)
  • Alpha Glass Screen Protector for iPhone 8 Plus/7 Plus/6s Plus/6 Plus ($39.95; otterbox.com)
  • Alpha Glass Screen Protector for iPhone 5/5s/SE ($39.95; otterbox.com)

Zagg InvisibleShield Screen Protectors for iPhone

Zagg makes a plethora of screen protectors that have added bonuses, like protecting against the blue light spectrum. Like those from Totallee and Otterbox, Zagg's screen protectors work with a variety of iPhones. The InvisibleShield Glass+ VisionGuard combination provides a durable layer of glass that can also filter part of the high-energy visible blue light that emanates from your phone screen.

  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ Vision Guard iPhone X/XS ($44.99; zagg.com)

If you'd rather focus on removing glare, the InvisibleShield Glass+ Anti-Glare might be useful. It pairs that glass protector with a matte finish to block light that may bounce off the screen.

  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ Anti-Glare for iPhone X/XS ($44.99,; zagg.com)
  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ Anti-Glare for iPhone XS Max ($44.99; zagg.com)
  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ Anti-Glare for iPhone XR ($39.99, originally $44.99; zagg.com)

If you want a basic screen protector that wraps around the front and back of the device, the InvisibleShield Glass+ 360 might be your best bet. It also includes a bumper to protect the sides.

  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ 360 for iPhone X/XS ($69.97; zagg.com)
  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ 360 for iPhone XS Max ($69.99; zagg.com)
  • Zagg InvisibleShield Glass+ 360 for iPhone XR ($69.99; zagg.com)

Belkin ScreenForce Screen Protectors for iPhone

Belkin has been in the accessories and tech business for more than 35 years, so it makes sense to at least consider its products when it comes to protecting your iPhone's display. Its line of ScreenForce protectors for iPhones uses a tempered glass compound that provides multilevel protection. And the ScreenForce InvisiGlass protectors deliver the same ultrastrong layer in an ultrathin format.

  • Belkin ScreenForce TemperedGlass Screen Protector for iPhone X/XS ($16.99; amazon.com)
  • Belkin ScreenForce InvisiGlass Screen Protector for iPhone XS Max ($19.99; amazon.com)
  • Belkin ScreenForce InvisiGlass Screen Protector for iPhone XR ($39.99; amazon.com)

Note: The prices above reflect the retailers' listed prices at the time of publication.