What’s Better, Tempered Glass or Film Screen Protector?

which is better glass or film

by Alex Gustman

Updated: May 11, 2021

Many people think it’s better to use a protective film or tempered glass to protect their smartphone screen. Let’s break down the advantages and disadvantages of both types of screen protectors to help you make a choice.

Read also, different types of screen protectors.

Thickness

The protective film is made of thermoplastic polymer, several tens of microns thick. Therefore, a correctly installed film is not noticeable.

the thickness of the protective film.
The thickness of the protective film.

The safety glass is at least ten times thicker than the film, and it usually has 0.33 mm thick. There are also various types of safety glasses available with thicknesses of 0.26 and 0.5 mm. The safety glass is, therefore, more visible than the film. Tempered glass can protrude above the surface of the housing when certain bumpers and covers are used.

thickness of the protective glass
Thickness of the tempered glass.

For the appearance of a smartphone, the thickness of the protective glass does not matter much. The thickness of the screen protector is much more important if your phone has a built-in ultrasonic fingerprint scanner.

Since the scanner is built into the screen, you need to fit your finger tightly on the screen to scan your fingerprint. The protective film does not affect the fingerprint recognition process, but the protective glass may prevent the scanner from working properly.

If you want to use a protective glass and use an ultrasonic fingerprint, then you will need to look for a protective glass certified by the smartphone manufacturer, as the scanner may not work correctly when using a third-party screen protector.

Transparency

This characteristic of the screen protector determines the amount of light allowed to pass through the protective coating. The better the light passes through, the brighter and richer the picture is displayed on the screen of your mobile device.

The transparency of most films and tempered glasses reaches 98%. Only a few low quality cheap protective glasses sometimes achieve 95% or 91% transparency, which is nevertheless difficult to see by eye.

The transparency of the protective glass.
The transparency of the tempered glass.

The type of coating is also important. Glossy surfaces have the best transparency, while matt ones reduce brightness and add grains to the picture. At the same time, the mechanical properties and durability of matt coatings are better. If the quality of the picture is more important to you, then you should choose a glossy film/glass.

Sensitivity

The touch control of your smartphone reacts to the touch of your fingers. It is, therefore, important to keep the closest possible distance between your finger and the touchscreen. Tempered glass does not impair touchscreen responsiveness. And the protective film, which is usually 8-10 times thinner than glass, even more so. Therefore, at this point, both types of screen protectors are good.

Wear resistance

A variety of abrasives and sharp objects are very likely to touch your smartphone screen, no matter how carefully you protect it. Small or deep scratches are, therefore, inevitable. The screen protector is designed to take this kind of impact and keep the phone screen intact. Which of these two types of screen protectors can withstand greater damage?

On the Mohs scale, the maximum hardness is 10. Most good quality safety glasses have a hardness of 4-7 on the Mohs scale. Some high quality tempered glasses can have a hardness of 8-9. Therefore, you can only scratch such glass with a sharp knife or keys if you apply force.

The strength of a protective film on the Mohs scale is usually up to three units so that the coating can be easily scratched with a nail or any other object of similar strength. The situation is better with matt film due to its increased thickness of several tens of microns. Even better is the strength of hydrogel film, where small scratches are tightened after a couple of hours, and deep scratches are not as noticeable after a day or two but are not completely tightened. However, any film is not as strong as glass.

Level of protection

Even if you are very careful about your phone, it still happens that the phone falls, hits the wall, or a sharp object presses it. In this case, the screen of your mobile device is mechanically affected, which may damage the screen module.

In most cases, the safety glass absorbs all or most of the mechanical energy. Too much impact can break tempered glass, but the smartphone screen can remain intact. The safety glass does not provide 100% safety of the screen module. However, the level of protection of tempered glass is significantly higher than that of films. If the phone falls, it is better to break the safety glass than the phone screen as it is much cheaper to replace the tempered glass.

Broken protective coating.
Broken tempered glass. The main screen was not damaged.

The mechanical energy absorption of the film is low. The protective film does not absorb the impact force and is not destroyed by a phone impact, so all the impact force is on the mobile device screen.

Installation Difficulty

Installing a protective film is not the easiest thing to do. You may not be able to install the protective film correctly the first time. Firstly, the difficulty arises from the high flexibility of the material. Secondly, when the film is installed, air bubbles appear. Thirdly, if dust adheres to the adhesive side of the film, in most cases, you will have to throw away the protective coating and try to install a new one.

installation of a protective film
Protective film.

The installation of tempered glass is noticeably easier as the air is squeezed out under its weight. Wrongly installed glass is easy to remove and re-install. Also, tempered glass can be removed and cleaned if you need to remove dust from the adhesive base.

Glass installation
Tempered glass.

Hydrogel film is easier to install than plastic film. The feature of the hydrogel film is that it dissolves air bubbles that disappear after installation in a few hours or days.

Read also, how to remove air bubbles.

Costs

The cost of a screen protector is also important for most users. Production of plastic film is cheaper than glass. In reality, the film is slightly cheaper than ordinary protective glass. The wear resistance of glass is higher, so it will last longer, and the film will have to be changed more often. High-quality tempered glass is 5-10 times more expensive than plastic film.

FAQ

Which is better film or glass screen protector?

Definitely tempered glass is better.

What is the toughest screen protector?

Matte film is stronger than glossy film. Also, the thinner the film, the better the protective properties. And the most durable is tempered glass, with a hardness of 9H.

Does Gorilla Glass need a screen protector?

It is desirable, otherwise the phone screen over time will be covered with small scratches.

Can I use the phone without tempered glass?

Yes, but over time the phone glass will get scratched. If you plan to resell it later, it won’t look as good as if you were using a tempered glass.

What type of screen protector is best?

Tempered glass is the best.

What is the best thickness for tempered glass screen protector?

The thickness does not significantly affect the protective properties. Hardness is more important. The most durable by far is tempered glass with a hardness of 9H.

What screen protector does Apple recommend?

Belkin InvisiGlass Ultra.

Is Nano glass better than tempered glass?

No, tempered glass is much stronger and more reliable.

Which tempered glass is best for eyes?

Tempered glass with blue spectrum suppression is better for your eyes.

Does tempered glass affect touch sensitivity?

Doesn’t affect it in any noticeable way.

Does tempered glass affect proximity sensor?

Not, if the glass is properly installed.

How long do tempered glass screen protectors last?

Depends on how often you drop your phone. Usually, tempered glass can last for several years. Sometimes the phone is upgraded before the glass wears out.

Are film screen protectors good?

If you can’t use tempered glass, yes. Otherwise, tempered glass is better.

Conclusion

In this article, we tried to answer the question of what is better – protective glass or film. Hardened glass is superior to film in terms of protection and wear resistance. The advantage of plastic film will be noticed only by smartphone owners with an ultrasonic fingerprint scanner, as the protective film does not interfere with its correct operation.

Which screen protector do you consider to be the best? Please share your opinion in the comments section below.

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About the author 

Alex Gustman


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