This article was originally published on Jan. 14, 2013, and updated on Jan. 14, 2014 to reflect recent availability.
Smartphone cases can be a hassle to say the least — they are expensive, bulky and completely unnecessary if you exercise the slightest bit of caution. I mean, does anyone really need a bulletproof iPhone case capable of being fully submerged in boiling Mercury or surviving a 2,000-foot plunge off the top of the Dubai’s Burj Khalifa skyscraper? For most of us, the answer is absolutely not. However, few would argue that picking up a simple iPhone screen protector to secure your iPhone 5 or 5S from the trials and tribulations of daily life is overkill. They’re versatile, providing high levels of defense in the form of tempered glass, multilayered film and other protective materials, while retaining the device’s innate clarity and curtailing outside glare. Moreover, screen protectors typically reduce fingerprints and some even keep prying eyes off your phone, allowing you to secretly Tindr to your heart’s content without fear of social ostracism (believe me, it happens).
Here are top picks for the best iPhone 5 and 5S screen protectors on the market. They’ll protect your phone from the stress of everyday life — from your standard key nicks to a little excess heat from the sun — and leave your phone looking just as fresh as the day you bought it. Additionally, check out our picks for the best iPhone 5 and 5S cases if you’d rather opt for the full package, or our selection of the best iPhone 5 accessories if you’re looking to soup up your device with the best Bluetooth speakers, lenses and other smartphone peripherals you may have missed.
Quality protection often comes at a steep price — in this case a cool $35. The 0.23-mm thick strip is made using chemically-treated, transparent tempered glass that protects the iPhone from everything from scratches to low-grade impacts. It features sleek, rounded edges to help deflect shock and an advanced oleophobic coating to prevent fingerprints. Should the glass break for whatever reason, the anti-shatter film will disperse into tiny non-sharp pieces for extra safety. It may run a little more expensive and prove difficult to properly install, but the cost and hassle is worth the superior protection it offers.
Sir Lancelot’s Armor is not exactly a household name. However, it should be given the the thick, 0.40-mm screen is constructed using premium tempered glass of the highest degree. It’s also one of the easier protectors to install, sporting a silicon-based reusable adhesive and bubble-free application that renders the material just as convenient it is durable. Touch responsiveness remains high when the screen is applied, and though the thickness of the glass is often heralded as its greatest assets, it occasionally decreases the iPhone’s compatibility with other cases. Nonetheless, a hardness level of 9H is nothing to joke about.
It’s difficult to overlook a product with more than 8,000 customers reviews on Amazon, especially when 5,000 of said reviews rate Tech Armor’s flagship offering a five-star product. The polished, 0.33-mm screen protector still provides noteworthy protection despite lacking the robust lifetime warranty of its competition, while touting a rounded design made of hardened, laser-cut glass. The added oleophobic coating, which works to diminish unwelcome smudges and fingerprints, is also a plus, but most users will find the modest price tag and scratch-resistant exterior to be Tech Armor’s real allure.
Belkin was bound to enter the screen protector market sooner of later given the electronics manufacturer’s commercial obsession with smartphone peripherals. Although the company’s premiere offering runs on the expensive side, the flexible glass’ uniform molecular structure ensures the utmost visibility while providing 0.22 mm of smooth protection intended to protect your device from the usual scuffs, scrapes and impacts you’ll likely encounter on a daily basis. Belkin claims the screen protector is nine times stronger than the competition, and though probably not entirely true, it provides admirable protection with a lifetime replacement warranty to match.
An elated BodyGuardz customers once said equipping their device with BodyGuardz’ Pure Glass screen protector was “like having nothing on the screen.” The product is constructed using chemically-tempered glass exceeding the hardness of steel, and additionally coated with a smudge-resistant coating to facilitate cleaning and ensure clarity surpassing that of ordinary, plastic screen protectors. It measures 0.40-mm thick, making it one of the thicker screen protectors on list, but BodyGuardz still recommends using the glass in conjunction with a proper case. It even comes bundled with two Home button stickers designed to raise the button to the same level as the screen.
At a mere $6, Halo’s High Definition Screen Protector Film is exactly what you pay for. Yet, despite not featuring the tempered glass or sublime thickness of other products on our roundup, it remains an option worth considering based on the price alone. It’s built of a popular multilayer film and relatively easy to apply, while additionally sporting a scratch and UV-resistant exterior that barely clouds the iPhone’s natural visibility. It certainly doesn’t offer the highest level of protection, nor could it for the price, but it does come in a pack of three should one of the screen protectors falter.
Few things made in the United States are as cheap and affordable as 3M’s Natural View Screen Protector. However, the product is more known for offering standout, anti-glare capabilities than it is diehard protection against the expected rigors of everyday life. The fingerprint-resistant film does a great job of decreasing glare, allowing iPhone users to see the screen better in bright lighting, but it’s known to give the your device a somewhat hazy and grainy visual appearance. Nonetheless, the dry application is nearly hassle-free and the screen protector retains the same level of touch responsiveness as the iPhone due to the film’s overall thinness.
Between Business Insider and CNET’s hammer-strewn test scenarioes, it’s safe to say Amzer’s ShatterProof Screen Protector has been put through the ringer. However, instead of tempered glass, the product is constructed of a non-Newtonian, polymer urethane film, meaning it’s highly flexible and incapable of shattering akin to other screen protectors on our list. Touch responsiveness is phenomenal, as is the clarity it maintains over time, but the screen protector’s sides have been known to peel prematurely peel if the film isn’t properly applied from the get-go. Fortunately, the film’s dry application and self-healing functionality render the crux fairly non-intrusive.
Zagg invisibleSHIELD ($15)
Having been one of the first companies to offer screen protection on nearly any electronic device imaginable, Zagg is no newcomer to the market. The patented, military-grade film provides admirable protection — preventing common wear-and-tear and resisting shock — while minimizing the excess bulk associated with other screen protectors on our list. However, although the film is fairly transparent and responsive, its surface is slightly textured with a rubberized finish that’s notorious for latching on to oils and dust. Thankfully, the product comes with a 45-day, money-back guarantee and a lifetime warranty if you’re even remotely unsatisfied.
Screen protection is one thing, privacy is another. Luckily, MediaDevil’s Magicscreen film combines the best of both worlds, offering adequate protection while subsequently shielding glances from unwanted strangers. Although the exact thickness of the film is undisclosed, it’s one of the thinnest and most form-fitting on our list, ensuring compatibility with a slew of additional products and maintaining the iPhone’s sleek exterior. Applying and removing the film can also be difficult, but the two-way privacy material makes it worthwhile, restricting viewing to merely the user whenever the device is held in the vertical position.
What do you think of our top picks for the best iPhone 5 screen protectors? Did we miss one or two of your favorites? Let us know in the comments below!