Ah yes, the old “Screen Protector vs. Case” dilemma, a debate as old as time itself (or at least as old as smartphones). But once you have the facts straight, it’s really not much of a contest.
Although a quality tempered glass screen protector will certainly help mitigate damage on the front of your phone, it won’t help much for “drop-damage” caused by impact on the corners and edges of your device. So when it comes to protecting your phone from accidental damage and the general wear and tear of daily use, there is absolutely no substitute for a quality case, but certainly no harm in having both.
That being said, there are several important factors you need to know about how to choose a phone case and maintain one, and why sometimes a screen protector may actually be the better option for you- especially if you’re a particularly stylish or a neat freak.
1) Durability Test
Although a quality tempered glass screen protector will certainly help safeguard against scratches and cracks, this is generally only if your phone falls “flat on its face.” But keep in mind that your phone is not a cat, it doesn’t always land the same way, and definitely doesn’t have nine lives. All it takes is one awkward slip-up for it to drop on a corner, clip an edge, and crack- all but ruining the aesthetic, and in some cases even the functionality, of your phone.
So as a general rule, a case is more durable than a screen protector, and will better protect your phone from drop damage. Period.
Yet, it is important to note that screen protectors aren’t useless. They do serve several real-world functions beyond impact protection.
2) Benefits of Screen Protector
For starters, our phones aren’t always in our hands (hopefully). Chances are, you probably stuff your phone in your pocket or your purse alongside all that other “stuff” you need or have just forgotten about, like keys, loose change, pens, gum wrappers, and other everyday debris. And although these things may seem harmless enough, as your phone cozies up with these abrasive objects, friction will almost certainly find a way to rub off on your phone’s screen and leave scratches. Over time, these can accumulate and weaken the structural integrity of your display, which will affect the visibility and even usability of your device, and in some serious cases, even lead to cracks.
Therefore, having a quality tempered glass screen protector is always a good choice to protect your phone from unsightly scratches caused by everyday use.
And speaking of pockets, purses, and everyday use, phone cases are nearly always bulkier than a screen protector. Due to the nature of their job, a good case should cover all the corners, edges, and back of your phone, which provides a little extra cushion against potentially deadly damage related to impact. And although this is great for preventing injury, like a bulletproof vest, this often prioritizes function over form and can make it more cumbersome, thus, harder to slip in your pocket or place in a particularly small purse.
So depending on the material your phone case is made from (and how tight your pants are), it may actually be more hassle than it’s worth, and won’t be worth anything if you get frustrated and end up taking the case off entirely. So if you are someone who really appreciates the design or color of your phone and wants to show it off, then opting for a screen protector and going case-less will always be the more sleek, chic option. It’s either that, or buying a clear, see-through phone case. But those can get real dirty, real quick, which all but defeats the purpose of having one in the first place.
But luckily, there are solutions to prevent your phone case from yellowing over time.
3) How to Prevent Phone Case From Yellowing
In order to better prevent your phone case from turning yellow, it helps to know why it may turn yellow in the first place.
Clear phone cases are generally made from a mix of materials that include a TPU/BPA-free hybrid of plastics and polymers, which allow them to “breath” and maintain their lightweight elasticity without stretching. In other words, they are plastic, not metal, and the kind of affordable plastic that most phone cases are made from do degrade and lose their integrity over time, especially when exposed to certain chemicals, light, or heat.
Unfortunately for us, these yellowing agents tend to appear in the most common of places, including but not limited to:
-Fluctuations in hot and cold weather
-Oxidation related to ultraviolet (UV) rays
-Light exposure in general
-Oil and sweat from fingers
-Friction (which includes swiping and holding)
Therefore, to prevent your clear plastic phone case from yellowing, we highly recommended you follow these 4 tips:
TIP 1: Limit exposure to harsh visible light, such as sunlight or lamps.
If indoors, don’t leave your phone case directly under a lamp, and if outdoors, try your best not to leave it sitting out on a table all day, especially if it's sunny. When possible, hide it away in a pocket or purse when not in use. But do pay attention to the next step!
TIP 2: Limit time spent in tight places, such as pockets or purses.
We know, we specifically told you to do this before, but use good judgment. A phone in a pocket or purse is generally fine, but not if it’s being shoved in there alongside keys, coins, or any other abrasive objects. Sure, a screen protector will certainly prevent it from being scratched, but the friction will cause yellowing to your clear phone case over time.
TIP 3: Limit time spent in extreme conditions, especially high temperatures and high humidity.
What’s bad for your phone is probably bad for your phone case, too. And while some people may be tempted to take their phone in the bathroom while they shower, skip the sauna unless it’s in a plastic bag. Even if your phone is waterproof, the case won’t respond well to these environments.
TIP 4: Limit exposure to sweat and oil.
If you’re eating potato chips on your couch while scrolling on your phone, we won’t judge you (we’ve all been there). But over time, the grease and oil from your fingers may cause your phone case to turn yellow. Likewise, even if you would never dream of doing such a thing and prefer to spend your free time exercising at the gym, bringing a towel with you to wipe your fingers and phone screen will go a long way.
And look, we know these tips may seem extreme or unreasonable, but they are more like guidelines. Exercise caution and common sense and you will be able to extend the life of your clear phone case. But when yellowing does inevitably happen, it doesn’t hurt to know how to clean it, either. Don’t forget to clean your mobile phone screen protector too.
4) How to make a phone case clear again
Since the yellowing is actually the result of material degradation of plastic rather than staining, cleaning a clear phone case is not as simple as plain soap and water, and it’s important to be realistic with your expectations. And yet, soap and water will still do wonders when used correctly!
Generally, there are two methods you can use to clean your clear phone case at home using common household ingredients: Scrubbing, or soaking.
The Scrub Method
You can either use a solution of dish soap, water, and an old toothbrush OR just use an old toothbrush and some toothpaste. Simply mix, scrub, and repeat, and most importantly, don’t forget the secret ingredient: elbow grease!
The Soak Method
There are a number of “at-home” remedies out there, but the safest and easiest calls for white vinegar and some baking soda. Just fill up a bucket (or your sink) with warm water and mix about 1 cup of white vinegar with 2 tablespoons of baking soda. Set it and forget it, and most importantly, don’t forget this recipe’s secret ingredient: Patience!
It is important to note that although a clear plastic phone case will almost always yellow over time, a quality tempered glass screen protector will not. So this is definitely something to consider in the debate between phone cases vs screen protectors.
5) Who’s the winner
To be honest, a phone protector and a screen protector serve different functions. A screen protector is more like the windshield of your car: It will constantly work to keep grit, salt, and sweat away from your line of visibility, and can even wick small amounts of harmful material away to help prevent further injury, provided the debris isn’t too heavy or hits at a strange angle. Furthermore, a tempered glass screen protector won’t yellow over time, and is far easier to clean and maintain than a phone case; not to mention less expensive and less bulky.
Conversely, a phone case is like the front bumper of your car. It is designed to handle and absorb impact, and won’t crack as easily, even if struck at any angle. As a result, it is far more durable than a screen protector.
So although it will certainly depend on personal preference, style, and budget, in a pinch, we’d have to say a phone case is better suited to protect your device than a screen protector. Additionally, if you can afford it, there are also a number of options for cell phone cases with built-in screen protectors that offer a stylish alternative that will give you the best of both worlds.
However, given that screen protectors are relatively inexpensive, why not just go with both right from the start? Just make sure you know how to properly maintain your clear plastic phone case, and how to properly install a quality tempered glass screen protector so that it won’t yellow over time.